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.
According to the late Daniel Cassidy, an Ikey Heyman axle is carnival and circus slang for a hidden foot pedal used to control a rigged wheel of fortune. This is written as a name, and it seems logical to suppose that there was once an Isaac Heyman in carny circles who was famous for rigging wheels of fortune.
Daniel Cassidy disagreed. If there was an unclaimed word or phrase lying around in English slang, that word or phrase needed to be claimed for Irish, however improbable or ridiculous the result.
In this case, Cassidy insisted that this came from a hybrid Irish-English expression:
Ag Céimnigh (axle) (pron. eg cé’imanĭh), stepping, treading (axle), a hidden axle or foot-break. [sic – I imagine this is meant to be foot-brake]
There are several points that need to be made here. Firstly, céimnigh means stepping or marching or walking. If someone were to build a foot-lever into a machine, they would probably use the word cos (foot) to describe it. Thus it would be a clár coise or a bata coise. Secondly, ag céimnigh makes no sense in terms of Irish grammar, because céimnigh is the imperative of the verb, not the verbal noun, which is céimniú now and would formerly have been spelled céimniughadh. And finally, how would egg kaymnyoo or even egg kaymnee become Ikey Heyman? They don’t sound anything like the English slang phrase, even if they were phrases that an Irish speaker would be likely to use in that context (which they aren’t).