Tag Archives: fake origins for American slang


This is one of the silliest claims in a very silly book. I mean, how stupid would you need to be to believe that the word ditch (as in ‘she ditched him’) comes from the supposed Irish phrase de áit? The phrase de áit isn’t in use in Irish and never has been.

The two words exist independently, of course. De means from or ‘off of’, ‘from the surface of’ (bhain siad an pictiúr den bhalla – they took the picture off of the wall), while áit means place. And occasionally they occur together in phrases like an phrochlais sin de áit (that dump of a place) or taobh amuigh de áit (outside of a place) but in the standard language, this would usually become d’áit and it isn’t anything to do with displacing or dislodging or dumping in these cases. If you want to say that someone displaced something or put it out of its place you would use as áit, not de áit: cuireadh na brící as áit nuair a thit an scafall orthu (the bricks were dislodged when the scaffolding fell on them). So, de áit is pretty much impossible as the origin of ditch.

The English ditch, on the other hand, is a very likely source. A ditch, meaning a kind of trench at the side of the road (or sometimes the bank beside the trench in Ireland), comes from the Old English word dic. And in the old days, when you had some rubbish you dumped it in the ditch, or ditched it. In time, this became a general term for discarding or dumping.

This isn’t rocket science. I do have academic degrees but you don’t need a degree (or even the high-school certificate that Cassidy had instead of a degree) to work out that Cassidy’s claim is nonsense. All you need is reasonable literacy skills, access to the internet and an open and sensible mind. Which is why I find it really strange that so many people are prepared to support a book that contains so many transparent stupidities like this.

Seo ceann de na rudaí is bómánta dá maíonn Cassidy sa leabhar amaideach seo. Bheadh ort bheith millteanach ramhar sa réasún lena chreidiúint gur ón fhrása ‘Gaeilge’ de áit a thagann an focal Béarla ditch (mar shampla, sa fhrása ‘she ditched him’.  Níl na focail de áit le fáil sa Ghaeilge agus ní raibh riamh.

Tá an dá fhocal ann leo féin, ar ndóigh. Ciallaíonn de ó ó dhromchla ruda  (bhain siad an pictiúr den bhalla), agus is ionann áit agus ionad. Agus bíonn an dá fhocal ag teacht le chéile corruair i bhfrásaí mar an phrochlais sin de áit nó  taobh amuigh de áit ach sa Chaighdeán, dhéanfaí d’áit de sin, agus ní bhaineann sé le rudaí a dhíláithriú sna cásanna seo.  Bhainfeá úsáid as as áit, ní de áit le sin a rá – cuireadh na brící as áit nuair a thit an scafall orthu, mar shampla. Mar sin de, níl seans dá laghad go bhfuil de áit ceart mar bhunús an Bhéarla ditch.

Ar an láimh eile, tá an focal Béarla ditch thar a bheith fóirsteanach agus thar a bheith soiléir mar mhíniú. Tagann an focal ditch, a chiallaíonn ‘díog’, ón fhocal Sean-Bhéarla dic. Agus sna seanlaethanta, nuair a bhí bruscar agat, dhéantaí é a dhumpáil sa díog, nó é a ‘ditcheáil’. Leis na blianta, fuair an focal ditching an chiall chéanna le dumping.

Ní rud deacair casta é seo. Tá céimeanna ollscoile agam ach níl céim de dhíth ar dhuine (ná fiú an teastas ardscoile a bhí ag Cassidy in áit céimeanna) lena oibriú amach gur raiméis é an méid a dúirt Cassidy faoin fhocal seo. Níl de dhíth ar dhuine ach scileanna réasúnta litearthachta, teacht ar an Idirlíon agus intinn oscailte chiallmhar. Sin an fáth a gcuireann sé a oiread sin iontais orm go bhfuil a oiread sin daoine sásta tacú le leabhar a bhfuil a oiread sin bómántachtaí follasacha ar nós an chinn seo ann.






High Falutin’

According to Cassidy, the word high falutin’ comes from uí bhfolaíocht án, which he claims is an Irish phrase meaning ‘of noble blood’. Hmm.

In an article in the San Francisco Gate, Cassidy explains that in this phrase, the bh and the ch are silent, so the resulting word sounds like high falutin’. Incidentally, if the phrase did exist, it would be pronounced ee wollee-okht ahn or ee vollee-okht awn. It is the f that is silent, not the bh, and the ch is softer than a k sound but still very much present.  

Let’s just examine this claim further. Does uí bhfolaíocht án exist in Irish? Is it used to mean ‘of noble blood’? Of course not. Like almost every Irish phrase in Cassidy’s ridiculous book, it is pure invention. However, it is worse than most of Cassidy’s inventions, as it is not just improbably daft but glaringly, obviously wrong.

Let me explain. Folaíocht comes from the Irish fuil, meaning blood. It does mean a pedigree bloodline. A pedigree horse is a capall folaíochta. Án is a rather obscure word which Cassidy was very fond of but which Irish speakers use sparingly, if at all. Uasal is the usual word for noble. But what is the doing there? And why is it followed by bh? Neither of these elements makes any sense in terms of the grammar of the language.

Ó is one Irish word for ‘from’. And in Ó Dónaill’s dictionary, the word is given as a variant of ó. However, there are several ó words in Irish. is a variant of the noun ó meaning grandson or descendant, not the preposition ó meaning from. Ó Dónaill marks this with a little number so you can tell the difference. Cassidy was obviously too stupid to use a dictionary properly, so he ignored the little numbers. And it wouldn’t be followed by bh, but by fh, so he obviously wasn’t smart enough for grammar books either. If I wanted to say ‘of noble blood’, I would say d’fhuil uasal, or de phór uasal, or de shliocht uasal. Note that an Irish speaker would use the word de in this case, not ó. And in any case, high falutin is not about bloodlines. It is about ideas or notions or accents or words.

Most (sane) scholars link it to the word flute. It is somebody talking with a high-pitched, flute-like, posh voice. It may be the right explanation. It may be wrong. But it is definitely better than Cassidy’s suggestion, which is nonsense.