Tag Archives: scam

Cassidese Glossary – Scoot

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 scoot was first recorded in the 18th century. It means either to move quickly or to gush out or squirt. The latter meaning seems to be Scots and may be a different word. There is no agreement about its origin, though some sources link it to a Norse word cognate with English shoot or to words like scuttle. The Scottish Dialect Dictionary says:

Of Scand. orig., prob. from unmutated form *skúta of O.N. skjóta, to shoot, dart, and poss. of the same orig. as slang Eng. scoot, to run, rush away.

Cassidy links it to words found in Irish and in Scottish Gaelic such as scíord and sgiúird (variants of the same word). These may well be related to the word skoot or to the Scandinavian word it originally derives from but there is no reason to suppose that the Gaelic versions are the originals and that skoot derives from them.

Cassidese Glossary – Scam

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 etymological hoax How The Irish Invented Slang, claimed that the word scam comes from a supposed Irish phrase ’s cam é, meaning ‘it’s crooked’. There is no evidence of anyone using such a phrase in Irish and there are much better expressions for a scam. Even if it did exist, phrases are rarely borrowed. The evidence of linguistics tells us that almost all borrowings between languages are single words, and most of them are nouns.

The word scam first occurs in America in the 1960s. There are many possible explanations for its origin. It could be from scamp, meaning a swindler. Or from scheme. Or from a group of related words in French, Spanish and Portuguese meaning to disappear or to swindle. The most likely of these is escamotear in Spanish. Me han escamoteado mil dolares means “they stole a thousand dollars from me.”

Cassidy’s claim is highly improbable.

Scam

Another oft-quoted Cassidy gem is the word scam, which Cassidy linked to the phrase is cam é or ’s cam é, meaning ‘it’s crooked’. This is a slightly odd phrase, though it is possible that someone would say it. The problem with this is that it is a phrase. Why would someone who was bilingual in Irish and English use a phrase rather than a word like caimiléireacht (which means fraud or deception)? So a bilingual person saying ‘It’s a ’s cam’ is really saying ‘It’s a it’s crooked’. Highly unlikely.

Back in the real world, scam probably comes from the Spanish escamotear, which is defined as:

            to palm, to conceal; to lift, to swipe; to cover up.

Here’s a definition in Spanish from wordreference.com.  The second example essentially means ‘they stole a thousand pesetas from me in front of everybody.’

            escamotear

            1.tr. Hacer desaparecer algo mediante un hábil juego de manos de manera que        los presentes no se den cuenta:

            el mago escamoteó un par de palomas y un conejo.

            2. Robar o quitar algo con agilidad y astucia:

            me han escamoteado mil pesetas delante de todo el mundo.

            3. Eludir, evitar, suprimir intencionadamente:

            cuando habla de su marido no escamotea elogios.

This is a much more likely candidate, as the meaning is exactly right and you don’t have to put two words together in order to make up a suitable phrase. All the letters are there in escamotear!