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 term kike is an offensive ethnic slur used by the ignorant and anti-Semitic in reference to Jewish people. There are numerous theories about its origins but no agreement. The main theories seem to be that it is from the Yiddish for circle, because Jewish people who were illiterate in the Roman alphabet often signed with a circle where Christians made their mark with a cross, or that it comes from the common Jewish name Isaac.
The late Daniel Cassidy, in his work of false etymologies How The Irish Invented Slang, assumed that he had solved this riddle with his revelation that almost all American slang derives from the Irish language. According to Cassidy:
“Ciabhóg (pron. k’i’óg), a person adorned with a forelock or sidelock; al. a forelock, a sidelock. Ciabhóg (pron. k’i’og a forelock, a sidelock curl) is the Irish word for the long sidelocks of the Orthodox Jews called peyos, as well as a person that wears forelocks or sidelocks.”
Cassidy, who spoke no Irish at all, made use of dictionaries to do his ‘research’. This claim is based on the entry for ciabhóg in Dinneen’s dictionary (the expanded 1927 edition):
ciabhóg, -óige, -óga, f., a small lock of hair; a fore-lock, a sidelock; a person adorned with a fore-lock or side-lock.
Of course, this is a diminutive of ciabh, meaning a lock of hair. In spite of the fact that it says sidelock, this simply refers to a lock on the side of person’s head. There is no specific word in Irish for the sidelocks worn by Orthodox Jews. It is entirely possible that native Irish speakers created a term for these sidelocks in the slums of the USA when they encountered Jews who wore sidelocks but I have no idea what that term was and neither did Cassidy. The word ciabhóg, like almost all Irish words referring to people and ending in -óg, is applied to women and girls, not to men or boys. (The only exceptions I can think of are gasóg and scológ.) The only instance of ciabhóg being used of a person in the Corpas (a corpus of Irish-language texts) is a political poem by an anonymous poet of the sonnet-like type known as trí rainn agus amhrán, where Ireland is addressed as a faithless (female) lover – mo léan, is bréagach an chiabhóg thú (alas, you are a false, curly-haired girl!)
However, the main reason why ciabhóg and kike could not be connected is pronunciation. Ciabhóg is pronounced keea-wogue or keea-vogue. It sounds absolutely nothing like the English kike. The only similarity is the first letter.