I have noticed that many of the early posts on this blog get relatively little traffic, so I have decided to start republishing some of them.

I have already said that Cassidy ignores perfectly good English explanations for words in favour of improbable or impossible made-up Irish derivations. This is a perfect example. Chicken means scared and a chicken is a coward. I think this comes from the English word chicken which is a nervous type of bird. In English, phrases like hen-hearted go back to the 14th century at least. As early as the 15th century, the churles chekyne was used as an expression for a coward. It is obvious, realistic, and it ticks all the boxes.

Cassidy and his supporters will have none of it. Chicken doesn’t come from chicken, apparently. It comes from teith ar cheann, which means – says Cassidy – to run away first. Does it? No, of course not. This is How The Irish Invented Slang we’re talking about here, not a serious work of scholarship! Teith ar cheann is unattested. If you look it up on Google, you will find a handful of references to Daniel Cassidy. In terms of Irish grammar, it doesn’t make sense, as it really means ‘flee at the head of’ rather than flee first. At the head of what? I hear you ask. Exactly. On its own, this phrase means nothing.

There are lots of expressions for a weakling or coward in Irish and any of them could have been used in slang, so it seems strange that people would use a grammatically meaningless and unfamiliar phrase in preference to these words. Of course, in reality, they didn’t. Chicken is English. A chicken is a chicken is a chicken. And Cassidy was a birdbrain.


Thug mé faoi deara nach bhfaigheann cuid de na postálacha is luaithe sa bhlag seo mórán cuairteanna agus mar sin de, ba mhaith liom iad a athfhoilsiú anseo.

Mar atá ráite agam go minic roimhe seo, bíonn Cassidy ag maíomh go dtig focail ó fhrásaí Gaeilge a chum sé féin, frásaí nach bhfuil ciall ar bith leo, cé go bhfuil an fhíorshanasaíocht Bhéarla soiléir sothuigthe i gcuid mhór cásanna. Seo sampla foirfe den amaidí sin. Ciallaíonn chicken go bhfuil duine scanraithe agus is ionann chicken agus cladhaire. Tagann sin ón fhocal Béarla chicken, dar liomsa, mar is éan cineál neirbhíseach í an chearc nó an sicín céanna. Sa Bhéarla, tá frásaí mar hen-hearted le fáil ón 14ú haois ar aghaidh. Chomh luath leis an 15ú haois, bhí an frása the churles chekyne in úsáid le tagairt do chladhaire nó meatachán. Tá an míniú sin soiléir, simplí agus tá sé ag teacht leis na fíricí.

Ach is cuma le lucht leanúna Cassidy faoi na fíricí. Ní hionann chicken (cladhaire) agus chicken (cearc), dar leosan. Is ón fhrása ‘Gaeilge’ ‘teith ar cheann’ a tháinig sé, de réir cosúlachta, frása a chiallaíonn, dar le Cassidy, ‘to run away first.’ Ní Gaeilge sin, ar ndóigh. Níl ann ach raiméis agus amaidí.

Tá a lán dóigheanna le bogachán nó meatachán nó cladhaire a rá i nGaeilge. Nach iontach an rud é gur roghnaigh na Gaeil i Meiriceá úsáid a bhaint as raiméis neamhghramadúil ar nós teith ar cheann in áit ceann de na focail sin? Ach, ar ndóigh, níor tháinig chicken ó ‘teith ar cheann’. Níl ciall ar bith leis sin. Is Béarla é an focal chicken, sa dá chiall, agus ní raibh sa Chasaideach ach bréagadóir gan náire.


Pure Evil (English version of Íonaí Meanie)

The Irish language is obviously in trouble. There are people who believe it to be a dead language, though that is obviously untrue. I am able to write this article and I am sure that a lot of people will read it and understand it in the future. If Irish were dead, this wouldn’t be the case, of course. But Irish is in a weakened state, undoubtedly, especially among the young people in the Gaeltachts.

The English were certainly responsible for its decline. They were the ones who made it a language of paupers and pee-ons. They were the ones who forced their culture and their language on our ancestors and left the Irish language up shite creek without a paddle.

Having said that, people often blame the Irish themselves and especially the íonaithe or the purists as they are known in English. The purists are the ones who are killing the language, according to many people. They put off people who are learning the language. They discourage people. They were the ones who created a split between the native Irish of the Gaeltachts and the unnatural Irish of the books! The purists are a disgrace! If it weren’t for them, the language would be safe and sound (yeah, right!)

But this is the question which is bothering me. Who are these purists? You would think that is a simple question, so simple that it is barely worth asking, and that there would be a simple answer too. However, things are rarely as they seem.

Even if we are talking about the official language of written Irish, there are significant differences between the Christian Brothers, the different versions of the Official Standard and the practices that educated writers use in their writings, both native speakers and people in the cities.

Or there are native speakers (I mentioned people like this recently) who will not accept any new-fangled words at all. If a person says that they have to buy bogearraí to put onto the tiomántán crua in their ríomhaire, they will think there is something false and un-Irish about that way of talking. That person should buy software, they would think, to put on the hard drive of the computer. It doesn’t matter to those people that the language can’t survive if it is not able to tackle ordinary modern subjects. And this kind of defeatism didn’t exist in the olden days, when native speakers like Amhlaoibh Ó Súilleabháin were quite happy to make words up rather than accepting words from English. Who are the purists in this case? The native speakers who want to protect their version of the language (which is full of English), or those people who are trying to keep the language free of English?

And what about those people who believe that one dialect is better than any Standard, or the other dialects? There are people like this, people who believe that anything which is not Munster Gaoluinn is not Irish, or that nothing is as good as Ulster Irish. Who are the purists in that case? Them, or the lovers of the Standard?

And there are people who believe that the rot set in long before there was any mention of the Official Standard. For example, John Grenham, a man whose opinions I have little respect for and who doesn’t even have a couple of words (because he wrote those couple of words “an cúpla focal” as the cúpla focail in the same article), claimed (wrongly, of course) that the people of The Gaelic League thought that the language of the people was corrupt and they decided to purify it. And because of that, urban Irish-language experts who had been raised with English were teaching groups of students who also only had English. The result – that English-language idioms, grammar and syntax seeped into the “revived” tongue.

Then, he gives us an example of this impure Irish : My own favourite example is the Irish-language sign in my local park urging dog-owners whose pets foul the grass to “Glan suas é”, “Clean it up”, an utterly idiomatic English phrasal verb translated word by word. Imagine a sign in French that says “Nettoyez-le en haut.” But this comparison is not valid at all, because French has an entirely different history. There are plenty of long-established phrasal verbs in Irish which have suas in them, which is not the case with en haut in French, of course. (If you don’t believe me, this is a line referring to Luther from the year 1615 – he opposed [chuir sé suas do – he put up to] the head of the Church through envy and lust and the phrase glanadh suas/clearing up was common enough with Amhlaoibh Ó Súilleabháin in the 1820s in reference to the weather.) So, it is clear that Grenham’s opinions about the Irish language and its corrupters are nothing but horse feathers and nonsense.

What is my position on these matters, then? Well, I am not a purist. I believe in the Standard. It is a very useful thing. With the Standard, Irish speakers can share books, material on line and other things freely throughout the island and overseas. But it is not necessary to give up the dialects at all. The Standard is only a tool and as is the case with English, it is not a matter of Irish but of Irishes. There are different kinds of Irish which are suitable for different purposes. A conversation in a pub in Kerry and an article on science in a state publication are not the same and it would not be right to use the same kind of Irish in both cases.

Having said that, I respect people who care about the Irish language and who work tirelessly to master it. At the end of the day, we Irish speakers cannot do much to defend the language. The only thing which all of us can do is to learn the language properly and acquire fluency and richness and a wide knowledge. If there are ten thousand people speaking Irish throughout the country every day, the enemies of the language can say that it is not worth saving. It wouldn’t be as easy for them to claim that if there were three hundred thousand, or five hundred thousand, or seven hundred thousand people speaking it every day. If everyone who is favourable to the language learned the language and used it, it would stop the rot immediately.

There are strong similarities between falling in love with a language and falling in love with a person. If you love a language, you will try to learn everything about that language. Not only that, but you will accept that language for what it is. You won’t try to change it or recreate it in your own image, as the various purists mentioned above do – and as those dilettantes do, who are too lazy to put in the effort needed to acquire the basics of the language.

Íonaí Meanie

Is léir go bhfuil an Ghaeilge i dtrioblóid. Tá daoine ann a chreideann gur teanga mharbh í, cé gur cinnte nach bhfuil an méid sin fíor. Tá mise ábalta an t-alt seo a scríobh agus tá mé cinnte go léifidh agus go dtuigfidh neart daoine amach anseo é. Dá mbeadh an Ghaeilge marbh, ní bheadh sin amhlaidh, ar ndóigh. Ach tá an Ghaeilge in ísle brí, gan amhras, go háirithe i measc aos óg na nGaeltachtaí.

Is cinnte gurb iad na Sasanaigh ba chúis leis an mheath sin. Iadsan a rinne teanga an bhochtáin agus an íochtaráin den Ghaeilge. Iadsan a bhrúigh a gcultúr agus dteanga féin ar ár sinsir agus a d’fhág an Ghaeilge in áit na leithphingine.

Agus sin ráite, is minic a chuirtear an locht ar na Gaeil féin agus go háirithe ar na híonaithe nó na purists mar a deirtear i mBéarla. Is iad na híonaithe atá ag marú na teanga, dar lena lán. Cuireann siad as do dhaoine atá ag foghlaim na teanga. Cuireann siad beaguchtach agus lagmhisneach ar dhaoine. Iadsan a chruthaigh scoilt ollmhór idir Gaeilge dhúchasach na nGaeltachtaí agus Gaeilge mhínádúrtha na leabhar! Mo náire iad na híonaithe! Murab iadsan, bheadh an teanga slán sábháilte, mar dhea!

Ach seo an cheist atá do mo chrá. Cé hiad na híonaithe seo? Shílfeá gur ceist shimplí sin, chomh simplí sin nárbh fhiú í a chur, agus go mbeadh freagra simplí air fosta. Ach ní mar a shíltear a bítear.

Fiú más teanga oifigiúil na leabhar atá i gceist, tá difríochtaí suntasacha idir na Bráithre Críostaí, na leaganacha difriúla den Chaighdeán Oifigiúil agus na nósanna a úsáideann scríbhneoirí oilte na teanga ina gcuid scríbhinní, idir chainteoirí dúchais agus daoine sna cathracha.

Nó tá cainteoirí dúchais ann (luaigh mé a leithéid ar na mallaibh anseo) nach nglacfaidh le focal nua-chumtha ar bith. Má deir duine go bhfuil orthu bogearraí a cheannach aige le cur ar an tiomántán chrua den ríomhaire, beidh siadsan ag smaoineamh go bhfuil rud éigin bréagach neamh-Ghaelach faoin chaint sin. Caithfidh an duine sin software a cheannach, dar leo, le cur ar an hard drive den computer. Is cuma leis na daoine sin nach féidir leis an teanga maireachtáil mura bhfuil sí ábalta dul i ngleic le gnáthrudaí nua-aoiseacha. Agus ní raibh cloíteacht mar sin ann sna seanlaethanta, nuair a bhí cainteoirí na teanga ar nós Amhlaoibh Uí Shúilleabháin sásta focail a chumadh in áit glacadh le focail ón Bhéarla. Cé hiad na híonaithe sa chás seo? Na cainteoirí dúchais atá ag iarraidh a leagan féin den teanga (atá lán focal Béarla) a chosaint, nó iad siúd atá ag iarraidh an teanga a choinneáil saor ón Bhéarla?

Agus cad é faoi na daoine sin a chreideann go bhfuil canúint amháin níos fearr ná Caighdeán ar bith, nó na canúintí eile? Tá a leithéid ann, daoine a chreideann nach Gaeilge rud ar bith nach Gaoluinn Chúige Mumhan í, nó nach bhfuil canúint ar bith inchurtha le Gaeilge Chúige Uladh. Cé hiad na híonaithe sa chás sin? Iadsan, nó lucht an Chaighdeáin?

Agus tá daoine ann a chreideann gur thosaigh an meath seo i bhfad sula raibh trácht ar an Chaighdeán Oifigiúil. Mar shampla, mhaígh John Grenham, duine nach bhfuil mórán measa agam ar a thuairimí agus nach bhfuil an cúpla focal féin aige (mar scríobh sé an cúpla focal sin “an cúpla focal” mar an cúpla focail san alt chéanna), gur shíl muintir Chonradh na Gaeilge go raibh caint an phobail truaillithe agus go ndearna siad íonú ar an teanga dá réir (nil an méid seo fíor, ar ndóigh). Agus mar gheall air sin, bhí saineolaithe uirbeacha Gaeilge a tógadh le Béarla ag teagasc grúpaí daltaí nach raibh ach Béarla acu fosta. An toradh – gur shíothlaigh cora cainte, gramadach agus comhréir an Bhéarla isteach sa teanga “athbheoite”.

Ansin, tugann sé sampla dúinn den Ghaeilge neamhghlan seo: Is é an sampla is fearr liom féin ná an comhartha Gaeilge sa pháirc áitiúil a áitíonn ar úinéirí madaí a mbíonn a gcuid peataí ag salú an fhéir le “Glan suas é”, “Clean it up”, briathar frásach atá go hiomlán nádúrtha sa Bhéarla atá aistrithe focal ar fhocal. Samhlaigh comhartha i bhFraincis a bhfuil “Nettoyez-le en haut” air. Ach níl an chomparáid seo ceart ar chor ar bith, mar tá stair iomlán difriúil ag an Fhraincis. Tá neart briathra frásacha seanbhunaithe sa Ghaeilge a bhfuil suas iontu, rud nach bhfuil sa Fhraincis le en haut, ar ndóigh. (Mura gcreideann sibh mé, seo líne ag trácht ar Liútar ón bhliain 1615 – chuir sé suas do cheann na hEagluise tré formad agus ainmhian agus bhí ag glanadh suas coitianta go leor ag Amhlaoibh Ó Súilleabháin sna 1820í agus é ag trácht ar an aimsir.) Mar sin de, is léir nach bhfuil i dtuairimí Grenham faoin Ghaeilge agus lucht a truaillithe ach cleití capaill agus amaidí.

Cad é an seasamh atá agamsa maidir leis na nithe seo, mar sin? Bhal, ní íonaí mise. Creidim sa Chaighdeán. Rud úsáideach atá ann. Leis an Chaighdeán, is féidir le lucht na Gaeilge leabhair, ábhar ar líne agus rudaí nach iad a roinnt go saor lena chéile ar fud an oileáin agus thar lear. Ach ní gá éirí as na canúintí ar fad, ná ar chor ar bith. Níl sa Chaighdeán ach uirlis. Agus mar atá i gcás an Bhéarla, ní Gaeilge atá i gceist ach Gaeilgí. Tá cineálacha difriúla Gaeilge ann atá fóirsteanach do chásanna éagsúla. Ní hionann comhrá sa phub i gCiarraí agus alt ar an eolaíocht i bhfoilseachán stáit agus ní cóir an cineál céanna Gaeilge a úsáid sa dá chás.

Agus sin ráite, tá meas agam ar dhaoine a bhfuil dúil acu sa Ghaeilge agus a bhíonn ag obair go dúthráchtach le máistreacht a fháil uirthi. I ndeireadh na dála, ní féidir linne, lucht na Gaeilge, rud mór a dhéanamh leis an teanga a chosaint. An t-aon rud is féidir le gach duine againn a dhéanamh ná an teanga a fhoghlaim mar is ceart agus líofacht agus saibhreas agus eolas leathan a fháil. Má bhíonn deich míle duine ag labhairt Gaeilge gach lá ar fud na tíre, is féidir le naimhde na teanga a rá nach fiú í a shábháil. Ní bheadh sé chomh furasta sin a mhaíomh dá mbeadh trí chéad míle, nó cúig chéad míle, nó seacht gcéad míle duine á labhairt gach lá. Dá ndéanfadh gach duine atá i bhfách leis an Ghaeilge an teanga a fhoghlaim agus a úsáid, chuirfeadh sin stop leis an mheath láithreach.

Tá cosúlachtaí láidre idir titim i ngrá le teanga agus titim i ngrá le duine. Má tá grá agat do theanga, beidh tú ag iarraidh gach rud a fhoghlaim faoin teanga sin. Ní hamháin sin, ach glacfaidh tú leis an teanga sin mar atá. Ní bheidh tú ag iarraidh í a athrú nó a athchruthú i d’íomhá féin, mar a dhéanann na híonaithe éagsúla atá luaite thuas – agus mar a dhéanann na dileataint (dilettantes) atá rófhalsa an dua a chaitheamh le máistreacht a fháil ar bhunchlocha na teanga.


Twenty tips for learning Irish


For Bliain na Gaeilge 2018, this is a list of twenty tips for people who are thinking of learning Irish. Don’t forget that the best tip of all is START NOW AND DO A LITTLE EVERY DAY!


Learn a song from YouTube, and hunt down the lyrics on Wikipedia or other sources. (Suggestions: Coinleach Ghlas an Fhómhair, Don Oíche Úd i mBeithil, Éamonn an Chnoic.)

Write shopping lists in Irish. By the time you’ve written oinniúin or trátaí or bainne twenty times, you’ll never forget it!

Extend this to to-do lists, caithfidh mé na héadaí a iarnáil, caithfidh mé arán a cheannach, caithfidh mé dul chuig an gharáiste, ba mhaith liom an chistin a ghlanadh, ba mhaith liom siopadóireacht a dhéanamh.

Listen to Irish music by Clannad or Altán.

Use online resources like Duolingo and Transparent Irish.

Use to find interesting phrases and check pronunciations.

Write a list of common words or phrases on paper and carry them round with you.

Keep a diary, using very simple sentences – don’t be over-ambitious!   Chuaigh mé chuig an Ollmhargadh. Cheannaigh mé bia. Bhuail mé le mo chara sa chaifelann. D’ól mé caife. Labhair muid srl.

Buy some post-it notes and put them up in your house so that you are seeing the words fuinneog, doras, cófra, inneall níocháin all the time.

Read up on a news story in English and then search for an article on

Find a radio programme on Raidió na Gaeltachta and listen to it, just to get the sound of the language in your head.

Find a programme on TG4 that interests you and watch it a few times.

Check out the Irish material on BBC NI and other online sites.

Buy a children’s picture dictionary (First 1000 words in Irish).

If you’re a Potterhead, buy the Irish version of book 1 Harry Potter agus an Órchloch and read a little bit each day.

If you’re not, get a classic book like Kidnapped or Round the world in 80 days or Dracula and read the English side by side with the Irish translation.

Change the settings on BBC Weather so that you get some of the details in Irish.

Find an Irish Word of the Day on your phone or email.

Draw a mind map of a particular topic and attach words and phrases to it.

If you’re religious, learn a prayer in Irish and use it every day.

Join theirishfor and other Twitter feeds on and in Irish.

IrishCentral agus Bliain na Gaeilge/IrishCentral and the Year of the Irish Language

De réir cosúlachta, is é Bliain na Gaeilge é 2018. Táthar ag ceiliúradh thús Athbheochan na teanga 125 ó shin. Tá súil agam go n-éireoidh leis an fheachtas seo agus go dtiocfaidh méadú ar líon na gcainteoirí agus ar mheas an phobail ar an teanga agus ar an chultúr s’againne mar gheall air.

Cé gur blag Béarla atá sa bhlag seo, den chuid is mó, bíonn corralt ann sa dá theanga nó i nGaeilge amháin. (2% nó 3% den ábhar, is dócha.) Déanfaidh mé mo dhícheall níos mó Gaeilge a fhoilsiú ar an bhlag seo i mbliana.

Tá IrishCentral i ndiaidh cúpla alt a fhoilsiú ó thús na míosa le tacú le Bliain na Gaeilge. Ar an 4ú lá de Mhí Eanáir, bhí alt darbh ainm 2018 to become the year of the Irish language agus ar an 5ú lá de Mhí Eanáir, d’fhoilsigh siad Favorite Irish phrases for the official year of the Irish language.

Mar is eol daoibh, ní maith liom IrishCentral ar chor ar bith. Sa bhliain 2010, d’fhoilsigh siad alt amaideach le Brendan Patrick Keane atá bunaithe ar shaothar Daniel Cassidy. Is masla uafásach é an t-alt sin don teanga s’againne agus do lucht labhartha na teanga. Cé go bhfuil an t-alt sin agus na bréaga loma atá ann cáinte go mór agus go minic agam ar an bhlag seo, rinne Niall O’Dowd agus an chuid eile de na bómáin ag IrishCentral an post sin a athfhoilsiú arís agus arís eile. Léiríonn sin nach bhfuil meas dá laghad acu ar an Ghaeilge.

Ní hamháin sin, ach ó chuir Niall O’Dowd IrishCentral ar bun sa bhliain 2009, ní dóigh liom gur fhoilsigh IC oiread agus alt amháin i nGaeilge, dírithe ar lucht labhartha na teanga. Tá corrphíosa ann faoin Ghaeilge, corrphíosa dírithe ar fhoghlaimeoirí na teanga. Ach nach bhfuil pobal Gaeilge i measc na nGael i gcéin? Cad chuige nach bhfuil IC ag freastal ar lucht na Gaeilge?

Agus fiú nuair a dhéanann IC píosaí atá dírithe ar an fhoghlaimeoir, bíonn siad amaitéarach go leor. Mar shampla, san alt a foilsíodh ar an 5ú lá den mhí seo, tá an frása “Ní chainteoir dúchais mé” ann. “Ní cainteoir dúchais mé” an leagan ceart. Is leagan diúltach den chopail é sa chás seo agus ní chuireann sé séimhiú ar an ainmfhocal a leanann é. Mionphointe, b’fhéidir, ach léiríonn sé gur cuma sa tsioc leis na daoine seo faoin Ghaeilge nó faoina lucht labhartha. Níl sa Ghaeilge ar IrishCentral ach cur i gcéill agus béalghrá.


It seems that 2018 is the Year of the Irish Language. It is celebrating the 125th anniversary of the Irish Revival. I hope that this campaign will succeed and that the number of speakers and the Irish people’s respect for our language and culture will grow as a result.

Although this is an English blog for the most part, there are occasional articles in both languages or solely in Irish. (Probably about 2% or 3% of the material.) I will do my utmost to increase the amount of Irish published on the blog this year.

IrishCentral has just published a couple of articles since the start of the year to support Bliain na Gaeilge. On the 4th of January, there was an article called 2018 to become the year of the Irish language and on the 5th of January, they published Favorite Irish phrases for the official year of the Irish language.

As you know, I don’t like IrishCentral at all. In the year 2010, they published a stupid article by Brendan Patrick Keane which is based on the work of Daniel Cassidy. This article is a gross insult to our language and its speakers. Although I have criticised these bare-faced lies often and strongly on this blog, Niall O’Dowd and the other morons at IrishCentral have republished the post again and again. That shows how little respect they have for the Irish language.

That’s not all. Since Niall O’Dowd established IrishCentral in the year 2009, I don’t think that IC has published so much as one article in Irish, aimed at speakers of the language. There are occasional pieces about Irish or aimed at learners of the language. But isn’t there a community of Irish speakers in the Irish diaspora? Why doesn’t IC cater for Irish speakers?

And even when IC do pieces which are aimed at the learner, they are amateurish enough. For example, in the article which was published on the 5th of this month, there is the phrase “Ní chainteoir dúchais mé.” (I’m not a native speaker.) “Ní cainteoir dúchais mé” is the correct version. in this case is a negative version of the copula and it doesn’t lenite the noun which follows it. A minor point, perhaps, but it shows that these people don’t give a shit about the Irish language or its speakers. The Irish on IrishCentral is nothing but tokenism and lip-service.



January’s Twit of the Month – Peter Linebaugh

For a couple of months now, I have been meaning to tackle the subject of Peter Linebaugh, a very indifferent Marxist historian who was a friend and crony of Daniel Cassidy and who unwisely lent his support to Cassidy’s ridiculous book and theories. As Linebaugh says in a review of Cassidy’s puerile trash on Counterpunch:

This now will change thanks to Daniel Cassidy’s amazing dictionary. The efflorescence of Irish-American cultural studies which has taught us (referring to a couple of other books) how the Irish saved civilization or how the Irish became white, has now explained How the Irish Invented Slang: The Secret Language of the Crossroads (2007). Cassidy’s entries are often little essays of social history expressed in caustic wit and erudition, similar to the work of those other people’s lexicographers of the San Francisco Bay, Iain Boal and Ambrose Bierce.

Elsewhere in the same article, he uses a large number of Cassidy’s idiotic fake Irish terms:

If it was an English speaker who said there’s no free lunch, surely it was an Irish one who gave us lunch. On the one hand the Irish distrusts extravagance or b.s. and is quick to spot a phoney or name a wanker or a twerp or a nincumpoop, a hick or a jerk. On the other hand it is capable of all the malarkey and baloney you’ll ever need. It supplies ‘fighting words,’ the pigeon, the sap, the punk, the mug, and the puss, and follow them with a wallop, a slug. And it’ll keep you in stitches, going helter-skelter, in a generalized hilarity of the giggle from the proletarian quarters.

These words have been comprehensively dealt with here, so nobody (including Peter Linebaugh) has any excuse for claiming that lunch, wanker, twerp, hick, helter-skelter, giggle, jerk or baloney have anything to do with Irish. (As we’ve seen before, phoney is almost certainly of Irish origin but predates Cassidy by years.)

Elsewhere (and in 2016, years after Cassidy was totally discredited) he writes: Danny Cassidy supplied … a lexicography from below showing how the Irish language, while severely diminished in Ireland, survived in America as slang!

But the rot goes deeper than this. The problem seems to be the shallow, Google-search style of history that Peter Linebaugh practices and it’s this lack of depth which makes him give credence to Cassidy’s derivations without checking their validity.

The work of Linebaugh’s that I have read (which is, in fairness, two books – it was enough for me) seems to cherry-pick and flit from place to place and era to era in pursuit of support for vague ideological arguments. I am not an expert on history, but it seems that the debate here ( between Linebaugh (and his co-author Rediker) and David Brion Davis shows the incompetence of their research – “The Many-Headed Hydra is riddled with … blatant errors from the start to the finish.”

John Madziarczyk also claims that Linebaugh is essentially drawing on other, more obscure sources ( like the book Pirate Utopias by Peter Lamborn Wilson and that his work is deeply derivative. I cannot vouch for the accuracy of these observations (and to be frank, I can’t be bothered doing the necessary research in an area so far outside my comfort zone), though I consider the criticisms entirely credible.

Linebaugh and Rediker also come in for criticism here for taking a newspaper account from 1738 of a Native American uprising against settlers in Nantucket as genuine: (

And at the end of the day, I’m of the left and socially very liberal. I am not bothered or offended by Linebaugh’s or Cassidy’s purported leftism. I am bothered by a tendency to make claims unsupported by evidence. This kind of fakery is repugnant, whether it’s coming from some Trump-loving redneck or from a gaggle of Californian liberals and their socialist intellectual friends. The truth is the truth. It has no left or right, no ethnicity or gender or sexual orientation or nationality. If something doesn’t correspond at all to the known and established facts, it isn’t true and nobody, regardless of their beliefs, should waste their time on it.

It is for this reason that I am happy to bestow my January 2018 CassidySlangScam Twit of the Month Award on Peter Linebaugh, lousy historian and crony of Daniel Cassidy.


I hope all my readers had a fun and relaxing Christmas. I have been taking it easy, so I am only just now getting round to my first post of the New Year.

Some time ago, I recommended a Twitter feed called theirishfor. It is about strange and interesting words in the Irish language. I like it for a variety of reasons. Firstly, most native Irish speakers are resistant to new words, or book words. They would rather use the word fridge than cuisneoir or invent a phrase like prios fuar or cófra fuar. It’s great to see people trying to find suitable words to fill the gaps in their knowledge. And it’s even better to see them having fun with the language rather than being i ndáiríre faoin Ghaeilge.

I was interested to see that the man behind this Twitter feed (Darach Ó Séaghdha) has brought out a book called Motherfoclóir. I was given a copy at Christmas and decided to read it and review it here. I would recommend it, for the same reasons I would recommend the Twitter feed. It’s amusing, it’s informative and it’s well worth reading. Just to give one example, the word stadhan (I would pronounce it sty-un) apparently means a gathering of seagulls over a shoal of fish. It’s a great word. You could use it of journalists over a scandal (= feeding frenzy), or ignorant Irish-American phoneys gathering around Cassidy’s book. And now, thanks to Twitter and this book, most young Irish-speakers would understand what I’m saying if I used it. That’s got to be a good thing. It’s an antidote to defeatism and the creeping loss of the richness of the language among its speakers.

However, there’s a but and it’s quite a big but. I wish I could be 100% positive about this book, but it is a mixture of a very good idea and some very enjoyable writing, marred by some really sloppy research and editing. For example, on the front cover, there is a funny observation that the Irish word for extremist sounds a lot like the Irish phrase for ‘the Prime Minister’. The problem is that the Irish word for extremist should be spelled antoisceach, not antioisceach, because it comes from toisc, meaning circumstance. And on the same cover is the observation that a simple fada (acute accent) can make a lot of difference: fáil means hiccup, while fail means ‘of destiny’ or ‘of Ireland’, as in Fianna Fáil. Except, these two words should be reversed – it’s fail that means hiccup, not fáil (talk about an epic fail!) And that’s only THE COVER!!!

There is actually a reference to Daniel Cassidy and a brief discussion of etymology. It epitomises why this book is both good to a point and immensely frustrating. The central comment on Cassidy is exactly right: This text has since been discredited; so much so, in fact, that any claim to an Irish origin for an English word now seems to be suspect. He also points out that well-known apocryphal stories like the word kangaroo meaning I don’t know or I don’t understand in an Aboriginal language also draw exasperated sighs from linguists.

However, he then goes on to do exactly what Daniel Cassidy and every other crap etymologist from the beginning of time has done – spouting rubbish without checking whether any of it is true first. He says that the word gansey, meaning a jumper (or undershirt in the Caribbean) comes from Irish or Scottish Gaelic geansaí. But the word gansey almost certainly comes from Guernsey or Guernsey frock (just as jersey comes from the isle of Jersey) and geansaí is a relatively recent borrowing of gansey into Irish. I looked in the Corpas na Gaeilge, a huge seven million word database of Irish and there I found just one reference to the word geansaí, in a poem probably written in the early nineteenth or late eighteenth century. However, I was surprised to find that it isn’t a reference to the geansaí or gansey you wear, but to Guernsey itself: A bhfuil as seo go Geansaí /De fhíon, de bheoir is de bhrandaí (Of all that there is from here to Guernsey/Of wine, of beer and of brandy).

Then he makes a number of correct assumptions about how genuine etymologies can be established: if it’s a genuine phrase in the source language, if it is mentioned as being from the source language in documents from the time and if there is no other more probable source for the word, then it’s likely to be a genuine connection. He claims (or he seems to be claiming – it’s not very clear) that mucker for a friend comes from the Irish mo chara because it meets the criteria he’s mentioned. In reality, it only meets the criterion that mo chara exists in Irish. There is a much better explanation (that muckers are people you muck around with), I’m sure there are no contemporary documents claiming that mucker comes from Irish, mucker isn’t exclusively or mainly an Irish expression and mo chara, (which roughly rhymes with Sahara) doesn’t sound anything like mucker and therefore couldn’t have become mucker in English.

And finally, at the end of this section he talks about the word bróg and the expression brogue for an Irish accent. He says that Merriam-Webster suggests that it comes from barróg, meaning a tight hold but then says that no-one ‘has come up with a chain of evidence such as Barrett suggested.’ This is nonsense. The chain of evidence is pretty clear. If you look up barróg on focló, you find the following definitions:

barróg1, f. (gs. -óige, npl. ~a, gpl. ~).1. Hug. ~ a bhreith ar dhuine, to hug s.o. 2. Wrestling grip. D’fháisc siad ~ ar a chéile, they got to grips with each other. 3. Brogue, impediment of speech.

In other words, barróg (meaning something like ‘a little tip’) is a perfectly fine Irish expression for someone who has a bachlóg ar a theanga (a bud on his tongue, lisp) or whose speech is impeded by the crampa Gaelach (the Gaelic cramp). It has no connection with the Gaelic word for shoe, bróg. It would take a very fastidious linguist to deny the strength of the evidence linking barróg to brogue. All Ó Séaghdha had to do was look it up in an Irish dictionary to realise that! This is strange, because before he begins his piece on etymology, he says that he can predict that if he claims a word is of Irish origin, he will be told he’s got it wrong. Knowing that to be the case, you’d think he might have looked in an Irish dictionary instead of just Merriam-Webster … (Actually, if he had said that shebeen, or galore, or phoney or whiskey are Irish, nobody would argue, because they are. It’s only when the claims are false that people like me will shoot them down.)

Having said that, Ó Séaghdha wouldn’t be the only person to think that etymology requires no skill or research and can be dashed off on the back of an envelope without effort or donkey-work. (Una Mullally produced a dreadful pile of bullshit for the Irish Times last year.) I hope that the book does well but I sincerely hope that in future editions of Motherfoclóir, the typos and errors and the crap etymology will disappear. There is so much about the Twitter feed and the book that is admirable and I would love to be completely positive about it.