Cassidese Glossary – Graft, Grafter

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.

This is one of Cassidy’s claims that I found completely incomprehensible at first. Cassidy claims that the terms graft (as in corruption) and grafter (corrupt politician) come from the Irish words grafadh and grafadóir.

He claims that grafadh (which is pronounced graffa or graffoo) means “grubbing, scrounging; hoeing” and that grafadóir means “a grubber; a scrounger, a moocher; fig. a professional politician.”

In reality, grafadh means to hoe or dig or grub, while a grafadóir is a grubber or a hoer, someone who uses a hoe or a mattock to break up the top surface of a garden or a field.

So where does all the stuff about scrounging and professional politicians come from? Well, the only explanation I can think of is that because in English the term grub has connotations of scrounging and corruption, then the fact that the terms grafadh and grafadóir are linked to the English word grubbing (only in the sense of digging), then Cassidy felt it was justified to attach all the meanings of grub in English to these Irish words, even though it is quite clear that they refer only to digging gardens and fields. Applying this to other words, capall is the Irish for horse and must also mean heroin or any kind of opiate because the English word horse can mean heroin. Giota is the Irish for piece, but it must also mean gun because the English word piece means gun. Of course, this is nonsense. Capall doesn’t mean heroin, giota doesn’t mean gun, grafadóir doesn’t mean a money-grubbing politician.

Back in the real world, graft is probably linked to the British English graft meaning work, which is probably of Dutch origin.

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