Tag Archives: ráibéad

Cassidese Glossary – (Dead) Rabbit

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 late Daniel Cassidy claimed that the Dead Rabbits gang, shown in the film Gangs of New York as carrying a dead rabbit on a spike as a totem, really had no connection with rabbits at all and that this name is in truth a phonetic rendering of the Irish ráibéad, meaning a ‘hulking person, a broad-shouldered, muscular man’. To him, dead is an English intensifier.

There is no doubt that the Dead Rabbits did carry a dead rabbit into battle with them, or at least that this claim was made a long time ago (1857). Of course, once you accept that their name is connected to dead rabbits, any claim that the name is Irish becomes pointless and unlikely to be correct.

The word ráibéad is an incredibly obscure word, which is not mentioned in Dinneen’s dictionary, though it is mentioned in Ó Dónaill’s, where it is defined as ‘a big, hulking person or thing’ – not a ‘hulking person, a broad-shouldered, muscular man’. Ó Dónaill got it from an article in a journal which was an account of words from one parish in the west of Ireland. In other words, it seems to have been equivalent to the English term ‘whopper’ in the Irish of Indreabhán a couple of generations ago. It does not mean someone violent or aggressive or a source of fear.

Cassidese Glossary – Dead Rabbits

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 amateur etymologist Daniel Cassidy claimed that the Dead Rabbits gang, shown in the film Gangs of New York as carrying a dead rabbit on a spike as a totem, really had no connection with rabbits at all and that this name is in truth a phonetic rendering of the Irish ráibéad, meaning a ‘hulking person, a broad-shouldered, muscular man’. To him, dead is an English intensifier.

There is no doubt that the Dead Rabbits did carry a dead rabbit into battle with them, or at least that this claim was made a long time ago. As far as I’m concerned, that is pretty much that, because once you accept that their name is connected to dead rabbits, any claim that the name is Irish becomes pointless and unlikely to be correct.

The word ráibéad is an incredibly obscure word, which is not mentioned in Dinneen’s dictionary, though it is mentioned in Ó Dónaill’s, where it is defined as ‘a big, hulking person or thing’ – not a ‘hulking person, a broad-shouldered, muscular man’. Ó Dónaill got it from an article in a journal which was an account of words from one parish in the west of Ireland. In other words, it seems to have been equivalent to the English term ‘whopper’ in the Irish of Indreabhán a couple of generations ago.

In short, Cassidy’s claim is nonsense.

Dead Rabbits

Among Cassidy’s many crazy and unsupported theories was one which has really caught the public’s imagination, the claim that the Dead Rabbits gang, shown in the film Gangs of New York as carrying a dead rabbit on a spike as a totem, really had no connection with rabbits at all and that this name is in truth a phonetic rendering of the Irish ráibéad, meaning a big, hulking person or thing.

First off, there is no doubt that the Dead Rabbits did carry a dead rabbit into battle with them, or at least that this claim was made a long time ago. As far as I’m concerned, that is pretty much that, because once you accept that their name is connected to dead rabbits, any claim that the name is Irish becomes pointless and unlikely to be correct.

Add to that the fact that ráibéad is an incredibly obscure word, which is not mentioned in Dinneen’s dictionary, though it is mentioned in Ó Dónaill’s. I have certainly never heard it in use. Because of this I don’t know how someone would use it, but I would assume from the definition that it is one of those words like pánaí (a word I do use) which just means something large. If it is like pánaí, then it is neither particularly flattering nor offensive. It’s just a fairly neutral comment about the size of something or someone.

In other words, it doesn’t sound to me like a suitable basis for a gang-name and certainly, Cassidy had no evidence of any connection with Irish beyond his misplaced faith in his own crazy revelations.

Speaking of which, if you are still in any doubt that Cassidy was a nut, check out this link, where he tries to persuade a group of people that the Ku Klux Klan derives its name from a Gaelic term meaning Cloaked Champions of the Clan. This one didn’t make it to the book, of course.

http://www.daltai.com/discus/messages/13510/13807.html?1116485172