Tag Archives: cranky

Cassidese Glossary – Crank

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 origins of the word crank, with its various meanings, are well-known. You can get a clear and interesting discussion of them here: https://www.etymonline.com/word/cranky?ref=etymonline_crossreference

It goes back to an Old English word *cranc, something bent, from a Germanic root. English retains the literal meaning of a bent or crooked thing while in other Germanic languages it has developed a figurative meaning of sick. The ‘sick’ meaning then entered English via slang. It then developed related meanings of grouchy (cranky) and eccentric (crank) or a superfan (crank). Etymologists argue about how exactly these meanings arose, though there is no doubt that all of them go back to the crooked or bent meaning of a thousand and more years ago.

Cassidy does not accept this. This is one case where Cassidy arbitrarily chooses to believe than one of these meanings comes from one Irish word, while all the rest come from a different Irish phrase.

According to Cassidy, crank in the sense of a fan comes from the Irish word crancaire, a boaster, a jester, a talker. He seems to be mixing this up with some other word, as Dinneen says that crancaire means a grumbler, and Ó Dónaill regards it as a version of cancrán, which also means a grouch or complainer.

On the other hand, all the other meanings of crank and cranky come (according to Cassidy) from the ‘Irish’ phrase crá aingí, which apparently means ‘fretful vexing, angry misery or ill-natured torment’. This is nonsense. This phrase does not exist and Cassidy offers no evidence for its existence. Aingí does mean fretful or angry or ill-natured, but these are adjectives implying feeling or emotions. Torments do not have emotions and they don’t get fretful. Nobody has ever said or written ‘Is mór an crá aingí iad’ (they are a terrible ill-natured nuisance). Cassidy copied a similar phrase from Ó Dónaill: ‘Is mór an crá (croí) iad’, but changed it to suit his purposes. We do say crá croí, of course. We don’t say crá aingí.

Even if crá aingí existed, it is a noun phrase, so it would not be used the same way as cranky and it sounds even less like crank. Even by Cassidy’s low standards of scholarship, this is total garbage.

Honky, Hinky, Hunky and Cranky

The word aingí (pronounced an-gee) is not that common in Irish. It means peevish or bad-tempered. To Daniel Cassidy, author of the absurd How The Irish Invented Slang, it was the origin of honky (as in cracker or white person), as well as hunky (a term for an Eastern European immigrant), part of honky-tonk (aingíocht tarraingteach), not to mention hinky (dodgy or suspicious) and the –anky part of cranky (crá aingí according to the Great Fraud). There doesn’t seem to be a word henky in English. If there were, we would probably have the full set of all the vowels. Obviously aingí is a far more useful and common term in the world of crap etymology than it is in genuine Irish conversation.

There is some doubt about the origin of these words in English slang but there seems to be no good reason to regard them as related to the word aingí or indeed any word in the Irish language.

If you’d like more information, here’s a link to a piece about the origins of honky and its links to hunky:
http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/756/whats-the-origin-of-honky

Here’s a link about the origins of hinky: http://www.grammarphobia.com/blog/2006/11/whats-the-origin-of-hinky.html

And here’s a Wikipedia article on the origins of crankdom:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crank_(person)

Watch out for this line: Although a crank’s beliefs seem ridiculous to experts in the field, cranks are sometimes very successful in convincing non-experts of their views. Aren’t they just?