Tracing slang back to Ireland

David Cassidy got curious about the words and phrases used in his working-class Irish family. He found them in other families in the neighborhood, of course. And he got curious enough to look for them, phonetically, in a Gaelic dictionary. He found them!

Mysterious phrases like, “Say Uncle!” begin to make sense when you learn that “anacal!” means “mercy!”

Cassidy wrote a book about his discoveries, called How the Irish Invented Slang.

3 Responses to “Tracing slang back to Ireland”

  1. Grant Barrett Says:

    Mona, I did a review of Cassidy’s book: It did not fare well at all.

  2. monado Says:

    Grant, thank you very much for your comment and link. I’ve noticed before that books on etymology tend to flimsy folk-etymologies; but I was assuming that a book reviewed in the N.Y. Times would be backed up by research. Instead. he sounds like your garden-variety crackpot or creationist: lots of special pleading and jumping to conclusions followed by whining. I’ll re-post the link to your blog to make sure everyone sees it.

  3. monado Says:

    I should have said “popular books on etymolog.y” I’m thinking of one called Horsefeathers, not ones like Dictionary of Word Origins. I have a couple by different authors; they may be out of date but they don’t seem to be flimsy.


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