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 points out that a soogan was a kind of bed-roll used by cowboys and says that this was from the Irish súgan, which he defines as a straw mat.
He is right about its Irish origin but as usual, the details have been mangled. The word is spelled súgán, with two accents, and its primary meaning is a rope made from straw. By extension, this came to mean a mat woven out of such straw ropes, especially one used as a saddle on a horse or donkey.
Merriam-Webster already implied the Irish origin of the word soogan before Cassidy:
1 chiefly Irish : a hand-twisted rope of straw or heather
2 : a coarse blanket used by cowboys and ranchmen
In other words, this is interesting but did not originate with Cassidy. Incidentally, for those with a genuine interest in Irish language and culture, one of the most intriguing uses of suggawn is in phrases like ‘Rise with the suggawn and fall with the gad!’ This is from the days when every area had its own dancing-master and the young prided themselves on knowing the steps. For those who weren’t comfortable with the notions of right and left, the learners would tie a piece of suggawn rope around one leg and a willow osier (gad) around the other so that they could distinguish them. (Like the hay-foot, straw-foot used to teach soldiers to march.)