Tag Archives: Daniel

Cassidese Glossary – Slacker

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.

Cassidy claimed that slacker comes from the Irish sleabhcadh, which means to go limp or to wilt, or the Scottish Gaelic slabhcar, meaning a slouching person. The words sleabhcadh and slabhcar don’t sound much like slack. They are pronounced to rhyme with cow (or sometimes as low, depending on dialect), as shlowkoo or slowkar. They may be cognates of the English slack but they are not the origin of it.

There is absolutely no doubt about the Germanic origins of the word slack or its antiquity in English. The word slack is part of the basic Germanic vocabulary of English. It goes back to Old English (the ancient version of the language used before the Norman Conquest) and is very well attested. The OED says that it is from “Old English slæc ‘inclined to be lazy, unhurried’, of Germanic origin.” Slæc was pronounced the same as modern English slack. In Middle English, it was written slac. For example, here is our old friend, the Michigan University Middle English Dictionary:

Slac (a) Of persons: indolent, lazy, lax; negligent, remiss; slow (to do sth.) …

Slacker seems to be a development from these meanings of slack in the late 18th century.

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.

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.

Cassidese Glossary – Cross

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.

As Daniel Cassidy states in his book How The Irish Invented Slang, the word cross is believed to come from Latin crux via Old Irish cros and Old Norse. It gradually supplanted the original word for cross in English, which was rood, as in a rood-screen. The English dictionaries accept that this is the origin of the word and this claim certainly did not originate with Cassidy.

 

 

Cassidese Glossary – Blowen

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.

Blowen is an old term in criminal jargon, defined as ‘a showy or flaunting prostitute, a thief’s paramour’. It was first recorded in the 16th century. There are various suggestions as to its origin, none of them very convincing. Hotten (1865) suggests that ‘blowen may mean one whose reputation has been blown upon, or damaged’. Charles Mackay, the man who tried to do something very similar to Cassidy with Scottish Gaelic, suggested that it comes from blaodh eun, which he says means birdsong, because of the siren-like effect of such women on men. Hmm.

Cassidy’s claim sounds reasonably plausible (certainly compared to Mackay’s, anyway). He claims that it comes from the Irish bláthán. According to Cassidy, this is defined as:

Bláthán (pron. bláhán), n., a small flower, little blossom; fig. a pretty girl, term of endearment for a young girl.

Cassidy cites Dinneen (misspelled as Dineen) and Dwelly for this definition. Ó Dónaill, the most authoritative modern dictionary of the Irish language (not cited by Cassidy), gives the word bláthán with only one definition, grilse, a term that means small fry, young fish. It doesn’t mention blossoms (though the word is almost certainly linked to the Irish bláth meaning flower or blossom) or young girls.

Dinneen gives the following definition: ‘a small flower, a bud; also a fry, as salmon fry; a kind of rock-fish’.  Again, nothing about endearment or terms for young girls.

Dwelly’s Dictionary is of no relevance here, because it’s a dictionary of Scottish Gaelic, not of Irish. However, since Cassidy cited it, we should reproduce what it says. The cognate of bláthán given in this dictionary does not support any meaning to do with girls or terms of endearment. It simply says: ‘blàithean -ein, sm dim. of blàth. Little blossom.’

In other words, bláthán can mean a bud or a blossom, or a small fish. Cassidy’s definition is imaginary. Of course, some people might be thinking that a term for a little blossom could easily be used figuratively, as Cassidy said. However, if this were the case, it would probably have been recorded.

There is also another good reason to regard this claim with suspicion. In Irish, there are three commonly-used diminutives. One is the general –ín found in words like cailín (colleen) or poitín (poteen). The other two were traditionally known as the sister diminutive (-óg) and the brother diminutive (-án). Generally speaking, animate words with –óg are female. A giobóg is an untidy or lazy woman, a sraoilleog is a slattern. Many of these are pejorative terms. Words with –án are either referring to men or unspecified. (Like cancrán, a grumpy person.) However, while is conceivable that bláithín would be used as a pet term for a girl (Bláithín is used as a girl’s name, after all), it is not at all likely that bláthán would be used that way in reference to girls or women because it’s basically a masculine diminutive, even if the dictionary meanings were appropriate – which they aren’t.