Tag Archives: etymology of why-o

Cassidese Glossary – Why-O

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 etymological fantasy, How The Irish Invented Slang, claimed that the Why-o gang in 19th century New York were named for the obscure Irish word uathadh, an ancient poetic term for ‘few’. There is no evidence for this and it is widely accepted that their name comes from their identification call, which sounded like an owl calling.