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Cassidese Glossary – The Letters L and M

Last week, I completed the section for the letter L and M from Cassidy’s ludicrous book, How The Irish Invented Slang: The Secret Language of the Crossroads. There were 38 words in Cassidy’s glossary for these two letters. Added to the 277 words covered in the entries for the letters from A to K, this is a total of 315 headwords.

In the words for L and M, there were a handful of genuine Irish words and phrases. For example, the word meitheal does exist in Irish, and it was used by the union activist Mike Quill in the USA. However, it is an Irish word. There is no evidence that it ever crossed the language barrier and became an English word, used by non-Irish speakers as part of their language. And machree, macushla and mavourneen (mo chroí, mo chuisle and mo mhuirnín) are all part of the stage-Irish vocabulary of sentimental songs and plays, but again, none of them ever really became English.

There are also a couple of words like mucker and longshoreman, which have been claimed by other people before Cassidy to be of Irish origin, though these claims are also improbable.

As for the rest, they are complete nonsense. There is no chance at all of them being correct. Most of the candidate phrases, absurdities like liú lúith or leathluí géag, were invented by Cassidy, and even when words are genuinely to be found in Irish dictionaries, the entries given in those dictionaries are not given accurately, but rewritten by Cassidy to make them closer to whatever term he was trying to promote. We can see this rewriting clearly in words like the noun mug, which Cassidy claims comes from muc meaning a scowling, piggish face. Except that muc doesn’t mean a scowling, piggish face. This meaning was invented by Cassidy.

As I have said before, it is hard to know exactly how much of the garbage in Cassidy’s book should be attributed to outright dishonesty, how much to stupidity and how much to mental illness. It seems to me that the truth has to be somewhere between these three extremes. He managed to fool a lot of people, so presumably he wasn’t completely or obviously nuts. He was clearly very stupid and ignorant, though he must have been smart enough to fool people of limited ability. And he was certainly a liar, not only because of the claims made in the book, but because having failed his BA degree in the 1960s, he turned up thirty years later working as a professor in a small private university in California. There is no evidence that he ever acquired any qualifications in the intervening thirty years and he never mentions any subsequent studying in interviews. He also seems to have lied about many other aspects of his past, such as the claim that he was in the newsroom of the New York Times when Kennedy was shot.

If Cassidy had simply been mad, it would perhaps have been wrong of me to criticise him so strongly, but it would also have been unnecessary. If he had been obviously crazy, nobody would have believed him, least of all the high-profile Irish and Irish-American twits who have disgraced themselves by publicly supporting him and his work.

Anyway, over the next few weeks, I will turn my attention to the letters N, O and P, and we’ll see if Cassidy actually managed to find any genuine examples of words from Irish in the English language. Don’t hold your breath!

Cassidese Glossary – Mutt

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 muttonhead was used by the beginning of the 19th century to mean a stupid person. By the early twentieth century mutt and muttonhead were used in America of non-purebred dogs, probably because the rough and untidy coat would not be like the coat of a purebred.

Daniel Cassidy, in his etymological hoax, How The Irish Invented Slang, says that mutt comes from madadh or madra (mada in Dinneen) the Irish for dog (not mongrel.) These words begin with m but apart from that, they don’t sound much like mutt.

Cassidy’s definition of the word madra or madadh is typically dishonest. He says that it means ‘a dog, esp. an inferior breed, a cur, a mutt’. This definition emphasises the link with mutts and mongrels. In reality, madadh or madra is simply the Irish word for dog. It is not especially associated with mutts or mongrels or bad breeding. Indeed, a pure-bred dog in Irish is a madra folaíochta!

 

Cassidese Glossary – Malarkey, Mullarkey

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.

Cassidy, in his work of etymological fiction, How The Irish Invented slang, claims that this word comes from some Irish root related to the word meall meaning to entice or deceive. Cassidy points to the words meallacach and meallaireacht.

Interestingly, this website here (http://www.oldknot.com/2012/10/the-malarkey-about-malarkey/) tells us that the link with meallaireacht was first proposed by a certain William Sayers in 2002, when Cassidy was hitting the internet searching for potential Irish-origin words. In other words, this seems to be another claim plagiarised by Cassidy from an internet source without acknowledgement.

There is no certainty about where malarkey or mullarkey comes from. There is certainly an Irish surname Mullarkey (Ó Maoilearca) and Joe Biden famously claimed the word as part of his Irish heritage a few years ago. Some linguists think that it is linked to a northern English dialect term, malark, meaning a prank. If it were really of Irish origin, you would expect it to be found in Irish English a long time before it occurs in America, and this does not seem to be the case.

 

Cassidese Glossary – Mugsy

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 a nickname for a gangster in America, something like Bugsy. Daniel Cassidy claims that it comes from the Irish muc saobh, which he claims would mean something like a twisted scowling face. As we said in the item on mug, muc does not mean a scowling face. Saobh does mean twisted and perverse. However, in Irish, muc is a feminine noun so it would have to be muc shaobh (mook heev) which sounds nothing like mugsy. Of course, Cassidy was completely ignorant of the Irish language and knew nothing about the way Irish words are put together in a genuine phrase or sentence.

While some of Cassidy’s supporters seem to think that grammar is a luxury enjoyed by the privileged and overeducated, this is a fundamental misunderstanding of what grammar is. Native speakers of Irish would always say muc shaobh, just as native speakers of Spanish would always say una mujer guapa and not un mujer guapo. It’s the way the language works at the most basic level and any speaker breaking these basic rules would come across as an idiot.

Cassidese Glossary – Muggy

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.

In his etymological hoax, Cassidy claims that the English word muggy comes from the Irish word múchta (smothered), which he claims is pronounced mookta. It can mean muggy (as in aimsir mhúchta) but it is not pronounced mookta. It is pronounced moohta or mookhta, like the ch of loch/lough. Even if it were pronounced with a hard k sound, múchta sounds nothing like muggy.

Back in the real world, muggy comes from a dialect word for fog or humidity, mug, which is of Norse origin.

Cassidese Glossary – Mug (Verb)

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 mug means to attack someone with a view to robbing them. Curiously, the late Daniel Cassidy, in his etymological hoax, How The Irish Invented Slang, does not define the word in this way. To him, to mug someone means “the act of strangling, choking a person” or assaulting someone from behind with a chokehold. This is, to say the least, a rather idiosyncratic definition. When we look at Cassidy’s claim about its origin, all becomes clear.

Cassidy claims that this mug comes from the Irish verb múch, which he claims means to smother; suffocate, choke; press upon, squeeze together; stifle, throttle; destroy; quell, pacify.

The real definitions of the word múch can be found here:

https://www.teanglann.ie/en/fgb/múch

As you will see if you follow the link, this word is more about extinguishing fires than strangling people, which would normally be expressed with the verb tacht.

In fact, the word mug has a clear history in English. By 1818, it is found with the meaning “to beat up,” which derives from a boxing term meaning “to strike the face” and this in turn comes from mug as in a mug you drink from or a face. The meaning of attack to rob is attested by 1846.

As usual, Cassidy’s definition is nonsense.

Cassidese Glossary – Mug

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. 

Mug is a slang term for face in English. According to most dictionaries, it comes from those old mugs which were decorated with faces like Toby Jugs.

Daniel Cassidy, author of the etymological hoax, How The Irish Invented Slang, disagrees. He believes that it comes from the word muc, meaning pig. It is worth quoting his claim in full, as it clearly shows Cassidy’s poor scholarship and dishonesty.

“Muc, n., a pig; anything resembling a pig or hog; (of person) a piggish, hoggish individual, a swine; a scowl; a beetling brow; a scowling face; a piggish face. Múchna; n. a surly appearance; piggish scowl. Muc ar mala, a scowl, a beetling of brows, a piggish mug.

Most Anglo-American dictionaries derive the slang word mug from an English drinking mug with an ugly face painted on it. In Irish American vernacular, a mug (muc, a scowling, beetle-browed face) is a pig-faced mucker.”

The first point to make is that múchna is nothing to do with muc. Múchna comes from múch, meaning to extinguish or suppress. And it doesn’t sound anything like mug, so it is completely irrelevant here.

Then there is the problem of what muc means. If it meant ‘a scowling face, a piggish’ face, then it would be a pretty good candidate for the origin of mug. However, Cassidy was consistently and pathologically dishonest and the word muc does not mean a face … scowling, beetle-browed, smiley or any other kind. Muc means a pig, or a bulge which is rounded or pig-shaped. Muca sneachta are snowdrifts. When someone frowns, they get a small rounded bulge on their forehead, which in Irish is called muc ar gach mala (a bulge on each brow). It is used in this way but the phrases quoted above “a scowling face; a piggish face … a piggish mug … a scowling, beetle-browed face” are not true definitions of muc. They were invented by Cassidy. If you asked somebody in Irish why they had a muc on them (without the ar gach mala bit), they would look at you in puzzlement and say that they don’t have a pig on them. What Cassidy is saying is a little like saying that ‘laughter’ can be used in English to mean a wrinkled face because people talk about laughter lines. It is pure and total nonsense.

Cassidese Glossary – Mucker

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.

Mucker is an English slang term for a person who works with muck or dirt. In parts of America, because the Irish often did the dirtiest jobs, it is used of Irish people. In England and Scotland and Ireland, it often means a friend.

Cassidy claims that this comes from the Irish word mucaire, which means a swineherd. There is no reason to believe this claim, as the word muck is of ancient origin in England and originally derives from a Norse word meaning dung. Muck is unrelated to the Irish word muc, meaning pig. The similarity is pure coincidence. And, of course, people who muck around together are friends, so the use of mucker for a pal is quite natural and easy to understand.

Another myth, which is not mentioned by Cassidy, is that mucker comes from the Irish mo chara, meaning ‘my friend’. Mucker is not found in Ireland first, mo chara does not sound like mucker and the claim that it is of Irish origin is very recent, making its appearance less than twenty years ago.

 

Cassidese Glossary – Muck

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 muck is a term from poker. The muck is used to refer to the discarded cards that are no longer in play and if someone mucks their cards, they fold.

There is nothing mysterious or hard to understand about the etymology of this term. Muck is an ancient English term for dirt, derived from a Scandinavian word for dung, so when cards are out of play and no longer worth anything, they become the muck.

Cassidy implausibly (and unnecessarily) claims that it derives from the Irish word múch, which means to extinguish or smother. This is pronounced mookh (with the kh like the ch of Irish or Scottish loch), so it really sounds nothing like muck.

Cassidese Glossary – Mow

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.

 

Mow is a Scots and Northern English verb meaning to copulate with: https://www.dsl.ac.uk/entry/snd/mow_v1_n1

It goes back as far as the 16th century and has no connection with the obscure Irish word moth (pronounced moh), which Cassidy claims as the origin of the word. Moth is an ancient literary term, which is only used in modern Irish in compound words like mothchat, which means a male cat (a tomcat). Moth anciently meant a penis but this is not found in modern Irish at all and in any case, this doesn’t mean it could be used as a verb for sexual intercourse. In fact, there is a verb mothú in Irish, which is common and means to feel, to hear, to perceive. The word mothú does not provoke sniggers in Irish speakers because the word moth for penis does not exist in modern Irish.

It seems likely that mow is really linked to the verb meaning to cut grass, as terms for copulation in several languages use the metaphor of flattening, words such as laying in English and clárú in Irish.