Tag Archives: Danny Cassidy

Cassidese Glossary – Buck

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 word buck meaning a male animal or a party animal is very similar in sound and meaning to the Irish boc, with a similar set of meanings. Some scholars regard boc as being a borrowing from Old English, though there are similar words in other Celtic languages. However, whatever the relationship between the English word buck and the Irish word boc, there is no doubt that the English word buck goes back to a Middle English word bucke and then to an Old English word bucca. In other words, it has been in English for so long that it is very unlikely to be a borrowing from Irish, and it has cognates in other Germanic languages which make a direct Celtic origin improbable.

Cassidy gets around these inconvenient facts by taking a quotation from MacBain’s Gaelic Etymological Dictionary of 1896 and misinterpreting it:

MacBain’s dictionary derives buck from boc, and the Gaelic languages, and thence to a Sanskrit root: “boc, a buck, Irish boc, he-goat, Old Irish bocc, Welsh bwch, Cornish boch, Breton bouch’h, bukko-s; Sanskrit bukka, goat.” (MacBain’s Gaelic Etymological Dictionary, 1896, [1982].)

Just look again at the quotation given by Cassidy above. MacBain categorically does not derive buck from boc. He is deriving the modern Gaelic and Irish word boc from Old Irish and comparing this to a Sanskrit root. (Sanskrit is an ancient Indo-European language – it provides cognates of other Indo-European languages. It is not Proto-Indo-European and Celtic and Germanic languages do not derive their vocabulary or roots ‘from’ Sanskrit.) MacBain is not saying anything about the relationship between boc and buck beyond that buck is the English translation of boc. The clue’s in the name. MacBain’s dictionary is an etymological dictionary of Gaelic – it’s not about the etymology of English words.

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Cassidese Glossary – Brat

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 quotes the Oxford English Dictionary in relation to this word, though most of the time he claims that the OED and other professional lexicographers and linguists are wrong. The word brat means a badly-behaved child. It is believed to have developed from a word meaning a rag or makeshift garment (compare English toe-rag), which is probably derived from Irish or some other Celtic language. In Irish, the word brat means a cloth or covering. A brat urláir is a floor covering or carpet, if there is a snowfall the land is faoi bhrat sneachta (under a covering of snow), and the traditional Irish mantle called a brat was once a major export of the country.

Cassidese Glossary – Brace

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 etymology, How The Irish Invented Slang, says that a brace game is a crooked gambling game. He claims that it comes from the Irish phrase beir as.

I don’t know where brace comes from in this case, though the strongest suggestion seems to be that it comes from a kind of brace or lever used to fix the device known as a case keeper in the card game Faro.

It doesn’t come from beir as, which is a dictionary entry, not a phrase. Beir is an imperative (an order or instruction) and as means ‘out of’. So it means, if it means anything, ‘take out of’.

Cassidy provides no evidence for his meaning of crooked. Nobody has ever used cluiche beir as to mean anything in Irish, let alone a crooked game. Here are some genuine uses of beir as:

Beir as é, take it away.

Beir as tú! Go away! You don’t mean it!

Rug siad as an oíche mar sin, in that way they passed the night.

Ag breith as, making off.

Dá mbeadh breith as dá rogha agam, if I could pick and choose.

Cassidese Glossary – Boyo

Cassidy claims that the expression boyo can be explained in terms of the Irish language tendency to place an ó after a vocative expression, as in a mhic ó (oh my son) or a rún ó (oh my secret), though Cassidy failed to understand that this is associated with vocative uses. He gives the example boc ó (which he regards as the origin of bucko) and which is not a vocative expression.

In reality, boyo is common enough in Irish English but it is not “a bilingual appellation and expression of affection”. It’s an English word with an o stuck on the end of it, like thicko.

Incidentally, boyo is generally regarded as more typical of the English of Wales than of Ireland.

Cassidese Glossary – Boot

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 etymology, How The Irish Invented Slang, claimed that the word boot (as in ‘to boot’) comes from the Irish word babhta.

In fact, the etymology of the words boot and bout in English is quite complex.

Boot comes from the Old English bot ‘help, relief, advantage; atonement,’ while bout comes from a Middle English word bught meaning ‘a bend’. Neither of these words has any connection with boot meaning shoe (which is from French) and only a distant connection with booty meaning captured prize, which is from Germanic through French (and acquired its current meaning as in ‘bootilicious’ through Black American English). Freebooter is from Dutch.

At some stage over the last four hundred years, the English word bout was borrowed into Irish as babhta. There is no doubt that this is a borrowing into Irish and not the other way round. As we have said before, the only words with this pattern of sounds in Irish are borrowings, words like stabht (the drink, stout), clabhta (clout), dabht (doubt) or fabht (fault).  In Irish, the meanings of the two English words boot and bout are conflated in babhta, because we find expressions like de bhabhta, to boot, as well as babhta tinnis, a bout of illness.

Cassidese Glossary – Boondoggle

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.

 

Boondoggle is an American term which refers to a project which is regarded as a white elephant or a waste of money. According to Wikipedia:

‘The term arose from a 1935 New York Times report that more than $3 million had been spent on recreational activities for the jobless as part of the New Deal. Among these activities were crafts classes, where the production of “boon doggles,” described in the article as various utilitarian “gadgets” made with cloth or leather, were taught. The term’s earlier definition is thought to have its origin in scouting, particularly in reference to a woggle.’

Daniel Cassidy, in his book, How The Irish Invented Slang, claims that boondoggle is really Irish. He says that it comes from a phrase buan-díchiall, which according to him means ‘permanent-foolishness, perpetual folly’. There are a number of reasons for doubting this.

Firstly, the phrase buan-díchiall (like one of Cassidy’s other made-up words, buanchumadh, the supposed origin of bunkum) does not exist in Irish, though the constituent words buan and díchiall do. Even if it did exist, it wouldn’t sound anything like boondoggle. It would be pronounced something like boo-an-jee-heel. Thirdly, the available accounts in English suggest that the woven leather items were the boondoggles and the act of making them was boondoggling. The meaning of a costly waste of effort came later. This doesn’t fit with the meanings of Cassidy’s ‘Irish’ phrase.

Cassidese Glossary – Booly Dog

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 book How The Irish Invented Slang, claimed that the American English slang term ‘booly dog’ for a policeman comes from Irish:

Buailteach (pron. búěl-t’aċ), adj., (someone) disposed or given to striking, whacking or beating; fig. a policeman. (Dineen, 134)

Even if buailteach sounded anything like booly dog, there would be a problem with Cassidy’s assumption that all languages readily slip between grammatical categories as easily as English. Cassidy assumed that an adjective can be used as a noun, that the adjective buailteach can be used to mean someone who hits. (He assumed the same thing about many other words, for example, that gaosmhar, an adjective meaning wise, can be used to mean a wise person.) In fact, Irish words tend to be more clearly marked than English words. In English, the noun house can be used as an adjective in phrases like ‘the house wine’. In Irish, this is fion an tí, the wine of the house. The word buailteach is not a noun and it has no figurative meaning of ‘policeman’.

Buailteach is pronounced something like boolchah. It sounds nothing like booly dog.

Finally, the consensus seems to be that booly dog has some connection with bullies or with bulldogs, which seems a reasonable conjecture to me.