Another ridiculous claim in Daniel Cassidy’s crapfest How The Irish Invented Slang concerns the supposed Irish origins of the slang word growler. A growler was originally a slang term in America for a can which was used to take beer home from a bar. Children were sent out with a can to ‘rush the growler’ (get the can or growler filled). There are various theories about the origin of the word growler.
Daniel Cassidy claimed that this word comes from the Irish phrase gearr-ól úr, which he claims means ‘a fresh quick-drink, a fresh short-drink, a fresh small-drink.’ This is obviously nonsense. For a start, Cassidy was fond of putting úr on the end of his made-up Irish phrases if the English phrase he was trying to invent an origin for ended in –er (e.g. sucker or sách úr which Cassidy said meant ‘a fresh well-fed person’.) People must have been very hard-up if they sent their kids out to get a stale short-drink! And then again, the short-drink or quick-drink bit is very clumsy and unconvincing, especially since ól describes the act of drinking and not the physical beverage. What would an Irish speaker really say? Probably something describing the vessel, I would have thought, such as canna (a can), ceaintín (a canteen), pota (a pot), crúiscín (a jug).
As I have said above, there is no certainty about the origin of the word, but a convincing theory is that as the liquid sloshed around inside the growler, the gas produced made the lid clatter and this was the ‘growling’.