Cassidese Glossary – Ruffler

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 ruffler was originally used of a swaggering or arrogant beggar, a beggar who was or pretended to be an ex-soldier and who either begged or robbed people at the point of a sword. It is first recorded in English in the year 1561, long before the Irish words claimed as its origin by Cassidy, ráfla and ráflálaí. (The earliest I can find for ráfla is 1670.)

Ruffler is believed to come from ruffle. The sense is of a bird preening its own feathers.

In Irish, the word ráfla means a rumour and a ráflálaí is one who spreads rumours. I have been unable to find any clear statement about the origins of ráfla in Irish, but nearly all nouns ending in -a in Irish are borrowings from Norman French or Middle English. It seems likely to me that this word is also, like ruffler, derived from ruffle and that that word ruffle must have had the same meaning as to create a stir in the English of the Pale long ago. (I also looked at raffle as a possible source but could find no evidence that the meanings of raffle would have been suitable.)

What is quite clear is that the words ráfla and ráflálaí are borrowings from English into Irish, whatever the exact source, and not the other way round.

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