Monthly Archives: January 2020

Cassidese Glossary – Masher

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.

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.

Cassidese Glossary – Mark Ant(h)ony

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 book How The Irish Invented Slang, the phoney American ‘professor’ Daniel Cassidy claimed that the English words mark or mark Anthony, slang terms for a sucker or target of a scam, derive from Irish. As usual, there is no evidence for this and plenty of strong evidence against it.

For one thing, while the word marc is Irish and means a mark, the word is a relatively modern borrowing from English and there is no evidence of it meaning target of a scam. In Irish, the earliest references date back to 1639, in the Catechismus of Tiobóid Galldubh (Theobald Stapleton). Cassidy’s claim that marc means ‘(of person) a mark’ is pure invention.

In English, the word is very ancient. It had acquired the meaning of target by the year 1200. It was first used with the meaning of target of a scam or sucker in the 1880s.

 

As for Mark Anthony, a slang phrase which seems to appear first in the 1970s in America, Cassidy claims that this comes from marc andána, which he says means a rash mark. The word andána is an intensified form of dána, which means bold. Of course, there is no evidence of anyone actually saying or writing marc andána in Irish. The sole authority for its existence is one person – Daniel Cassidy – who lived his whole life in the USA, never learned Irish and never acquired any qualifications.

And when you think about it, the whole thing is much more likely to be English than Irish. A mark is a target and has been since the middle ages. That word comes to be a term for the target of a scam. Then someone adds Anthony to it because everyone’s heard of Mark Anthony. It might also have been influenced by a work of 19th century Irish fiction, The Fortunes of Hector O’Halloran and His Man Mark Anthony O’Toole.

Cassidese Glossary – Mark

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 and distorted the evidence to make his claims seem slightly more reasonable. In his book, How The Irish Invented Slang, Cassidy claimed that the English word mark derives from the Irish marc. As usual, there is no evidence for this and plenty of strong evidence against it.

For one thing, while the word marc is Irish and means a mark, the word is a relatively modern borrowing from English and there is no evidence of it meaning target of a scam. In Irish, the earliest references date back to 1639, in the Catechismus of Tiobóid Galldubh (Theobald Stapleton).

Cassidy lies about this, defining marc as ‘a target; a goal; (of person) a mark’. This definition is not found in any dictionary or text or other source. It is strange that Cassidy, a man who spoke no Irish at all, considered it perfectly acceptable to invent meanings for Irish words or rewrite the dictionary definitions and his habit of doing this essentially leaves his entire book worthless.

In English, the word mark is very ancient. It had acquired the meaning of target by the year 1200. It was first used with the meaning of target of a scam or sucker in the 1880s. Marc never acquired that meaning in the Irish language.

Cassidese Glossary – Mammy

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 many cases where Cassidy simply claims (or implies) that because there are similar words in Irish and English, the source of the word must be the Irish version. This ignores the fact that the movement of words between the two languages has mostly been the other way, from English to Irish, and that mam(my) goes back further in English than it does in Irish. The term mam(my) seems to date back well into the sixteenth century in English, while in Irish there is no evidence of it before the modern era. (Though there is a word for a fostermother or nurse, muim(m)e, which dates back a long way in the language.) To be perfectly honest, I can’t claim to have exhaustively researched this matter but the earliest use of it I can find (in the form maimín) in the Irish-language Corpas na Gaeilge dates back to 1803.

Cassidese Glossary – Mac, Mack

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 Daniel Cassidy’s etymological hoax, How The Irish Invented Slang, Cassidy claims that this expression, used as an address to strangers in America, comes directly from the Irish word mac, which means son. On the face of it, this looks fairly convincing.

However, we need to examine such claims closely and objectively. The first problem is quite simply, why is this only an American expression? If it really came from Irish, surely you would expect Irish people to use it commonly? This is not the case.

Secondly, the term mac(k) is used to address people. The Irish language has a special case, the vocative, which is used to address people or animals or objects. Thus someone called Seán will be addressed in Irish as a Sheáin (a hyine). Someone called Máire will be addressed as a Mháire (a wyra).

In fact (as is usual in our language) it’s a little bit more complicated than that. As I mentioned in relation to the expression a stór, the grammar books specify that if an expression is metaphorical, then the word simply changes at the start (if it can change). Thus if you address someone as your treasure, you say a stór. If for some reason you are addressing a real box of treasure, you will make the full vocative change and say a stóir. If you don’t speak any Irish, don’t worry too much about this. All you need to know is that there are two ways of using mac in the vocative, a mhac (a wack) or a mhic (a vick). The former is theoretically used of someone who could be your son but isn’t, while a mhic would be used to your son.

In other words, as Irish speakers don’t say mac when addressing people, why would this expression come from Irish?

Incidentally, I’ll just share a cautionary tale with you here about how easy it is to be fooled by phoney etymologies. A few years ago, someone suggested that there was a lot of Irish in the slang of Liverpool, which is one of the most Irish places in England. One example given was the parting salutation Tara, whack!, which means something like ‘Goodbye, mate!’ This was claimed to be from Tabhair aire, a mhac! (Take care, sonny!) At the time, I thought this sounded reasonably convincing. While researching Cassidy’s book, I looked again at questions like this and found that it is almost certainly not true. Expressions like tara and tata are found in lots of dialects of English, not just Liverpudlian, and it turns out that long before Liverpudlians were known as Scousers (from a regional dish called lobscouse), they were termed whackers, which is a local English expression and probably unconnected with Irish. It is first recorded in 1768 but is not recorded in the shortened form of whack until the 1960s. Just goes to show that in etymology, even things that look convincing are often completely false.

Cassidese Glossary – Ma

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.

There are several words that sound like ma in Irish. Má can mean ‘if’ or it can mean ‘plain, field’. However, there is no Irish word má meaning mother. Terms for mother in Irish include maim, mamaí and máthair, but Cassidy’s suggestion that máthair could be shortened to má is nonsense because there is no evidence that anyone has ever used the term ‘má’ to mean mother in the Irish language.

Cassidy doesn’t say much about this word. It’s almost as if he knows that it’s simply worthless padding without any chance of being correct.

Cassidese Glossary – Luncheon

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.

Cassidese Glossary – Lunch

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 words lunch and luncheon and the relationship between them are complicated and messy. Real etymologies often are. We know that lunch was used for a lump of bread or cheese over four hundred years ago in English. This seems to have been its main meaning until the early 19th century, when it came to mean the midday meal.

It is also a fact that there was a word nuncheon which meant a light meal in the afternoon, and that this is the probable origin of luncheon and that some people think the end was knocked off luncheon giving lunch, and that the modern use of lunch has nothing to do with the older word meaning a lump. There’s a link here which explains it all:

http://www.wordorigins.org/index.php/site/comments/lunch_luncheon/

Daniel Cassidy claimed that the word lunch derives from the Irish word lón, or more specifically from its plural form. This is lónta in the standard language but Cassidy prefers to derive it from the variant lóinte – because this sounds more like lunch.

The word lón is used to mean lunch in modern Irish but its meaning was originally fat or lard, I suppose because people needed to store fat for the winter both as food and lighting fuel. It then came to mean provisions (not exclusively food) and indeed lón cogaidh or armlón mean ammunition in modern Irish. Lón was sometimes used in the plural as lónta or lóinte, but the English etymologies for the English word lunch are far more convincing, even if they are a little complicated and messy compared to the phoney simplicities that were Cassidy’s stock-in-trade.