Monthly Archives: August 2019

Cassidese Glossary – Hick

For some time now, some of my on-line friends have advised me to provide a version of CassidySlangScam without the invective aimed at Cassidy and his supporters. In response to that advice, I am working on providing a glossary of the terms in Cassidy’s ludicrous book How The Irish Invented Slang with a short, simple and business-like explanation of why Cassidy’s version is wrong.

 

The English word hick (peasant, bumpkin) means the same as the Irish words tuathánach, cábóg, tútachán, farcach. That is, it means the same thing, more or less, as that common word in the English of Ireland, culchie.

According to Daniel Cassidy, in his work of fantasy How The Irish Invented Slang, it comes from the Irish word aitheach. Aitheach is an old-fashioned, literary word for a churl and of course, the sound of aitheach is nothing like the sound of hick. (For English speakers with no Irish, it’s pronounced something like Aha or eye-hah. To get a proper flavour of how it might be pronounced in the main dialects, go to focloir.ie and play the sound files for the words maith and teach.)

There is absolutely no doubt about the genuine origin of hick. Hick is an affectionate version of the name Richard. It’s a form of the name which was found among rural people. It was originally used to mean a hosteler and came to be used of a yokel by 1700.

Cassidese Glossary – Hip, Hep

For some time now, some of my on-line friends have advised me to provide a version of CassidySlangScam without the invective aimed at Cassidy and his supporters. In response to that advice, I am working on providing a glossary of the terms in Cassidy’s ludicrous book How The Irish Invented Slang with a short, simple and business-like explanation of why Cassidy’s version is wrong.

There is no agreement about the origins of the word hip (in the sense of cool, trendy, not as in the thing at the top of your leg). You can find a discussion of the word here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hip_(slang)

The late Daniel Cassidy, in his work of fake etymologies, How The Irish Invented Slang, claimed that hip and its earlier form hep derive from the Irish word aibí (or abaí). Cassidy defines this word as:

Aibí (pron. h-abí; contraction h-ab’), adj., mature, quick, clever, quick-witted; fig. wise.

As usual, this is arrant nonsense. The word is defined by Ó Dónaill as ‘ripe, mature; quick, clever; crisp’. Its primary meaning is ripe. Dinneen defined it as ‘ripe, mature, quick-witted’. It does not mean wise, it is not pronounced with a h-, and while it is conceivable that a short vowel at the end of a word would be lost in speech, there is no reason to suppose that this would ever happen to a long vowel like the -í at the end of this word. The word is pronounced abbey or appee or abwee, depending on dialect (this is why it is sometimes spelled abaí). Why would appee or abwee become hip or hep? Wherever the word hip came from, it didn’t come from Irish and as it’s associated with African-American culture, it seems more likely that its roots, whatever they are, lie there.

Cassidese Glossary – Helter Skelter

For some time now, some of my on-line friends have advised me to provide a version of CassidySlangScam without the invective aimed at Cassidy and his supporters. In response to that advice, I am working on providing a glossary of the terms in Cassidy’s ludicrous book How The Irish Invented Slang with a short, simple and business-like explanation of why Cassidy’s version is wrong.

Helter skelter is what is known as a rhyming jingle (or rhyming reduplication). Such jingles are common throughout the world’s languages. Among examples in English are harum scarum, pell mell and hurly-burly. In Irish, one of the equivalents of helter skelter is caorthain charthain (pr. keerhin kharhin). In modern English, helter skelter mostly refers to a kind of fairground slide. In Irish I would call it a teach solais (lighthouse) because that’s what they look like. (I note that none of the available Irish dictionaries gives a translation for the fairground slide meaning of helter skelter, which is a strange omission.)

This fairground usage of helter skelter is fairly recent. The term originally meant ‘chaotically, in disorder’ and dates back to at least the 16th century. As with most of these rhyming jingles, the individual words probably don’t mean very much.

To Cassidy, of course, these were Irish words. According to Cassidy, helter skelter comes from áilteoir scaoilte, ‘a run amuck clown; an unconstrained wild prankster; a loose-limbed trickster; a joker running loose’. This is nonsense. For one thing, it is an extremely poor match for the known meanings of helter skelter. “They fell a run amok clown down the stairs?” “They ran an unconstrained wild prankster through the door?” I don’t think so.

Another problem is that there is no evidence that the word áilteoir even existed in Irish the 16th century, when the phrase helter skelter first appears in English. It is first recorded in Dinneen’s dictionary in the early 20th century.

Cassidese Glossary – Heeler

For some time now, some of my on-line friends have advised me to provide a version of CassidySlangScam without the invective aimed at Cassidy and his supporters. In response to that advice, I am working on providing a glossary of the terms in Cassidy’s ludicrous book How The Irish Invented Slang with a short, simple and business-like explanation of why Cassidy’s version is wrong.

A heeler or ward heeler was the representative of a politician in the local community in American politics in the 19th and early 20th centuries. As Cassidy sneers: ‘The well-heeled editors of most Anglo-American dictionaries derive heeler from the heel of a shoe.’ In other words, the mainstream (and almost certainly correct) view is that a ward heeler who walked the ward making sure that the electorate were happy with the politician.

Cassidy claims that this word is really the Irish éilitheoir. Cassidy says that this is pronounced éló’r or h-ælór. This is Cassidy’s ad hoc personal system of transcription, so it makes little sense but I should point out that words beginning with a vowel are not pronounced with a h- sound in Irish, as Cassidy thought. The word éilitheoir would be pronounced aylihore. Its meaning is given by Ó Dónaill as:

éilitheoir, m. (gs. -ora, pl. ~í).1. Claimant; claimer (ar, of). 2. Complainant, plaintiff.

Dinneen says that this is: éilightheoir, one who demands or charges; a petitioner, a suitor;

a creditor, a claimant : an accuser, a plaintiff.

This is a long way from Cassidy’s ‘one who demands or charges; a petitioner; a claimer; a friendly petitioner; a claimsman, an advocate; one who makes friendly inquiries about; one who visits in a friendly manner’.

The English heeler makes a lot more sense for someone who continually walked around the ward resolving issues. I cannot see why claimant or plaintiff or accuser would have anything much to do with the work of a ward heeler.

 

Cassidese Glossary – Heckle, Heckler

For some time now, some of my on-line friends have advised me to provide a version of CassidySlangScam without the invective aimed at Cassidy and his supporters. In response to that advice, I am working on providing a glossary of the terms in Cassidy’s ludicrous book How The Irish Invented Slang with a short, simple and business-like explanation of why Cassidy’s version is wrong.

Heckling was part of the process of making linen out of flax. The fibres were flicked over a kind of comb over and over again to separate them, split them and remove impurities. The people who carried out this task were called hecklers.

In places like Dundee, the hecklers were often very radical. It is said that as they worked, one of their number used to read out articles from the newspapers and the others would shout out comments. This gave rise to the association between the trade of heckler and the shouting out of comments at a public meeting.

The late Daniel Cassidy, in his work of false etymologies How The Irish Invented Slang, claimed that the word heckle comes from an ‘Irish’ phrase éamh call, which he says means ‘Screaming out complaints; ranting, scolding’. The phrase éamh call does not exist in the Irish language. The two words Cassidy stuck together to make it do exist, but the phrase does not.

Éamh is defined as cry, scream, entreaty or complaint. Call (a loan from English) is defined as call, need, claim or right. It is hard to see how combining the two words would give the sense required. Complaint of rights? Scream of needs? Hmm.

The Irish language has many real ways of saying heckle or interrupt, like trasnáil a dhéanamh, trasnú, trioscadh, cur isteach ar chainteoir, briseadh isteach ar chainteoir.

Finally, even if we accepted that éamh call made sense, Cassidy’s éamh callaire for a heckler wouldn’t make any sense, for the same reason that an Irish speaker is not a Gaeilge cainteoir or a housewife is not a teach bean. It would have to be callaire éamh. As with cainteoir Gaeilge or bean tí, the other word appears in the genitive after the head word. This is a measure of how bad Cassidy’s Irish was.

Cassidese Glossary – Hanker

For some time now, some of my on-line friends have advised me to provide a version of CassidySlangScam without the invective aimed at Cassidy and his supporters. In response to that advice, I am working on providing a glossary of the terms in Cassidy’s ludicrous book How The Irish Invented Slang with a short, simple and business-like explanation of why Cassidy’s version is wrong.

Daniel Cassidy, in his work of false etymologies, How The Irish Invented Slang, claimed that the word hanker comes from the Irish an-ghá meaning a great need or want. While the English word want has made a journey from meaning require to meaning desire, in most languages (including Irish) the two meanings are related but separate. Tá gá agam le rud means I require something, not I want something. I have a hankering for something means I want it, it is the thing that would make me happy, not it is the thing I need. They are quite different. An-ghá (gá with the intensifier an-) does exist, though it is not very common. It is not pronounced with a h- sound as Cassidy claimed. The gh is a sound that doesn’t exist in English. It’s a little like someone with a sore throat gargling. Irish speakers who have learned Irish as a second language often say g instead. In other words, the sound of an-ghá isn’t even like anchor, never mind hanker.

Then there is the little matter (which Cassidy doesn’t mention) that hanker almost certainly comes from Flemish hankeren, meaning to hanker after something. It’s a much better candidate than an-ghá.

Cassidese Glossary – Hack, Hackie and Hackney

For some time now, some of my on-line friends have advised me to provide a version of CassidySlangScam without the invective aimed at Cassidy and his supporters. In response to that advice, I am working on providing a glossary of the terms in Cassidy’s ludicrous book How The Irish Invented Slang with a short, simple and business-like explanation of why Cassidy’s version is wrong.

These three words are clearly closely related, which is why I have chosen to put them together. Cassidy treats them as three separate words, with separate origins in the Gaelic languages.

Before I look at Cassidy’s claims, let’s just look at these three words and their genuine origins. The original word is hackney. This is almost certainly from the place outside London. It is first found in English around the year 1300. It was used to refer to an ordinary horse, in other words, a horse that was not a military horse or a carthorse and then a hired horse, and later, it came to refer to a type of carriage and then to a cab or taxi. Its etymology is discussed here: https://www.etymonline.com/word/hackney and here: https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/hackney

You can find information on its use in Middle English here: https://quod.lib.umich.edu/m/middle-english-dictionary/dictionary/MED19807/track?counter=1&search_id=1312830

Hack came hundreds of years later and is a contraction of hackney, with exactly the same basic meanings. From the meaning of ordinary, hired-out horse, hack came to mean both a prostitute and a jobbing writer churning out writing of a low standard as well as the meaning of carriage or taxi found with hackney as well. You can find more information about its etymology here:

https://www.etymonline.com/word/hack

Hackie seems to be the word hack (in the sense of cab) with an occupational ending -ie, as in chippie for a joiner. It is a recent US term which first surfaces in the 1950s.

Cassidy’s claim is that these three terms, hackney, hack and hackie, all come from three different Gaelic terms. According to Cassidy, hackney comes from each ceannaich, hack comes from each and hackie comes from eachaí.

This is nonsense. Each ceannaich is given in Dwelly’s dictionary of the Scottish Gaelic language as a phrase meaning a post-horse or hire horse. This term can therefore be traced back in Scottish Gaelic (it isn’t Irish) as far as the 19th century. There is no evidence that it existed any further back than that, and I doubt that there was any transport infrastructure in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland where horses were hired out in the 17th or 16th centuries, let alone earlier, so there would have been no need for the term. Remember that hackney in English dates back to the year 1300, so Cassidy would have needed to prove that each ceannaich is older than that to make a convincing case for a Gaelic origin.

Cassidy claimed that each is an Irish word for horse. It is, but it was replaced in spoken Irish by other terms hundreds of years ago. The usual term in Irish for a horse is capall, while in Ulster Irish we say beithíoch – literally a beast. There is no reason to suppose that hack and hackney are anything to do with any variety of Gaelic. The fact is that the range of meanings of hackney and hack in English is so close that there is little room for doubt that hack is a shortened form of hackney.

Then, as usual, there is the question of pronunciation. As usual, the ‘phonetic’ transcription of the Irish is a dog’s breakfast of old Irish orthography (ċ), Irish phonology (c′) and ad hoc nonsense from Cassidy’s imagination. Cassidy’s pretend version of each as h-a′ċ is both weird and completely wrong. Irish and Scottish Gaelic words that begin with a vowel are not pronounced with a h. And Cassidy obviously doesn’t understand the significance of the ′, which is used to indicate a palatal consonant in Irish phonology. As a is not a consonant, putting this marker on it means nothing. You can’t have a palatal vowel. Also, if you listen to the sound files given here for the word amach, you will realise that the ch sound is not the same as the hard ck of of hack, even in the Munster dialect where it is most strongly pronounced: https://www.focloir.ie/en/dictionary/ei/out

In fact, the word each sounds like the first part of Spanish ajo (without the o) and doesn’t really sound like hack unless you pronounce it like someone from New York who doesn’t speak any Irish at all.