Tag Archives: Dinneen

Cassidese Glossary – Spieler

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.

According to Daniel Cassidy, author of the etymological hoax, How The Irish Invented Slang, the English slang term spiel (meaning a rigmarole or speech) doesn’t come from a German term meaning play. He offers no evidence to disprove this claim. Instead, he asserts that the Irish word speal is the origin of this term. Speal means a scythe, an agricultural implement used for cutting barley or oats or hay. It is pronounced to rhyme with Hal, not with heel, so it sounds quite different.

It does not mean to use cutting words or anything of the type in Irish. Neither Ó Dónaill’s dictionary nor Dinneen’s dictionary give this as a meaning of speal or any related word. Dwelly’s Scots Gaelic dictionary does give this as a subsidiary meaning. Of course, a spiel is not usually insulting or cutting – by its very nature, a spiel has to be persuasive. And again, even if Cassidy is right and the German explanation is wrong (which is very unlikely) this would have nothing whatever to do with Irish influence on American slang, because speal isn’t used in this way in Irish.

Cassidese Glossary – Snap

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.

Dinneen’s Irish dictionary gives various meanings for snab, including a snap, an end or fragment, a spell or turn (cf. “a cold snap”). The book also gives snap with the meaning “a snapping, a sudden assault or seizure.”

Daniel Cassidy, in his etymological hoax, How The Irish Invented Slang, claims that the word snap is originally an Irish word which was borrowed into English. While snap in the sense of a snapping, a sudden assault or seizure, a snap, an end or fragment is found in Irish, the evidence is very clearly in favour of this being an English word borrowed into Irish for a number of reasons.

There is no evidence for the existence of the word snap in Irish before the modern era. (You can check this on eDIL.) Furthermore, snap is recorded in the sense of a snap or sudden bite in English from the late 15th century, and probably derives from Dutch or Low German snappen. It is related to Germanic words like snout.

Cassidese Glossary – John

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.

 

John was apparently a slang term in America long ago for a steady boyfriend. Now it is used of the client of a prostitute or for a sugar daddy (apparently – the latter meaning is one I’ve never heard even though I watch a lot of American films.)  Anyway, I would have thought this was quite an easy term to explain. John used to be the most common name in English. People signing into a hotel room would sign as Mr and Mrs John Smith. There are John Does and Dear John Letters and Johnny-Come-Lately. It is just a natural word to use of a regular guy, a person you don’t know much about.

Daniel Cassidy, in his etymological hoax, How The Irish Invented Slang, came up with an Irish language explanation for this. Here is Cassidy’s claim:

Teann (pron. t’ann, ch’ann, j’ann, joun), n., a champion; a firm man; fig. a well-to-do-man; a support; a resource; adj., wealthy, well-to-do, strong, well-established, steadfast. Cara teann, a steadfast, constant friend; feirmeoir teann, a well-to-do farmer. Teannaim sparán, I fill a purse well. Teanntóir, n., a backer, a helper, a support. (Dineen, 1191.)”

Dinneen’s (Cassidy consistently misspelled this name) dictionary is a strange and eccentric book. Most people who work with the language tend to prefer Ó Dónaill’s Foclóir Gaeilge-Béarla, so let’s look at the definition of teann there.

As a noun, teann is defined as: 1. (a) Strength, force; (b) stress, strain; 2. (a) support, backing resource (b) assurance, confidence, boldness. 3 Power, authority  4 (In prepositional phrases) (a) ar theann a dhíchill, he is doing his very best (b) i dteann a réime, at the height of his career, (c) le teann oibre, by dint of hard work.

As an adjective, it is: 1 Tight, taut; 2. (a) Firm, strong, (b) steadfast, constant, 3. Well-established, bold, assured, (b) well-to-do, 4 Forceful, emphatic, confident, assured. 5 Hard, severe.

There is nothing here about champions, firm men or well-to-do men. Let’s look at Dinneen’s version.

As an adjective, it is “Teann, -a, -einne, a., tight, firm, stiff, taut, rigid, plump or well-filled (as a bag, etc.), well-set, stout, powerful, hardy, forward, well-contested, well-to-do, downright, decisive, strict; teann as, confident in; teann ar, severe on; teann le, filled or packed with; feirmeoir teann, a well-to-do farmer; fear teann, a stern man, al. a burly man; sursaing theann, a tight-pulled or well-filled belt; chomh teann le lamhnán, as firm (distent) as a bladder; comh teann géar is do b’fhéidir leis, as quickly as he could; láir sheang nó cairiún teann, a slender mare or a firm-set nag (are the best of the kind); teann le bainne, filled with milk (as an udder); is teann mar sin é, that is very forward of you (S.N.); ach mur’ teann ar charaid chan teann ar námhaid, if you cannot rely on a friend you cannot rely on an enemy; aimh-theann, not austere (Contr.)”

As a noun, Dinneen says this: “Teann, g. teinn, tinn, pl. –ta, m., strain, distress, support, strength, resource, effort, violence, supremacy (over, ar); a firm man,a champion; teann na nGall, foreign oppression; teann i dteann, might for might; teann re teann id.; le teann deifre, feirge, 7c., through sheer haste, anger, etc.; ar theann a dhíchill, doing his level best, ar theann a anama, id.; re teann truaighe dhó, through sheer pity for him; gabhaim neart agus teann i, I obtain strength and support in, assume dominion in; níor ghabhadar teann ná treise i, the failed to conquer; do-ghním teann as, I take pride in, make much of; ó nach tarrthaidh an buille teann air, since the blow did not take effect on him; tá teann ar a chúlaibh aige, he has strong resources.”

The only part of this which corresponds with the meaning which Cassidy is giving to teann is Dinneen’s ‘a firm man, a champion’. I suspect that this is a very old and poetic expression, not the kind of thing you would find in normal conversation, and I have certainly never heard it used in this way. As others have pointed out, Cassidy took complex terms and cherry-picked the obscure meanings which suited him without taking into account the way these words are really used in the language.

Cassidese Glossary – Hinky

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.

Hinky is apparently an American slang term for nervous or jumpy and by extension, it can describe someone who is acting suspiciously. It dates back to the 1950s and there is no agreement about its origins. Some etymologies are discussed here:

What’s the origin of “hinky”?


However, to the late Daniel Cassidy, any word without a clear origin was automatically a hidden piece of Irish. Hinky is no exception. According to Cassidy, this derives from the Irish ainigí, meaning ‘wicked, bad, nervous, fretful or peevish’. This is actually aingí, not ainigí (which is given by Dinneen as a poetic variant). It is not pronounced with a h-. It is pronounced anniggee or anggee, which doesn’t sound much like hinky. It is defined by Ó Dónaill as:

aingí, a3. 1. Malignant. 2. Peevish, fretful. Leanbh, seanduine, ~, a peevish child, old man. (Var:~och)

This is not a bad match for the meaning but the sound is not a good match and the word is first found in English a long time after the period when there were huge numbers of Irish speakers in the slums of America. In other words, it’s better than Cassidy’s usual standard but still very, very improbable.

Cassidese Glossary – A Nail

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.

According to Daniel Cassidy is his book How The Irish Invented Slang, the slang expression ‘a nail’ means a dose of venereal disease. If this is the case, it seems likely to me that it refers to the inflammation and swelling that someone would experience when they catch themselves on a nail, though this is only a guess.

Cassidy claimed that it comes from ainfheoil, an Irish and Scottish Gaelic word deriving from the elements feoil (meat, flesh) and ain-, a prefix that means unnatural or bad. It is worth quoting Cassidy’s definition:

Ainfheoil [pron. An’ól, an⁓ĭӱ-il] n., corrupt flesh, gross flesh, granulations; fig. STD. (Dineen, 19; Dwelly, 15.)

This is very inaccurate. Dinneen defines this word as meaning ‘proud flesh, gross flesh’. Dwelly, which is a dictionary of Scottish Gaelic, also defines it as ‘proud flesh, gross flesh’. Proud flesh is the primary meaning of this word. Proud flesh is a specific phenomenon, a kind of tissue that grows around a wound when it is not fully healed. Cassidy’s ‘figurative’ meaning of sexually transmitted disease is imaginary.

The ‘phonetics’ given by Cassidy are also imaginary. The n’ is a convention in Irish phonology to show a palatal consonant, but the rest is false. A correct phonetic transcription would be something like /an̠ʲɔːlʲ/.

Puncher

The word ‘puncher’ meant a cowboy. The word punch means to strike or to prod or to poke. It derives from French and has been in common use in English for six hundred years.

Daniel Cassidy, in his atrocious book How The Irish Invented Slang, doesn’t mention these facts in his discussion of the word. He chooses instead to trace the word to the Irish paintéar, which he says means ‘a tying cord or rope, a noose, a lasso, a snare for catching animals …’ He cites Dinneen’s Irish dictionary as a source. Strangely, this isn’t what Dinneen’s dictionary says. Dinneen’s entry for paintéar begins thus: ‘a painter or panter, a snare, noose, gin or trap, a binding cable …’

In other words, this is an Irish word, certainly, but it was borrowed from the English word painter, which is a nautical term for a rope used to tie up a boat. This is also of French origin (i.e. the English borrowed it from French) but unrelated to the French term which is really the origin of punch.

In other words, you obviously don’t get to be that incompetent by accident. Cassidy deliberately missed out the important information relating to the real origins of puncher and the English origins of paintéar in order to make a fake case for an Irish origin. What a con-man!

 

 

Is focal eile ar bhuachaill bo é ‘puncher’. Ciallaíonn an focal punch bualadh nó broideadh nó sá. Tagann sé ón Fhraincis agus tá sé in úsáid go coitianta sa Bhéarla le sé chéad bliana anuas.

Ina leabhar amaideach How The Irish Invented Slang, ní luann Daniel Cassidy na fíricí seo ar chor ar bith.  Ina áit sin, maíonn sé gur tháinig puncher ón Ghaeilge paintéar. Deir sé go gciallaíonn paintéar ‘a tying cord or rope, a noose, a lasso, a snare for catching animals …’ Luann sé foclóir an Duinnínigh mar fhoinse. Ach ní hé sin an sainmhíniú a bhí ag an Duinníneach. Tosaíonn cur síos Uí Dhuinnín ar an fhocal paintéar mar seo: ‘a painter or panter, a snare, noose, gin or trap, a binding cable …’

Lena rá ar dhóigh eile, is focal Gaeilge é paintéar, cinnte, ach iasacht atá ann ón fhocal Béarla painter, focal bádóireachta a chiallaíonn rópa a úsáidtear le bád a cheangal. Tháinig an focal seo ón Fhraincis fosta (fuair lucht an Bhéarla ón Fhraincis é) ach níl baint ar bith aige leis an téarma Fraincise a thug an focal punch don Bhéarla.

Lena rá ar dhóigh eile, ní de thaisme a tharlaíonn bréaga mar seo. Is d’aon turas a theip ar Cassidy an fhaisnéis thábhachtach a bhaineann le fíorstair an fhocail puncher agus bunús Béarla paintéar a lua ionas go dtiocfadh leis cás bréige a dhéanamh gur Gaeilge a bhí ann. A leithéid de chaimiléir gan náire!