The Feed

The History of Irish/Gaelic Words and New York Slang

Just before he died, Daniel Cassidy released a pioneering book that begins to prove how American slang has a root in the Irish American urban experience.

As usual, snoots would rather fall on the side of error than to end the kibosh on ascribing Irish origins to any aspect of Anglo-American society.

Ireland has a native civilization older than England or France, and it has out-proportioned contributions to modernist culture, but it is more usually described as derivative rather than an originator of trends. Despite stubborn refusal, “jazz” and “poker”, “moolah” and “spunk” all derive from Irish Gaelic, which was used in New York by the Irish like Yiddish and Spanglish was used later-on in the city.

Some dismiss these theories without any real understanding of the Irish Gaelic language. They existentially must disallow the language had mixed with English – jerks without the knack to dig it. Others dismiss the theories in loyalty to academia’s wine and cheese status quo, and don’t wish to seem too maverick, or too “street,” like Cassidy who had an unabashed Brooklyn accent. There’s an element of snobbery involved in the outright refusal many swells have for this working stiff’s tome.

Cassidy was among those who have begun to case the hidden history, anyway, and show how gambling slang, underworld lingo, street gang terms, street-wise cant, merchant code and political jargon in New York City is teeming with Irish Gaelic that melted into American English. . .

Most Popular


For the First Time in Weeks, Relief Sweeps over Austin

Making the click-through worthwhile: The Austin bomber is done in by one of his own devices; some new numbers suggest that a small but significant portion of Trump voters are tiring of the chaos and aren’t showing up to support other Republicans in 2018; and the mixed news for conservatives coming out of the ... Read More
Politics & Policy

March Mailbag

1. In response to this post, about the Fed and fiscal stimulus: “So are you saying that deficit spending is a free lunch because the Fed will keep inflation from happening? You say [extra government spending] won’t ‘raise economic output’ but what’s the harm of it if you’re right?” I see at least ... Read More


For your amusement, I hope, I’ve done a Jaywalking episode. It begins with a bit of the overture to Semiramide -- a Rossini opera I reviewed from the Met last week. Then I get into Russia and, after a while, China. The Marriott company fired an employee for “liking” a tweet by a Tibetan independence group. ... Read More

Campaigns for World Down Syndrome Day Go Viral

As World Down Syndrome Day approaches on Wednesday, several campaigns supporting those with the condition have taken over the Internet. Fifty mothers of children with the condition put together a viral video of them and their children singing along in the car. The video helped the children and their mothers ... Read More