Tag Archives: muc

Cassidese Glossary – Mug

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. 

Mug is a slang term for face in English. According to most dictionaries, it comes from those old mugs which were decorated with faces like Toby Jugs.

Daniel Cassidy, author of the etymological hoax, How The Irish Invented Slang, disagrees. He believes that it comes from the word muc, meaning pig. It is worth quoting his claim in full, as it clearly shows Cassidy’s poor scholarship and dishonesty.

“Muc, n., a pig; anything resembling a pig or hog; (of person) a piggish, hoggish individual, a swine; a scowl; a beetling brow; a scowling face; a piggish face. Múchna; n. a surly appearance; piggish scowl. Muc ar mala, a scowl, a beetling of brows, a piggish mug.

Most Anglo-American dictionaries derive the slang word mug from an English drinking mug with an ugly face painted on it. In Irish American vernacular, a mug (muc, a scowling, beetle-browed face) is a pig-faced mucker.”

The first point to make is that múchna is nothing to do with muc. Múchna comes from múch, meaning to extinguish or suppress. And it doesn’t sound anything like mug, so it is completely irrelevant here.

Then there is the problem of what muc means. If it meant ‘a scowling face, a piggish’ face, then it would be a pretty good candidate for the origin of mug. However, Cassidy was consistently and pathologically dishonest and the word muc does not mean a face … scowling, beetle-browed, smiley or any other kind. Muc means a pig, or a bulge which is rounded or pig-shaped. Muca sneachta are snowdrifts. When someone frowns, they get a small rounded bulge on their forehead, which in Irish is called muc ar gach mala (a bulge on each brow). It is used in this way but the phrases quoted above “a scowling face; a piggish face … a piggish mug … a scowling, beetle-browed face” are not true definitions of muc. They were invented by Cassidy. If you asked somebody in Irish why they had a muc on them (without the ar gach mala bit), they would look at you in puzzlement and say that they don’t have a pig on them. What Cassidy is saying is a little like saying that ‘laughter’ can be used in English to mean a wrinkled face because people talk about laughter lines. It is pure and total nonsense.

Mug

Mug is a slang term for face in English. According to most dictionaries, it comes from those old mugs which were decorated with faces like Toby Jugs.

Daniel Cassidy, author of an atrocious piece of pseudo-scholarship called How The Irish Invented Slang, disagrees. He believes that it comes from the word muc, meaning pig. It is worth quoting his claim in full, as it clearly shows Cassidy’s poor scholarship and dishonesty.

“Muc, n., a pig; anything resembling a pig or hog; (of person) a piggish, hoggish individual, a swine; a scowl; a beetling brow; a scowling face; a piggish face. Múchna; n. a surly appearance; piggish scowl. Muc ar mala, a scowl, a beetling of brows, a piggish mug.

Most Anglo-American dictionaries derive the slang word mug from an English drinking mug with an ugly face painted on it. In Irish American vernacular, a mug (muc, a scowling, beetle-browed face) is a pig-faced mucker.”

The first point to make is that múchna is nothing to do with muc. Múchna comes from múch, meaning to extinguish or suppress. And it doesn’t sound anything like mug, so it is completely irrelevant here.

Then there is the problem of what muc means. If it meant ‘a scowling face, a piggish’ face, then it would be a pretty good candidate for the origin of mug. So does it?

If you’ve read the other posts in this blog, you’ll know what to expect. Cassidy was a pathological liar and muc does not mean a face … scowling, beetle-browed, smiley or any other kind. Muc means a pig, or a bulge which is rounded or pig-shaped. Muca sneachta are snowdrifts. When someone frowns, they get a small rounded bulge on their forehead, which in Irish is called muc ar gach mala (a bulge on each brow). It is used in this way but the phrases quoted above “a scowling face; a piggish face … a piggish mug … a scowling, beetle-browed face” are not true definitions of muc. They are Cassidy inventions. If you asked somebody in Irish why they had a muc on them (without the ar gach mala bit), they would look at you in puzzlement and say that they don’t have a pig on them. What Cassidy is saying is a little like saying that ‘laughter’ can be used in English to mean a wrinkled face because people talk about laughter lines. It is pure and total nonsense.

 

Mucker

Cassidy suggests that mucker, a word used colloquially in Ireland and England to mean mate or friend, comes from the Irish mucaire, which is from muc meaning ‘pig’. According to Dineen the word mucaire means a swineherd, a boor, a rustic. Ó Dónaill’s dictionary only gives the meaning ‘a slovenly worker’. How you get from any of these meanings to the notion of a mate is beyond me.

Back in the real world, muck is a very old word in English (derived from Old Norse) which means dirt. A mucker is someone who works with this dirt (as in a mucker-out) but this is probably not directly the origin of mucker in the sense of friend. For this, we need to look at the way that people mucking about or messing about are often having fun together. That’s why we have muckers. So it is far more likely that the word mucker in all its senses is a reference to the English muck + er than that it has any connection with mucaire. As usual, Cassidy ignores the obvious English explanation in favour of a specious derivation from Irish.

Incidentally, while researching this post, I found that others say that mucker comes from the Irish mo chara, meaning my friend. This is also nonsense. As any competent Irish speaker will tell you, it’s a chara, not mo chara when you are talking directly (i.e. vocatively) to your friends. Of course, it is quite acceptable to talk about people in the third person using mo chara, but this would hardly give rise to a loanword, as the mo is not intrinsically linked to the word cara. Only the core form of the word, cara, would be borrowed in a bilingual situation. For example, we have all heard French-speaking characters in films saying things like ‘how are you, mon ami?’ This is a vocative use, like ‘a chara’. But when the Spanish word amigo is used in English, it is always used simply as amigo, never as mi amigo or su amigo, and so it is quite reasonable to assume that people might say things like ‘he is a great cara of mine’, but not *’it’s good to have a mo chara‘ (or do chara or ár gcara, for that matter). And that’s not even touching on matters of pronunciation. Mo chara, if it’s pronounced properly, is pronounced something like mohara, to rhyme with Sahara. How would that become mucker?

In any case, this claim was made by other idiots, not by Cassidy, so it is merely an aside and has no bearing on the substance of this blog.