Tag Archives: Irish language

Cassidese Glossary – Juke

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.

A juke joint is an old word for an inn or drinking-house in North America. It is believed to derive from the American English dialect of African origin known as Gullah, where juke or joog apparently had the meaning of wicked or unruly. In other words, it’s a rowdy or disorderly house.

Daniel Cassidy, in his book of false etymologies How The Irish Invented Slang, claimed that this comes from the Irish word diúg, which means to drain, to drink or to suck. There is absolutely no evidence for this and nobody in Irish has ever talked about a pub or inn as a teach diúgtha or teach diúgaireachta, so why would a phrase that doesn’t exist in Irish have been borrowed from Irish? It’s simply nonsense.

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 – Goon

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.

Daniel Cassidy, in his book How The Irish Invented Slang, claimed that the word goon, meaning an idiot (and later, a muscle-bound henchman) derives from the Irish word guan, meaning ‘a fool’. There are several problems with this. Firstly, Cassidy states that the English word is ‘origin unknown’, while most dictionaries (including the OED) regard it as a contraction of an earlier word goonie or gooney, which is known since the 16th century and means a fool or a large bird like an albatross. This seems perfectly reasonable and I can see no reason to prefer an Irish derivation to this well-known English origin.

Secondly, guan is not a common word in Irish. It is not given at all in Ó Dónaill’s dictionary, and in Dinneen’s dictionary it is ascribed to Ó Neachtain’s manuscript dictionary of 1730. It is not found in the 7 million word Corpas na Gaeilge. The word guanach for silly or fanciful is certainly common and is given in all dictionaries but guan itself is not.

Cassidese Glossary – Gammy

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.

Gammy is probably a version of game, meaning lame. Cassidy claims that it comes from the Irish cam meaning crooked. He is probably right but this claim did not originate with him. My copy of Collins English Dictionary (published in 1990) gives this as coming from Irish cam as well.

Cassidese Glossary – Finagle

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 Daniel Cassidy in his work of false etymology, How The Irish Invented Slang, the word finagle is Irish. This is strange, because it isn’t used much in Ireland. It is primarily an American slang term which means to cajole or ‘work’ someone or something to obtain some advantage.  There is no real agreement about where it comes from, though similar terms are found in English dialects with a similar meaning, such as ‘fainaigue’, which apparently means to take advantage or to shirk work.

Cassidy’s claim is ludicrous. He says that finagle comes from the Irish fionnadh aclaí, which he says means ‘adroit ascertainment.’  The phrase is unknown in Irish, of course. Cassidy had no evidence at all that anyone had ever used it or would ever use it and if we look at the constituent words we can see that it is a very, very poor fit for finagle.

The phrase ‘adroit ascertainment’ is pretty bizarre in itself, but the fact is that this interpretation is made of the most obscure and unlikely meanings of the two words. The word fionnadh has the primary meaning of fur, the secondary meaning of whitening or scorching, and only the tertiary meaning of ascertainment. The word aclaí primarily means fit, then flexible, with adroit only being a tertiary meaning. In other words, an Irish speaker trying to understand what this phrase means would start with ‘fit fur’, move through ‘flexible whitening’ and having exhausted the permutations of ‘flexible fur’ and ‘fit whitening’ or indeed ‘flexible scorching’ and ‘fit scorching’, might just finally arrive at ‘adroit ascertainment.’

In other words, Cassidy’s claim in relation to this word is nonsense.

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.

Cassidese Glossary – Drag

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 phrase drag racing comes from Irish phrase de ráig, meaning suddenly or precipitately.

Explanations involving the Englsh word drag range from a simple challenge (“Drag your car out of the garage and race me!”) to geographical locale (the “main drag” was a city’s main street, often the only one wide enough to accommodate two vehicles) to the mechanical (to “drag” the gears meant to hold the transmission in gear longer than normal).

De ráig is a real phrase but is quite uncommon and is much less appropriate as an origin than the English word drag, which is obviously a lot closer in sound as well.