Cassidese Glossary – Scam

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, claimed that the word scam comes from a supposed Irish phrase ’s cam é, meaning ‘it’s crooked’. There is no evidence of anyone using such a phrase in Irish and there are much better expressions for a scam. Even if it did exist, phrases are rarely borrowed. The evidence of linguistics tells us that almost all borrowings between languages are single words, and most of them are nouns.

The word scam first occurs in America in the 1960s. There are many possible explanations for its origin. It could be from scamp, meaning a swindler. Or from scheme. Or from a group of related words in French, Spanish and Portuguese meaning to disappear or to swindle. The most likely of these is escamotear in Spanish. Me han escamoteado mil dolares means “they stole a thousand dollars from me.”

Cassidy’s claim is highly improbable.

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