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Tracing American slang to Ireland

a.s.
Valinor


Nov 8 2007, 11:49pm


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Tracing American slang to Ireland Can't Post

Pretty interesting article in today's NYT about the Irish-Gaelic basis for many American slang words. Read the rest of the article here. (You may have to register first).

November 8, 2007

Humdinger of a Project: Tracing Slang to Ireland

By COREY KILGANNON

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 “balbhán,” 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 é,” 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.”

Mr. Cassidy, 63, began compiling a lexicon of hundreds of Irish-inspired slang words and recently published them in a book called “How the Irish Invented Slang,” which last month won the 2007 American Book Award for nonfiction, and which he is in New York this week promoting.

“The whole project started with a hunch — hunch, from the Irish word ‘aithint,’ meaning recognition or perception,” the verbose Mr. Cassidy said in an interview on Monday at O’Lunney’s, a bar and restaurant on West 45th Street. He has worked as a merchant seaman, a labor organizer and a screenwriter, and he lives in San Francisco, where he teaches Irish studies at the New College of California.

He pulled out his pocket Irish dictionary and began pointing out words that he said had been Americanized by the millions of Irish immigrants who turned New York into an extension of the Ghaeltacht, or Irish-speaking regions of Ireland.

"an seileachan"

Forgiveness means giving up all hope of a better past.
~~~Landrum Bolling

Subject User Time
Tracing American slang to Ireland a.s. Send a private message to a.s. Nov 8 2007, 11:49pm
    Cool. Dagonet Send a private message to Dagonet Nov 8 2007, 11:52pm
    Tolkien on "twerp" Kimi Send a private message to Kimi Nov 9 2007, 12:15am
    brings a sack or two of salt Penthe Send a private message to Penthe Nov 9 2007, 12:56am
    Very interesting. Thanks for link. /NT Smeagirl/Girllum Send a private message to Smeagirl/Girllum Nov 9 2007, 2:30am
        Amazing Sunflower Send a private message to Sunflower Nov 9 2007, 7:18am
            English slang to Ireland, too. Aragorn'sSexyScar Send a private message to Aragorn'sSexyScar Nov 12 2007, 6:02pm
                Translations Ciars Send a private message to Ciars Nov 12 2007, 6:33pm

 
 
 

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