Gandy Dancer

Gandy dancer is a term from the old days of the expansion of the railroads in America. A gandy dancer was a labourer who hooked an iron bar under the tracks, then ‘danced’ on the bar to lever the track up so that others could shovel stones and gravel underneath it.

There is no certainty about where the term came from, but there are many stories and claims. The iron pole used was called a gandy, but whether this came from the expression gandy dancer or gave rise to it is not known. Some claim that a gandy dancer was originally a fairground term for a dealer in cheap shlock. Some claim it was used by George Borrow, who died in 1881. Others say that there was a Gandy Manufacturing Company in Chicago, but there is no evidence of this. A gandy is also Newfoundland slang for a pancake and an English term for a goose.

This uncertainty was like shite to a bluebottle for Daniel Cassidy. Unfortunately, there was no appropriate term available in Irish, but he managed to find something which was close enough to fool a few suckers. His candidate was cinnte, which he claimed meant ‘constant’. In other words, the gandy dancers were ‘constantly’ dancing on the iron rod to lift the rails.

Why isn’t this a good candidate? Well, firstly, there’s the pronunciation. Imagine that somewhere there is a town in England called Kinchester. Knock off the –ster at the end, and you have a reasonable approximation for cinnte. Kin-cha, gandy. Kin-cha, gandy. Not even slightly similar, are they? And in case you don’t believe me, look at focloir.ie (http://www.focloir.ie/ga/dictionary/ei/certain), which gives sound files for the word cinnte in the three main dialects of Irish.

As for the meaning, Cassidy does his usual trick of distorting the truth and rewriting definitions. Cinnte is defined by Ó Dónaill as certain, sure; definite; mean, stingy; constant. You can find the full entry here: http://www.teanglann.ie/ga/fgb/cinnte  Even though constant is given as one meaning in the dictionary, (apparently fearthainn chinnte can be used to mean constant rain, though I’ve never heard it) I don’t think any Irish speaker would give it this meaning independent of any other clues. Cinnte means sure, certain, and it’s a very common word. If someone said damhsa cinnte to me, it would make me think of it as certain dancing, or definite dancing, or determined dancing, (whatever they might mean!) not constant or continual dancing. And even if it did mean constant, isn’t this a bit strange, in English or in Irish? After all, if someone is called a dancer, isn’t this because they perform their ‘dance’ on the iron rod most of the time? So why would it be so important to specify that they do it a lot?

Of course, Cassidy again displays his ignorance of the language by mixing modern spellings from Ó Dónaill with old spellings from Dinneen, and he copies the phrase fearthainn chinnte wrongly as fearthainn cinnte, showing once again that he knew nothing about the language.

In short, wherever gandy dancer comes from, we can be quite sure it doesn’t come from the Irish adjective cinnte. This claim was first made relatively recently by a narcissistic idiot in California and it is high time it was consigned to the dustbin of crap etymologies along with the rest of Cassidy’s ridiculous theories.

Twit of the Month – Jeff St. Clair

I have just come across the ridiculous tweet above and as a result, I have decided to bestow the dubious honour of inaugural Cassidyslangscam Twit of the Month Award on its author, Jeff St. Clair. St. Clair is an ‘investigative journalist’ who, along with Alexander Cockburn, was responsible for publishing Cassidy’s puerile and ignorant book on the supposed Irish etymology of American slang through CounterPunch and AK Press. Indeed, this numpty actually did the index for the book, so he can hardly claim that he didn’t read it carefully!

Anyway, to demonstrate why Jeff St. Clair is a fool and why CounterPunch were a bunch of morons to publish this book, I’ll just go through all the evidence of naivety and cronyism and blind ignorance in the ridiculous obituary which his friend Cockburn (now dead himself) wrote for Cassidy. Cockburn says:

I look at the book here on my desk and think, Thank God he got that out of his head and on to the printed page and the world will have that part of him always.

Yeah, thank God for that, eh?

Cockburn then talks about what a city boy Cassidy was, a true son of Brooklyn. However, according to Cassidy’s sister, the Cassidys were raised in Long Island in the forties and fifties. As she says ‘It was all country!’ His sister also pointed out that Cassidy’s eyes were brown, not blue, as Cockburn misremembered: His bright blue eyes would shine as we’d argue sometimes.

Plainly Cockburn thought a lot of Cassidy, largely because he didn’t really know him at all and fell for the lies and the hype like a true sucker.

He was thin-skinned about all the right things: the assumption of privilege, the pretensions of the toffs, the bottomless wellsprings of English and Yankee arrogance that looks down its nose and misses everything that matters. Danny had the vivid, humorous, compassionate, furious realism of someone who knew well what life looks like from the other side of the tracks, terrain intimately familiar to the millions of the Irish diaspora.

Yeah, it’s a terrible thing, the assumption of privilege. I mean, WHY should someone get a job as a professor just because they actually got their degree rather than flunking out in a narcotic haze? Cassidy deserved that job because he could bullshit better than any man alive, degree or no degree! (And he did receive a wonderful education from the same school as President Trump in his underprivileged youth, of course!)

Then there’s a load of pompous crap in the obituary about Cassidy’s book on slang and how his ‘street smarts’ (from Long Island?) enabled him to see things other people couldn’t about the Irish etymology of American slang.

The first taste of Cassidy’s nonsense that the late Cockburn (and St. Clair) swallowed uncritically was that baloney comes from béal ónna, meaning ‘Silly, inane loquacity.’ While Cassidy was an expert on silly, inane loquacity, he knew nothing about Irish. As we’ve said many times, béal ónna was a complete fabrication, just like most of the ‘Irish’ in the book.

Cockburn quotes a lot of other shite from Cassidy, such as stool pigeon coming from an imaginary phrase steall béideán and stoolie (obviously a derivative of stool pigeon) coming from another imaginary phrase, steall éithigh. Note all the fake definitions here that don’t come from any dictionary, and the ubiquitous fig. which betokened a figment of this liar’s imagination.

“Steall béideán, pron. stoll beejaan [sic], to spout gossip, lies, slander, aspersions, scandal; a spouting snitch; a spouter of scandal, calumny, lies. Stoolie: Steall éithigh, pron. stall eehih [sic], spouting lies, fig. a snitch; stooler: steallaire, a tattler.”

But apparently, because Mike Quill, a native Irish speaker, used the phrase stool pigeon a good hundred years after it was first used in English, that ‘proves’ it comes from Irish …

And squeal apparently doesn’t come from the English squeal, as in ‘he squealed like a pig to the feds’. No, it comes from the Irish verb scaoil meaning (quoting from WingLéacht) loose, loosen, release, discharge, undo, untie, unfasten, slack, slacken, let out, spread, unfurl, release, open, let go, discharge, disband, disperse, break loose, dissolve, resolve, remove, relieve, make known, reveal, give away, distribute, discharge, fire, shoot. A perfect match!

Later, in his exchange of emails with Cockburn, Cassidy refers to a clapped-out Derry politician and media ganch who was a friend of his, saying that “he appreciated that Jazz as teas, pronounced, jass, is Ulster dialect, as opposed to the teas (chass, heat) of Connaught.”  Aye, so in Ulster dialect, we apparently pronounce teas as jass. How do we pronounce deas, then? (In case you doubt this, you can find sound files for both deas and teas in the Connaught, Munster and Ulster dialects of Irish at focloir.ie: http://www.focloir.ie/ga/dictionary/ei/heat) What total garbage! More obvious evidence that this man was an ignorant bollocks who knew nothing much about anything, but still managed to convince a couple of ‘investigative reporters’ (as well as the aforementioned media ganch) that he wasn’t a talentless arse. Go figure …

As Cockburn said: He had me on the line now and it was time for him to set the hook.  Ain’t that the truth!

So, Cockburn and his equally dimwitted buddy St. Clair ended up publishing this inane garbage because “some hooded revisionist anonymous irish academic put the eighty-six (éiteachas aíochta, a refusal or denial of hospitality, to be barred or expelled) on it.”

That’s eiteachas, not éiteachas, by the way, and in any case, again, there’s no evidence of anyone using the imaginary (and clunky) phrase eiteachas aíochta. What they did with Cassidy’s manuscript at the University of Limerick was dhiúltaigh siad í a fhoilsiú (they refused to publish it), shéan siad í (they refused it),  chaith siad amach í (they threw it out), chuir siad ar ais í (they sent it back).  Something like that. Something real, something genuine Irish-speaking people say in real Irish. Not a fake piece of cultural appropriation, not an arrogant racist concoction from a seasoned con-man.

In short, what Cassidy did to this pair of highly skilled ‘investigative reporters’, Cockburn and St. Clair, was essentially to truss and pluck them, turn them over and stuff them both like a pair of shite-gobbling, pin-headed prize Christmas turkeys. CounterPunch has been showcasing and hosting and promoting this dishonest, moronic crapfest for a decade, in spite of its claims to tell the facts. And as I’ve said before (and my little essay on the dross in Cockburn’s obituary above proves it), Cassidy really wasn’t such a great liar. He was too stupid, too lazy, too self-obsessed and too unaware of his own limitations to be a truly accomplished liar.

In conclusion, you would need to be a total and utter love-muscle to take crap like this seriously for more than five minutes, never mind a decade, and that’s why Jeff St. Clair is such a worthy recipient of my inaugural Twit of the Month Award.

A Reply to “Big Joe McCann”

I’ve had a comment from someone called Big Joe McCann on my post about whether the English banned Irish. His post is civil and reasonable and deserves a civil and reasonable answer.

The partial truth of this myth is that it was preferred that we’d speak English. What happened in Ireland was a process as apposed to an all-out domination, and Anglicizing us was part of that process. You can see that from the maps of Gealtacht locations from the past 100 years. A gradient from East to West.

While I have some sympathy for this person’s position, I was being very specific. I never denied that the English were a disaster for Ireland or the Irish language. What I denied was the claim sometimes presented as a fact, that the Irish language was banned by law in Ireland. I don’t like that phrase, the partial truth of this myth. Things are true or not and myths by their nature are never true. A legend might be true, a myth, never.

As for anglicising us being part of their process, is this really true? For much of our history, they didn’t even prevent Presbyterian planters in the north becoming Irish speaking.  I see no clear evidence that the English gave a rat’s arse what the poor working Irish spoke between themselves for much of the history of English occupation. In fact, they probably had a vested interest in keeping them poor and ignorant and shut out of life’s goodies and their lack of English would have helped to do that. As long as they paid their taxes and didn’t rebel, the English and the Ascendancy were probably completely indifferent to them. It was only when the United Kingdom became a modern nation state and moved towards democracy in the 19th century that the British started to impose cultural and linguistic conformity but we have to remember that the Irish themselves didn’t demand Irish-language education. If they had pushed for it, they probably would have got it. Some schools in Clare taught Irish from the early 1860s and nobody stopped them. The Irish language continued to decline through the 20th century, even under Irish Republican governments.

And finally, a quick Irish lesson. There are two similar words in Irish, Gaeltacht, an Irish-speaking area, and gealtacht, the state of being insane. While the Irish-speaking west has its fair share of resident eccentrics, I don’t think they’re any more numerous in the Gaeltacht than here in Belfast. So, make sure you spell it Gaeltacht in future, not gealtacht!

All About Baloney

I have already dealt with Cassidy’s claims about the Irish origins of the word baloney elsewhere on this blog. However, I don’t think I’ve ever told the whole story of Cassidy’s lies in relation to this word.

Put simply, Cassidy claimed that the American English term baloney, the name of an Italian sausage from Bologna, used as a disguised version of blarney or balls or something similar, really comes from the ‘Irish’ phrase béal ónna:

Béal ónna (pron. bæl óna), silly loquacity, foolish talk; blather; blarney; stupid gossip.

As I said before, the phrase béal ónna doesn’t exist. What’s more, Cassidy was actually told this before the book was published. However, before I deal with that, let’s just look at the ‘Irish phrase’ béál ónna. Béal is a well-known Irish word. It means a mouth. Ónna is an old, literary word meaning naïve, simple, innocent. It isn’t found at all in the main modern Irish dictionary, Ó Dónaill. It is found in the earlier Dinneen’s dictionary, which tends to mix up words from different registers and eras.

There is actually a word that is quite similar to ónna in English, the word callow. Callow is no longer a current word in the language. You get it in phrases like ‘a callow youth’ but many English speakers wouldn’t know it or use it. As for people using the phrase ‘callow mouth’ to mean nonsense, there is just as much evidence of this as there is for Cassidy’s béal ónna. In fact, people don’t say ‘stupid mouth’ or ‘dumb mouth’ or ‘idiot mouth’ for nonsense either. And in Irish, they don’t combine béal with more common words for stupid to make béal amaideach, or béal bómánta, or béal dúr.

On 25 April 2006, an unregistered guest on the Daltaí Boards posted the following on a discussion on language survival and gender:

Your wingnut assertion about women killing the Irish language is a bunch of béal ónna agus dríb. You sound like a leathcheann foirfe.

This was Cassidy. Béal ónna was his version of baloney, and dríb was his candidate for the English tripe. The smartass tone and the wordplay is so distinctive and so typical of Cassidy. When another person said that they didn’t understand ‘a bunch of béal ónna’, Dennis King posted this comment:

Bain triail as Google. [Try Google] It’s one of the cockeyed concoctions of Dan Cassidy (or is that Jerry de Rossa?). Ní Gaeilge é ar chor ar bith. [It’s not Irish at all.]

Then Cassidy (using a different IPA and identity) posted three comments in succession on 26 April:

A Chara,

Re: béal ónna, simple, silly, foolish talk.

Is it incorrect to use ónna with béal?

ónna, indec. adj., simple, silly. (Dineen, p. 821.)

I should have written leathdhuine: a half-witted person, or a half-smart fool.

But I thought béal ónna was grammatically correct, though I defer to the experts on this site and stand corrected if it is improper.

Of course, a leathdhuine only uses leathcheann (one side of the head.

Why is the adjective ónna incorrect with the noun béal? I am very new to Irish.

Thanks,

Ed “a Lorgaire (Seeker) from New Jersey”

‘Ed’ then posted two citations which prove that ónna existed in 17th century Irish. Nobody bothered replying to any of these comments. Of course, ónna does exist and that is beyond question. Béal ónna doesn’t and that is also beyond question. And there is nothing ungrammatical about béal ónna. Béal is a noun, and ónna is an adjective. Almost all adjectives come after the noun in Irish. Cassidy was missing the point. Callow mouth isn’t ungrammatical in English either but that doesn’t mean it exists. My guess would be that because nobody bothered to reply to his posts, Cassidy thought he had won the argument.

That’s how ignorant and stupid the man was.

 

 

A Brief Update

This is just a quick update on a few issues we have touched on over the past few months. Firstly, Belfast politician Máirtín Ó Muilleoir, who once described Cassidy as a friend and who over the last year or two has had a motto prominently displayed on his Twitter feed in very poor Irish (Bí thusa an t-athrú a ba mhaith leat a fheiceáil ar an domhan.) Perhaps he or one of his team has spotted my criticism, because the offending piece of bad Irish is gone.

Unfortunately, he hasn’t seen fit to apologise for supporting Daniel Cassidy’s fake etymology and crony friends. As we have also learned recently, Ó Muilleoir, as part of a consortium of Irish businessmen, bought the egregious IrishCentral from Niall O’Dowd last year. Not only that, his daughter Caoimhe Ní Mhuilleoir is apparently employed as a Digital Media Sales Executive at IrishCentral. There’s a coincidence, mar dhea! If anyone was expecting the involvement of the Muilleoirigh to make a difference to the quality of the journalism on IrishCentral, they will be disappointed. The rubbish in support of Daniel Cassidy and against fluoridation, the crap about 4000 year old Celtic invasions of America (I know, it’s insane!), and even the articles which support a white supremacist myth of Irish slavery are still there. The only difference is that the comments which often provide a welcome counterweight to the moronic content of the articles themselves are now missing. Business as usual at IrishCentral, then, in spite of the change of management.

However, Ó Muilleoir isn’t alone in refusing to say sorry or explain himself for supporting this imbecilic revisionist crap. We are still waiting for Hugh Curran to apologise for supporting Cassidy (and implying that he is a native speaker of Irish when he can’t speak the language at all!)

We have also heard nothing back from Columbia University. What do you have to do to get an answer from these people? My advice to any prospective students – go to Cornell instead!

And of course, we’ve never heard a word of apology from the Boston writer Michael Patrick MacDonald for helping to spread these lies about the Irish language. MacDonald is also a crony of Cassidy, as well as a crony of Máirtín Ó Muilleoir. (These people all know each other – they’re like some kind of cult.) Having helped to smear the internet with hundreds of fake Irish derivations on behalf of a charlatan who worked as a ‘professor’ in spite of the fact that he had no qualifications at all, these people think they can just walk away whistling with their hands in their pockets and pretend nothing happened. Personally I am dearg le fearg (red with anger) about this abuse of the Irish language. The least we have a right to expect is a heartfelt apology from these high-profile members of the CCC (Cassidy Crony Club).

I was also looking at the AK Press website the other day. Strangely, there is no mention of Cassidy or his book on the website of the company that published it. That suggests to me that this rubbish is finally out of print and that AK Press are kicking over their traces and that they now realise that Cassidy was a fake – a self-obsessed, ignorant, sexist fraud who lied about his qualifications and whose book was a pompous, dishonest piece of cultural appropriation. Why aren’t they doing the right thing, then? Why are they just ignoring the fact that they bestowed this dross on the world, rather than fessing up and asking for forgiveness? Well, business is business. I suppose they have to think about their reputation and their brand identity, just like all the other capitalists … Some radicals!

Finally, I wanted to mention the excellent series of articles by Liam Hogan on the Irish Slavery meme. His articles on the subject are laid out here:

https://medium.com/@Limerick1914/all-of-my-work-on-the-irish-slaves-meme-2015-16-4965e445802a

I recommend that anyone who respects the truth checks it out. And while you’re at it, compare it to the shite on the same subject that’s still there on IrishCentral, courtesy of Niall O’Dowd and his crony friends.

Pash

Daniel Cassidy, in his insane work of fake etymology, How The Irish Invented Slang, tried to convince people that he had made a major discovery. This discovery was that the Irish language didn’t die out in America and had a massive influence on the speech of ordinary Americans, a contribution which has been ignored by snobbish scholars and lexicographers and apparently went unnoticed even by Irish linguists and academics who could actually speak the language. Cassidy, who didn’t have any qualifications at all, and knew no Irish, was a fantasist and liar and con-man. Most of the supposed ‘Irish’ candidates for the origins of slang terms were made up by Cassidy himself. There is no evidence for their existence.

Even after years of debunking this pompous rubbish, I can still open his book and quickly find another example of the kind of puerile crap that demonstrates that Cassidy, far from working like a true scholar, was more like a toddler playing with fuzzy felt.

For example, Cassidy claims that the English slang term pash comes from Irish:

Pash, n., a long and enthusiastic kiss; passion. “Australian and New Zealand term for French or tongue kissing. Used mainly by teenagers and preteens. Used also in a situation so that adults won’t know what they are talking about …” (Urban Dictionary Online.)

Páis [pron. pásh], n., passion.

Apart from the obvious point that pash is just as likely to be a shortening of English passion rather than anything from Irish, we should also remember Cassidy’s total ignorance of the Irish language and his willingness to doctor and distort the material he found in dictionaries to convince badly-educated people of his case. Here’s what Ó Dónaill’s Foclóir Gaeilge-Béarla has to say about the word páis:

páis, f. (gs. ~e). Passion, suffering. An Pháis, P~ Chríost, P~ ár dTiarna, the Passion (of Christ, of Our Lord). Domhnach, Seachtain, na Páise, Passion Sunday, Week. An Pháis a léamh, to read the Passion (from the gospels). ~ oíche a fhulaingt, to endure a night of travail, of suffering.

In other words, páis is used pretty much exclusively in the religious sense of a crucifixion or a torment. There is another word, a straight Gaelicisation of the English passion (and pronounced the same), paisean. It is this word – or a native equivalent like tocht – which is used for strong emotions like love or desire, not the word páis.

More On Columbia University

A little over a month ago, I wrote a letter to Columbia University’s registrar, Barry Kane, and informed him that there is evidence that Daniel Cassidy claimed to have a degree from Columbia. Readers of this blog will remember that we wrote to Cornell a few years back and the registrar there immediately confirmed that Cassidy was kicked out of Cornell without a degree. Unfortunately, we have still heard nothing from Columbia. However, (serendipity again!) I happened across this story, about a well-known Irish ‘celebrity’ therapist, who has had to take down his website after it was revealed by the Irish Mail on Sunday that he had a fake doctorate.

‘Dr’ Fergus Heffernan, who lectured in family therapy, had been a guest on some of Ireland’s most popular radio programmes. He had also toured the country, lecturing on mental health to corporate and community groups. Sounds like Cassidy, who also toured the country giving interviews on the radio and lecturing on his fake etymology and pretending to have university qualifications!

However, this is the bit that really interested me. This newspaper’s investigation revealed that Mr Heffernan had falsely claimed to be a ‘visiting professor’ to a number of top International universities, including Trinity College Dublin, Boston University, and New York’s Columbia University. According to the article, ‘all three university institutions ­claim that they have no record of any employment or affiliation with Mr Heffernan.’

So, Columbia does sometimes answer questions about people who are claiming links with Columbia which they don’t really have. Like the way the San Francisco Irish-American Crossroads Festival claims that its founder, Daniel Cassidy, had a degree from Columbia which I am quite certain was entirely fictional. So, why haven’t we heard anything yet? Perhaps Heffernan thought he could get away with it because others have got away with it before!