Saturday, 2 September 2017

‘How the Irish Invented Slang’ by Daniel Cassidy

‘How the Irish Invented Slang’ by Daniel Cassidy is jam-packed with false etymologies that suggest Irish heavily influenced American slang. His lies has been spread far and wide despite the fact that Cassidy didn’t speak Irish or even have any relevant qualification. Thanks to for looking into the actual origins of these words. This is a selection of words that was circulated recently.

  • Slum, according to Cassidy, comes from Irish ’s lom e, meaning ‘it’s bleak,’. Slum is first found in England, and meant a cheap room, so it’s probably from slumber. There is no evidence that the phrase ‘‘s lom é’ exists, and ‘lom’ (which essentially means naked, bare or bleak) is hardly an appropriate term for a slum, most of which are anything but empty.
  • Cop doesn’t come from Irish ceap, which means (according to Cassidy, protector). Here are the meanings according to Ó Dónaill, before Cassidy cherry-picked the one he wanted: stock, base; block; (shoemaker’s) last; nave; compact body; chief, protector; bed, plot. Cop actually comes from an English verb cop (of French origin) meaning to catch, as in cop on.
  • Racket, according to Cassidy, comes from the Irish reacaireacht meaning to sell (and what does extortion or theft have to do with selling?) In reality, the word for a commotion or loud noise came first, a version of dialect rattick. Because many scams and thefts involved using diversionary tactics of someone making a loud noise or throwing a fire-cracker, it became attached to scams.
  • You dig supposedly comes from Duigeann tú, Irish for ‘Do you understand?’ In reality, it’s spelled (An) dtuigeann tú? This is not proven and quite unlikely, though it is possible and was first discussed in an article in 1981.
  • Cassidy claims that scam comes from ‘s cam é’, meaning trick or deception. There is no such word or phrase. It is a slightly odd (made-up) phrase meaning ‘it is crooked’. Scam probably comes from escamotear, a Spanish word meaning to scam.
  • Scram probably comes from scramble. Irish ‘scaraim’ doesn’t mean ‘I get away’. It means I separate.
  • Uncle is probably from ‘uncle’. Anacal is an obscure Irish word for protection or quarter. The usual word for mercy (at least in games) would be méaram or trócaire.
  • Buddy is almost certainly a childish corruption of brother. If it was from Irish bodach, why wouldn’t it be ‘wuddy’, as this would nearly always be in the vocative – a bhodaigh!
  • Geezer is from guiser, an old word for a strange-looking person (originally disguiser). Gaosmhar is not a noun meaning wise person. It’s an adjective meaning wise.
  • Dude is an American term for a fop. It probably comes from the song Yankee-Doodle Dandy, where Doodle is associated with dandyism. There is an obscure word ‘dúid’ meaning many things including a shy and mopish person but this is probably just coincidental.
  • Gimmick probably comes from gimcrack. It isn’t from Irish ‘camag’ because ‘camag’ is Scottish Gaelic and it’s the equivalent of Irish camóg, as in camogie.
  • Loingseoir doesn’t mean a maritime worker. It means a pilot or sailor. The longshoremen aren’t sailors, they’re dockers, and longshoreman comes from the along shore men, as in the 1966 history of the International Longshoremen’s Association, ‘Men Along the Shore’.

A sad fact about this is that there are in fact many words that come from Irish. The following list is well-attested.

Slogan = sluaghairm = battle-cry by Gaelic clans = Scottish Gaelic/Irish
Hooligan = from the name Ó hUallacháin = Hooligan or Hoolihan
Tory = tóraidhe = Irish bandit > disparaging nickname > Tory
Leprechaun = leipreachán/lúchorpán = lú (small) corp (body)/(Latin Lupercus  has also been suggested)
Hubbub (Originally ‘an Irish hubbub’) = ababú/ababúna
Puck (ice hockey puck) = poc = a stroke or shot at ball
Trousers = triubhas/triús = from Irish/Scottish Gaelic
Slew = sluagh/slua = crowd, multitude
Gob = gob (literally beak) mouth
Bog = bogach = marsh/peatland
Puss = pus = face/mouth
Sources: OED | |

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