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 good example of how Cassidy manipulated the evidence. He provides three separate Gaelic origins for the word luncheon. He claimed that luncheon comes from Scottish Gaelic lòintean,(plural of lòn, provisions) or from Irish lóinte án (elegant food or splendid fare) or lóinfheis án (an elegant, splendid feast of meat). The Irish for lunch is lón, the primary meaning of which is provisions. It wouldn’t normally be put in the plural (although it can be) and anyway, in modern standard Irish the plural would be lónta. The adjective would have to agree with the noun, so it would be ána, not án, though the word án is an obscure, old-fashioned word, almost unknown in Irish (though it is a high-frequency word in Cassidese). Lóinfheis is an obscure literary term, as is án. It goes without saying that there is no reference to lóinfheis án or lónta ána anywhere in any corpus of Irish literature. They are purely Cassidy inventions.
Cassidy dishonestly tries to discredit the opinions of the professional etymologists by misrepresenting what they say. Cassidy says that the experts at the OED think luncheon derives from Middle English nonechenche. What he chooses not to say is that this is the ultimate source of the word. By the 17th century, this word had developed into the word nuncheon, which can be proven to have existed (unlike lónta ána or lóinte án) and meant a light snack in the afternoon. Nuncheon to luncheon. A mutation of one letter and the exact same meaning. Sounds entirely credible to me.