Monthly Archives: December 2019

Cassidese Glossary – Kook

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 etymological fiction, How The Irish Invented Slang, claimed that the term kook, meaning a nutcase or earlier a fool, comes from the Irish word cuach, meaning a cuckoo, rather than directly from the English word cuckoo.

The use of cuckoo to mean a fool dates back at least four hundred years in English. The association with madness is much more recent.

Cassidy defines the Irish word cuach as “a cuckoo, a squeaky voice, a fool”. He repeats this claim about cuach meaning fool twice, and he claims Dinneen’s dictionary as his source. This is strange, as neither edition of Dinneen mentions fool as a meaning of cuach. It is not mentioned as a meaning in Ó Dónaill’s dictionary either, as you can see from the links below.

This is a link to the 1904 edition of Dinneen:

https://celt.ucc.ie/Dinneen1sted.html

This is a link to the 1927 edition of Dinneen:

glg.csisdmz.ul.ie/index.php?mobile_display=false

This is Ó Dónaill’s take on the meanings of cuach:

https://www.teanglann.ie/en/fgb/cuach

In other words, why would kook meaning fool or madman have come from Irish cuach, when Irish cuach doesn’t have the meaning of fool or madman and this claim was simply invented by Cassidy?

I should also point out that the word cuach doesn’t sound much like kook but don’t take my word for it. Check out the sound files here:

https://www.focloir.ie/en/dictionary/ei/cuckoo#cuckoo__2

 

Cassidese Glossary – Knick-knack

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 etymological fiction, How The Irish Invented Slang, claims that the English word knick-knack comes from Irish. This is untrue. It is derived from the English knack, which now means a trick but formerly meant a trinket or small object. John Heywood used the word knack in this sense in 1540: “Needles, thread, thimble, shears, and all such knacks.” Shakespeare also used it in The Taming of the Shrew in 1596. (Cassidy claims that knack comes from Irish gnách but gnách doesn’t mean a trick or special skill and it only marginally has the sense of custom or habit – gnás or nós would be much more common in this sense.) By 1618, John Fletcher was talking about knick-knacks as tricks: “If you use these knick-knacks, This fast and loose.” But by the end of the 17th century, a knick-knack was exclusively used of a trinket. In Scotland, the word became nig-ma-nag.

Cassidy disagrees that knick-knacks is a rhyming jingle based on the word knack. To him, knick-knacks come from the Irish word neamhghnách meaning unusual. There are many reasons for objecting to this. Firstly, neamhghnách is an adjective and cannot be used as a noun. Secondly, the sound is very unlike the English word knick-knack. And thirdly, why wouldn’t an Irish speaker use one of the many words which really mean knick-knacks in Irish, like giuirléidí, mangaisíní, áilleagáin, deasagáin or gréibhlí, rather than misusing an adjective?

Cassidese Glossary – Knack

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 origins of the word knack are unknown but it seems to have been used in its present sense as a special talent or skill by the late 16th century.

According to Daniel Cassidy, in his work of false etymology, How The Irish Invented Slang, the word knack comes from the Irish word gnách. The word gnách is an adjective meaning customary, usual or ordinary. It is most commonly used in copular phrases like is gnách leo (they tend to, they have the habit of). Gnáth is a noun meaning custom, usage or customary thing and it is true that the two words sound almost identical and are often confused.

There are several problems with Cassidy’s claim. Firstly, while gnáth or gnách could theoretically be used as nouns to refer to a custom or ordinary usage, this would rarely be the case. Such uses would normally be expressed in Irish with nós (bhí nós aici bláthanna a chur san fhuinneog, bhí sé de nós aici bláthanna a chur san fhuinneog) or with a copular structure (ba ghnách léi bláthanna a chur san fhuinneog).

Secondly, a knack is not a custom. The meanings may be slightly similar but they are certainly not the same. In Irish, a knack is cleas, or bealach, or dóigh, or ciúta. It’s a special skill or trick or way of doing something. When you do something a lot, you may acquire a skill in doing it. But the two concepts are not the same.

This really cuts to the heart of why Cassidy’s ‘research’ is so worthless. As I have said before, the central problem is one of the mechanism of transmission. It’s all very well making a link between an Irish word with a particular meaning and an English word with a different but related meaning. It is much harder (in fact, it’s usually impossible) to imagine a situation where a bilingual Irish and English speaker would use the wrong word in any circumstance and this would be borrowed with a different meaning. Why would this happen? How would it happen?

Finally, gnách really doesn’t sound much like knack. You can find sound files for the dialects of Irish here:

https://www.focloir.ie/en/dictionary/ei/customary#customary__2

Cassidese Glossary – Kitty

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 origins of the word kitty for a pot of money in a card or other game are unknown, though there are several possibilities. You can find some information at these links:

http://www.worldwidewords.org/qa/qa-kit2.htm

http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=kitty

In Daniel Cassidy’s work of etymological fiction, How The Irish Invented Slang, Cassidy claimed that the word kitty derives from the Irish phrase cuid oíche. This is highly improbable.

The phrase cuid oíche (earlier spelling cuid oidhche) is an historical term. It literally means ‘a night’s portion’ and it refers to the entertainment which a lord could expect from his subjects. It is pronounced roughly as cudge-eeha and has been anglicised as cuddy and cuddihy. In other words, it is not a good match for kitty in terms of pronunciation or of meaning.

 

Cassidese Glossary – Kinker

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.

Cassidese Glossary – Kike

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 term kike is an offensive ethnic slur used by the ignorant and anti-Semitic in reference to Jewish people. There are numerous theories about its origins but no agreement. The main theories seem to be that it is from the Yiddish for circle, because Jewish people who were illiterate in the Roman alphabet often signed with a circle where Christians made their mark with a cross, or that it comes from the common Jewish name Isaac.

The late Daniel Cassidy, in his work of false etymologies How The Irish Invented Slang, assumed that he had solved this riddle with his revelation that almost all American slang derives from the Irish language. According to Cassidy:

Ciabhóg (pron. k’i’óg), a person adorned with a forelock or sidelock; al. a forelock, a sidelock. Ciabhóg (pron. k’i’og a forelock, a sidelock curl) is the Irish word for the long sidelocks of the Orthodox Jews called peyos, as well as a person that wears forelocks or sidelocks.”

Cassidy, who spoke no Irish at all, made use of dictionaries to do his ‘research’. This claim is based on the entry for ciabhóg in Dinneen’s dictionary (the expanded 1927 edition):

ciabhóg, -óige, -óga, f., a small lock of hair; a fore-lock, a sidelock; a person adorned with a fore-lock or side-lock.

Of course, this is a diminutive of ciabh, meaning a lock of hair. In spite of the fact that it says sidelock, this simply refers to a lock on the side of person’s head. There is no specific word in Irish for the sidelocks worn by Orthodox Jews. It is entirely possible that native Irish speakers created a term for these sidelocks in the slums of the USA when they encountered Jews who wore sidelocks but I have no idea what that term was and neither did Cassidy. The word ciabhóg, like almost all Irish words referring to people and ending in -óg, is applied to women and girls, not to men or boys. (The only exceptions I can think of are gasóg and scológ.) The only instance of ciabhóg being used of a person in the Corpas (a corpus of Irish-language texts) is a political poem by an anonymous poet of the sonnet-like type known as trí rainn agus amhrán, where Ireland is addressed as a faithless (female) lover – mo léan, is bréagach an chiabhóg thú (alas, you are a false, curly-haired girl!)

However, the main reason why ciabhóg and kike could not be connected is pronunciation. Ciabhóg is pronounced keea-wogue or keea-vogue. It sounds absolutely nothing like the English kike. The only similarity is the first letter.

Cassidese Glossary – Kid

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 kid, meaning a young goat, entered the English language a long time ago from Old Norse. It acquired the meaning of child in informal contexts around the year 1590.

Daniel Cassidy, in his work of false etymologies, How The Irish Invented Slang, claimed that the word kid comes from the Irish word cuid. In order to make a case for this, he homes in on several meanings of the word cuid that suggest a link with endearment and children:

“Cuid (pron. kid, cuid, kidj), n., share, part, portion; a term of endearment, love, affection. A chuid (pron. a khid), my dear; mo chuid de’n tsaoghal (pron. mo khid den tael), all I have, my darling; a chuid inghean (pron. a khid inyian), his daughters; a chuidín (pron. a khidín, a khijín), my little dear. (Dineen, 281, 282; Foclóir Póca, 326.)”

In fact, cuid is one of the most widely-used words in the Irish language. It is not pronounced like kid, as you can hear in the sound files on focloir.ie which are given in the three main dialects of Irish, Ulster, Connaught and Munster:

https://www.focloir.ie/en/dictionary/ei/bit#bit__3

You can also find a full description of its uses here, as given by Ó Dónaill:

https://www.teanglann.ie/en/fgb/cuid

As you can see, cuid can be used in phrases like mo chuid éadaigh (my part of cloth, my clothes), ith do chuid (eat your portion, your food), a gcuid airgid (their part of money, their money), a cuid Gaeilge (her part of Irish, her Irish). It can even mean sex, as in the phrase Bhí cuid aige di (= He had it off with her).

English kid does not derive from the Irish word cuid, which, apart from one phrase (a chuid) has nothing to do with affection or love. The English word kid meaning child derives from the English word meaning a young goat, as any sensible person already knew.