Cassidese Glossary – Shag

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 shag usually refers to sexual intercourse in Ireland or Britain. In the USA, it is often used with the meaning of ‘to chase’, but there is some doubt about whether both meanings are the same word or two separate words that happen to sound the same. Shag in the sense of copulate dates back to 1788 and probably derives from an obsolete word for to shake or waggle. Shag as in to chase after something might be an extension of this, or a version of the word shack in the sense of wander around.

Daniel Cassidy, in his etymological hoax, How The Irish Invented Slang, claimed that the word shag comes from the Irish word seilg, meaning to hunt. This word is pronounced shellig and does not sound like the English shag. The meaning is not a good match and there is no evidence for a connection.

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