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Cassidese Glossary – Ring

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 in Daniel Cassidy’s work of false etymology where he ignores the correct and straightforward explanation in favour of a creaky and unconvincing origin of his own invention. As he says in the book:

But if a button is … ringing (roinn, pron. ring, to deal) in a crooked deck, every Punter is a loser. (Page 52)

In other words, Cassidy is claiming that ringing, a slang word for substitution, is from the Irish word roinn, the basic meaning of which is divide. It is not pronounced the same as ring. Why a word meaning divide or deal would acquire the meaning of substitute is not explained.

In reality, the term ringing dates back to the early nineteenth century as an expression for substitution, possibly from the bell-ringing phrase ‘to ring the changes’ (but see my theory below). Then in the late nineteenth century, we get the expression a dead ringer, meaning a horse which resembles another horse and is substituted for it to banjax the gambling odds.

It is just possible (and this is only a suggestion, not a statement of fact) that the notion of a fawney ring being a substitute for a real gold ring could have led to the term ring being used for substitutions in general.

Cassidy’s claim is obviously untrue. Incidentally, there is an even sillier explanation doing the rounds for dead ringer, that it refers to people putting telephones into graves in case they were buried alive. This just goes to show that people are absolute suckers for fake etymology.

Cassidese Glossary – Rhino

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.

Rhino is an old slang term for money. It often occurs in the phrase ‘the ready rhino’, which means hard cash. There is no agreement about its origins. Some people have pointed to the fact that rhino horn was a very expensive commodity in ancient pharmacies while others link it to expressions like ‘paying through the nose’ (rhino is Greek for nose).

Daniel Cassidy, in his work of fictional etymology, How The Irish Invented Slang, claimed that rhino derives from the Irish word rianú. He claims that this means engraving and that therefore this refers to the engraved patterns on coins. Leaving aside the pronunciation, which is not that close, and the fact that this word is a verbal noun and much more likely to describe an action or a process than an object, rianú is defined as ‘marking, tracing, delineation’ by Ó Dónaill and strangely enough, Dinneen doesn’t give the meaning of engraving either! Even if it did mean engraving, there would be a major problem with this claim. Cassidy seems to think that craftsmen individually engraved the designs on each coin. Of course, since Roman times, coins have been made by placing a disk of soft metal between two dies and striking them to stamp the image from the die onto the metal, not by engraving.

The origins of the term rhino for money are unknown, but the possible connection between the word rianú and coins is so weak and so contrived that it really isn’t worth considering.

Cassidese Glossary – Razzamatazz

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 razzamatazz, meaning showmanship, first appears in the 1890s. It seems to be linked to terms like razzle and razzle-dazzle.

The late Daniel Cassidy, in his etymological hoax, How The Irish Invented Slang, claimed that it comes from the Irish phrase roiseadh mórtas, which he says means “a blast of high spirits and exultation; a burst of boastfulness and bragging.”

In fact, this phrase is completely unknown in the Irish language. It is ungrammatical, as mórtas would have to be in the genitive form mórtais, and it would not sound a lot like razzamatazz if it did exist. As for meaning, taking the first stated meaning of each word from Ó Dónaill’s dictionary, it would mean ‘ripping of pride’, which isn’t very similar to the meanings of razzamatazz.

Cassidese Glossary – Razz

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 the article on the term Raspberry, I explained that Cassidy claimed that raspberry (as in to blow a raspberry, to make a farting noise) comes from the Irish roiseadh búirthí, which he says means a burst of enthusiasm. It doesn’t. Razz is a similar term, meaning to blow a raspberry or by extension to verbally abuse someone. The usual explanation for this term is that it is simply a shortening of raspberry.

Daniel Cassidy, in his work of etymological fantasy, How The Irish Invented Slang, claimed that raspberry comes from roiseadh búirthí but razz comes from a different but related word, rois, which means a volley, a blast or a burst. Rois (pronounced roughly as rush) sounds nothing like razz either, of course, though it does have the considerable advantage of being a genuine Irish word rather than a made-up phrase.

Cassidese Glossary – Raspberry

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 experts tell us that raspberry (as in ‘to blow a raspberry’) is rhyming slang and comes from ‘raspberry tart’ = fart. This seems to have emerged in the capital of rhyming slangs (London) in the 1890s and spread fairly quickly throughout the English-speaking world.

According to the late Daniel Cassidy in his etymological hoax, How The Irish Invented Slang, raspberry comes from the words raiseadh (sic) búirthí, which translates roughly as a volley of bellowings. Of course, blowing a raspberry means to make a farting noise with the lips, so an Irish speaker would use the word broim (fart)or some variant of it to describe the action of blowing a raspberry, not a word meaning a barrage of bellowing.

Of course, there is no evidence of anyone, anywhere actually using the phrase roiseadh búirthí before Cassidy. Focloir.ie gives broim béil (a mouth-fart) as the Irish for a raspberry in this sense.

Cassidese Glossary – Ragged

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 fantasy, How The Irish Invented Slang, claimed that ragtime music was sometimes known as ragged music in the early days of its development in the 1890s. This seems to be true.

However, while Cassidy derives ragtime from the Irish ráig, he derives ragged music from a different but related (and obscure) word, ráigíocht, which means wandering, gadding about or vagrancy.

It is hard to understand how this could be a convincing derivation for ragged. It is just a random word which happens to sound a little similar to the English. Cassidy makes no attempt to establish or prove any connection.

Cassidese Glossary – Rag(time)

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 claimed that ragtime (a style of music which was in many ways the forerunner of jazz) derived its name from the Irish language. Of course, there was no evidence for this apart from the fact that there is a word in Irish which slightly resembles rag, the word ráig. (Of course, English also has the word rag but Cassidy didn’t believe that any English slang terms derive from English – they were all secretly Irish!)

His post on ragtime is typical of his fanciful etymology. Cassidy says that ráig means ‘a rush, gadding about, an impulse, impulsiveness, a fit of madness, frivolity, happiness, lightheartedness, acting the fool, revelry, noise;. Ráig-time (rush-time) is joyous music, characterized by its impulsive, driving syncopation and rapid shifts of tempo and melody.’

This is not a real entry from a real dictionary. Here’s what the principal modern Irish dictionary, Ó Dónaill, says:

ráig, f. (gs. ~e, pl. ~eanna). Sudden rush; sudden outbreak; fit, bout, attack. ~ a thabhairt amach, to dash out, to sally forth. ~ reatha, sudden spurt. ~ ruathair, mad rush. ~ feirge, fit of anger. Tháinig ~ air, he flew into a rage. ~ thinnis, bout of illness. ~ bhruitíní, outbreak of measles. ~ bháistí, ~ de mhúr, sudden shower. De ~, suddenly, hurriedly, with a rush. (Var: raig)

Dinneen’s dictionary tends to be more inclusive and mixes up different eras and different dialects with abandon. Dinneen says that ráig is ‘A hurried journey, visit or attack; a fit of sickness, madness or anger; a sudden shower, bout or battle; frivolity, “rage”, pursuit, conflict, noise; …’ In other words, in both Irish dictionaries, the negativity of the word is emphasised. Cassidy implies that ráig is something nice, while the genuine sources tell us that ráig is primarily a fit of anger or madness or a spell of bad weather.

This is not a good match for any possible meaning of ragtime.

Most experts regard ragtime as black music rather than Irish and they think that the syncopation makes it ragged or raggy, which they believe is the origin. There are other theories. But Cassidy’s ráig is not a good match and Cassidy knew it, which is why he invented the incorrect definition he gave rather than copying a real one out of a dictionary.

Cassidese Glossary – Racketeer

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.

(See the articles on Racket above.) The development of this term seems to be that racket as in to make a sound (especially used as a distraction for criminal activity) became linked to words like rack (to put someone on the rack) and rack-renting (to extort rent from someone) and thus a racket came to mean a criminal enterprise. This then gave rise to racketeer as a word for people who run rackets. Cassidy ransacks dictionaries looking for obscure Irish and Gaelic terms like reacaire which means a seller and ragaire which in one obscure reference (primarily to Scottish Gaelic) also meant an ‘extortioner’, according to Dinneen. The word reacadóir (an alternative form of reacaire which sounds a little like racketeer) does not mean ‘extortioner’, in spite of what Cassidy says.

 

Cassidese Glossary – Racket (Criminal)

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 truth is probably quite simple. At some stage, racket as in to make a sound (especially used as a distraction for criminal activity) became linked to words like rack (to put someone on the rack) and rack-renting (to extort rent from someone) and thus a racket came to mean a criminal enterprise.

Cassidy claims that this is of Irish or Scottish Gaelic origin but gives a number of different terms in both languages with his chaotic and disorganised ‘system’ of referencing, where he gives all the references in a jumble at the end, so it is impossible to say with any certainty which of these terms Cassidy is claiming as the origin of racket or what evidence he has for this claim. For what it’s worth, here is Cassidy’s take on it:

Ragaireachd (pron. ragerǝċd), n., (Gaelic) violence; extortion, oppression, roguery Racaireacht (pron. rakerǝċt), n., dealing, selling. Ragair, n., an extortioner, a violent man, villain, rogue, deceiver; cf. reacaire, reacadóir, n., a seller, a dealer; an extortioner (Ó Dónaill, 988; Dineen [sic], 872 882; Dwelly 744.)

Of course, ragaireachd is Scottish Gaelic, not Irish, and it would be pronounced ragurrakhk, with a k sound at the end, not a d. There was very little if any Scottish Gaelic spoken in urban areas of the USA in the 19th century, so it and Ragair are probably not relevant, even if they do mean what Cassidy said. (Extortioner does seem to be one of the meanings of ragaire in Gaelic.) Even if these were relevant, they don’t sound much like racket or racketeer.

Racaireacht doesn’t exist. Reacaireacht means selling, reciting or gossiping, none of which are appropriate, and reacaire means seller, reciter or gossip. Ragaire is given in Dinneen as meaning an extortioner but the reference is to the 17th/18th century Kirk/Ó Broin Glossary (Egerton 158) which is a glossary of Scottish Gaelic terms.

Cassidese Glossary – Racket (Noise)

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 etymological hoax, How The Irish Invented Slang, derives racket from raic ard, a high noise. As we have said many times here, phrases are only ever borrowed between languages when they are clichés or stock phrases, things like bête noire or je ne sais quoi. Raic ard is not a familiar stock phrase, and it doesn’t sound much like racket (it is pronounced rack ard).

In fact, racket is an English expression, a version of an earlier term rattick. The word raic in Irish is probably a borrowing from some related English word or perhaps from (w)rack, a dialect version of wreck (as in the ‘rackers’ who used to break into people’s houses and smash them up during agrarian disturbances in Ireland), or the similarity could just be coincidental.