Monthly Archives: April 2020

Cassidese Glossary – Wanker

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 uath-anchor is a real Irish phrase and is defined as ‘self-abuse; masturbation; fig. a masturbator’. This, according to Cassidy, is the origin of the slang word wanker. In fact, there are many genuine expressions for masturbation in Irish, such as féintruailliú, féinsuaitheadh, lámhchairdeas or lámhchartadh.

The word uath-anchor does not exist at all. It and its supposed meanings were invented by Daniel Cassidy. If it did exist, it would mean something akin to ‘spontaneous ill-treatment’. In reality, wanker is probably derived from English dialect expressions meaning something like ‘to hit’, but there is no certainty about its etymology (except that it doesn’t come from the non-existent uath-anchor!)

Cassidese Glossary – Wallop

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. 

In his etymological hoax How The Irish Invented Slang, the late Daniel Cassidy claimed that the word wallop, meaning to beat or strike, is derived from the Irish phrase bhuail leadhb.

The first thing that needs to be pointed out about this claim is that bhuail leadhb is not a proper Irish phrase. Bhuail is the past tense of buail meaning to beat. Leadhb, amongst other things, can refer to a blow or a stroke, but in this sense it is usually used with the word for give – thug sé leadhb dó, he gave him a blow, not bhuail sé leadhb (air?). (This is much the same as English – you don’t beat someone a blow, you beat someone or you give someone a blow.) And bhuail leadhb would never be heard together, because it needs a subject, (bhuail sé leadhb, bhuail Pádraig leadhb) and nobody would borrow a phrase unless they heard it being used, which they wouldn’t with bhuail leadhb. I should also point out that Cassidy claimed bhuail as the origin of wale as well. So the same word becomes wale in one case and wall in another, which is hardly likely.

Furthermore, wallop is an ancient word in English, though it originally meant to gallop. It apparently only acquired the new meaning of to beat or strike in the early 19th century, but this is probably a development of its earlier meaning, or perhaps just a re-use of a word which sounded right for a blow. Wherever it genuinely comes from, the fact is that it does not come from bhuail leadhb.

Cassidese Glossary – (Say) Uncle

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.

There is no consensus about the etymology of the term uncle in the expression ‘Say uncle!’ (Equivalent to ‘Pax!’ in English or ‘Méaram!’ in Irish.)

The most likely explanation is an oft-repeated joke about a parrot: A gentleman was boasting that his parrot would repeat anything he told him. For example, he told him several times, before some friends, to say “Uncle,” but the parrot would not repeat it. In anger he seized the bird, and half-twisting his neck, said: “Say ‘uncle,’ you beggar!” and threw him into the fowl pen, in which he had ten prize fowls. Shortly afterward, thinking he had killed the parrot, he went to the pen. To his surprise he found nine of the fowls dead on the floor with their necks wrung, and the parrot standing on the tenth twisting his neck and screaming: “Say ‘uncle,’ you beggar! say uncle.’ ”

Apparently, this joke (however unfunny it seems to modern taste) was often printed in newspapers in the 1890s in Britain and in the USA. Another explanation is that Say uncle! comes from a Latin phrase used by Roman children, who customarily said “Patrue, mi Patruissimo,” or “Uncle, my best Uncle,” in order to surrender to a bully. I have failed to find any confirmation at all of this claim.

According to Daniel Cassidy, this comes from the Irish anacal, meaning ‘mercy, quarter; fig. surrender’. I need hardly say that the surrender bit was added by Cassidy and isn’t a real definition of the word. There is no evidence of anyone asking for mercy using the old-fashioned and rather literary word anacal in playground games.

In any case, this claim was made first in American Speech vol 51, 1976, though Cassidy doesn’t mention this in his book. In other words, the claim of a link between anacal and uncle dates back thirty years before Cassidy’s book.

Cassidese Glossary – Twig

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 African-American expression to dig (to understand or to like) as well as the earlier slang term twig comes from the Irish verb tuigeann, to understand.

This is possible but twig and its relationship to tuig was first discussed by Walter Skeat, who died in 1912. Both twig and dig and their possible origin from tuig were discussed in a paper by Eric P. Hamp, first published in 1981, called “On the Celtic origin of English slang dig/twig ‘understand’”. In other words, this claim has nothing whatever to do with Cassidy and predates his book by generations.

Cassidese Glossary – Twerp

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 twerp, an insulting term for an insignificant person or fool, seems to make its appearance first in English about 1910. Nobody is quite sure of its origin. A popular derivation is that it derives from the name of T.W. Earp, an Oxford student who was very aesthetic and artistic and mocked by his sportier contemporaries for his urbanity. The Dictionary of American Slang suggests that it was first used in 1874 (which would discount the T.W. Earp explanation) but apparently there is no citation for this, so I would be reluctant to accept it without further information.

In his etymological hoax, How The Irish Invented Slang, the late Daniel Cassidy claimed that the expression twerp comes from the Irish word doirb, which he defines as ‘an insect, a worm, a dwarf, a small, insignificant person, a diminutive insignificant creature; a small fish, a small fry’.

Doirb, according to Ó Dónaill’s Foclóir Gaeilge-Béarla (Irish-English Dictionary), means a water beetle. That is the only meaning given.

Dinneen, an earlier and less accurate dictionary, has a head-word doirbh, which means: an insect, causing swellings in cattle or soreness of the teats; a water-worm (Torr); a dwarf. It can also have the forms doirb, duirb, dairb or darbh.

In other words, doirb, which would be pronounced dorrib, or doirbh which would be pronounced dorriv, is basically a word for a water-beetle. Apparently it can also mean a dwarf but its use as an insult for an insignificant person is not recorded anywhere before Cassidy.

Cassidese Glossary – Throng

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 throng means a crowd or large group of people. Daniel Cassidy, in his etymological hoax, How The Irish Invented Slang, claimed that this was from the Irish word drong, with the same meaning. When I first saw this claim, I made the assumption that drong is a borrowing from Old Norse into Irish. In fact, this is incorrect. Drong is probably (according to the excellent Celtic scholar Ranko Matasović) an ancient borrowing from Germanic into Proto-Celtic, so it goes back before Irish had differentiated from the main stem of Celtic.

Regardless of the origins of drong, the English word throng is of ancient Germanic origin and does not come from Irish, as you can see at this link: https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/throng

Cassidese Glossary – Tiger

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.

According to Wikipedia, in the US, the card game known as Faro was also called ‘bucking the tiger’ or ‘twisting the tiger’s tail’, a reference to a picture of a Bengal tiger which appeared on the backs of playing cards.

Cassidy rejected this (by not actually mentioning it) and claimed that the word tiger in this case derives from the Irish adjective diaga (pron. jee-agga or dee-agga), which means divine. According to Cassidy: ‘The Tiger (diaga, divine, holy, diagaireacht, a divinity) was the god of the odds.’

Dia is a divinity in Irish. The variant diagaireacht could just, at a pinch, be used for divinity, the subject of study (not A divinity), though the usual word for that is diagacht. None of these words has any close or meaningful relation to card-playing or Faro.

Cassidese Glossary – Teem

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 late Daniel Cassidy claimed that the English word teem is derived from the Irish word taom. The word teem in English is similar in meaning to the almost identically-pronounced Irish word taom, which means to empty or bale out. However, in reality, both of these words are ancient in their respective languages. Both English teem and Irish taom are borrowings from some word akin to Norse toema. Neither is a borrowing from the other.

Incidentally, the similarity between teem and taom was discussed in the glossary of Loretto Todd’s 2000 book Green English, so this is a claim made before Cassidy embarked on his etymological hoax.

Cassidese Glossary – Taunt

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 work of etymological fantasy, How The Irish Invented Slang, claimed that hundreds of English words were really derived from Irish. For example, he claimed that the word taunt is derived from the Irish tathant, which means to urge or incite or entreat.

There are several problems with this. While taunt sounds a bit like tathant (tahunt), the word taunt is already found in the English of England at the beginning of the 16th century. This is too early for it to have come from Irish, as there was no significant Irish immigration to England that far back. Furthermore, most scholars regard it as from French, probably from tenter (to tempt or to provoke). The meaning is also quite different. Tathant is a word with positive connotations. It means to urge, to encourage, to entreat, not to rile someone or provoke them.

Cassidese Glossary – Tantrum

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.

In his work of etymological fiction, How The Irish Invented Slang, the late Daniel Cassidy claimed that the word tantrum in English derives from the Irish word teintrighim (tintrím as it would be in modern spelling), which would be pronounced chen-chreem. This is a real word from Dinneen’s dictionary. Dinneen defines it as ‘I flash forth, lighten, brighten, glisten’.

I need hardly point out that while this word exists (it’s in a dictionary) it is hard to think of any circumstance where it would actually be used, as storms rarely speak, even in stories. As usual, Cassidy does not simply copy the meanings given by Irish scholars, so his definition of the word is: ‘I flash-forth; fig. I have a tantrum or fiery fit’.

Back in reality, the origin of tantrum is almost certainly traceable to the name of a devil in English folklore, Tantrum-Bobus. This was used as a nickname for a boisterous child and eventually, it came to have the meaning of a fit of anger. For example, in the 1810s, in his diary, Henry Monro gives a list of his brother Tom’s rows with family members, including “a tantrum bobus with my mother”. Monro was a Londoner.