Tag Archives: Gaeilge

Cassidese Glossary – Sucker

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, claimed that sucker (in the sense of stooge or naïve person) comes from the Irish sách úr meaning ‘a fresh, well-fed fellow’ or ‘fat cat’ ready to be fleeced.

As usual with Cassidy’s claims, the phrase sách úr is not found together (as noun and adjective) in any Irish text, so we will just have to examine the two constituent words to see if they could be used in this way.

Firstly, úr does mean fresh or new. Sách is primarily an adjective meaning sated, full, well-fed. Its main use in some dialects (though not in mine: we use measartha) is as an adverb, as the equivalent of words like ‘fairly’ or ‘pretty’ in English.

Bhí sé sách maith. (It was fairly good, good enough)

But in Cassidy’s phrase, the word sách is obviously a noun. In the Irish dictionaries (such as Ó Dónaill) there is a noun sách meaning a well-fed person and the word is familiar to almost all Irish speakers from the proverb Ní thuigeann sách seang, má thuigeann ní in am. (The well-fed do not understand the slender, if they do it’s too late.) But just because something is used as a noun in a proverb doesn’t mean you can use it as a noun in any circumstances. Proverbs have their own rules, in Irish and in English. For example, in English you can say “Only the good die young.” But you can’t say “*That man is a real good” or “*That family are really nice – they’re all goods!”

If you have any Irish, check out some uses of sách in this excellent website, Pota Focal –

http://www.potafocal.com/Search.aspx?Text=s%c3%a1ch&Lang=ga

There are lots and lots of references on Pota Focal where the word is being used as an adverb and at least one where it is a noun, but in that case it occurs with seang and is a clear reference to the proverb.

So, I am confident that sách would not be used as Cassidy says. Of course, we have to remember that Cassidy didn’t know any Irish at all. In Irish, there are plenty of expressions which could be used to mean gull or sucker: boigéisí; gabhdán; glasóg; mothaolaí, and Irish speakers would have used an expression like these rather than sách úr.

Cassidese Glossary – Stock

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 work of etymological fantasy, How The Irish Invented Slang, claimed that stock, as in the phrase ‘a stock of a man’, comes from the Irish staic.

Stock, of course, means a tree-trunk and makes perfect sense as a description of a well-built man. This is an ancient word of Germanic origin. It is found in Old English in the form stocc. Irish staic is a borrowing of the English word stack, which is of Old Norse origin.

Cassidese Glossary – Spree

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 term ‘spree’ as in ‘a killing spree’ or ‘a spending spree’ derives from the Irish word spraoi. The word spraoi is certainly common in the Irish language and many Irish speakers believe it is an Irish word. It means ‘play’, as in bhí siad ag déanamh spraoi (they were playing). You can also say chuaigh siad ar an spraoi (they went on a/the spree).

However, there is no evidence for the existence of the word spraoi in Irish before the early twentieth century. Like the word craic (ceol agus craic), it is almost certainly a loan word which has become an intrinsic and important part of the language since it was borrowed little over a century ago.

If we look up the word spraoi or any variant of it in Corpas na Gaeilge (a database of over 7,000,000 words from the 17th to the 19th century), we find nothing. The same with eDIL, another online database. And Dinneen, the lexicographer who composed his dictionary in the early years of the 20th century, did not include the word at all.

In English, or rather Scots, the word spree is recorded as far back as 1804 with the meaning of ‘a pleasant outing’. Scholars of language speculate that it may ultimately derive from a Scottish Gaelic word which is a cognate of Irish spré (spréidh in the older spelling), meaning cattle, wealth or dowry, but spré isn’t recorded with the meaning of outing, drunken ramble or playing in Irish.

Cassidese Glossary – Snap (Cold)

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.

Dinneen’s Irish dictionary gives various meanings for snab, including a snap, an end or fragment, a spell or turn (cf. “a cold snap”). The book also gives snap with the meaning “a snapping, a sudden assault or seizure.”

Daniel Cassidy, in his etymological hoax, How The Irish Invented Slang, claims that the word snap is originally an Irish word which was borrowed into English. While snap in the sense of a snapping, a sudden assault or seizure, a snap, an end or fragment is found in Irish, the evidence is very clearly in favour of this being an English word borrowed into Irish for a number of reasons.

There is no evidence for the existence of the word snap in Irish before the modern era. (You can check this on eDIL.) Furthermore, snap is recorded in the sense of a snap or sudden bite in English from the late 15th century, and probably derives from Dutch or Low German snappen. It is related to Germanic words like snout. Snap in the sense of a sudden change of the weather is a natural extension of snap in the sense of a sudden bite.

Cassidese Glossary -Skedaddle

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 his etymological hoax, How The Irish Invented Slang, the late Daniel Cassidy claimed that ‘skedaddle’ (meaning ‘to run off’) comes from the Irish sciord ar dólámh. Of course, as usual with Cassidy’s claims, sciord ar dólámh isn’t found in Irish. It isn’t a recognised phrase. It is not found in any song or poem or prose work. Cassidy invented it by putting together words he found in a dictionary. It might mean something like to rush with both hands. Even if it did exist, it wouldn’t sound much like skedaddle and there are plenty of well-known expressions in Irish which mean to run off or run away.

Furthermore, the experts tell us that skedaddle is an American version of an English dialect word scaddle, which also means ‘to run off.’ This word is actually attested and it is also found in the English of Ulster (according to the excellent Concise Ulster Dictionary).

Cassidese Glossary – Muck

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 muck is a term from poker. The muck is used to refer to the discarded cards that are no longer in play and if someone mucks their cards, they fold.

There is nothing mysterious or hard to understand about the etymology of this term. Muck is an ancient English term for dirt, derived from a Scandinavian word for dung, so when cards are out of play and no longer worth anything, they become the muck.

Cassidy implausibly (and unnecessarily) claims that it derives from the Irish word múch, which means to extinguish or smother. This is pronounced mookh (with the kh like the ch of Irish or Scottish loch), so it really sounds nothing like muck.

Cassidese Glossary – Heckle, Heckler

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.

Heckling was part of the process of making linen out of flax. The fibres were flicked over a kind of comb over and over again to separate them, split them and remove impurities. The people who carried out this task were called hecklers.

In places like Dundee, the hecklers were often very radical. It is said that as they worked, one of their number used to read out articles from the newspapers and the others would shout out comments. This gave rise to the association between the trade of heckler and the shouting out of comments at a public meeting.

The late Daniel Cassidy, in his work of false etymologies How The Irish Invented Slang, claimed that the word heckle comes from an ‘Irish’ phrase éamh call, which he says means ‘Screaming out complaints; ranting, scolding’. The phrase éamh call does not exist in the Irish language. The two words Cassidy stuck together to make it do exist, but the phrase does not.

Éamh is defined as cry, scream, entreaty or complaint. Call (a loan from English) is defined as call, need, claim or right. It is hard to see how combining the two words would give the sense required. Complaint of rights? Scream of needs? Hmm.

The Irish language has many real ways of saying heckle or interrupt, like trasnáil a dhéanamh, trasnú, trioscadh, cur isteach ar chainteoir, briseadh isteach ar chainteoir.

Finally, even if we accepted that éamh call made sense, Cassidy’s éamh callaire for a heckler wouldn’t make any sense, for the same reason that an Irish speaker is not a Gaeilge cainteoir or a housewife is not a teach bean. It would have to be callaire éamh. As with cainteoir Gaeilge or bean tí, the other word appears in the genitive after the head word. This is a measure of how bad Cassidy’s Irish was.

Cassidese Glossary – (In) Dutch

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 his work of false etymology, How The Irish Invented Slang, Daniel Cassidy claimed that the expression ‘in Dutch’ (meaning ‘in trouble’) comes from the Irish duais. We do not know where ‘in dutch’ comes from, though it probably has some connection to Dutch or German (as in Pennsylvania Dutch, who are Deutsch rather than Dutch).

There are two duais words in Irish. One means a prize or award or reward, especially the gift given to a poet as a reward for a poem in praise of a chieftain. The other means trouble or effort and is related to dua, which means effort or hard work. (This word is spelled duabhais in Dinneen’s dictionary.) While duais for an award is very common, the word duais/duabhais meaning trouble is rare (though it does occur a couple of times in one of the most famous literary works in the Irish language, Cúirt an Mheán Oíche).

There is no evidence of a phrase like i nduais meaning in trouble, and if it did exist, it would be pronounced i nooish. As usual, Cassidy’s claim relies on the existence of Irish candidate phrases that do not exist.

Nincompoop

This is another really stupid Cassidy suggestion. He claims that the word nincompoop comes from the Irish naioidhean ar chuma búb, which he says is pronounced neeyan [er] um boob and (again, according to him) means “a baby in the shape of a blubbering boob.”

Let’s examine this claim carefully. Firstly, does the ‘Irish’ phrase sound like nincompoop? Not much. Is there any evidence of anyone ever using this expression before Cassidy? No, of course there isn’t. Is it likely that anyone would use it? Think about it. Insults need to be clever or punchy. They need to be effective as ways of putting someone in their place, which is why you very rarely find people saying things like “He is a man who seems to have the appearance of a dolt.” If you want to insult someone, you simply call them a dolt. Because of this, the chances of Cassidy’s claim being correct are vanishingly slight.

Although we don’t have any solid evidence about the real origin of nincompoop, there is nothing to suggest that it comes from Irish. It is first found in English in the 1670s. Some dictionaries conjecture that it probably comes from the phrase non compos mentis (a legal formula meaning not of sound mind). Others dispute this. But Cassidy’s ridiculous suggestion is just another confirmation that he was far from compos mentis himself.

 

Seo tuairim bhómánta eile de chuid Cassidy. Maíonn sé go dtagann an focal Béarla nincompoop ón ‘Ghaeilge’ naioidhean ar chuma búb. Dar leisean, ciallaíonn an bolgam gránna seo “a baby in the shape of a blubbering boob.”

Tá an teoiric seo gan bhunús, ar ndóigh. Níl an frása ‘Gaeilge’ seo cosúil le nincompoop an Bhéarla ar chor ar bith. Agus ní gá dom a rá nach bhfuil fianaise ar bith ann gur bhain duine ar bith úsáid as ‘naíon ar chuma búib’ riamh. Ní dócha go mbainfeadh duine ar bith úsáid as, ach oiread. Caithfidh maslaí bheith cliste, gonta. Ní mór dóibh bheith éifeachtach mar dhóigh le duine a chur ina áit. Sin an fáth nach ndeirtear ‘Is duine é a bhfuil cosúlacht an bhómáin air.’ Más maith leat duine a mhaslú, déarfaidh tú gur bómán é, gan fiacail a chur ann. Agus sin an fáth nach bhfuil ciall ar bith leis an raiméis bhréag-Ghaelach a chum Cassidy faoin fhocal seo.

Cé nach bhfuil aon fhianaise chruinn againn maidir le bunús fíor an fhocail nincompoop, níl fianaise ar bith ann gur Gaeilge é, ná go bhfuil baint ar bith ag an fhocal le hÉirinn. Fuarthas é sa Bhéarla den chéad uair sna 1670í. Tá barúil ag cuid de na foclóirí gur leagan as a riocht é den fhrása dlí Laidine non compos mentis (a chiallaíonn nach bhfuil duine ina chiall cheart). Tá daoine eile ar a mhalairt de thuairim. Ach is ábhar gáire é míniú Cassidy, agus cruthaíonn sé nach raibh Cassidy féin ina chiall cheart.

Bailiwick

Another ludicrous claim of Cassidy’s is that the word bailiwick (meaning someone’s sphere of influence or control) is from the Irish baile aíoch. This is clearly rubbish for two reasons.

Firstly, the phrase baile aíoch is completely unattested in Irish outside of Cassidy’s fantasy version of the language, although the two elements which Cassidy put together to make this phrase, baile and aíoch, do exist. Baile means home or town, while aíoch means hospitable, and is related to the word aoi, meaning guest. So this phrase might just mean “hospitable home”, though the word aíoch is not very common.

So what’s wrong with this as the origin of bailiwick? Let’s imagine a group of Irish-speaking gangsters discussing their activities in New York in the 19th century. Are they really going to refer to their ceantar (area) or ríocht (kingdom) or fearann (domain) or talamh (ground, land) as mo bhaile aíoch? I can’t see it. It is an unlikely enough phrase anyway, but if I did hear it, I would think of a guest house, or their own house, or even the old home back in the Old Country, not an area which is under someone’s control in a city.

It is also highly unlikely that the word aíoch (pronounced ee-okh or ee-oh] would become wick in English.

And in any case, if Cassidy had done some basic research (something he was obviously too lazy or stupid to do) he would have realised that bailiwick has been in English for nearly six hundred years. It means the area of influence of a bailiff. The most famous bailiwick is probably the Bailiwick of Jersey in the Channel Islands, which obviously has no connection with the hospitable homes of Irish wise-guys.