Tag Archives: Danny Cassidy

Cassidese Glossary – Goof

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 book, How The Irish Invented Slang, claims that the English slang terms goof and goofy derive from Irish gáifeach, which according to Cassidy means ‘exaggerated, given to wild exaggeration, flamboyant, ostentatious, loud, loud-mouthed, querulous.’  This is pronounced guy-fah or gaw-fah depending on the dialect. It is an adjective. There is no noun gáif (the adjective comes originally from gábh, which means danger), so it is hard to explain where the basic word goof would come from if Cassidy were right (which he isn’t).

According to the most reliable Irish dictionary, Ó Dónaill, gáifeach is defined as ‘1a dangerous, terrible 1b (of sound) wild, loud, fierce 2a exaggerated, sensational, given to exaggeration 2b flamboyant, ostentatious’.

None of which really fit the bill of what goofy means, which is ‘foolish or harmlessly eccentric.’ Meanwhile, back in the real world, goof comes from an English dialect term goff, which in turn comes from the Middle French goffe meaning awkward or stupid.

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Cassidese Glossary – Gob

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 clear example of Cassidy’s dodgy methodology, the way that he massaged and distorted and edited the facts to make his case look even slightly convincing.

He quotes the OED as saying “Of obscure origin; possibly … Gael [sic] and Irish gob, beak, mouth …” (OED.) No page number or indication of what edition of the OED he’s talking about.

Having tried to demonstrate that the OED is deficient, he then says that American Slang lexicographers Wentworth and Flexner, in the Dictionary of American Slang, ‘put gob back into the gob of the Irish’.

The facts about gob are well-known and well-established. The fact is, there are two gobs in English (at least). They come from different origins. In other words, the origins of gob are more complex than Cassidy claimed. Not very complex. Anyone of normal ability would have been able to understand them but the late Daniel Cassidy didn’t do complexity.

One gob is the gob of ‘a gobbet of food’. It means a mouthful rather than a mouth. This dates back to the 13th century in English, apparently coming from the French verb gober meaning to gulp or swallow down. This came into French from Celtic (probably Gaulish) and is related to the Irish word gob. The other is a borrowing from either Irish or Scottish Gaelic gob, meaning beak or mouth. This is quite ancient in English too. It is found as far back as the 1540s.

Now, Wentworth and Flexner are probably right in a sense. Gob is used a lot in Hiberno-English, and when people in Irish areas of New York or Philadelphia said ‘I’ll give you a dig in the gob’, there is every chance that this came directly from Irish or from Hiberno-English. However, the Gaelic and Celtic roots of this word were never in any doubt and the Oxford English Dictionary did not doubt this either, whatever Cassidy claimed.

Cassidese Glossary – Gink

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.

Gink seems to be an American slang term for an idiot or just for an ordinary bloke or man. It first appears around the early 20th century and is probably related to words like geek.

Cassidy claims it comes from a complex of words related to the meaning ‘snub nose’. Here is Cassidy’s multi-word, multi-meaning definition:

Geanc, geannc, geancaire, n., a snub-nose; a short-faced surly person; a homely snub-nosed person; a crooked dumpy-looking person; one of the lower and more vicious kinds of fairies, a leprechaun.

In reality, of course, geanc (pronounced gyank) means a snub-nose. It cannot be used of a person. A geancaire or geancachán or geancán can mean a snub-nosed person, while the fairy definition above is the definition of geanncanach from Dinneen’s dictionary.

In short, there is no word similar to gink that means a person and the various offshoot words of geanc are so dissimilar from the meanings of gink that there is no reason to suppose any connection.

Cassidese Glossary – Gimmick

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.

Gimmick first makes its appearance in the 1920s. It originally meant a device for fixing a roulette wheel or something similar at a fairground so that people would not win anything valuable. It then came to mean any kind of magician’s device and then a publicity stunt or politician’s trick.

Its origin is not known. Some have suggested a link to gimcrack or a backslang version of magic but there is little to support these theories. Cassidy’s suggestion is that it comes from the Irish camóg. Camóg is a diminutive of the word cam, meaning crooked.

Here are its definitions, according to the electronic version of Ó Dónaill’s dictionary.

  1. crook, hooked stick
  2. camogie stick (camogie is the women’s version of hurling)
  3. gaff-hook
  4. chinks
  5. camóg ara, hollow of temple
  6. a. concave scallop shell
  7. b. small wooden dish
  8. wisp (of smoke)
  9. ripple (on water)
  10. comma

Is there anything there which makes you automatically think of devices or tricks? Maybe the original gimmick which was used to interfere with the wheel of fortune was hooked. And maybe it wasn’t. But I can’t really see why camóg would become gimmick, where the vowels are completely different and the g and c are reversed. Cassidy spoofed a lot about the ‘English phonetic overcoats’ which cover his candidate ‘Irish’ phrases but the fact is that most genuine borrowed words look a lot like the word they derive from. Samurai, bagel and shebeen may not be exactly like their Japanese, Yiddish or Irish source-words but they’re close enough and I see no reason why fairground folk wouldn’t have talked about kammogs instead of gimmicks if this were really the origin of the word.

 

Cassidese Glossary – Gibberish

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 are various theories about the origins of gibberish. You can read some of them here: https://www.etymonline.com/word/gibberish

Cassidy claims that this comes from the ‘Irish’ geab ar ais, meaning ‘back talk, backward chat; fig. back-slanged speech.’ There is no evidence that the phrase geab ar ais has ever been used in the Irish language with any meaning, least of all ‘back-slanged speech’. You would think that ‘geab ar ais’ (if it existed) would be more likely to mean ‘backchat’ (i.e. impertinence) rather than backslang.

Cassidese Glossary – Geister

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.

Geister is a word that Cassidy found in one of Jonathon Harrington Green’s books on gambling, published in the mid 19th century. Green defined a geister as an extra thief. In other words, it seems likely to be linked to the German word geist, meaning a ghost. There are a number of expressions in English where someone is marginal to the work that use the term ghost: a ghost writer is an invisible writer who writes the book for the ostensible author; to ghost someone at work means to follow them to learn the job.

Cassidy changed its meaning to ‘a thief’s confederate’, which gives a completely different impression. According to Cassidy, it comes from the Irish gastaire: which means (again, according to Cassidy) ‘a tricky person; a cunning, impudent fellow.

In fact, Dinneen’s dictionary claims that it means ‘a tricky person’.

Ó Dónaill’s dictionary says that this means ‘a smart, impudent fellow.’

There is no evidence for a connection between Irish gastaire and English geister. In fact, the sound match is not great (geister, gastarra) and the meanings even less so. In any case, why would a cheeky or tricky individual be a good match for the meaning of ‘an extra thief brought in to do a job?’

Cassidese Glossary – Geek

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.

Geek is defined by Cassidy as a fairground term for a long-haired person, which is pushing it – the geek was frequently the ‘wild man’ in a fairground (think of Sideshow Bob on the Simpsons) but this seems to be a relatively late meaning. Cassidy needs to emphasise the hairiness of the geek because his Irish candidate is an adjective meaning hairy, ciabhach:

Ciabhach (pron. kíahaċ), adj., long-haired, hairy, bushy; dishevelled, unkempt; fig. a long-haired, bushy-looking person. Ciabhacht (pron. kíŏaċt) n., (someone or something) having long hair. (Dineen, 187; Ó Dónaill, 223)

In reality, ciabhach means long-haired. It cannot be used as a noun, and while ciabhacht is a noun, it is an abstract noun meaning hairiness. It cannot be used to mean someone who is hairy.

Back in the real word, geek is from a Germanic word meaning a fool, geck, which was actually used in the 18th century in the Austro-Hungarian empire for people in travelling freak shows