Tag Archives: fake Irish derivations

Cassidese Glossary – Hip, Hep

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.

There is no agreement about the origins of the word hip (in the sense of cool, trendy, not as in the thing at the top of your leg). You can find a discussion of the word here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hip_(slang)

The late Daniel Cassidy, in his work of fake etymologies, How The Irish Invented Slang, claimed that hip and its earlier form hep derive from the Irish word aibí (or abaí). Cassidy defines this word as:

Aibí (pron. h-abí; contraction h-ab’), adj., mature, quick, clever, quick-witted; fig. wise.

As usual, this is arrant nonsense. The word is defined by Ó Dónaill as ‘ripe, mature; quick, clever; crisp’. Its primary meaning is ripe. Dinneen defined it as ‘ripe, mature, quick-witted’. It does not mean wise, it is not pronounced with a h-, and while it is conceivable that a short vowel at the end of a word would be lost in speech, there is no reason to suppose that this would ever happen to a long vowel like the -í at the end of this word. The word is pronounced abbey or appee or abwee, depending on dialect (this is why it is sometimes spelled abaí). Why would appee or abwee become hip or hep? Wherever the word hip came from, it didn’t come from Irish and as it’s associated with African-American culture, it seems more likely that its roots, whatever they are, lie there.

Dukes and Dukin’ It Out

Another absurd claim in Daniel Cassidy’s idiotic work of fake linguistics, How The Irish Invented Slang, is the one about duke, dukie and dukin’ it out. Cassidy attributes this to the Irish word tuargain (toorgun), which means to pound. This isn’t a perfect match phonetically, though the meaning isn’t too far off. However, we need to look at all the facts before accepting Cassidy’s claim. 

Firstly, the basic word here is not dukin’ but duke. Duke has been used as a slang term for the hands since at least the 19th century. The verb ‘dukin’ it out’ is only on record since the 1960s so it’s reasonable to assume that it is a derivative of ‘duke’.

Where does duke come from? The most likely explanation is that it comes from Cockney rhyming slang. Since the mid-18th century, the word ‘fork’ is found as a slang term for hand, for obvious reasons. Then the phrase Duke of York probably gave rise to the term duke for hand.

There is no evidence for tuargain being the origin of these words and it is hard to explain why the word dukes for hands seems to have existed long before the verb dukin’ if the noun is a back-formation from the verb, as Cassidy claims. (A back-formation is a word like burger, which derives from hamburger because people mistakenly believed that the ham referred to the meat.)

As usual, it’s just fanciful bullshit with no evidence to back it up but a slight similarity of sound.