Tag Archives: slang

Cassidese Glossary – Tiger

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.

According to Wikipedia, in the US, the card game known as Faro was also called ‘bucking the tiger’ or ‘twisting the tiger’s tail’, a reference to a picture of a Bengal tiger which appeared on the backs of playing cards.

Cassidy rejected this (by not actually mentioning it) and claimed that the word tiger in this case derives from the Irish adjective diaga (pron. jee-agga or dee-agga), which means divine. According to Cassidy: ‘The Tiger (diaga, divine, holy, diagaireacht, a divinity) was the god of the odds.’

Dia is a divinity in Irish. The variant diagaireacht could just, at a pinch, be used for divinity, the subject of study (not A divinity), though the usual word for that is diagacht. None of these words has any close or meaningful relation to card-playing or Faro.

Cassidese Glossary – Sunday Punch

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.

Apparently, the phrase ‘a Sunday punch’ means a killer punch, a knockout, either in boxing terms or metaphorically in other areas like politics. It is not difficult to explain this expression. Most boxing matches probably occurred on Saturday night, so a Sunday punch is surely one that puts you out of action until the following day. Another common expression, ‘to knock someone into the middle of next week’, uses the same metaphor.

Daniel Cassidy, in his etymological hoax, How The Irish Invented Slang, immediately took his Irish dictionary in hand and found what he thought was a suitable word, sonnda.

‘Sonnda, al. sonnta, adj., powerful, strong, courageous, bold (punch). (Ó Dónaill, 1134; Dineen, 1088.)’

As usual in Cassidy’s ‘research’, this is not a real quotation. Sonnda derives from the word sonn, which means a stake or post, so sonnda is a very old-fashioned, literary word for powerful, steadfast, and would be used of a castle or a fortification, not a blow. To confuse matters, Dinneen gives it as an alternative spelling of sonnta, which means forceful, pushy or cheeky. In other words, Cassidy is mixing the entries for two distinct terms. Moreover, none of the meanings attached to the words sonnda or sonnta would lead you to believe that they would ever be applied to blows or punches. There are lots of adjectives which would be used in this way with the word for blow (buille) – buille trom, buille treascrach, buille cumhachtach, buille láidir, buille tolgach.

Cassidese Glossary – Stock

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, in his work of etymological fantasy, How The Irish Invented Slang, claimed that stock, as in the phrase ‘a stock of a man’, comes from the Irish staic.

Stock, of course, means a tree-trunk and makes perfect sense as a description of a well-built man. This is an ancient word of Germanic origin. It is found in Old English in the form stocc. Irish staic is a borrowing of the English word stack, which is of Old Norse origin.

Cassidese Glossary -Skedaddle

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.

In his etymological hoax, How The Irish Invented Slang, the late Daniel Cassidy claimed that ‘skedaddle’ (meaning ‘to run off’) comes from the Irish sciord ar dólámh. Of course, as usual with Cassidy’s claims, sciord ar dólámh isn’t found in Irish. It isn’t a recognised phrase. It is not found in any song or poem or prose work. Cassidy invented it by putting together words he found in a dictionary. It might mean something like to rush with both hands. Even if it did exist, it wouldn’t sound much like skedaddle and there are plenty of well-known expressions in Irish which mean to run off or run away.

Furthermore, the experts tell us that skedaddle is an American version of an English dialect word scaddle, which also means ‘to run off.’ This word is actually attested and it is also found in the English of Ulster (according to the excellent Concise Ulster Dictionary).

Cassidese Glossary – Shill

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.

Shill is apparently a fairground term for someone who masquerades as a member of the audience to encourage people to buy. According to Daniel Cassidy in his etymological hoax, How The Irish Invented Slang, the word shill derives from the Irish síol, meaning a seed. On the face of it, this is reasonable enough, though a serious etymological researcher would be worried by the difference in the vowel – why wouldn’t the word have been taken into English as sheel?

The other problem, which is far more important, is that shill seems to derive from an earlier fairground word shillaber which means the same thing as shill, a plant in an audience. Nobody knows where shillaber comes from and none of the suggestions is particularly strong but it doesn’t sound Irish.

Cassidy quotes his friend Eddy Stack who talks about his youth in Kerry where people who were known as sheelers came to the local fairs. I have never come across this term and there is no evidence of it on line. Unfortunately, Stack is no longer with us so he cannot clarify what the term was, what it meant or whether Cassidy actually quoted him accurately.

Cassidese Glossary – Shag

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 shag usually refers to sexual intercourse in Ireland or Britain. In the USA, it is often used with the meaning of ‘to chase’, but there is some doubt about whether both meanings are the same word or two separate words that happen to sound the same. Shag in the sense of copulate dates back to 1788 and probably derives from an obsolete word for to shake or waggle. Shag as in to chase after something might be an extension of this, or a version of the word shack in the sense of wander around.

Daniel Cassidy, in his etymological hoax, How The Irish Invented Slang, claimed that the word shag comes from the Irish word seilg, meaning to hunt. This word is pronounced shellig and does not sound like the English shag. The meaning is not a good match and there is no evidence for a connection.

Cassidese Glossary – Ring

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 one of the many cases in Daniel Cassidy’s work of false etymology where he ignores the correct and straightforward explanation in favour of a creaky and unconvincing origin of his own invention. As he says in the book:

But if a button is … ringing (roinn, pron. ring, to deal) in a crooked deck, every Punter is a loser. (Page 52)

In other words, Cassidy is claiming that ringing, a slang word for substitution, is from the Irish word roinn, the basic meaning of which is divide. It is not pronounced the same as ring. Why a word meaning divide or deal would acquire the meaning of substitute is not explained.

In reality, the term ringing dates back to the early nineteenth century as an expression for substitution, possibly from the bell-ringing phrase ‘to ring the changes’ (but see my theory below). Then in the late nineteenth century, we get the expression a dead ringer, meaning a horse which resembles another horse and is substituted for it to banjax the gambling odds.

It is just possible (and this is only a suggestion, not a statement of fact) that the notion of a fawney ring being a substitute for a real gold ring could have led to the term ring being used for substitutions in general.

Cassidy’s claim is obviously untrue. Incidentally, there is an even sillier explanation doing the rounds for dead ringer, that it refers to people putting telephones into graves in case they were buried alive. This just goes to show that people are absolute suckers for fake etymology.

Cassidese Glossary – Phoney

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.

Fawney is an old criminal slang word for a ring, especially a cheap, base-metal ring used in scams as a gold ring. There is no doubt that it derives from Irish fáinne. Cassidy was not the first to suggest this, or to suggest that fawney is the origin of phoney.

https://www.etymonline.com/word/fawney

Cassidese Glossary – Oliver

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 informs us in his etymological hoax How The Irish Invented Slang, that the obsolete slang term for the moon, oliver, comes from the Irish oll ubh óir, a great golden egg. This is one way (a wrong way – it should be ollubh óir) of saying big golden egg in Irish, though certainly not the usual way (ubh mhór óir) but why óir? Why golden? Surely the moon is always regarded as silvery, in contrast to the golden quality of the sun? I don’t know the real origin of oliver though folklore apparently links it to Oliver Cromwell and his bald pate. But I don’t believe it comes from oll ubh óir, which makes no sense at all.

 

Cassidese Glossary – Natty

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, in his etymological hoax, How The Irish Invented Slang, claimed that the English term natty derives from the Irish word néata. In reality, of course, néata is a relatively late borrowing from the English neat, which derives from the French word net meaning clean, and ultimately from the Latin nitidus. This gave rise to variants in English like netty and natty.

And he is very wrong about the phonetics of néata. Cassidy obviously thought that the phonetic symbol æ is pronounced like the vowel sound in day. In fact, æ is pronounced the way an English speaker of English might pronounce ‘hat’, so his phonetic version suggests that the word is pronounced nyatta, which it isn’t. It is pronounced nayta.

There is absolutely no reason to suppose a connection between the Irish language and the English word natty, except that the English word was borrowed into Irish as néata.