Monthly Archives: January 2020

Cassidese Glossary – Moolah

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.

While Cassidy’s suggestion of moll óir is much better than his usual standard (at least the phrase could exist and doesn’t infringe any grammatical rules) there is precious little evidence of anyone, anywhere using this phrase. On Google, the one example I found was in relation to a taped interview with a native Irish speaker from Donegal. In a description of the contents of the audio, it talks about someone finding a pile of gold (moll óir) under a flagstone. However, listening to the actual audio, the phrase isn’t mentioned.

There are numerous theories about the origins of the word moolah, which first appears in America in the 1930s. The strongest suggestion is perhaps the Spanish phrase (especially associated with Venezuela) bájate de la mula, which literally means ‘get down off the mule’ and figuratively means ‘give me the money!’ Mula sounds exactly like moolah. (However, there are problems with this and it is not proven that the Spanish phrase dates back before the first occurrences of moola in English, which is certainly a serious problem.)

Moll óir, on the other hand, sounds like ‘moll oar’. In other words, it sounds absolutely nothing like moolah.

Cassidese Glossary – Moniker

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 book How The Irish Invented Slang, claims that the term moniker for a name or by-name comes from the Irish travellers’ Shelta language, a kind of backslang based on Irish or Gaelic.

This is possible, certainly, and there is no doubt that a version of this word was found in Shelta in the form munik. This may be a disguised version of the Irish word ainm (pronounced annim) but this is not certain. Some have suggested that moniker was borrowed into Shelta from unrelated kinds of slang like the English cant. An article by William Sayers called Moniker: Etymology and Lexicographical History discusses this in depth.

Whether this is true or untrue, the claim that moniker derives from Irish ainm through Shelta was in the public domain decades before Cassidy came along and therefore has no relevance at all to his thesis.

Cassidese Glossary – Miller

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 one of the most foolish and irrational claims in Cassidy’s book, that ‘miller’, an old cant term for a fighter or boxer, is from Irish.

Firstly, the most parsimonious explanation is quite simply that this expression is an extension of the word miller, someone who keeps or works in a mill. Millers have always had the reputation as strong, rough men, even back as far as Chaucer. And of course, milling can mean grinding, breaking, destroying. In other words, you don’t need to look any further than English ‘miller’ for the origins of the English slang expression ‘miller’.

Cassidy’s explanation, as usual, lacks any evidence, as well as any credibility.

“Miller, n., a boxer, a murderer. “Miller, a Killer …” (B.E.’s Dictionary of the Canting Crew, 1699.)

Míle (pron. m’íl’ə), n., a warrior, a soldier; a champion, a hero. Mill, v., to break, to injure; to damage, to destroy. (Dineen [sic], 742; Ó Dónaill, 859, 860.)

One person’s killer is another person’s miller (míle, pron. m’íl’ə, hero, warrior, soldier; champion; destroyer.)”

The problem with this is that míle is not a particularly good match in terms of sound (it’s pronounced meelya or meela – note that Cassidy’s phonetic transcription was as fake as everything else in his book) and it’s not a particularly common word. There are dozens of other words which suit the meaning of boxer or soldier or warrior far better, words like dornálaí (boxer), or saighdiúir (soldier), or trodaí (fighter). Míle is actually a fairly obscure borrowing of the Latin word mīles, the root of military and militia.

And it has no etymological connection with the word mill, meaning to destroy in Irish. (MacBain’s dictionary: destroy, Irish, Old Irish millim: *mel-ni-, root mele, fail, miss; Lithuanian mìlyti, fail; Greek @Gméleos, useless, wretched …) The word destroyer added to the list of meanings of míle above is yet another example of the kind of casual random dishonesty that makes Cassidy’s book so totally worthless. And in any case, how could giving two totally different words with different etymologies as the origin of one English expression ever strengthen his case rather than weaken it?

 

Cassidese Glossary – Mill

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 an obsolete slang term meaning to box. There is also another word, which seems to be a different item and is treated as such by slang dictionaries, which means to housebreak or burgle. The term for to box is probably derived from the English term mill, as in to grind up or powder something, while the housebreaking term is supposedly of Romani origin (I am no expert on Romani and I cannot vouch for this having any validity.) Cassidy’s claim that it derives from the Irish milleadh meaning to destroy is far less likely than the English word mill, as in to grind. It is hard to see why the Irish word mill would be used for boxing or fighting when the Irish word does not have this meaning.

Cassidese Glossary – Mihall

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 not an Irish loanword into English. It is an Irish word (meitheal, a working party, a group organised for a specific task) which apparently was sometimes used in conversation by a union activist called Mike Quill, who spoke some Irish, in order to confuse the police and stop them from anticipating their plans.

Some of Cassidy’s dimmer supporters have tried to imply that critics of Cassidy do not believe there were any Irish speakers in the USA. This is obviously nonsense. For generations, most of the young people left Irish-speaking areas in the west of Ireland and headed into exile in the USA, Australia, England, Scotland and other places. However, there was no major influence from Irish speakers on American speech and the fact – the blindingly obvious fact – that Cassidy couldn’t discover any genuine examples of Irish words in English that hadn’t been identified before proves this.

Cassidese Glossary – Mick

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.

One of the sillier claims in Daniel Cassidy’s etymological hoax, How The Irish Invented Slang, is the claim that the word ‘Mick’, which is used in various English-speaking countries as a racist insult against the Irish, comes from the Irish word mic, the plural of mac meaning son. Cassidy doesn’t explain why this should be the case, why racists would use a word meaning son (which is usually a mark of affection), in the language of the people they were denigrating, or why a plural word would be used as a singular. Mic sounds like Mick, so it must be the origin of the word, right? Never mind that everybody in Ireland knows full well that certain common names among the Catholic Irish have become slang terms for a Catholic Irish person – Taig (Tadhg), Tim (equivalent of Tadhg, used in Scotland), Paddy and Mick. Never mind that all of the (genuine) dictionaries are in agreement about this.

In fact, in exactly the same way, our Irish ancestors used terms like Bhullaí (=Wully or Willy) for the Ulster Planters from Scotland. For example, Art Mac Cumhaigh wrote “Bhullaidh is Jane ag glacadh léagsaidhe Ar dhúithchíbh Éireann” (Wully and Jane taking out leases On the territories of Ireland.) And seoinín (=Little John, later anglicised as shoneen and jackeen) was used for people who aped English ways. As usual, Cassidy’s claim is simply nonsense.

Cassidese Glossary – Mayhem

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 etymological hoaxer, Daniel Cassidy, this word, which means a disturbance or trouble, is derived from the Irish word maidhm, which means an outbreak. This sounds plausible enough until you examine the evidence properly.

Maidhm is pronounced similarly to the English word mime. It does mean an outbreak. It is used of something which has been held in and suddenly breaks through. So a maidhm shneachta is a maidhm of snow, an avalanche. A landslide is a maidhm thalún, while a maidhm phortaigh is a distinctly Irish natural disaster, the bogslide.

So, can maidhm be used for riot or civil disturbance? Irish is very rich in words and phrases for disturbances or hubbub (an Irish word in itself). Trioblóid, ciréib, cíor thuathail, cath, ruaille-buaille, rí-rá, fuirse má rabhdaileam. Maidhm is not one that would normally be used. If someone said “Bhí maidhmeanna i mBéal Feirste aréir”, an Irish speaker would take this to mean that there were landslides of some kind in Belfast, not that there were riots.

When maidhm is used about warfare, it has a very specific meaning, namely that your defensive line has broken and that your troops are running away. In other words, it means a rout or catastrophic defeat. This is not at all what the word mayhem means, of course.

And in any case, the word mayhem doesn’t sound much like maidhm and it has an absolutely clear and undisputed history going back to the 13th century, before any Irish ghettoes appeared in the English-speaking world. It derives from Norman French and is a legal term.

Cassidese Glossary – Mawley

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 rightly says that this is probably a word of traveller origin. It derives from a word in the Gammon or Shelta language, a kind of disguised backslang based on Irish or Scottish Gaelic used by Irish and Scottish travellers. This is accepted by linguists and did not originate with Cassidy.

Mawley means a hand, and is regarded as a transposed (and de-lenited) version of lámh, which means hand in Irish. Cassidy states that this is really from maille, which he claims means tool in Irish. This is nonsense. There is no such word as maille meaning tool and Cassidy gives no evidence and no source for his claim.

Cassidese Glossary – Mavourneen

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 part of the vocabulary of stage-Irishness. It was used widely in sentimental ballads and plays in the 19th century and there was never any doubt about its Irish origin. All dictionaries and language experts accept that it’s a version of mo mhuirnín, which means ‘my darling’. In other words, it has nothing to do with Cassidy’s thesis.

Cassidese Glossary – Mash

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.

Masher is a slang term for a young man of fashion who frequented 19th century theatres because of his devotion to the leading ladies, while the verb mash is defined as an infatuation or act of flirtation.

There is a discussion of its origins here in an excellent blog post from Anatoly Liberman: http://blog.oup.com/2011/01/masher/.

And here’s another from World Wide Words: http://www.worldwidewords.org/qa/qa-mas1.html

Both of these sources are inclined to regard masher and mash as being extensions of the English word mash meaning to crush and both of them point to the similarity between the uses of mash and the uses of the word crush.

Cassidy’s claim was that it derives from the Irish maiseach, an obscure adjective meaning beautiful or elegant (according to Ó Dónaill’s dictionary, maisiúil is the usual adjective formed from maise. I wouldn’t use maisiúil or maiseach, though I use maise all the time in idioms like Ba d(h)eas an mhaise dó é, it was a nice thing for him to do). How an adjective meaning beautiful in Irish gave rise to a noun meaning lady’s man and a verb meaning to have a crush in English is not explained, but then very few of the claims made in Cassidy’s book stand up to any scrutiny at all