Tag Archives: ward heeler

Cassidese Glossary – Heeler

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.

A heeler or ward heeler was the representative of a politician in the local community in American politics in the 19th and early 20th centuries. As Cassidy sneers: ‘The well-heeled editors of most Anglo-American dictionaries derive heeler from the heel of a shoe.’ In other words, the mainstream (and almost certainly correct) view is that a ward heeler who walked the ward making sure that the electorate were happy with the politician.

Cassidy claims that this word is really the Irish éilitheoir. Cassidy says that this is pronounced éló’r or h-ælór. This is Cassidy’s ad hoc personal system of transcription, so it makes little sense but I should point out that words beginning with a vowel are not pronounced with a h- sound in Irish, as Cassidy thought. The word éilitheoir would be pronounced aylihore. Its meaning is given by Ó Dónaill as:

éilitheoir, m. (gs. -ora, pl. ~í).1. Claimant; claimer (ar, of). 2. Complainant, plaintiff.

Dinneen says that this is: éilightheoir, one who demands or charges; a petitioner, a suitor;

a creditor, a claimant : an accuser, a plaintiff.

This is a long way from Cassidy’s ‘one who demands or charges; a petitioner; a claimer; a friendly petitioner; a claimsman, an advocate; one who makes friendly inquiries about; one who visits in a friendly manner’.

The English heeler makes a lot more sense for someone who continually walked around the ward resolving issues. I cannot see why claimant or plaintiff or accuser would have anything much to do with the work of a ward heeler.


Ward Heeler

This is yet another crappy and ridiculous claim made in Daniel Cassidy’s book of fake Irish derivations for English terms, How The Irish Invented Slang. I don’t know much about this word, heeler, but apparently in American politics a ward heeler was the assistant to a politician and made sure that the grass roots support in the ward was kept sweet. This is obviously a reference to his walking around at the heels of the politician or perhaps his role bringing the electorate to heel. 

According to Cassidy, it comes from the Irish word éilitheoir. This word is defined by Ó Dónaill as claimant or as plaintiff, neither of which is very appropriate. It is the clear mark of a crank that they walk past an obvious and believable explanation in favour of a contrived and unbelievable one, and Cassidy did this all the time.