Category Archives: Cassidese Glossary

Cassidese Glossary – Dear

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 false etymology, How The Irish Invented Slang, points out that the Irish word daor and the English word dear have very similar meanings and sound almost identical. This is an interesting pair of words, because it demonstrates beautifully the fundamental weakness of Cassidy’s approach. These two words are false cognates. They are words that resemble each other in both meaning and sound, yet there is no etymological connection. The resemblance is purely a matter of coincidence.

This is less rare than you might think. Here’s an article on them: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/False_cognate

The Irish daor (originally doír) belongs to a set of pairs of words in Irish where one is negative and begins with d, while the other is positive and begins with s. For example, dona means unhappy or unlucky, while sona means lucky or happy. Saoi is a scholar, while daoi is a dunce. Saoirse is freedom, while daoirse is bondage or slavery. Daor means unfree or expensive (and sometimes severe), while saor means free or cheap.

The English word dear is an ancient Germanic word. It comes from Middle English dere, from Old English dēore, from Proto-Germanic *diurijaz. It is cognate with Dutch duur (“costly, precious”), German teuer (“costly, precious”), Icelandic dýr (“expensive”), Norwegian dyr, Swedish dyr (“expensive”). It developed the meaning of loved because of an extension of the nothing of precious.

In other words, the facts about these two words are simple, clear and well-established. They have clear histories, the word dear going back into the distant past in Germanic, while daor/doír goes back well over a thousand years in Irish. Neither word comes from the other. Their histories are entirely separate. Cassidy’s treatment of these words is confused and confusing.

Firstly, he claims that the English word dear is of ‘uncertain etymology,’ which is untrue.

Then he claims that:

MacBain takes the Irish daor, costly, severe, daoradh, making dear, from Middle English deere, deore, which the OED traces back to Old English word dēor, “of uncertain etymology.”

This is also nonsense. The word dēor is of impeccable Germanic lineage. Also, MacBain does not claim that Irish daor, costly, severe, comes from Middle English. There are two entries for daor in MacBain’s dictionary. One is the Irish word meaning enslaved or unfree, of impeccable Irish lineage. In the seventeenth century, the English word dear was also borrowed into Irish with the meaning of dear (as in beloved). The two words are given on two separate lines (see below). Yet Cassidy mixes them up and treats them as the same. Here are the relevant two entries from MacBain’s dictionary:

daor, enslaved, so Ir., 0. Ir doír ; opposite of saor (with negative do-, *du-), which see for root.

daor, dear, Ir. daor, daoradh, making dear (Four Masters) ; from M. Eng. deere, deore, dear (Stokes).

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Cassidese Glossary – Dead Rabbits

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 amateur etymologist Daniel Cassidy claimed that the Dead Rabbits gang, shown in the film Gangs of New York as carrying a dead rabbit on a spike as a totem, really had no connection with rabbits at all and that this name is in truth a phonetic rendering of the Irish ráibéad, meaning a ‘hulking person, a broad-shouldered, muscular man’. To him, dead is an English intensifier.

There is no doubt that the Dead Rabbits did carry a dead rabbit into battle with them, or at least that this claim was made a long time ago. As far as I’m concerned, that is pretty much that, because once you accept that their name is connected to dead rabbits, any claim that the name is Irish becomes pointless and unlikely to be correct.

The word ráibéad is an incredibly obscure word, which is not mentioned in Dinneen’s dictionary, though it is mentioned in Ó Dónaill’s, where it is defined as ‘a big, hulking person or thing’ – not a ‘hulking person, a broad-shouldered, muscular man’. Ó Dónaill got it from an article in a journal which was an account of words from one parish in the west of Ireland. In other words, it seems to have been equivalent to the English term ‘whopper’ in the Irish of Indreabhán a couple of generations ago.

In short, Cassidy’s claim is nonsense.

Cassidese Glossary – Darn

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 claims that the word darn comes from the Irish phrase dothairne air. This word does exist, but it is quite obscure. Ó Dónaill’s dictionary has this:

dothairne, f. (gs. ~). Affliction. Díth is ~ ort! Bad scran to you!

Dinneen has this:

dothairne g., id., f., evil, mischief; misfortune; do dhíth is do dhothairne ort, misery and misfortune attend thee.

However, “dothairne air” is not a common expression in Irish. I have just put it into Google and got 8 hits, all of them relating to this blog. The phrase “damnú air” got 489 hits.

There is no doubt about where darn it really comes from. It is first recorded (in America) in 1781. Early references include specific claims that darn is a euphemistic substitution for damn. The existence of expressions like ‘gosh darn it to heck!’ and ‘darnation’ leave us with little room for doubt that this is another minced oath, like Baloney! or Gee Whizz! or Holy Cow!

Cassidese Glossary – Dander

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 dander seems to be of Scottish or Northern English origin. According to Wiktionary, it seems to have a number of meanings and probably a number of different origins. The term ‘to get one’s dander up’ is of unknown origin. Other uses such as ‘to go for a dander’ (to go for a meandering walk) seem to corruptions of daddle, a version of dawdle. The Ulsterism ‘to dander a child on your knee’ is plainly a version of ‘dandle’.

Cassidy’s suggestion is that dander comes from tintrí. This is a bad match in terms of pronunciation and meaning. The word tintrí is defined as follows:

  1. Fiery, hot-tempered. 2. Flashing; ardent, fierce.

You can find sound files for the word tintrí in the three main dialects of Irish at this link:

https://www.focloir.ie/en/dictionary/ei/fiery#fiery__2

Cassidese Glossary – Darb

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 word darb means any excellent person or remarkable thing. He claims that it derives from Shelta, a kind of Irish-based backslang used by the Irish Travellers. He cites the word daarp, which he claims is a Shelta adjective meaning true, genuine, real. In reality, the word d’arp is given in The Secret Languages of Ireland as a word for true or genuine. This would be pronounced jarp and is derived from the Irish dearbh, meaning true or genuine.

Collins Dictionary takes the view that the American slang term darb is a contraction of the earlier slang term darby, meaning ready money, originally, a strict usurer’s bond, short for Father Darby’s bond. If it comes from darby, then plainly it doesn’t come from d’arp.

Cassidese Glossary – Daddy-O

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.

Daddy-o is an expression used from the 1950s onwards by hipsters and beatniks. It is simply a term of endearment. Cassidy believes that it derives from the Irish word daideo, which is pronounced dadge-oh and means grandfather. There is no reason to suppose that daddy-o is anything other than daddy with o on the end of it. There is an interesting piece of dishonesty in Cassidy’s treatment of this. He claims that daideo is pronounced dad’ǝo, and therefore that it has a diphthong at the end, as in the English expression. This is not true.

Cassidese Glossary – Dad, Daddy

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 expressions like daid and daidí and daidín in Irish resemble the English words dad and daddy.

There is no doubt that the words dad and daddy go back a long way in English. Dad is found as far back as 1500 but is probably much older. Some sources have claimed that this is of Celtic origin, and this is the view that Cassidy takes (though Cassidy was not trained as a linguist, and his input in this case is completely uninformed and therefore irrelevant).

Douglas Harper’s excellent Online Etymology Dictionary takes a different view, pointing out that such forms (like mum, mammy and mama) are ‘nearly universal and probably prehistoric’ (https://www.etymonline.com/word/dad).

Whatever the origins of dad and daddy, Cassidy was not the first to make a claim of Celtic origins for these words, so there is nothing original in his treatment of this subject.