The origins of Slang - the Irish

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Very cool - meet Daniel Cassidy who researched and wrote the book: How the Irish Invented Slang From the NY Times:
Humdinger of a Project: Tracing Slang to Ireland
Growing up Irish in Queens and on Long Island, Daniel Cassidy was nicknamed Glom.

�I used to ask my mother, �Why Glom?� and she�d say, �Because you�re always grabbing, always taking things,�� he said, imitating his mother�s accent and limited patience, shaped by a lifetime in Irish neighborhoods in New York City.

It was not exactly an etymological explanation, and Mr. Cassidy�s curiosity about the working-class Irish vernacular he grew up with kept growing. Some years back, leafing through a pocket Gaelic dictionary, he began looking for phonetic equivalents of the terms, which English dictionaries described as having �unknown origin.�

�Glom� seemed to come from the Irish word �glam,� meaning to grab or to snatch. He found the word �balbh�n,� meaning a silent person, and he surmised that it was why his quiet grandfather was called the similarly pronounced Boliver.

He began finding one word after another that seemed to derive from the strain of Gaelic spoken in Ireland, known as Irish. The word �gimmick� seemed to come from �camag,� meaning trick or deceit, or a hook or crooked stick.

Could �scam� have derived from the expression ��S cam �,� meaning a trick or a deception? Similarly, �slum� seemed similar to an expression meaning �It is poverty.� �Dork� resembled �dorc,� which Mr. Cassidy�s dictionary called �a small lumpish person.� As for �twerp,� the Irish word for dwarf is �duirb.�
A few more from the article:
�Snazzy� comes from �snasach,� which means polished, glossy or elegant. The word �scram� comes from �scaraim,� meaning �I get away.� The word �swell� comes from �s��il,� meaning luxurious, rich and prosperous, and �sucker� comes from �s�ch �r,� or, loosely, fat cat.

There is �Say uncle!� (�anacal� means mercy), �razzmatazz,� and �malarkey,� and even expressions like �gee whiz� and �holy cow� and �holy mackerel� are Anglicized versions of Irish expressions, he said. So are �doozy,� �hokum,� �humdinger,� �jerk,� �punk,� �swanky,� �grifter,� �bailiwick,� �sap,� �mug,� �wallop,� �helter-skelter,� �shack,� �shanty,� �slob,� �slacker� and �knack.�
Cool! Hat tip to dispatches from TJICistan for the link.

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This page contains a single entry by DaveH published on November 10, 2007 9:34 PM.

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