I came across an interesting little nugget of Cassidese nonsense on what purports to be an educational website (http://www.edu-cyberpg.com/Linguistics/Whoopie-Ti-Yi-Yo-Git-Along.html) the other day. In the article, Cassidy was thinking aloud (I use the term thinking advisedly) about the origins of a cowboy song about little dogies. This is a cowboy term which apparently originally meant an orphan calf and now is applied to cattle of all kinds. Here is one line from the song with Cassidy’s ‘translation’ into Irish.
Whoopie Ti Yi Yo, git along, little doggies
Uimhir dí-áireamh, céadlongadh ládáil do-thóigthe
Countless number breakfast, hard-to-feed cargo
When I had stopped laughing and picked myself up off the floor, I decided to write this post. Cassidy’s Irish ‘translation’ is pure nonsense and makes much less sense even than the English version. I mean, whoopie is pronounced … well, whoopee, as in Makin’ Whoopee or Whoopi Goldberg and uimhir is pronounced ivvir, a bit like liver with the l taken off the front. Uimhir, whoopie. Uimhir, whoopie. No, sorry. It sounds a bit more similar than fish and bicycle but not a lot.
Then there’s the fact that uimhir wouldn’t be used in this sense anyway because in English, you can use number to mean a few, some, as in There were a number of people there. You can’t say bhí uimhir daoine ann in Irish. It is meaningless. In circumstances like this, you use another word, líon. As Ó Dónaill’s Foclóir Gaeilge-Béarla says under the heading líon – “An líon daoine atá san áit, the number of people in the place; the population of the place”. Dí-áireamh is strange but just on the improbable side of impossible: dí-áirimh is given by Ó Dónaill as a variant of the much more common do-áirithe. I strongly suspect that git along is the English get along and is telling the dogies to move quickly. Just a hunch. It certainly seems unlikely that it is a reference to breakfast, however badly the dogies need fattening. Ládáil is a loan-word, related to English lading (as in Bill of Lading) and refers to putting a cargo on a ship. So … they’re taking the cows … on a ship? After breakfast? Let’s hope the water isn’t too choppy. I will discuss the word dogie below. Oh, and then there is the problem that it would really be ládáil dho-thóigthe (ládáil dhothógtha in modern spelling) according to the rules of Irish grammar, which is pronounced as something like go-hoe-ga rather than do-hoe-ga.
As so often happened, Cassidy had fallen out of love with this crazy, back-of-an-envelope brainwave by the time the book was published but he still gave do-thóigthe (Dinneen’s spelling: the modern spelling is dothógtha) as the origin of doggie (instead of the traditional explanation that it is a contraction of English dough-guts). Cassidy lied shamelessly in his treatment of this word. He gave a longish definition, half of which was real and taken from Dinneen’s dictionary, but the second half was his own invention.
Here is Cassidy’s definition, as given on page 35 of How Cassidy Invented Crap:
Do-thóigthe, (pron. dohóg’ǝ], hard to rear, hard to fatten (as a calf); a sickly hard-to-feed calf; fig. an orphan calf or child, without a mother to nurse them. (Dineen, 1927;)
The first half (the real bit) says that dothóigthe is an adjective meaning that an animal is hard to fatten or rear (Do-thóigthe, hard to rear, hard to fatten (as a calf) etc.). The second (fake) bit (a sickly hard-to-feed calf; fig. an orphan calf or child, without a mother to nurse them) implies that dothóigthe can be used as a noun meaning an orphan calf, which it can’t. The whole quotation is ascribed to Dinneen, so the poor reader would have no way of knowing that the convincing half of it in terms of Cassidy’s argument is completely fake.
Cassidy did this on many occasions. He often put the letters fig. into a definition when he was inserting his own fictional take on the meaning. This usually stands for ‘figuratively’ in contexts like this but in Cassidy’s work, it really stands for ‘figment’ (of Cassidy’s imagination).