Tag Archives: American slang doesn’t come from Irish

Beat

Daniel Cassidy, in his insane and ridiculous book, How The Irish Invented Slang, claimed that the American slang word beat comes from the Irish word béad. This is one of the many examples in the book where Cassidy simply ignored a perfectly logical and obvious English explanation for American English slang terms and opted for implausible explanations in a language he knew absolutely nothing about – Irish.

Beat means, according to Cassidy, ‘to rob, cheat or swindle’ or to be robbed, cheated or swindled. A ‘bad beat’, according to Cassidy, is a severe loss in poker and of course, a ‘dead beat’ is someone who is down and out. All of these meanings are perfectly easy to understand in terms of the various meanings of the English word ‘beat,’ meaning to flog, to defeat, to overcome.

But of course, Cassidy wasn’t interested in logical or reasonable explanations and neither are the ignorant dumbasses who continue to propagate this nonsense. Cassidy’s explanation is that it comes from the Irish word béad, which, according to him, is defined as ‘loss, injury, robbery, crime; ill-deed; ill-doings, an injury; sorrow; robbed or cheated; flattery; trick; cunning.’ Of course, this multifaceted definition doesn’t come from any dictionary. While the diminutive béadán is common enough in modern Irish (it means ‘gossip’), béad isn’t. Ó Dónaill’s dictionary, which is the most reliable, says simply that the word béad is a literary term for ill deed. Literary means very old in this context. It’s the kind of language which poets used in the 16th or 17th century. It isn’t a modern Irish term. Dinneen’s dictionary, which tends to mix and mingle words from all eras and dialects, says that béad means ‘a deed; crime or injury; sorrow, ill tidings or doings’. I can find no examples of this word in use in modern Irish.

If you look on Google, you might find one or two examples of the words béad or bead but be careful – these are Munster dialect versions of the first person future tense of the verb ‘to be’. They are verbal forms, not nouns. Someone is saying that they will be somewhere at some time. These words are unrelated to the word béad meaning ill deed.

Béad would be pronounced baid as well, to rhyme with laid or made. If it were borrowed into English, why wouldn’t it be borrowed as bade? This is just more cretinous nonsense from the Dork of New York and should be ignored by all reasonable and intelligent human beings.

Holler

Another daft claim in Daniel Cassidy’s ridiculous crapfest 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 the Fraud, this word comes from the Irish ollbhúir. This word is very uncommon though it does exist (unlike most of Cassidy’s nonsense). 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.  

Personally, I am with the dictionary dudes. It seems to me quite logical that a word that is found in English and resembles an attested English word with the same meaning (hollow, to shout) probably comes from that attested English word. The Cassidese Liberation Front will no doubt disagree. They will argue that if there is a slightly similar word in Irish, then this must be the origin instead of English, because it’s too much of a coincidence that an obscure Irish word resembles holler. Of course, 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.

It’s remarkable, but it won’t make any difference to Cassidy’s supporters. They aren’t dealing in facts. Cassidy’s ‘research’ is about cosy, self-congratulatory Irish-American fantasies, not about discovering the truth.