March 17, 2014

Slum is an an Irish Gaelic word which means 's slom é, or "it's bleak".

Happy St Patrick's day and thanks to the Irish who gave us so much slang  Irish words litter New York City slang

This is a small taste compiled from Daniel Cassidy's boss book, “How the Irish Invented Slang”, and from Niall Ó Donaill's “Foclóir Gaeilge-Béarla”.

We don't normally exclaim "Gee whiz" or "Gee whilikers" anymore. We associate such talk with a classic time in New York, when Irish Gaelic was the secret language of the slums, an Irish Gaelic word which means 's slom é, or "it's bleak." In the slums it was common to hear Irish people say Dia Thoilleachas, Gee Hillukus, which became Gee Whilikers, and means the "will of God." "Gee" is the approximate pronunciation of Dia, or the Irish word for God. "Holy cow" means Holy Cathú or Holy Cahoo or Holy Grief. "Darn" is another Gaelic exclamation. In Irish you say daithairne ort, which means, "darn on you" or "misfortune on you." Gee whiz comes from Dia Uas or Geeuh Woous which means "noble god."
---
Irish Gaelic was a secret language in Éire, which was once an Ireland riddled with foreign spies, and so it was a language to keep the copper (the catcher, the thinker) from catching on. Cop comes from ceapaim, and means "I catch, think etc." You try to keep the cop from figuring out your racket, or your reacaireacht, your "dealing, selling or gossiping."

Just like the word bailiff came from the Gaelic word baille for bally or homevillage, the word in New York for the cop on the beat, was the ceap on the béad, the protector on ill-deeds.
--
Most scholars go by their goofy hunch, that tells them that Irish Gaelic is some dead language no one ever spoke. In fact, it was the first language of most Irish Americans that came here in the big flood of Irish after the famine, when that famine adversely targeted Irish-speaking areas first and foremost, sending Irish speakers to America before anyone.
-
Racketeer is also related to the Irish word reachtaire which was the title for the money-taking administrator at a colonial big house or at a church office back in Ireland. On the streets of New York, the racketeer has translated the duties and strategies of the colonizer into street crime rackets for himself--the oppressed learn the methods of oppression better than anyone.

A word that should be brought back is "joint" for place or establishment or room. It's a word that instantly conjures an entire world of old New York. It comes from the Irish word for protection or shelter, a place with a roof, such as in the root of the Irish word for penthouse, díonteach or jeent-ock.
Posted by Jill Fallon at March 17, 2014 3:51 PM | Permalink