In my beginning Irish class tonight, we learned a little question and answer:
Q. Cén scéal agat? (Sounds like "ken scale agat."): What's the story? (Scéal is story. Literally it would be something like "What story at you?")
A1. Scéal ar bith. (Sounds like "shkale air bih."): Nothing. ("story" / "any at all.") I wondered if in some regions the T is pronounced so it sounds like "bit"?
A2. Dheamhan scéal. (sounds like "yow-wen shkale."): Demon/devil story, i.e., nothing.
The combination made me wonder if the OTHER word for devil was used ("diabhal," which sounds like "divil") and if this was the source of the old expression "devil a bit".
"Divil air bi(t)" would be glossed into or understood as "divil a bit."
I have to agree that English dictionaries and scholars are a little distressingly Anglocentric. After 1000+ years of intermingling, it's hard to say for sure where the words came from. Slang tends to come from the underclasses and Irish seems more expressive, so my intuitive feeling (it being very late and me being fried), is that it's Irish.
Also, I wonder if people are picking up that what they were reading was written to sound like Irish dialect?