Tag Archives: the vintage news

September 2018’s Twits of the Month – The Vintage News

The September 2018 Twit of the Month is a site called The Vintage News. They have put up a short video called American slang words we never knew were invented by the Irish. In the video, a lot of ridiculous derivations made up by Cassidy are given, along with a couple which Cassidy borrowed from more trustworthy sources:

Snazzy =Snasah: (sic, Snasach is the right version). Cassidy didn’t make this one up. Although the connection between snazzy and snasach is believable enough, it is not likely to be correct. When the term snazzy was first used, it referred to a person called Snazelle – Snazzy was his nickname.

Spiel = Speal. A speal is a scythe, an instrument used to cut grass. It rhymes with the name Al. There is a similar word in Scots Gaelic and there is a subsidiary meaning in that language, namely, sharp words. In other words, that isn’t its meaning in the Irish language. And of course, spiel comes from German (apparently, it’s not from Yiddish – see comments below).

Baloney = Béal ónna. Of course, there is no such phrase as béal ónna. Daniel Cassidy made it up.

Bunkum = Buanchumadh. We have discussed this one before. It is a reference to Buncombe County, and a politician called Felix Walker. There is no such phrase as buanchumadh. It is simply nonsense made up by Daniel Cassidy.

Swell = Sóúil. Sóúil means luxurious (hardly a match to any meaning of the word swell) and it is pronounced so-ool, which doesn’t sound much like swell either. Also, the real origin of swell is well-known and explained here: https://www.etymonline.com/word/swell

Slugger = slacaire. Slacaire sounds like slackarra, so why would it have become slugger, not slacker? Also, there are lots of words in English which have meanings like beating, trudging, words like slug and slog and slag, as well as words like schlagen in German. You can find some notes on them here: https://www.etymonline.com/word/slug#etymonline_v_23704

Dork = dorc. According to this idiotic piece of non-information on Vintage News, the Irish dorc means dwarf. Really? News to me. And the word dork is widely believed to be a disguised form of ‘dick’.

Croney = comh-roghna. Again, this is an entirely fake phrase invented by Cassidy. Croney is believed to be Cambridge slang of the late 17th century and derived from Greek chronios, old.

Phoney = fáinne (ring). This is quite likely true (in my opinion) but predates Cassidy by decades. It possibly derives from fake gold rings used in scams, known as fawneys. However, the link is not universally accepted, and David L. Gold, who is a knowledgeable and intelligent etymologist, is one of the sceptics.

Dude = dúd. There is no evidence for a Gaelic origin of dude, a 19th century term for a dandy. Most scholars regard it as derived from the song Yankee Doodle Dandy, who stuck a feather in his cap and called it macaroni (macaroni was 18th century slang for a dandy).

Slum = ‘s lom (é). Is lom é is a made-up Cassidy phrase. Even if it did exist, anyone with any background in linguistics will realise that phrases like this are not usually borrowed. Also, slums are not usually bare, which is the meaning of lom. And of course, as it originally referred to bedrooms or flophouses, the word slum almost certainly comes from slumber.

Fluke = fo-luach. According to Cassidy, this phrase means a windfall or a rare reward. The phrase fo-luach does not exist and if it did, it would mean something like a ‘subsidiary value’. Pure nonsense.

Nincompoop = naioidhean. Actually, Cassidy’s original claim was that nincompoop comes from the ‘Irish’ naioidhean ar chuma búb, supposedly an insulting phrase meaning an infant in the shape of a booby. This is not a real phrase, of course. Nincompoop probably comes from the Latin phrase Non compos mentis.

Scam = ‘s cam é. Cassidy claims that scam comes from this phrase, which might just mean ‘it is crooked’. So, when you say, it’s a scam, you are apparently saying It’s an it is crooked. Yeah, right. In reality, there are a number of possible origins for scam. The front runner is probably the Spanish escamotear, which is a verb meaning to scam or to rob.

Boogaloo = bogadh luath. According to Cassidy, the phrase boogaloo comes from Irish. Boogaloo comes from bogadh luath, which means ‘early moving’ and is pronounced bogga looa or boggoo looa. Why? What connection does this have to the known uses of boogaloo? Your guess is as good as mine. Meanwhile, back on planet Earth, boogaloo is believed to have been coined in the 1960s, and derives from the onomatopoeic music style boogie-woogie.

Puss = pus. This is true but is accepted by all dictionaries and predates Cassidy by decades. Puss as in a dig in the puss or a sourpuss (not puss as in cat) comes from the Irish word pus, which means a pouting lip.

So, what have we got here? A couple of (perhaps) genuine derivations from Irish, along with a large collection of fantasy nonsense invented by the late Daniel Cassidy in his book How The Irish Invented Slang. The comments, which number nearly 2000, are interesting. Many people expressed scepticism about this nonsense, especially spiel, which is the most obviously wrong. Eoin Ó Murchú pointed out that this was all rubbish derived from Cassidy’s book. One person, Dilean Mac Searraigh, said “Most of these are ridiculous … there are Irish words in English … but these are totally inaccurate gibberish. Someone literally just made them up.”

The critics were then rebuked by someone called Rhonda Pennington:

I can’t believe a fun post like this has generated such snarky remarks. It’s all in fun. Why does everything have to be an argument these days? Where is your sense of humour, people?

I’m sure others will be wondering the same as me. Where exactly is the fun? Where’s the humour? This is largely a collection of fantasy without any foundation in fact. Yet there is no indication that this is ironic or not meant to be true. What has promoting non-facts that aren’t true about other people’s languages and cultures to do with fun, especially languages which have been subject to discrimination for generations? If this were claiming to be a list of words and phrases from Gullah or Cherokee but it was mostly made-up, I’m inclined to think that it wouldn’t be regarded as fun. I think most people would regard it as cultural appropriation or (and this is the way I view it) as racism.

I choose to take The Vintage News’ rubbish as a deliberate attempt to deceive, because the facts about Cassidy and his dishonesty have been out there for years. The people at Vintage News did no research. Vintage News is responsible for deliberately spreading nonsense as if it were fact, and nobody is deserving of anyone’s respect or tolerance for being a liar, however funny they think these lies are.