Category Archives: Cassidese Glossary

Cassidese Glossary – Holler

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.

Another claim in Daniel Cassidy’s absurd book How The Irish Invented Slang is the one about the word ‘holler’. This is an American term found in places like the Appalachians. The dictionary experts regard it as a variant of a word ‘hollow’ (meaning to shout) which is attested in English from the 16th century. In the dialect of areas like the Appalachians, the word hollow as in small dale or depression is also pronounced holler.

Daniel Cassidy will have none of it. According to Cassidy, this word comes from the Irish ollbhúir. This word is very uncommon, though it does actually exist in Irish, unlike most of Cassidy’s ‘Irish’ originals. It is found in Dinneen’s dictionary but not in the main modern dictionary by Niall Ó Dónaill. It is pronounced oll-woor or olloor. Cassidy thought that all Irish words beginning with a vowel have a h sound before them but this is not true.

If anyone thinks that it’s too much of a coincidence that an obscure Irish word (slightly) resembles holler, then I should point out that it’s also a remarkable coincidence that Spanish has haullar (to howl), French has hurler (to shout), German has heulen (to howl), Dutch has huilen (to howl) and that all of these words are far more common in their respective languages than ollbhúir is in Irish.

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Cassidese Glossary – Hokum

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.

Hokum basically means highly commercial material in a book or film or play, stuff that has been inserted simply because it’s frightening or funny or otherwise entertaining. If a film is described as hokum, it means that it is crowd-pleasing nonsense rather than art.

There is no agreement about where the term comes from. You can find a brief account of the known facts here: https://www.etymonline.com/word/hokum

The usual claim is that it was formed on the basis of bunkum and is perhaps a mixture of that word and hocus-pocus. I had always assumed that this word was something to do with oakum, the picked-out fibres of old ropes used with tar to caulk ships. When I looked on line, I found that this claim is quite common. A man called Walter J. Kingsley, an enthusiastic etymologist (but apparently one with low standards of scholarship), claimed that a Cockney former ship’s captain became manager of the Middlesex Music Hall in London and wherever a show had a weak section, he would recommend plugging it with a bit of (h)oakum. I rather like this story, but it does lack evidence, certainly.

Cassidy claimed that hokum comes from the ‘Irish’ ollchumadh, which he defines as ‘a huge made-up story, a vast invention; fig. a lengthy ad lib or improvisation’. It is true that oll- is a prefix meaning huge or gigantic, while cumadh is the verbal noun of a verb meaning composition or making up. However, ollchumadh is not recorded in any Irish text or dictionary. Cassidy had no evidence that anyone had ever used it to mean anything. It sounds very different from hokum (it is pronounced ollhommoo).

Cassidy says in his book that hokum is first cousin to bunkum, which he derives from buanchumadh. Of course, buanchumadh is a cousin of ollchumadh in a sense, in that it is another word made up by Cassidy for which no evidence exists.

Cassidese Glossary – Hoax, Hocus

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 hoax has a well-established origin in English. Hoax derives from an earlier word hocus, which meant to confuse, befuddle, drug or trick someone. Hocus almost certainly derives from hocus pocus, a garbled version of Latin hoc est corpus. Hocus has been around for hundreds of years, while hoax is more recent.

Cassidy doesn’t accept this. He prefers a derivation from the Irish olcas, which is pronounced olkass. (Not holkas) It doesn’t sound much like hoax. And does it mean the same thing as a hoax? No, it means badness or wickedness. Hoaxes are sometimes evil and wicked. Sometimes they are just playful. But they always involve the notion of dishonesty, of tricking people. In Irish, the words bob (as in bob a bhualadh ar dhuine, to play a practical joke on someone) or cleas (as in cleas a imirt ar dhuine, to play a trick on someone) would be the usual words for hoax. Not olcas. I should also point out that olcas is an abstract noun, not an adjective as Cassidy states.

Cassidese Glossary – Hinky

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.

Hinky is apparently an American slang term for nervous or jumpy and by extension, it can describe someone who is acting suspiciously. It dates back to the 1950s and there is no agreement about its origins. Some etymologies are discussed here:

What’s the origin of “hinky”?


However, to the late Daniel Cassidy, any word without a clear origin was automatically a hidden piece of Irish. Hinky is no exception. According to Cassidy, this derives from the Irish ainigí, meaning ‘wicked, bad, nervous, fretful or peevish’. This is actually aingí, not ainigí (which is given by Dinneen as a poetic variant). It is not pronounced with a h-. It is pronounced anniggee or anggee, which doesn’t sound much like hinky. It is defined by Ó Dónaill as:

aingí, a3. 1. Malignant. 2. Peevish, fretful. Leanbh, seanduine, ~, a peevish child, old man. (Var:~och)

This is not a bad match for the meaning but the sound is not a good match and the word is first found in English a long time after the period when there were huge numbers of Irish speakers in the slums of America. In other words, it’s better than Cassidy’s usual standard but still very, very improbable.

Cassidese Glossary – Hick

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 English word hick (peasant, bumpkin) means the same as the Irish words tuathánach, cábóg, tútachán, farcach. That is, it means the same thing, more or less, as that common word in the English of Ireland, culchie.

According to Daniel Cassidy, in his work of fantasy How The Irish Invented Slang, it comes from the Irish word aitheach. Aitheach is an old-fashioned, literary word for a churl and of course, the sound of aitheach is nothing like the sound of hick. (For English speakers with no Irish, it’s pronounced something like Aha or eye-hah. To get a proper flavour of how it might be pronounced in the main dialects, go to focloir.ie and play the sound files for the words maith and teach.)

There is absolutely no doubt about the genuine origin of hick. Hick is an affectionate version of the name Richard. It’s a form of the name which was found among rural people. It was originally used to mean a hosteler and came to be used of a yokel by 1700.

Cassidese Glossary – Helter Skelter

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.

Helter skelter is what is known as a rhyming jingle (or rhyming reduplication). Such jingles are common throughout the world’s languages. Among examples in English are harum scarum, pell mell and hurly-burly. In Irish, one of the equivalents of helter skelter is caorthain charthain (pr. keerhin kharhin). In modern English, helter skelter mostly refers to a kind of fairground slide. In Irish I would call it a teach solais (lighthouse) because that’s what they look like. (I note that none of the available Irish dictionaries gives a translation for the fairground slide meaning of helter skelter, which is a strange omission.)

This fairground usage of helter skelter is fairly recent. The term originally meant ‘chaotically, in disorder’ and dates back to at least the 16th century. As with most of these rhyming jingles, the individual words probably don’t mean very much.

To Cassidy, of course, these were Irish words. According to Cassidy, helter skelter comes from áilteoir scaoilte, ‘a run amuck clown; an unconstrained wild prankster; a loose-limbed trickster; a joker running loose’. This is nonsense. For one thing, it is an extremely poor match for the known meanings of helter skelter. “They fell a run amok clown down the stairs?” “They ran an unconstrained wild prankster through the door?” I don’t think so.

Another problem is that there is no evidence that the word áilteoir even existed in Irish the 16th century, when the phrase helter skelter first appears in English. It is first recorded in Dinneen’s dictionary in the early 20th century.

Cassidese Glossary – Heeler

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.

A heeler or ward heeler was the representative of a politician in the local community in American politics in the 19th and early 20th centuries. As Cassidy sneers: ‘The well-heeled editors of most Anglo-American dictionaries derive heeler from the heel of a shoe.’ In other words, the mainstream (and almost certainly correct) view is that a ward heeler who walked the ward making sure that the electorate were happy with the politician.

Cassidy claims that this word is really the Irish éilitheoir. Cassidy says that this is pronounced éló’r or h-ælór. This is Cassidy’s ad hoc personal system of transcription, so it makes little sense but I should point out that words beginning with a vowel are not pronounced with a h- sound in Irish, as Cassidy thought. The word éilitheoir would be pronounced aylihore. Its meaning is given by Ó Dónaill as:

éilitheoir, m. (gs. -ora, pl. ~í).1. Claimant; claimer (ar, of). 2. Complainant, plaintiff.

Dinneen says that this is: éilightheoir, one who demands or charges; a petitioner, a suitor;

a creditor, a claimant : an accuser, a plaintiff.

This is a long way from Cassidy’s ‘one who demands or charges; a petitioner; a claimer; a friendly petitioner; a claimsman, an advocate; one who makes friendly inquiries about; one who visits in a friendly manner’.

The English heeler makes a lot more sense for someone who continually walked around the ward resolving issues. I cannot see why claimant or plaintiff or accuser would have anything much to do with the work of a ward heeler.