Tag Archives: Dan Cassidy

Cassidese Glossary – Galore

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.

Wherever you look, in any English dictionary, you will find that this word is described as deriving from Irish or from Scots Gaelic go leor with the same meaning. For some reason, Cassidy fails to mention this fact. The reason is probably that according to Cassidy, the makers of English dictionaries are determined to deny the influence of Irish on English. As this example shows, where genuine evidence exists, lexicographers are quite willing to accept Irish derivations.

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Cassidese Glossary – Galluses, Gallus

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 another instance where Daniel Cassidy got it massively wrong in his bizarre work of fake scholarship, How The Irish Invented Slang.

There is a common word in Scots (the Lowland Scots version of English, not Scots Gaelic) which is also found in northern dialects of English, the word gallus. According to the experts, this word is related to the standard English ‘gallows’. It is used in the plural as galluses in Scotland and northern England as the equivalent of ‘braces’ in standard British English or ‘suspenders’ in American English. The word gallus is also used in Scotland as an adjective which originally meant ‘pertaining to the gallows’ (a bit like the English ‘a gallows bird’, a criminal), but which later meant ‘daring’ or ‘cheeky’ or ‘impressive’. It is still very much alive in Scottish speech and is found in other varieties of English.

The word gealaisí in Irish means ‘braces’/’suspenders’ and is a borrowing of galluses. We know that it came from Britain to Ireland rather than the other way round because galluses is found in both Scotland and England and has a recognised etymology (galluses=gallows) while gealaisí doesn’t. Cassidy tries to claim a tenuous link with the Irish gealas meaning ‘brightness’ or ‘ray’ (from geal meaning bright) but fails to explain how this could become an adjective or how the meanings of gealas could give rise to gallus or galluses, or indeed how you can explain an Irish word becoming so widespread in northern England.

He also quotes a piece from The Mulligan Guard where both galluses (braces) and gallus (daring) are used but tries to pretend that both of these words are Irish rather than Scots-influenced English. The claim for gallus is particularly weak because gealas is a noun, not an adjective.

Cassidese Glossary – Galla Gafa Gassa

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 work of false etymologies, How the Irish Invented Slang, claims an Irish origin for a charm for toothache mentioned by the poet Carl Sandberg [sic]. According to Cassidy:

Early in the 20th century, The American poet Carl Sandberg encountered a faith doctor, who chanted an old Irish spell of fiosacht (divination) to cure a toothache.

This charm involved writing the words Galla Gaffa Gassa on a wall, then pointing to each letter in turn with a nail. If the pain diminished on a particular letter, the faith doctor then hammered the nail into that letter and the toothache was cured. This particular incident between Carl Sandburg (which is the correct spelling) and a faith doctor never happened. How do I know? Well, this comes from an article on Kentucky folklore by Sadie Price, published in 1901 in the Journal of American Folklore. Sandburg read it and used it.

According to Cassidy, galla gaffa gassa represents the ‘Irish’ galar gafa gasta, supposedly meaning ‘disease seized fast; pain taken away fast’. In fact, this is probably just a piece of nonsense used as a charm. Cassidy’s explanation is typically unconvincing. I would be inclined to interpret Cassidy’s phrase as ‘a fast seizing disease’, as the ‘quickly’ would need to be go gasta, the adverbial form. Also, galar is not usually used of toothache. As any Irish schoolchild (the overwhelming majority of whom know a lot more Irish than Cassidy) will tell you, a toothache is a tinneas fiacaile, not a galar fiacaile.

Finally, Irish folklore has been studied intensively, and we know a great deal about folk healing. There are a lot of charms in collections and journals but to the best of my knowledge, galar gafa (go) gasta has never been recorded.

Cassidese Glossary – Gage

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 late Daniel Cassidy, in his work of false etymologies, How The Irish Invented Slang, claimed that gauge or gage, a slang term for cannabis, derives from the Irish gaid.

Gaid is the plural of gad, which means a withe (a flexible stick) or else rope, usually rope in the form of a halter or noose (as in damhsa an ghaid, the gallows dance, dance on the end of a rope). Of course, rope is sometimes used as slang for cannabis, but not because it looks like rope. Ropes were made of hemp, which is cannabis. The word canvas also comes from cannabis. The chances of gaid being the origin of gage/gauge are next to zero, as withes and leaves of grass are very different things. Modern Irish speakers tend to call cannabis raithneach (fern) or féar (grass).

The mainstream dictionaries give various possible sources. One is a 17th. century term for a pipe, which seems quite unlikely to me. Another often-quoted idea is that this is a corruption of ganja, a West Indian term for dope derived from one of the Indian languages like Hindi or Gujarati. However, it seems that gage was also used as a term for a small quantity of something (possibly related to the word gauge meaning measure) and the term ‘a gage of tobacco’ is recorded from 1837. This last origin seems to be the strongest candidate.

Cassidese Glossary – Gab

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.

Etymology is not always easy or straightforward. Words often have complicated, difficult histories.

One such word is the English gab, meaning talk, chatter, loquacity. This probably comes from an Old Norse source, either directly or via Old French gap, gab, which means joke or jest or bragging talk. There is also influence from Scottish and northern English gab, meaning the mouth, which could be linked to Irish or Gaelic gob. Some people think that it is linked to gabble and is maybe onomatopoeic.

There is an Irish word geab (and a Scottish Gaelic gab). These words are probably not old and are probably borrowings from English or Scots (though giob-geab is recorded from a long way back in Irish with the meaning of ‘chit-chat’).

Daniel Cassidy, in How The Irish Invented Slang, assumes that the movement was the other direction, that gab originates in Irish and then enters English and Scots from there.

His treatment of sources in this case is worth examining, as it is more dishonest than most entries in Cassidy’s book. (Almost all of which are quite dishonest.)

“Some Anglo-American dictionaries derive the English gab of chatter from the Old Icelandic gabb, gabba, meaning “mockery”. … Professor MacBain associates Gaelic gab with Irish gob, a beak or mouth.”

I am not aware of any Anglo-American dictionary deriving gab from Old Icelandic. Some sources mention Old Icelandic as a cognate. MacBain does NOT associate gab with gob,   as you can see if you click on this link:(https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/An_Etymological_Dictionary_of_the_Gaelic_Language/G)

MacBain gives a Middle English origin for gab and then says cf. gab in his entry on gob. At no point does he state or imply that gab actually comes from gob.

 

Cassidese Glossary – Freak

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.

Where does the English word freak come from? You can get a full account of the known facts from sources like Douglas Harper’s excellent Online Etymological Dictionary (https://www.etymonline.com/word/freak) and Wiktionary: (https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/freak)

To give a brief account of its development, by the 1560s, freak meant a sudden whim. This could come from Middle English friken ‘to move briskly’ or from an Old English word frician meaning ‘to dance’. A word freking is found in the middle of the 1400s with the meaning of whims, capricious behaviour. ”

The sense of capricious notion and fancy were found for hundreds of years before the meaning of “abnormally developed person or thing” which is first recorded in 1839. This comes from the idea of a freak of nature (i.e. a whim or caprice of nature). This is the freak of the freak show. This also gave us terms like ‘a freak storm’. In the 20th century, freak became a word for a drug addict, which is probably where we get ‘freak out’.

Cassidy claims that the word freak comes from the Irish fraoch, which means heather and also fury. (These two meanings may be related, according to some Irish scholars.)

Cassidy chooses to distort the history of the English word freak in order to emphasise meanings like fury and anger, which are plainly only a marginal and late aspect of the word’s history:

“Freak, n., v., a freak of nature, a freak in a sideshow, a freak storm; sudden passion or fury; to become angry, furious, passionate, ferocious, wild, crazy. Freaking, n., a fit of passion, fury, anger, madness.”

This is because fraoch has only ever had the meaning of anger or fury in Irish, not caprice.

The word fraoch is pronounced freeh or freekh (kh as in the ch of Scottish loch) or frookh in some parts of Ulster. Also note the mistakes in Cassidy’s padding. He gushes that:

The “fickle freakes of fortune” saw the noble fraoch (pron. fraec, fury) of the tempest ehumerized into the grotesque freak in a carnival sideshow. 

The word ehumerized, it doesn’t exist. It is really euhemerized, a term derived from the name of the Greek philosopher Euhemerus who claimed that the gods were merely exaggerated accounts of real heroes of the past. So even if it were spelled correctly, I don’t think it would be the right word here anyway!

Cassidy also quotes Amhlaoibh Ó Súilleabháin’s diary of 1827, but his transcription of the Irish in the dual language Irish Texts Society edition is missing a line and makes no sense! (Not that Cassidy would have known the difference.)

It is also worth noting that if freak does derive from Irish fraoch then Irish speakers must have forgotten the fact when they borrowed the English word into Irish as praeic, as in the phrase Chaith mé an lá ar mo phraeic, I spent the day just as I pleased.

Cassidese Glossary – Frame

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.

There is really not much point in taking Cassidy’s claim in relation to the word frame seriously. Cassidy says that to frame (as in ‘he was framed by the cops’) derives from the ‘Irish’ phrase fíor a éimiú, which (if it really existed) would mean something like ‘to refuse the truth’. Both fíor (as a noun) and éimiú would be quite uncommon words. If you asked an Irish speaker how to say ‘deny the truth’ they would almost certainly say an fhírinne a shéanadh. As we have already said, it is very uncommon for phrases like this to be borrowed between languages anyway, even when they’re genuine phrases!

Then again, the word frame is so easy to understand and completely appropriate. The crime and its circumstances are the frame and the authorities take one particular mug and put him into that frame. Thus they frame him. It is a simple, easily-understood metaphor.