Cassidese Glossary – Spic

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 spic is used as a racial slur in America for people of Hispanic descent. There are various theories about where it comes from, all of them more convincing than the Irish explanation offered by Daniel Cassidy in his etymological hoax, How The Irish Invented Slang.

Some people regard spic as derived from HiSPanIC. Others point to a shortening of an obsolete term ‘spiggoty’, supposedly a phonetic rendering of a Spanish speaker saying that they don’t speak English.

Cassidy claims that it comes from spioc, which he says means ‘Spioc (pron. spic), n., a spark; a “firebrand”, a person of irate, impulsive, hot-tempered ways. Spioc fir, a man subject to sudden fits of temper. Spioc mná, an excitable woman. (Dineen, 1099.)’

There is no such word as spioc in Irish. Dinneen gives the word as spioch, which is not pronounced as spic. It is pronounced something like shpigh or shpugh, with the gh like the gh of Irish lough or simply as a harsh h sound. The usual modern spelling of this word is speach and this is the only form of it given in Ó Dónaill’s dictionary. Ó Dónaill defines it as ‘kick, recoil, snap, fit or spasm, the equivalent of speachaire (an animal given to kicking, an irascible person).’ Cassidy misread Dinneen’s dictionary, which is in the old pre-reform script and spelling, so a ch was written as a ċ.

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