Tag Archives: Irish Slang

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.

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Cassidese Glossary – Cute, Cutie

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 facts in relation to the word cute are quite clear. It derives from Middle English noun acūte which meant a fever of short but severe course, sharpness, corrosiveness of blood or a high-pitched note in music, and/or from the adjective acūte which meant having a sudden onset and short duration, (as opposed to chronic) (of a disease), or sharp, irritating (of a humor (bodily). These words come from Latin acutus, past participle of acuere, to sharpen.

By 1731, it had sometimes dropped the first vowel and is recorded as ̓cute, with the meaning of sharp or clever. It continued to have this meaning until the 19th century, when it acquired the meaning of sweet or attractive among young people in America. In Ireland, it continues to mean cunning, shrewd (alongside the American meaning). In the north, we often refer to people (generally male) who are too sharp for their own good as a ‘cute hoor’.

Cassidy dismisses these well-established facts with two asinine sentences: ‘Most Anglo-American dictionaries assert that the word “cute” is the aphetic of the English word “acute.” (New English Dictionary, 1880; OED.) Of course, even a child knows there is nothing “acute” about cute, unless you are too cute.’

Cassidy is keen to claim that the English cute does not come from acute. According to him, it is a borrowing of the Irish word ciúta [kyoota]. What does ciúta mean?

This is what Ó Dónaill says:

ciúta, m. (gs. ~, pl. ~í).1. Quip, clever remark. ~ a chaitheamh chun duine, to make a quip at s.o. 2. (a)(Of speech, lettering) Flourish. Is deas an ~ cainte é sin, that is a nice turn of phrase. 3. Ingenious trick, knack.

An Foclóir Beag says this:

ciúta fir4 nath nó carúl cainte; cor cainte; cleas  (a witticism or witty remark; an idiom; a trick)

What does Dinneen’s dictionary say? According to Dinneen, a ciúta is a pregnant saying; a clever hit in conversation, artistic touch; an innuendo.

The 1973 Irish-English, English-Irish Dictionary from the Talbot Press (based on An Seabhac’s 1958 dictionary) says that it means knack, ‘know-how’.

It is not included at all in the Electronic Dictionary of the Irish language, in O’Reilly’s 1817 dictionary and the earliest reference in Corpas na Gaeilge is from 1912. The earliest reference I can find to ciúta in the Irish language only dates back to 1904.

It is worth quoting Cassidy’s version of the definition of the word ciúta in full:

Ciúta (pron. k’útǝ) n. a pregnant saying, a clever hit in conversation, a clever innuendo, a clever quip, a wisecrack, an ingenious trick, a knack, an artistic touch; know-how; fig. someone or something with an attractive, artistic, clever style.

The first part of this is correct, because it is simply copied from the various dictionaries. The bit after the fig. is complete fantasy. Ciúta does not refer to people. Cassidy says this because he wants to claim ciúta as the origin of cutie as well as cute.

In reality, there is little doubt that ciúta is from cute, not the other way around. However, there is something a little odd about this. In English, cute is always an adjective. In Irish, ciúta is a noun. I have no idea why this should be or how this difference arose. (Dinneen suggests that it comes from the word cionnta, meaning crimes or offences, but this seems unlikely to me.)

However, it does nothing to alter the implausibility of Cassidy’s claim in relation to this word. There is a clear line of development in English from Latin acutus, through Middle English acūte, to modern English cute. Cute does not come from ciúta, whatever the relationship between the two words might be.

Cassidese Glossary – Cuffin

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.

(Note: Again, this is not in alphabetical order but in this case, these two words, cove and cuffin, are placed together before crack and cracker in Cassidy’s book, so I have followed his order here.)

Cuffin is a cant expression similar to cove. It is believed to be derived from cove or related to it in some way. Cassidy suggests that this comes from caomhán, an obscure diminutive of caomh. Again, the pronunciation is wrong (keevawn) and there is no reason to suppose that there is any Irish connection. Also, cove and cuffin mean a fellow, a man, not a friend or pal or beloved person.

Cassidese Glossary – Chicken

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 work of false etymology, How The Irish Invented Slang, frequently ignored perfectly good English explanations for words in favour of improbable or impossible made-up Irish derivations. This is a perfect example. Chicken means scared and a chicken is a coward. This apparently comes from the English word chicken which is a nervous type of bird. In English, phrases like hen-hearted go back to the 14th century at least. As early as the 15th century, the churles chekyne was used as an expression for a coward. It is obvious, realistic, and it ticks all the boxes.

Cassidy disagrees with this and claims that chicken comes from the ‘Irish’ teith ar cheann, which means – according to Cassidy – to run away first. In fact, teith ar cheann (if it existed) would mean ‘flee at the head of’ rather than flee first. In other words, it is incomplete, as it would have to be at the head of something.

There are lots of expressions for a weakling or coward (meatachán, cladhaire etc) in Irish and any of them could have been used in slang, so it seems strange that anyone would have used a grammatically meaningless and unfamiliar phrase in preference to these words.

Cassidese Glossary – Cheesy

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 cheesy in the sense of resembling cheese goes back to the late 14th century in English. Apparently, its slang meaning of “cheap, inferior” is found as early as 1896 in U.S. student slang. It seems to me that cheesy as in game-show host insincerity probably owes something to the use of the word cheese when taking photographs as well, though I may be wrong about this. Cassidy claims that this word also means cheap in the American sense of mean, frugal, stingy, though I have been unable to find confirmation of this in any online dictionary and the only example Cassidy gives of the word’s use confirms the dictionary definitions of poor quality or second-rate rather than stingy.

Why would Cassidy cite a meaning for the word cheesy that apparently doesn’t exist? Cassidy claims that this word comes from the Irish tíosach, which means thrifty or economical. A person being thrifty and things being shoddy are two different things. There may sometimes be a relationship between them, in that a thrifty person may buy inferior goods, but the connection is only credible if the word cheesy means frugal rather than second-rate.

Of course, Cassidy’s quotation from Ó Dónaill is fake. Ó Dónaill says that ‘Na bí chomh tíosach sin leis an im’ means ‘Don’t be so sparing with the butter’, not ‘Don’t be so “cheesy” with the butter’.

Cassidese Glossary – By Golly

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.

Cassidy says that this is ‘an oath or exclamation’. Although all reputable etymological sources regard this as a minced oath for ‘By God’ or ‘By God’s Body’ dating back to the 18th century, Cassidy doesn’t even mention this possibility. Instead, he links it to the genuine Irish phrase bíodh geall air, which means ‘I’ll bet’. This is not a great match in terms of sound (it is pronounced bee-oo gyal air) or meaning. Even the examples Cassidy gives work better if we assume that By Golly stands for By God than for I’ll bet you! in Irish.

Cassidese Glossary – Button

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 another perfect example of Cassidy’s incompetence as a researcher. Cassidy claims that button, which apparently is a slang term for a dealer in gambling, derives from the ‘Irish’ phrase beart t-aon, which Cassidy says means ‘the one who deals’. This is complete nonsense. Beart means an act or action. In games it means a move (as in a move in chess or in backgammon) and it is not likely that it would be used for a deal in cards. Most Irish speakers would use déanamh for this – you could also use roinnt or dáileadh.

Even if it did mean a deal of cards, this doesn’t mean that it could be used for the person who deals the cards. And while the word aon means one (as in the numeral) it isn’t used to mean ‘the one (who did something)’. This is an . So, how would real Irish speakers say ‘the one who deals’?  An té a dhéanann na cártaí, or An té a dháileann na cártaí, or An té a roinneann na cártaí. Not beart t-aon. And what is that t- doing there? How could that possibly make any sense in terms of the rules of Irish grammar?

This is a little like somone claiming that the dealer in a game of cards would be called el repartir uno in Spanish.