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 honky is used as a pejorative term for a white person in America. There is no agreement about its origins. Some of the theories are discussed here:
Cassidy derives it (he derives hunky, hinky and honky-tonk from the same word!) from the Irish word aingí, an adjective defined by Ó Dónaill in his Foclóir Gaeilge-Béarla as malignant, peevish or fretful. There is nothing in the history of the word honky to suggest that it is from Irish or that it has anything to do with bad temper or peevishness, and the sound of aingí (an-gee – it doesn’t begin with a h- sound) isn’t close to the sound of English honky either.
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.