Tag Archives: hinky

Cassidese Glossary – Hinky

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.

Hinky is apparently an American slang term for nervous or jumpy and by extension, it can describe someone who is acting suspiciously. It dates back to the 1950s and there is no agreement about its origins. Some etymologies are discussed here:

What’s the origin of “hinky”?


However, to the late Daniel Cassidy, any word without a clear origin was automatically a hidden piece of Irish. Hinky is no exception. According to Cassidy, this derives from the Irish ainigí, meaning ‘wicked, bad, nervous, fretful or peevish’. This is actually aingí, not ainigí (which is given by Dinneen as a poetic variant). It is not pronounced with a h-. It is pronounced anniggee or anggee, which doesn’t sound much like hinky. It is defined by Ó Dónaill as:

aingí, a3. 1. Malignant. 2. Peevish, fretful. Leanbh, seanduine, ~, a peevish child, old man. (Var:~och)

This is not a bad match for the meaning but the sound is not a good match and the word is first found in English a long time after the period when there were huge numbers of Irish speakers in the slums of America. In other words, it’s better than Cassidy’s usual standard but still very, very improbable.

Honky, Hinky, Hunky and Cranky

The word aingí (pronounced an-gee) is not that common in Irish. It means peevish or bad-tempered. To Daniel Cassidy, author of the absurd How The Irish Invented Slang, it was the origin of honky (as in cracker or white person), as well as hunky (a term for an Eastern European immigrant), part of honky-tonk (aingíocht tarraingteach), not to mention hinky (dodgy or suspicious) and the –anky part of cranky (crá aingí according to the Great Fraud). There doesn’t seem to be a word henky in English. If there were, we would probably have the full set of all the vowels. Obviously aingí is a far more useful and common term in the world of crap etymology than it is in genuine Irish conversation.

There is some doubt about the origin of these words in English slang but there seems to be no good reason to regard them as related to the word aingí or indeed any word in the Irish language.

If you’d like more information, here’s a link to a piece about the origins of honky and its links to hunky:
http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/756/whats-the-origin-of-honky

Here’s a link about the origins of hinky: http://www.grammarphobia.com/blog/2006/11/whats-the-origin-of-hinky.html

And here’s a Wikipedia article on the origins of crankdom:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crank_(person)

Watch out for this line: Although a crank’s beliefs seem ridiculous to experts in the field, cranks are sometimes very successful in convincing non-experts of their views. Aren’t they just?