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.

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