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 blowhard first appears in English in the 1790s as a term for a sailor. This may have been from an association with bad weather or perhaps from the blowing of whales. In the mid-19th century, this then acquired the meaning of ‘boastful person’.
Cassidy claims that blowhard comes from the ‘Irish’ phrase béalú h-ard:
Béalú h-ard (pron. bæl-ú hard), loud speaking; loud mouthing; fig. a loud mouth. Bealú [sic], n., act of speaking about, talking, gossiping. Ard, adj., loud. A blowhard (béalú h-ard, loud talking) is a loud mouth personified.
This is the same béalú (béalughadh) that was used by Cassidy to explain blow, in the sense of spilling the beans. As we saw there, this is an incredibly rare word, a verbal form derived from béal meaning mouth. In that case, Cassidy claimed it meant ‘to snitch’. Here, it conveniently means ‘to mouth off’, so this would mean ‘high mouthing off’.
The phrase béalú h-ard demonstrates very clearly that not only did Cassidy have no knowledge of the Irish language, he had no access to anyone with a reasonable knowledge of the Irish language who would have kept him right. There is no reason for the h- before the adjective ard (which means high and can also mean loud). Béalú is a verbal noun and an adjective beginning with a vowel would not require a h- before it. (And if it did, there would be no hyphen – it would be hard, not h-ard.)
In other words, not only is béalú h-ard a non-existent and imaginary phrase, it breaks basic rules of Irish grammar.