Advertisement
We've partnered up with Nixers.com to offer a space where you can talk directly to Peter from Nixers.com and get an exclusive Boards.ie discount code for a free job listing. If you are recruiting or know anyone else who is please check out the forum here.
If you have a new account but can't post, please email Niamh on [email protected] for help to verify your email address. Thanks :)

How the irish invented slang

  • 04-04-2008 3:52pm
    #1
    Closed Accounts Posts: 16,170 ✭✭✭✭ brianthebard


    Has anyone read this book? I'm only a few chapters in but I'm loving it; well written, clear explanations, and short chapters (I really hate long chapters). Its pretty much about all those slang words that never had a known origin being looked at through Irish and by doing so the author has found hundreds of words (with very plausible explanations-many of the words are almost homophones) for these slang terms.


Comments

  • Closed Accounts Posts: 9,316 Talliesin


    Interesting.

    All, Irish or are there any Shelta words in there too?


  • Registered Users Posts: 1,672 deman


    The only Irish based words that come to mind that in any way were originally used as slang in English are Shenanigan, Hooligan and Clan.

    What other examples are there?


  • Closed Accounts Posts: 9,316 Talliesin


    Galore and phoney are well known, but from what the OP says this book has a lot on some that haven't been known for ages like they have.


  • Closed Accounts Posts: 3,114 ✭✭✭ doctor evil


    Whos it by and where did you get it?


  • Registered Users Posts: 1,142 Karlusss


    Smithereens is another one.

    If I remember right, the guy who wrote that book is a Boston Irish guy with a pocket dictionary. Rather than a linguist. It seemed interesting though, I have to say.


  • Advertisement
  • Registered Users Posts: 148 ✭✭ Silent Partner


    Talliesin wrote: »
    Galore and phoney are well known, but from what the OP says this book has a lot on some that haven't been known for ages like they have.

    I'm pretty sure phoney is not of Irish origin. According to the Bill Bryson book I'm currently reading, he gives the credit for that word to the Germans (I think, I don't have the book to hand to verify).
    There's a chapter in "Made in America" that talks about how the different groups of immigrants contributed to American language. He said he can only think of a handful that came from the Irish.


  • Closed Accounts Posts: 8,048 Amazotheamazing


    I'm pretty sure phoney is not of Irish origin. According to the Bill Bryson book I'm currently reading, he gives the credit for that word to the Germans (I think, I don't have the book to hand to verify).
    There's a chapter in "Made in America" that talks about how the different groups of immigrants contributed to American language. He said he can only think of a handful that came from the Irish.

    Don't want to sound like a paranoid freak here, but have you ever noticed in Bryson's books that he doesn't really like the Irish?

    I read Made in America and he definitely underplays the contribution Irish made to the English language. Perhaps the author in the OP's book overstates it, but it's more than Bryson credits. For example, dictionary.com lists phoney's origins as :
    [Alteration of fawney, gilt brass ring used by swindlers, from Irish Gaelic fáinne, ring, from Old Irish.]


  • Registered Users Posts: 14,694 ✭✭✭✭ Earthhorse


    From what I've read the book seems to be mostly wishful thinking on the author's part. He basically seems to have gone about taking slang words and finding Irish words to match them rather than tracing the roots of the word till it leads him to its source.

    Amazo, can't say I've noticed that about Bryson. Can you think of some examples?


  • Moderators, Arts Moderators, Recreation & Hobbies Moderators, Sports Moderators Posts: 9,172 Mod ✭✭✭✭ BossArky


    have you ever noticed in Bryson's books that he doesn't really like the Irish?


    Yeah I remember getting that impression from reading one of his books. It was either the one about travelling around Europe or the US. Cannot remember a particular reference.


  • Registered Users Posts: 1,672 deman


    I've lost faith in anything Bill Bryson writes since I read a chapter in Mother Tongue where he says that there are no swear words in Finnish. If I hadn't been living here, in Finland (and know quite a few swear words in Finnish) I'd have believed him. Is it just a one-off piece of misinformation, or does he do any real research on what he writes? Maybe he's a phoney??

    http://www.word-detective.com/back-d2.html
    Dear Evan: Can you tell me where the word "phoney" comes from? My grandfather told me that it is a form of "funny" (as in "funny money"). What do you think? -- Dan Cook, Toledo, OH.

    It's ironic that the most frequently asked questions about word origins (and this is one of them, right up there with "O.K." and "posh") are so often unanswerable. Numerous origins have been proposed for "phoney," but I may as well tell you in advance that none is certain. Such is life.

    It's hard to imagine a world without such a commonplace word as "phoney" (also spelled "phony"), but it's actually a remarkably recent word. Its first recorded appearance was in 1900, and it is generally agreed to be of American origin. Beyond that, things get very fuzzy. The Oxford English Dictionary, setting the pace for most other dictionary etymologies, says tersely, "of unknown origin." Undeterred, Merriam-Webster dictionaries until the mid-1930's endorsed the possibility you mention, that "phoney" is somehow a form of "funny," but this theory has since been generally abandoned.

    Other theories have included an attempt to tie "phoney" to "telephone," on the premise that conversations on the telephone are ephemeral and untrustworthy and thus "phoney." This theory had the notable distinction of being so awkward and silly that nearly no one believed it.

    The most likely source of "phoney," in the opinion of many authorities, is an English slang word "fawney," from the Irish word "fainne," meaning "ring." English "fawney men" (con artists) perfected a scam (called the "fawney rig") which involved the trickster "finding" a gold ring "of great value" (actually brass) and then agreeing to sell it to his victim out of the goodness of his heart. When the fawney men brought their racket to America, "fawney" became "phoney," a more general and very useful synonym for fake or false.


  • Advertisement
  • Closed Accounts Posts: 9,316 Talliesin


    For example, dictionary.com lists phoney's origins as :
    [Alteration of fawney, gilt brass ring used by swindlers, from Irish Gaelic fáinne, ring, from Old Irish.]
    Some time ago, a group of people I know investigated this further because somebody thought there was a bit of a gap in the etymology. We cleared it up quickly enough because "fawney rig" was originally fairground cant, and it's well known that a lot of fairground cant came from Irish and Shelta (more so even than other English cants) and the final ə in fáinne becoming -ey in the English word is pretty usual.
    deman wrote: »
    I've lost faith in anything Bill Bryson writes

    Bryson is good at giving one-layman-to-another story-telling views on various fields. It's never a good idea to read him as an authority on anything, but he's very good at giving a reasonable gist in a readable way.


  • Registered Users Posts: 1,752 ✭✭✭ wb


    I haven't read this book, but I head a piece on the radio about it. One part that really got my attention was the slang word 'dig' , used by black Americans (as in "Do you dig it?)

    Anyhow, apparantly they got it from the Irish over there, as the Irish used the word 'thuig' (Gaeilge for 'understand') quite a lot.

    So 'do you dig?' is supposed to come from 'do you thuig?' or 'do you understand?'

    Interesting stuff alright! :)


  • Registered Users Posts: 4,990 longshanks


    yeah i'd heard that before. in much the same way as black americans originally started tap dancing after watching the irish they worked with (building railroads etc.) irish dancing, some of their language comes from our language


  • Closed Accounts Posts: 8,048 Amazotheamazing


    Earthhorse wrote: »

    Amazo, can't say I've noticed that about Bryson. Can you think of some examples?

    I can't really remember any of the top of my head, I just seem to recall thinking he wasn't all that enamoured with us in the books I've read. I've read most of his books, and imo, you'd be reading a long time before you read anything too positive about us. Perhaps it's just me and my paranoia.


  • Closed Accounts Posts: 16,170 ✭✭✭✭ brianthebard


    Karlusss wrote: »
    Smithereens is another one.

    If I remember right, the guy who wrote that book is a Boston Irish guy with a pocket dictionary. Rather than a linguist. It seemed interesting though, I have to say.

    He's a lecturer in Irish-American studies but still not a "proper" linguist in fairness. The book is divided into a few chapters that explain how he came to find the Irish meaning of the words, some of which are strikingly clear, others less so, and then the rest of the book is an etymology dictionary for these words. Some examples of words in English with Irish beginnings are;
    cant, rabbit (as in Dead rabbits, gangs of new york), slum, ballyhoo, jazz, dude, dig (as mentioned), phoney, sucker, poker and many many others I can't think of right now. The one thing I would've liked from the book was more chapters explaining the origins of the words, I think he did those very well and convincingly.


  • Registered Users Posts: 3 IrishLinguist


    In fact, this book is pure rubbish from beginning to end. There are occasional true Irish derivation words in the book (like phoney from fawney) but they are mostly uncredited and plagiarised by Daniel Cassidy. The vast majority of the book is just nonsense. There is no chance that Cassidy's candidates are the genuine origins of these words. Cassidy didn't know any Irish at all and although he worked as a professor, he had no degrees or qualifications of any kind. Avoid at all costs!


  • Registered Users Posts: 3 IrishLinguist


    Sorry, meant to write 'phoney from fawney from fáinne'. Should have checked it before submitting!


  • Registered Users Posts: 4,790 ✭✭✭ goose2005


    In fact, this book is pure rubbish from beginning to end. There are occasional true Irish derivation words in the book (like phoney from fawney) but they are mostly uncredited and plagiarised by Daniel Cassidy. The vast majority of the book is just nonsense. There is no chance that Cassidy's candidates are the genuine origins of these words. Cassidy didn't know any Irish at all and although he worked as a professor, he had no degrees or qualifications of any kind. Avoid at all costs!

    One that particularly stood out was "Holy Moley" = "moladh," praise. Taking a vaguely suitable Irish word and attaching it, completely ignoring the far more obvious Mary=Molly.


  • Registered Users Posts: 1,962 ✭✭✭ LionelNashe


    Reminds me of the father in 'Big Fat Greek Wedding'



  • Registered Users Posts: 3 IrishLinguist


    Yes, you're both right! Ignoring the far more obvious is exactly what Cassidy does in the book! Also, thanks for the video clip, Lionel! That sums him up in a nutshell ... and what would you expect to find in a nutshell? Yes indeed, a nut ...


  • Advertisement
Advertisement