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 claims that the word bummer comes from the Irish bumaire. In fact, the origins of this word are very complex and there are many different origins involved.
First, there is the English word bum meaning backside, which is derived from a syncopated version of Middle English botym (bottom).
Then there is bum-bailiff (borrowed into Irish as bum-báille or simply as bum) which apparently comes from bum meaning backside (because he comes up behind people and catches them).
Then there is the word bum meaning to boast or brag, which is still very common in Irish English. (He’s always bumming and blowing about that new motor!) This word is also found in Scottish and English dialects. The word bumaire (meaning a braggart) is an obvious (and probably fairly recent) borrowing from this Scots or English dialect word.
And lastly, there is a word for a tramp or hobo in American slang, which comes from German Bummler, a loiterer, stroller or tramp. It is this that gives rise to expressions like ‘a bum steer’ or ‘it’s a bummer.’