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.
This is one of many examples where a pair of words that are obviously related are treated by Cassidy as deriving from different words. Cassidy derives the word cop from Irish ceap, which he claims means ‘a protector’. In reality, protector is one obscure meaning among many. Here are the meanings as laid out on WinGléacht (the electronic version of Ó Dónaill’s dictionary):
- stock, block, base, pad 1a ceap crainn, tree stock; tine chip, log fire; ceap cloiche, stone post;ceap dearnála, darning egg; ceap díslí, diestock; ceap treo, step; ceap na bhfiacla, jaw; 1b ceap magaidh, laughing-stock 2 last 3 nave, hub 4 compact body: ceap tithe, block of houses; ceap oifigí, office block 5 (of person) chief; (of person) protector 6 bed, plot: ceap plandaí, plant bed; ceap cabáiste, cabbage bed.
On the other hand, according to Cassidy, copper derives from the Irish verb ceapadh, meaning to capture, to catch, to appoint, to think. The noun ceap appears to be unrelated to the verb ceapadh. The experts on language focus on copper’s origins in the slang term cop, which is attested from the 18th century and means to seize or to capture. They trace this word to an obsolete French word caper, which ultimately comes from Latin. This word is almost certainly a cognate of the Irish ceapadh as well as capture and captive in English. But there seems no good reason to assume an Irish origin for a term which is found in England and which is hardly found at all in Ireland, where people traditionally talked about peelers and bules (and péas in Irish). Ceapairí are sandwiches in Irish, not policemen!
Here’s an interesting quote from Grant Barrett:
‘It doesn’t require a fluent or native understanding of Irish Gaelic, which I do not have and which Cassidy does not have, either—he is usually careful to leave this point unclear—to see that he’s taking words that have complex meanings and cherry-picking the subsenses that most suit his purposes.’
This is exactly what Cassidy has done in this case.