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 claims that the mainstream dictionaries regard scut (rascal) as deriving from another word scut which means a short tail, as in a hare or deer’s tail. This seems not to be the case, as the OED says that scut is two separate nouns:
- the short tail of a hare, rabbit, or deer.
- (inf. chiefly Irish) a person perceived as foolish, contemptible, or objectionable.
It is true that scut is often used in Ireland, particularly in reference to children: Away out o’ that, ye wee scut. (Also skitter.) However, Cassidy also claims that scut comes from the Irish word scódaí. This is defined by Ó Dónaill in his Irish-English dictionary:
scódaí, m. (gs. ~, pl. -aithe).1. Person without restraint; gadabout, pleasure-seeker. 2. Loose-tongued person; gossip-seeker.
Dinneen’s dictionary spells this word scoduidhe and defines it as:
scoduidhe, g. id., pl. -dhthe, m., a good-for-nothing person, one who follows his own will.
Cassidy defines scódaí as ‘a term of contempt for a person; a reckless, careless person’.
It is conceivable that there is some relationship between scut and scódaí but it seems unlikely that scódaí would be borrowed into English in the form scut. It seems far more likely that this word is linked in some way to the Scots terms, scoot or scootch or scootie – a mean and utterly contemptible person, a scamp, a conceited boaster … (See the entry on Scootch for details.) In other words, this merits further examination but there is no clear evidence for a link between the Irish and English words and the link is probably not from Irish to English.