Tag Archives: etymology of punk

Cassidese Glossary – Punk

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 origins of the word punk are quite mysterious, as the late Daniel Cassidy claimed in his etymological hoax How The Irish Invented Slang. However, it isn’t an American slang word derived from the word ponach. Why not? Well, firstly, the development of the word punk seems to have been from an English word meaning rotten wood used as tinder (dating to the 17th century and found all over New England), to anything rotten, to a prostitute, and thus to a male prostitute or a criminal’s apprentice.

Ponach does mean a boy, but it means a very young boy, as in a toddler. And it means that in Scottish Gaelic, not in Irish. (How much influence did Scottish Gaelic have on American slang, I ask myself?) It is pronounced ponna or ponnakh, which is not a great match for punk anyway.

In other words, this is so improbable it is really not worthy of consideration.