Tag Archives: cant

Cassidese Glossary – Moniker

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 book How The Irish Invented Slang, claims that the term moniker for a name or by-name comes from the Irish travellers’ Shelta language, a kind of backslang based on Irish or Gaelic.

This is possible, certainly, and there is no doubt that a version of this word was found in Shelta in the form munik. This may be a disguised version of the Irish word ainm (pronounced annim) but this is not certain. Some have suggested that moniker was borrowed into Shelta from unrelated kinds of slang like the English cant. An article by William Sayers called Moniker: Etymology and Lexicographical History discusses this in depth.

Whether this is true or untrue, the claim that moniker derives from Irish ainm through Shelta was in the public domain decades before Cassidy came along and therefore has no relevance at all to his thesis.

Cassidese Glossary – Mawley

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 rightly says that this is probably a word of traveller origin. It derives from a word in the Gammon or Shelta language, a kind of disguised backslang based on Irish or Scottish Gaelic used by Irish and Scottish travellers. This is accepted by linguists and did not originate with Cassidy.

Mawley means a hand, and is regarded as a transposed (and de-lenited) version of lámh, which means hand in Irish. Cassidy states that this is really from maille, which he claims means tool in Irish. This is nonsense. There is no such word as maille meaning tool and Cassidy gives no evidence and no source for his claim.

Cassidese Glossary – Cuffin

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.

(Note: Again, this is not in alphabetical order but in this case, these two words, cove and cuffin, are placed together before crack and cracker in Cassidy’s book, so I have followed his order here.)

Cuffin is a cant expression similar to cove. It is believed to be derived from cove or related to it in some way. Cassidy suggests that this comes from caomhán, an obscure diminutive of caomh. Again, the pronunciation is wrong (keevawn) and there is no reason to suppose that there is any Irish connection. Also, cove and cuffin mean a fellow, a man, not a friend or pal or beloved person.

Cassidese Glossary – Cheese It

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.

Cheese it is an old flash (criminal slang) expression meaning to shut up or to stop what you’re doing. There is no clear derivation. The phrase is discussed in detail here: http://www.worldwidewords.org/qa/qa-che4.htm

Daniel Cassidy, in his work of false etymology, How The Irish Invented Slang, claims that it comes from the Irish téigh as, which he defines as follows:

Téigh as (pron. chéɣ’as), go away from; flee from; get out of, escape. Ná téigh as láthair, don’t absent yourself. Go out, extinguish, stifle (as sound); fig. shut up.”

In fact, téigh as means the following, according to Ó Dónaill’s dictionary, Foclóir Gaeilge-Béarla:

téigh as, v.i. 1. Go away from. 2. Go out of. 3. Go beyond. 4. Fail. 5. (Of light, etc.) Be extinguished. 6. Get out of.

In other words, if you are talking about a candle going out, you could say chuaigh an choinneal as, just as you would say in English ‘the candle went out’. However, this is intransitive. It means to go out spontaneously, not to extinguish or stifle, and it cannot be applied to sound. It has no figurative meaning of ‘shut up’. Cassidy is simply distorting the meanings of the Irish phrase in order to make it sound like a good candidate.

Cassidese Glossary – Cant

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.

Cant was the criminal argot, the language of the beggars and thieves in Merry England, though sometimes it was also used to mean hypocritical or wheedling speech of any kind. You can find a good discussion of its origins here: https://www.etymonline.com/word/cant

Most dictionaries say that the word comes from the Latin cantare, to sing, though some trace it to a pair of puritanical preaching brothers called Cant. It has also been suggested (many times) that cant comes from the Irish or Scots Gaelic cain(n)t, meaning speech. This suggestion is not new and was not invented by Cassidy. For example, it was given already in R. McCutcheon’s Modern Language Notes in 1921.

It is not impossible that this claim is correct but as we have stated, it makes no difference because the claim had been made long before Cassidy was born.

Beak

According to Daniel Cassidy, in his lying piece of trash, How The Irish Invented Slang, the word beak, an old English slang term for a constable or a judge or a schoolmaster, comes from the Irish beachtaí or beachtaire.

According to Cassidy’s book:

Beak, n., a judge, a magistrate.

Beachtaí, beachtaire, n., a critic; a correcting, captious judgmental person; fig. a judge. Beacht, al. beachd (Gaelic), n., judgment, opinion.

What’s wrong with Cassidy’s argument? Well, the main thing is the pronunciation. Most people reading Cassidy’s book would probably assume that beachtaí is pronounced as beek-tay or beek-tee. Cassidy probably thought the same, because his knowledge of Irish was practically nil. In fact, beachtaí is pronounced bach-tee, with the ch more or less an h sound or the ch of Scottish loch or the j of Baja California. It sounds nothing like beak. As for the meaning, a beachtaí (or its variant beachtaire) is a quibbler, a hair-splitter. It does not mean a judge. As we’ve pointed out before, where the letters fig. are used in Cassidy’s book, they stand for figment of Cassidy’s imagination, not for figuratively as they do in most books. O’Dónaill’s dictionary defines it as “Critical, captious, person.”

It is true that beachd can be a noun meaning judgement in Scottish Gaelic but Scottish Gaelic is a different language entirely. This meaning isn’t found in Irish.

So where does beak come from? The simple answer is, we don’t know. You can find a few suggested origins here: http://www.businessballs.com/clichesorigins.htm

Cant

Cant was the criminal argot, the language of the beggars and thieves in Merry England, though sometimes it was also used to mean hypocritical or wheedling speech of any kind. The term is first used in English at the end of the fifteenth or beginning of the sixteenth century.

Most dictionaries say that the word comes from the Latin cantare, to sing, though some trace it to a pair of puritanical preaching brothers called Cant. It has also been suggested (many times) that cant comes from the Irish or Scots Gaelic cain(n)t, meaning speech. This suggestion is not new and was not invented by Cassidy. For example, it is given already in R. McCutcheon’s Modern Language Notes in 1921.

Personally, I find the Irish/Gaelic explanation unlikely because it is found in England at such an early time. There is little evidence for linguistic crossover between the two languages as early as this, though there are occasional – and well-attested – words which did enter English at an early period. For example, brat is a Celtic word for a cloak which was already found in Old English (this means a rag in English dialect and may be the origin of brat as in badly-behaved child, though there is another candidate), while the word cros, an Irish version of Latin crux, was brought to the York area by Vikings who had settled in Ireland and gradually displaced the English term rood, so that cross is the standard term for a cross in English today. However, the few real examples are quite conspicuous and it is very unlikely that cant is a word of Irish origin.