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 word kinker, according to the late Daniel Cassidy in his work of false etymologies, How The Irish Invented Slang, is a slang term for a circus performer or a circus act. However, he also implies that kinkers were surly, rude or snooty.
Kinkers, adj., surly, rude; fig. snooty person) were the stuck up stars of the circus.
Ingeniously, he manages to find a quote from Jim Tully’s Circus Parade (1927) to back him up in this claim.
The performers were more snobbish than any class of people I have ever known. They did not talk to the lesser gentry of the circus save only to give commands. They were known as the ‘kinkers’ to us.
Cassidy needs to emphasise this snobbishness because his candidate for the origin of kinker is the Irish geancach, which means a person with an upturned nose (geanc) or a snooty person. (Cassidy only mentions the secondary meaning.)
Kinker doesn’t sound much like geancach, of course, and geancach certainly isn’t the origin of the circus slang word. How do I know? Well, when you look up kinker on line, all becomes clear. Kinkers weren’t just circus performers. Kinkers were acrobats or contortionists. If you think of all the contorted and twisted and crooked meanings of the word kink in English, the word kinker is self-explanatory.