Tag Archives: Irish Slang

Cassidese Glossary – Shack

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.

Nobody is sure of the origin of shack, meaning a rough hut or shed. Some sources link it to a Mexican term which is derived from Nahuatl, the language of the Aztecs. Daniel Cassidy, in his etymological hoax, How The Irish Invented Slang, mocks this claim: ‘How a Mexican-Aztec word made its way into Brooklyn vernacular in the 1880s is never explained’. Of course, in reality, there is nothing to explain. A couple of pages later, Cassidy mentions how the word shebeen became the usual word for an unlicensed drinking club in South Africa. The inhabitants of Soweto aren’t Irish but they use the Irish word shebeen.

Others link the word shack to English dialect variants of shake. Still others point to the existence of words like ramshackle.

Daniel Cassidy, in his etymological hoax How The Irish Invented Slang, claims that this word represents the Irish teach, which means a house (not a shed or a shack, which would be expressed with words like bothán, cró or seid in Irish).

There is also a problem with pronunciation. Here is a link to sound files for the pronunciation of teach in the three main dialects of Irish:

https://www.focloir.ie/en/dictionary/ei/house

Cassidese Glossary – The Letters L and M

Last week, I completed the section for the letter L and M from Cassidy’s ludicrous book, How The Irish Invented Slang: The Secret Language of the Crossroads. There were 38 words in Cassidy’s glossary for these two letters. Added to the 277 words covered in the entries for the letters from A to K, this is a total of 315 headwords.

In the words for L and M, there were a handful of genuine Irish words and phrases. For example, the word meitheal does exist in Irish, and it was used by the union activist Mike Quill in the USA. However, it is an Irish word. There is no evidence that it ever crossed the language barrier and became an English word, used by non-Irish speakers as part of their language. And machree, macushla and mavourneen (mo chroí, mo chuisle and mo mhuirnín) are all part of the stage-Irish vocabulary of sentimental songs and plays, but again, none of them ever really became English.

There are also a couple of words like mucker and longshoreman, which have been claimed by other people before Cassidy to be of Irish origin, though these claims are also improbable.

As for the rest, they are complete nonsense. There is no chance at all of them being correct. Most of the candidate phrases, absurdities like liú lúith or leathluí géag, were invented by Cassidy, and even when words are genuinely to be found in Irish dictionaries, the entries given in those dictionaries are not given accurately, but rewritten by Cassidy to make them closer to whatever term he was trying to promote. We can see this rewriting clearly in words like the noun mug, which Cassidy claims comes from muc meaning a scowling, piggish face. Except that muc doesn’t mean a scowling, piggish face. This meaning was invented by Cassidy.

As I have said before, it is hard to know exactly how much of the garbage in Cassidy’s book should be attributed to outright dishonesty, how much to stupidity and how much to mental illness. It seems to me that the truth has to be somewhere between these three extremes. He managed to fool a lot of people, so presumably he wasn’t completely or obviously nuts. He was clearly very stupid and ignorant, though he must have been smart enough to fool people of limited ability. And he was certainly a liar, not only because of the claims made in the book, but because having failed his BA degree in the 1960s, he turned up thirty years later working as a professor in a small private university in California. There is no evidence that he ever acquired any qualifications in the intervening thirty years and he never mentions any subsequent studying in interviews. He also seems to have lied about many other aspects of his past, such as the claim that he was in the newsroom of the New York Times when Kennedy was shot.

If Cassidy had simply been mad, it would perhaps have been wrong of me to criticise him so strongly, but it would also have been unnecessary. If he had been obviously crazy, nobody would have believed him, least of all the high-profile Irish and Irish-American twits who have disgraced themselves by publicly supporting him and his work.

Anyway, over the next few weeks, I will turn my attention to the letters N, O and P, and we’ll see if Cassidy actually managed to find any genuine examples of words from Irish in the English language. Don’t hold your breath!

Cassidese Glossary – Luncheon

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.

This is a good example of how Cassidy manipulated the evidence. He provides three separate Gaelic origins for the word luncheon. He claimed that luncheon comes from Scottish Gaelic lòintean,(plural of lòn, provisions) or from Irish lóinte án (elegant food or splendid fare) or lóinfheis án (an elegant, splendid feast of meat). The Irish for lunch is lón, the primary meaning of which is provisions. It wouldn’t normally be put in the plural (although it can be) and anyway, in modern standard Irish the plural would be lónta. The adjective would have to agree with the noun, so it would be ána, not án, though the word án is an obscure, old-fashioned word, almost unknown in Irish (though it is a high-frequency word in Cassidese). Lóinfheis is an obscure literary term, as is án. It goes without saying that there is no reference to lóinfheis án or lónta ána anywhere in any corpus of Irish literature. They are purely Cassidy inventions.

Cassidy dishonestly tries to discredit the opinions of the professional etymologists by misrepresenting what they say. Cassidy says that the experts at the OED think luncheon derives from Middle English nonechenche. What he chooses not to say is that this is the ultimate source of the word. By the 17th century, this word had developed into the word nuncheon, which can be proven to have existed (unlike lónta ána or lóinte án) and meant a light snack in the afternoon. Nuncheon to luncheon. A mutation of one letter and the exact same meaning. Sounds entirely credible to me.

Cassidese Glossary – Hunch

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.

There is some doubt about the origin of the term ‘hunch’, as in ‘I had a hunch that would happen.’ The dictionary experts believe that it derives from the English word hunch meaning a hump, though it is very difficult to understand how that connection arose. Apparently it meant a push or final shove towards an answer, and then it came to mean a kind of intuition.

Cassidy disagrees with this, which is fair enough, if you can find a better and more convincing explanation. As usual, Cassidy couldn’t be bothered finding anything convincing, so he just pounced on a word which he happened to think sounded a bit like the candidate and had a meaning somewhere in the same general semantic area. The word he chose was aithint, which means knowing or recognition. Cassidy’s association of this with hunch only works if people in Irish would use aithint to mean a hunch. Would they? Of course not. Recognising something is not the same as having an opinion or a guess or a feeling about something.

How would you say ‘I had a hunch that would happen’ in Irish? Here are a few ways:

Bhí mé ag déanamh go dtarlódh sin.

Bhí éachtaint agam go dtarlódh sin.

Bhí mé ag smaoineamh go dtarlódh sin.

Bhí barúil agam go dtarlódh sin.

Bhí tuairim agam go dtarlódh sin.

Shíl mé go dtarlódh sin.

Cheap mé go dtarlódh sin.

Bhí iomas agam go dtarlódh sin.

What you wouldn’t say is ‘Bhí aithint agam go dtarlódh sin’ because it wouldn’t mean anything, any more than it would mean anything if you said ‘I had a recognition that would happen’ (though a precognition would just about work).

I should also point out that when Cassidy pronounced this word, as he did on several interviews, he pronounced it as hunch. Aithint does not sound like the English word hunch.

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/

Cassidese Glossary – Hot Sketch

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.

There is nothing mysterious about the origin of the word sketch. By the 1660s, it was found in English as a word for a rough drawing. It comes from Dutch schets or Low German skizze, both apparently borrowings from Italian schizzo “sketch, drawing.” By 1789, it had acquired the meaning of a ‘short play or performance, usually comic’.

By the 19th century, a hot sketch came to mean something or someone very funny. Of course, it didn’t always come with the ‘hot’. Sometimes it would be ‘an absolute sketch’, or ‘he really is a sketch!’

Anyway, Daniel Cassidy decided that this had to come from Irish, so he made the claim that it derives from ‘ard scairt’. Ard scairt, according to Cassidy, means a loud scream and is pronounced h-ard skartch. Of course, words that begin with a vowel in Irish are not pronounced with a h-, and when an adjective and a noun or a noun and a noun form a compound in Irish, they are written as one word – ardscairt. Otherwise the adjective has to come after the noun as scairt ard. This just shows how bad and inadequate Cassidy’s knowledge of Irish was and it also shows that the native Irish speakers who were supposed to have helped Cassidy with his ‘research’ did not exist.

I need hardly say that there is no evidence of anyone describing a funny person as a scairt in Irish. People call a funny person a scream in English, of course, but that doesn’t mean you can do that with Irish.

Cassidese Glossary – Holy Cow

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.

Holy Cow is a ‘minced oath’, a way of avoiding a blasphemous or offensive expression by using a similar word, or a word beginning with the same sound. This is thought to be a version of ‘Holy Christ’, but was probably influenced by the sacredness of cows in the Hindu tradition.

To Cassidy, it represents a mixed Irish and English oath, Holy Cathú. (Originally, he had claimed that the Holy represents the Irish oille meaning greatness but he had dropped this claim by the time the book was published.) Cathú usually means temptation in modern Irish, though it has other meanings like rebellion, grief, fighting. I presume the meaning of temptation came about through the idea of rebellion against God, as the root of the word is cath, meaning battle.

Cathú is pronounced kahoo. It is not used as an exclamation in Irish. People do not say ‘Cathú Naofa’ in the Irish language. Cassidy once again demonstrates his lack of Irish by miscopying the phrase ‘Mo chathú é’ from Dinneen’s dictionary as ‘Mo cathú é’. This phrase seems to exist but is only found in one source from 1909, so it is hardly a common expression.

Cassidese Glossary – Helter Skelter

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.

Helter skelter is what is known as a rhyming jingle (or rhyming reduplication). Such jingles are common throughout the world’s languages. Among examples in English are harum scarum, pell mell and hurly-burly. In Irish, one of the equivalents of helter skelter is caorthain charthain (pr. keerhin kharhin). In modern English, helter skelter mostly refers to a kind of fairground slide. In Irish I would call it a teach solais (lighthouse) because that’s what they look like. (I note that none of the available Irish dictionaries gives a translation for the fairground slide meaning of helter skelter, which is a strange omission.)

This fairground usage of helter skelter is fairly recent. The term originally meant ‘chaotically, in disorder’ and dates back to at least the 16th century. As with most of these rhyming jingles, the individual words probably don’t mean very much.

To Cassidy, of course, these were Irish words. According to Cassidy, helter skelter comes from áilteoir scaoilte, ‘a run amuck clown; an unconstrained wild prankster; a loose-limbed trickster; a joker running loose’. This is nonsense. For one thing, it is an extremely poor match for the known meanings of helter skelter. “They fell a run amok clown down the stairs?” “They ran an unconstrained wild prankster through the door?” I don’t think so.

Another problem is that there is no evidence that the word áilteoir even existed in Irish the 16th century, when the phrase helter skelter first appears in English. It is first recorded in Dinneen’s dictionary in the early 20th century.

Cassidese Glossary – Glim

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.

Glim is an old cant or flash expression for an eye or a candle or lamp.

Daniel Cassidy claims that it comes from either gealaim, which means I light, I illuminate, or else from geal-laom, a fake compound word invented by Cassidy himself, composed of geal meaning bright and laom, which means blaze or flash. In the case of gealaim, the -aim part is not an intrinsic part of the word. Other versions of this word include gealadh and gealaíonn, and neither of them is likely to be anything to do with glim. Geal-laom is completely unrecorded and Cassidy provides no examples or sources for his claim that it ever existed.

Back in the real world, glim is almost certainly either a version of gleam or a contraction of glimmer.

Cassidese Glossary – Fluke

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.

Nobody knows where the term fluke comes from. Some of the theories are discussed here:

http://www.word-detective.com/2009/04/fluke/

The late Daniel Cassidy, in his book of false etymologies, How The Irish Invented Slang, claimed that fo-luach means “a rare result, a rare reward, a rare payment, an occasional payoff”. Fo-luach (or foluach) does not exist in any dictionary or in any Irish text. If it existed, it would be a translation of ‘a subsidiary value’. Irish has several words for a windfall, of which amhantar would be the most common. Cassidy invented the ‘rare reward’ meaning by taking the most obscure dictionary definitions of the prefix fo- and the word luach and combining them. This ‘Irish’ word is a total fabrication.