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.
Another claim made by Daniel Cassidy in his work of false etymology, How The Irish Invented Slang, is that the slang term ‘carrying the banner’ comes from Irish. Apparently, ‘carrying the banner’ means ‘to walk the streets all night for want of a place to sleep’.
According to Cassidy, this comes from comhshaoránach bonnaire, which supposedly means ‘fellow-citizen foot-man or walker’. This is nonsense.
For one thing, the word saoránach originally meant a freeman. It only acquired its current meaning of citizen when the Irish state was struggling to develop a modern vocabulary after the language had been sidelined for centuries by the British. It first occurs in this sense in the 1922 constitution. (The word cathróir, derived from cathair meaning city, was more common in the language before the modern era). And bonnaire is an unusual word for a walker or a footman. The whole phrase (which would be pronounced koh-heerannah bonnarra if it really existed) is ridiculously contrived and is not genuine Irish.
The English phrase carrying the banner is very easy to understand. If you carry the banner in a parade, you keep walking the streets. You don’t bring the banner into a bar or a house. You walk with it. So this is a jocular way of saying that you have nowhere to stay and you walk the streets all night.
It is also worth noting that the English carrying the banner refers to an action, as does walking the streets all night. Cassidy’s ‘fellow-freeman footman’ refers to a type of person (if it refers to anything at all!)