Tag Archives: etymology

Cassidese Glossary – Galore

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.

Wherever you look, in any English dictionary, you will find that this word is described as deriving from Irish or from Scots Gaelic go leor with the same meaning. For some reason, Cassidy fails to mention this fact. The reason is probably that according to Cassidy, the makers of English dictionaries are determined to deny the influence of Irish on English. As this example shows, where genuine evidence exists, lexicographers are quite willing to accept Irish derivations.

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Cassidese Glossary – Gab

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.

Etymology is not always easy or straightforward. Words often have complicated, difficult histories.

One such word is the English gab, meaning talk, chatter, loquacity. This probably comes from an Old Norse source, either directly or via Old French gap, gab, which means joke or jest or bragging talk. There is also influence from Scottish and northern English gab, meaning the mouth, which could be linked to Irish or Gaelic gob. Some people think that it is linked to gabble and is maybe onomatopoeic.

There is an Irish word geab (and a Scottish Gaelic gab). These words are probably not old and are probably borrowings from English or Scots (though giob-geab is recorded from a long way back in Irish with the meaning of ‘chit-chat’).

Daniel Cassidy, in How The Irish Invented Slang, assumes that the movement was the other direction, that gab originates in Irish and then enters English and Scots from there.

His treatment of sources in this case is worth examining, as it is more dishonest than most entries in Cassidy’s book. (Almost all of which are quite dishonest.)

“Some Anglo-American dictionaries derive the English gab of chatter from the Old Icelandic gabb, gabba, meaning “mockery”. … Professor MacBain associates Gaelic gab with Irish gob, a beak or mouth.”

I am not aware of any Anglo-American dictionary deriving gab from Old Icelandic. Some sources mention Old Icelandic as a cognate. MacBain does NOT associate gab with gob,   as you can see if you click on this link:(https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/An_Etymological_Dictionary_of_the_Gaelic_Language/G)

MacBain gives a Middle English origin for gab and then says cf. gab in his entry on gob. At no point does he state or imply that gab actually comes from gob.

 

Cassidese Glossary – For Fair

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 an American slang term meaning completely. There is no reason to suppose that it isn’t composed of the English words for and fair, on the pattern of for good meaning ‘forever’. There are many Americanisms that use for, such as for real and for sure.

Cassidy’s claim is that this comes from the Irish foirfe, which means ‘perfect’ and is pronounced forrifa. Why should this be any more likely than for + fair in English?

Cassidese Glossary – Drag

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 Cassidy, the phrase drag racing comes from Irish phrase de ráig, meaning suddenly or precipitately.

Explanations involving the Englsh word drag range from a simple challenge (“Drag your car out of the garage and race me!”) to geographical locale (the “main drag” was a city’s main street, often the only one wide enough to accommodate two vehicles) to the mechanical (to “drag” the gears meant to hold the transmission in gear longer than normal).

De ráig is a real phrase but is quite uncommon and is much less appropriate as an origin than the English word drag, which is obviously a lot closer in sound as well.

 

Cassidese Glossary – Darn

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 claims that the word darn comes from the Irish phrase dothairne air. This word does exist, but it is quite obscure. Ó Dónaill’s dictionary has this:

dothairne, f. (gs. ~). Affliction. Díth is ~ ort! Bad scran to you!

Dinneen has this:

dothairne g., id., f., evil, mischief; misfortune; do dhíth is do dhothairne ort, misery and misfortune attend thee.

However, “dothairne air” is not a common expression in Irish. I have just put it into Google and got 8 hits, all of them relating to this blog. The phrase “damnú air” got 489 hits.

There is no doubt about where darn it really comes from. It is first recorded (in America) in 1781. Early references include specific claims that darn is a euphemistic substitution for damn. The existence of expressions like ‘gosh darn it to heck!’ and ‘darnation’ leave us with little room for doubt that this is another minced oath, like Baloney! or Gee Whizz! or Holy Cow!

Cassidese Glossary – Cully

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 cully is an old flash expression, which originally meant a man or friend in the 17th century but then came to mean a gull or sucker. There is no clear etymology for this word, though it has been linked to an earlier word cullion.

Daniel Cassidy in his book of false etymology How The Irish Invented Slang, says that the Irish cuallaí (earlier spelling cuallaidhe) is the origin of this word. The meaning is certainly close, as cuallaí means a companion or associate. In other words, there is nothing stupid about this claim. However, I think it is quite unlikely that there is a connection, as cuallaí is pronounced a little like the English coolie, not cully, and it would hard to explain why the sound of the word would be changed so much in the transition between the two languages.

Cassidese Glossary – Cantankerous

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.

You can find an honest and intelligent discussion of the origins of this word here: https://www.etymonline.com/search?q=cantankerous

Cassidy claims that this derives from the ‘Irish’ “Ceanndánacht ársa (pron. k’an danánǝċt’ ársǝ), old obstinacy, aged willfulness, elderly stubbornness.” Leaving aside the badly-done attempt at phonetics with the extra syllable, there is absolutely no evidence of anyone ever using the expression ceanndánacht ársa in the Irish language. It is completely fictional. It is also worth pointing out that there are hundreds of adjectives in English that end in – ous (joyous, kernaptious, captious). The ársa has been randomly stuck on the end of the ceanndánacht in an attempt to explain this problem away.