Tag Archives: humdinger

Cassidese Glossary – Humdinger

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 dinger is from Middle English and probably derives ultimately from a Scandinavian language. Cassidy claimed that dinger comes from dianmhaith. This is an adjective and it derives from maith, which means good. The word dian is an intensifier. Dianmhaith would be pronounced jeeanwoy in the north, and deeanvah in southern dialects. Neither of these sound much like dinger. Cassidy also claims that humdinger comes from iomar-dianmhaith, with a further intensifier, iomar-, attached. If this were the case, it would really be iomar-dhianmhaith, which would be pronounced umar-yeeanwoy or umar-yeeanvah, which don’t sound anything like humdinger.

In reality, humdinger and dinger are derived from an English dialect term ding, which meant ‘to strike, push, hurl, batter, or bruise with energy, wrath or forcefulness.’ By extension, the word dinger could mean anything of a superlative character – ‘It’s a dinger!’

You can find more information on this here:

https://www.visualthesaurus.com/cm/wordroutes/a-real-humdinger-of-an-etymology/

Dingers and Humdingers

Cassidy suggested that the words dinger and humdinger come from Irish dianmhaith and iomar-dianmhaith. These words are from maith, which means good, and the dian and the iomar are both intensifiers. Neither of them is a very common intensifier. Iomar is especially rare. As far as I know, it is obsolete in modern Irish and not used in any dialect. Dianmhaith would be pronounced jeeanwoy in the north, and deeanvah in southern dialects. Neither of these sound much like dinger. As for iomar-dhianmhaith (this is how you would have to write it in correct Irish), this would be pronounced ummar-yeeanvah or ummar-yeeanwoy. Neither of these sound much like humdinger to me.

I am no expert on slang and I don’t know where dinger and humdinger come from. But just as a piece of idle speculation, it seems to me that ding is a common verb in English for the sound a bell makes. So to hit something a dinger suggests that you hit something so hard it rings a bell (like one of those fairground machines that you hit with a hammer and a bell rings if you’re strong enough). And a humdinger suggests that it rings so hard it hums for a while afterwards. I may be right about this or I may be wrong.

But if Cassidy is right about dianmhaith and iomar-dhianmhaith, then stick me on a dike in wooden shoes and call me Joost van Hoeg. If Cassidy is right, I’m a Dutchman …