Tag Archives: false etymology

Cassidese Glossary – Yell

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 hoax, How The Irish Invented Slang, claimed that the word yell comes from éamh oll, which Cassidy defines as ‘a great cry, a loud shout, a loud call.’ This is ridiculous for several reasons.

Firstly, éamh oll is not a real Irish phrase. The word oll is only used as a prefix in modern Irish and éamh is a fairly obscure word, much more obscure than words like scairt, gairm, scread, glaoch and liú.

Cassidy, with his customary lack of rigour, misquotes the English dictionaries too. Here is what Cassidy says:

“The OED derives yell from Middle Low German gellen, gillen, weak, Old English galan, to sing.”

This is what the Oxford English Dictionary really says about the origins of yell:

“Forms: OE gellan, giellan, gillan, gyllan, ME ȝeolle, ME ȝelle, ME ȝel, ȝele, yhelle, …

Etymology: Old English (Anglian) gellan , (West Saxon) giellan , gyllan , gillan strong verb, past tense geal , plural gullon = Middle Low German gellen , gillen weak, Middle Dutch gellen strong (Dutch gillen ), Old High German gellan strong (Middle High German, German weak gellen ), Old Norse gjalla , past tense gall (Swedish gälla , Norwegian giella ); < gell- , extended form of gel- : gal- , whence Old English galan to sing, gale v.1, -gale in nihtegale , night- + -gale (in nightingale n.1), Old Norse -gal in hanagal cockcrow, Old Saxon, (Middle) Dutch, Old High German galm outcry.”

It is quite clear from all this that yell had exactly the same meaning and a fairly similar form in Middle and Old English. The OED does not say that the word comes from Middle Low German because Middle Low German came after Old English chronologically and the word was already in use in English in the Old English period. And the reference to strong and weak is nothing to do with the meaning of the word, it refers to it being a strong or weak verb (i.e. one which forms the past tense by a vowel change or by adding –ed respectively: write/wrote is strong, work/worked is weak.)

In other words, Cassidy’s claim here is nonsense. The origin of yell is well-known and of impeccable Germanic origin, éamh oll does not exist and his claim of an Irish derivation is laughable.

Cassidese Glossary – Welt

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 another improbable claim made by the late Daniel Cassidy in his etymological hoax How The Irish Invented Slang. In American slang, the term welt is used as a verb, in phrases like ‘to welt someone’ (to hit them hard). This is probably an extension of the noun welt which means the mark left on the skin by a blow.

According to Cassidy, this comes from Irish bhuailte. Cassidy furnishes us with an example of bhuailte in use, which will show any competent Irish speaker that Cassidy knew nothing about the grammar of the Irish language. Cassidy claims that ‘That man is beaten’ would be expressed in Irish as Tá an fear sin bhuailte. In reality, this would not be bhuailte but buailte. There is no reason to lenite the word buailte and without the lenition, it is pronounced boolcha, which would not give rise to welt. Cassidy’s claim is nonsense.

Cassidese Glossary – Stitches

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.

In stitches is a relatively modern expression in English. It comes from the idea that a person is laughing so much that they can’t breathe properly and gets a stitch (a sharp pain) in their side. The term stitch for a pain in the side dates back to Medieval times in English.

Daniel Cassidy, author of the incredibly bad book, How The Irish Invented Slang, was in the habit of inventing ‘Irish’ phrases to explain common English expressions, even when (as in this case) the word already had a well-attested and reasonable explanation. His explanation for ‘in stitches’ was that it is from Irish staid aiteas, which he claims means ‘a state of joy’.

The first thing to note about this phrase is that (as with the overwhelming majority of Cassidy’s so-called Irish phrases) it is completely and totally false. There is no such phrase in Irish. There is not a shred of evidence that any Irish speaker anywhere has ever used this phrase. The second thing is that it doesn’t make grammatical sense. Staid aiteas means ‘state joy’. For it to make sense, you have to put the aiteas in the genitive – staid aitis.

 

Cassidese Glossary – Stink

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 hoax, How The Irish Invented Slang, claimed that the English stink, as in they made a stink about the service, comes from the Irish word stainc, which means pique or huffiness.

I am not sure about the origin of the Irish word stainc. It may be simply a borrowing of English stink, though it seems to be of some antiquity and is found as early as the 17th century in Irish.

Whatever the origins of stainc and its relationship to stink, there seems little doubt that to raise a stink about something is a metaphorical use of the word for a bad smell which goes back to Old English stincan. After all, the meaning of stainc is fundamentally different to the use of stink in phrases like ‘to create a stink’. Stainc means pique or huffiness. It refers to the way someone might feel about the service in a restaurant, not their behaviour towards the staff because of that pique.

Cassidese Glossary – Snoot

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. 

Another incorrect claim made in Daniel Cassidy’s etymological hoax How The Irish Invented Slang is that snoot (as in snooty, stuck up) comes from the Irish snua ard. This is a completely made-up phrase and is not recorded in Irish. Snua is defined as complexion or colour or appearance. Ard means high. So this would mean something like ‘a high complexion’ (though there is no evidence in my experience of the language or in the dictionaries that ard would be used in contexts like this the way high is in English, to mean ruddy.)

In other words, ‘a high complexion’ is pretty meaningless in Irish and certainly doesn’t convey the idea of snobbishness.

Neither would ‘snooa ard’ sound much like snoot, even if it did exist. And then again, there is the fact that snoot is a Scottish variant of snout, meaning nose, and the idea of snobbishness comes from the notion of someone looking down their nose at you. This is the genuine origin of snoot.

Cassidese Glossary – Snide

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 term snide is first found in English in the year 1859. It was a criminal slang term for something bad or fake. Its origin is unknown. In the USA, it subsequently came to be used as a noun for a broken-down or worthless horse.

The late Daniel Cassidy, in his work of etymological fakery, How The Irish Invented Slang, claimed that this word comes from the Irish snoite. Snoite is pronounced snitcha, so it is not a good match in terms of sound. You can find its pronunciation in the three main dialects of Irish here:

https://www.focloir.ie/en/dictionary/ei/carved#carved__2

Its meaning is defined by Ó Dónaill as: 1. Cut, hewn, carved, sculpted. 2. Shaped, fashioned, smoothed, refined. 3. Thinned, emaciated; worn down, wasted away.

It is an adjective and cannot be used as a noun.

Cassidese Glossary – Snigger

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 late Daniel Cassidy, in his etymological hoax, How The Irish Invented Slang, claims that the English word snigger comes from an Irish phrase, snag gáire, meaning a hiccough of laughter. Of course, the phrase snag gáire is not a real phrase. It does not exist and because of that, it cannot be the origin of anything.

There is no agreement about the genuine origin of snicker/snigger. It may be a variant of a word like nicker used to describe the neighing of a horse, it may be onomatopoeic or it may have some link to the Dutch word snikken.

Cassidese Glossary – Sneaky

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 English word sneak comes from the Irish snighim (sním in the modern, post-reform spelling) but apparently, sneaky comes from the adjective snagach (snaggah). This sounds nothing like sneaky and is not etymologically related to snighim. In reality, the mainstream dictionaries trace it, quite logically, to the Old English snican which is related to cognates in the other Germanic languages as well as to the root of the English word snake.

Cassidese Glossary – Slat

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 late Daniel Cassidy, in his etymological hoax, How The Irish Invented Slang, points out the amazing similarity between the word slats in English, which can be used as a slang term for the ribs, and an identical word in Irish:

Slat, pl. slats, n. a rib or ribs, especially those of a person.

Slat, pl., slata,n. a rib, ribs (of the body), (Dinneen, 1052).

This is a typically distorted presentation of the facts. The reason why Cassidy doesn’t quote from the major modern Irish dictionary, Ó Dónaill, is that it doesn’t even give the meaning ribs for the word slat. You can find the following entry from Ó Dónaill at the excellent focloir.ie:

slat1, f. (gs. -aite, npl. ~a, gpl. ~). 1. Rod. (a) Slender stick; cane, switch. ~ sailí, choill, sally-, hazel-, rod. An t~ a thabhairt do dhuine, to take the rod to s.o. Bhain sé ~ a sciúr é féin, he cut a rod for his own back. ~ bhuachailleachta, tiomána, rod used to herd, to drive, cattle. ~ iascaigh, iascaireachta, fishing-rod. ~ ribe, rod with snare attached. ~ chlaímh, sword-stick. ~ mhaoile, strickle (for levelling). (b) Wand. ~ draíochta, magic wand. ~ ríoga, sceptre. Bheith faoi shlat ag duine, to be ruled by s.o., to be under s.o.’s thumb. ~ mhaoraíochta, big stick, control, coercion. (c) Slender bar. ~ chopair, iarainn, copper, iron, rod. ~ croiche, transverse bar of pot-rack. ~ chuirtín, curtain-rod. ~ ghunna, ramrod. ~ loine, piston-rod. ~ phota, pot-hook. ~ teallaigh, fire-iron. ~ tumtha, dip-stick. El: ~ charbóin, since, carbon, zinc, rod. S.a. crios 3. (d) ~ tomhais, measuring-rod; yardstick, criterion. ~ a chur ar rud, to measure sth.; to run the rule over sth. Dá gcuirfeá ~ ar Éirinn (ní bhfaighfeá a leithéid), if you were to search the whole of Ireland (you wouldn’t find the like of it). ~ dá thomhas féin a thabhairt do dhuine, to pay s.o. in his own coin. (e) Rail. ~ staighre, stair-rail. ~ droichid, rail guarding side of bridge. (f) Nau: ~ bhéil, ~ bhoird, gunwale. Tá sí síos go ~ an bhéil, it (boat) is down to the gunwale, heavily loaded. (g) Nau: ~ seoil, sail-yard. ~ bhrataí, jack-staff. (h) ~ droma, backbone. Síneadh ar shlat a dhroma, ar shlat chúl a chinn, é, he was stretched on the broad of his back. (i) Arb: ~a dubha, mountain willow. S.a. domhnach 1. (j) Algae: ~a mara, sea-rods. S.a. ceann1 1(l). (k) Bot: ~a gorma, bitter-sweet, woody nightshade. ~a dearga, spotted knot-grass. (l) Sapling, slip, scion. ~ de bhuachaill, de chailín, slip of a boy, of a girl. (m) Astr: ~ an Rí, an Bhodaigh, an Cheannaí, belt of Orion. (n) Physiol: ~ (fhearga), penis. 2. Meas: Yard. ~ ar fad, a yard long. Rud a thomhas ina shlata, to measure sth. in yards. ~ éadaigh, yard of cloth. S.a. cóta 2. 3. (pl.) Outskirts. Ar shlata na cathrach, on the outskirts of the city. (Var: pl. ~acha)

Dinneen’s Irish dictionary does give the meaning ribs for slat but it is buried among these many other meanings. It is also worth remembering that the usual word for rib in Irish is easna.

As for the English word slat, Dictionary.com says:

a long thin, narrow strip of wood, metal, etc., used as a support for a bed, as one of the horizontal laths of a Venetian blind, etc.

The same source tells us that it is sometimes used as a slang term for the ribs and that its origin is from French: 1350-1400; Middle English sclat, slatt a slate < Middle French esclat splinter, fragment …

The French language Wiktionary tells us that the ultimate root of this word is a Frankish (i.e. Germanic) word which is etymologically linked to the English word slit.

A look on eDIL shows that slat is a very ancient term for a rod or stick in Irish. It has cognates in other Celtic languages and derives, according to McBain’s Gaelic Dictionary (which contains etymological notes) from the Proto-Celtic *slattā, which means a stalk or staff.

In other words, there is absolutely no room for doubt that these two words, in spite of the fact that they sound the same and are similar in meaning (both mean a kind of rod or stick), have no etymological connection.

Cassidese Glossary – Shoo

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 book of etymological hoaxes, How The Irish Invented Slang claimed that the English word shoo comes from the Irish sitheadh.

Sitheadh is pronounced shee-hoo or shee-ha it is defined by Ó Dónaill as ‘rush, dash, onrush, swoop’. The connection between these meanings and shooing someone or something is not very close and sitheadh is certainly not used when shooing chickens out of the door or telling children to go away. You might use fuisc or amachaigí in cases like this and the action would be described as an ruaig a chur ar dhuine.

The real derivation of shoo is well-known. It is an English word and it has always been an English word. It is found in English from at least the 15th century and it has a clear cognate in German scheuchen, which means to shoo.