Tag Archives: Criminal Slang

Caunfort Ladran

The late Daniel Cassidy, in his absurd book of fake etymology, ‘How The Irish Invented Slang’, claimed that there were hundreds of Irish expressions hidden in American slang. We have already seen that in the vast majority of these cases, the Irish expressions cited by Cassidy do not exist and were invented by Cassidy himself.

We do find occasional traces of the Irish language in American slang. This phrase, caunfort ladran, is one of the most interesting examples. Cassidy failed to spot it, either because he was too lazy to read all the slang dictionaries, or because he read this and failed to spot that it was Irish. (Cassidy didn’t speak any Irish at all.)

The phrase caunfort ladran is given in a criminal slang dictionary of 1908 called ‘Criminal Slang’ by a certain Joseph M. Sullivan, a lawyer at the Boston Bar. On page 5 of this book, we find:

Caunfort Ladran Master thief (Irish); same as head of a mob.

The (Irish) is a reference to language rather than location. Caunfort Ladran represents the Irish ceannfort ladrann, meaning commandant of thieves.

Was this a genuine expression used among Irish-speaking criminals? There is no way of knowing. There are a few Irish and Hiberno-English expressions in Sullivan’s book. Thus we find things like Souper, a fellow who works the churches to advance himself, – an insincere convert, or Sthreel, a slouchy woman (from Irish sraoill). Shebeen and shoneen are also mentioned.

However, the usual modern Irish term for thief is gadaí, not ladrann (a borrowing from Latin, resembling Spanish ladrón). In other words, I wonder whether Sullivan simply got a translated term for a leader of thieves from some Irish scholar in his community and pretended that it was current in the criminal underworld.

One thing is sure. The existence of this phrase does nothing to strengthen Cassidy’s case. For one thing, Cassidy actually missed it. Secondly, this is a genuine Irish phrase. It means what it is supposed to mean and it is labelled as Irish in the source text. It bears no relation to the rubbish given as Irish in Cassidy’s book.

 

Mhaígh Daniel Cassidy, nach maireann, ina leabhar áiféiseach den tsanasaíocht bréige, ‘How The Irish Invented Slang’, go raibh na céadta focal de bhunús Ghaeilge na hÉireann le fáil i mbéarlagair Bhéarla Mheiriceá. Mar a chonaic muid roimhe seo, sa chuid is mó de na cásanna seo, ní raibh na frásaí ‘Gaeilge’ a luaigh Cassidy ann ar chor ar bith. Ní raibh iontu ach raiméis a chum an Casaideach féin.

Níl i leabhar Cassidy ach amaidí. Ach bíonn corr-rian den Ghaeilge le fáil i mbéarlagair na Stát Aontaithe. Tá an frása atá i gceist anseo, caunfort ladran, ar cheann de na samplaí is suimiúla. Níor thug Cassidy faoi deara é. B’fhéidir go raibh sé rófhalsa na foclóirí béarlagair uilig a léamh, nó b’fhéidir gur léigh sé é agus nár aithin sé gur Gaeilge a bhí ann. (Ní raibh Gaeilge ar bith ag Cassidy, ar ndóigh.)

Tugadh an frása caunfort ladran i bhfoclóir den bhéarlagair coiriúil a foilsíodh sa bhliain 1908, ‘Criminal Slang’ le fear darbh ainm Joseph M. Sullivan, dlíodóir ag Barra Bhostúin. Ar leathanach 5 den leabhar sin, tá an méid seo scríofa:

Caunfort Ladran Master thief (Irish); same as head of a mob.

Tá an (Irish) sin ag tagairt don teanga, ní don tír. Is ionann caunfort ladran agus ceannfort ladrann, nó ceannaire na ngadaithe.

An fíor go raibh ceannfort ladrann in úsáid i measc gadaithe Gaelacha? Níl a fhios againn. Tá roinnt focal a tháinig ón Ghaeilge nó ó Bhéarla na hÉireann i leabhar Sullivan. Tá leithéidí Souper, a fellow who works the churches to advance himself, – an insincere convert, nó Sthreel, a slouchy woman ann (ó sraoill na Gaeilge). Tá shebeen agus shoneen luaite ann fosta.

Agus sin ráite, is é gadaí an focal is coitianta ar thief an Bhéarla, ní ladrann (focal a fuair an Ghaeilge ón Laidin, agus atá gaolta le ladrón na Spáinnise). Lena rá ar dhóigh eile, b’fhéidir nach bhfuil ann ach gur iarr Sullivan ar scoláire Gaeilge i mBostún téarma Gaeilge a chur ar fáil ar ‘master thief’ agus nach raibh sé riamh in úsáid i measc na gcoirpeach féin.

Rud amháin atá fíor. Ní neartaíonn sé cás Cassidy go bhfuil a leithéid de fhrása ann. Ar an chéad dul síos, chaill Cassidy é, in ainneoin an diantaighde a rinne sé don leabhar, dar leis féin. Ar an dara dul síos, is fíorphíosa Gaeilge é seo. Tá sé ag teacht leis an bhrí a luaitear leis sa téacs, agus tá sé lipéadaithe mar Ghaeilge sa bhuntéacs. Níl baint ar bith aige leis an amaidí a tugadh mar Ghaeilge i leabhar Cassidy.