Tag Archives: phoney professor

Cassidese Glossary – Slogan

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.

It is well-known and admitted by all dictionaries that slogan is of Gaelic origin, though most sources rightly trace it to Scottish Gaelic. The phrase sluagh-ghairm or slua-ghairm (NOT sluagh ghairm – it is a compound word and therefore needs to be written with a hyphen) means call to a host and was the traditional practice of summoning warriors to form an army in the Scottish highlands. There is nothing controversial about this etymology.

Cassidy is wrong in claiming that this is an Irish expression rather than Scottish Gaelic, though the term makes sense in both languages. However, to the best of my knowledge, there is no evidence of the use of slua-ghairm in Irish. There is a word slógadh, which also derives from a variant of slua, which means roughly the same thing – it is used now as the equivalent of the English mobilisation.

Some sources claim that the word slogan derives from an Irish term sluaghán. This is given as a historical term (Hist.) by the lexicographer de Bhaldraithe, whose dictionary was published in 1959. However, there does not seem to be any source for this word. I cannot find any reference to it in Irish before de Bhaldraithe and I would presume that de Bhaldraithe probably realised that there was a link between slogan and slua(gh), so he invented sluaghán as a probable source, not realising that it really derives from Scottish Gaelic slua-ghairm through various manglings in English such as sloghorne. If anyone has any information that contradicts this, I would be interested to hear it.

Since de Bhaldraithe first used it, its spelling has been modernised to sluán in Irish, and it is found in modern dictionaries like focloir.ie as a translation for slogan alongside words like mana and rosc catha. If my theory about de Bhaldraithe is correct, this is what linguists call a ghost word, a word deriving from a mistake or misunderstanding, like the word cigire in Irish or gravy in English. (Look it up if you don’t believe me!)

Cassidese Glossary – Slacker

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 claimed that slacker comes from the Irish sleabhcadh, which means to go limp or to wilt, or the Scottish Gaelic slabhcar, meaning a slouching person. The words sleabhcadh and slabhcar don’t sound much like slack. They are pronounced to rhyme with cow (or sometimes as low, depending on dialect), as shlowkoo or slowkar. They may be cognates of the English slack but they are not the origin of it.

There is absolutely no doubt about the Germanic origins of the word slack or its antiquity in English. The word slack is part of the basic Germanic vocabulary of English. It goes back to Old English (the ancient version of the language used before the Norman Conquest) and is very well attested. The OED says that it is from “Old English slæc ‘inclined to be lazy, unhurried’, of Germanic origin.” Slæc was pronounced the same as modern English slack. In Middle English, it was written slac. For example, here is our old friend, the Michigan University Middle English Dictionary:

Slac (a) Of persons: indolent, lazy, lax; negligent, remiss; slow (to do sth.) …

Slacker seems to be a development from these meanings of slack in the late 18th century.

Cassidese Glossary – Mugsy

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 nickname for a gangster in America, something like Bugsy. Daniel Cassidy claims that it comes from the Irish muc saobh, which he claims would mean something like a twisted scowling face. As we said in the item on mug, muc does not mean a scowling face. Saobh does mean twisted and perverse. However, in Irish, muc is a feminine noun so it would have to be muc shaobh (mook heev) which sounds nothing like mugsy. Of course, Cassidy was completely ignorant of the Irish language and knew nothing about the way Irish words are put together in a genuine phrase or sentence.

While some of Cassidy’s supporters seem to think that grammar is a luxury enjoyed by the privileged and overeducated, this is a fundamental misunderstanding of what grammar is. Native speakers of Irish would always say muc shaobh, just as native speakers of Spanish would always say una mujer guapa and not un mujer guapo. It’s the way the language works at the most basic level and any speaker breaking these basic rules would come across as an idiot.

Cassidese Glossary – Mark

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 and distorted the evidence to make his claims seem slightly more reasonable. In his book, How The Irish Invented Slang, Cassidy claimed that the English word mark derives from the Irish marc. As usual, there is no evidence for this and plenty of strong evidence against it.

For one thing, while the word marc is Irish and means a mark, the word is a relatively modern borrowing from English and there is no evidence of it meaning target of a scam. In Irish, the earliest references date back to 1639, in the Catechismus of Tiobóid Galldubh (Theobald Stapleton).

Cassidy lies about this, defining marc as ‘a target; a goal; (of person) a mark’. This definition is not found in any dictionary or text or other source. It is strange that Cassidy, a man who spoke no Irish at all, considered it perfectly acceptable to invent meanings for Irish words or rewrite the dictionary definitions and his habit of doing this essentially leaves his entire book worthless.

In English, the word mark is very ancient. It had acquired the meaning of target by the year 1200. It was first used with the meaning of target of a scam or sucker in the 1880s. Marc never acquired that meaning in the Irish language.