Monthly Archives: October 2013

Cooze

Another really stupid claim from Daniel Cassidy in his absurd book, How The Irish Invented Slang, is that the American slang term cooze derives from Irish. Cooze is a crude term for the vagina which first surfaces in American slang in the 1950s. It doesn’t really exist in Ireland, apart from among fans of the Sopranos and the Wire. There is no definite explanation for its origin, though apparently there is an Arabic word with a very similar sound and meaning, so it has been speculated that it derives from GIs returning from North Africa at the end of the Second World War.

Daniel Cassidy observed that there is a word cuas in Irish. He says that:

Cuas, anat. n., a cavity; an orifice; a hole; fig. a vagina. “Cuas” is an utterly neutral anatomical term in Irish.

This looks quite convincing, as long as you accept Cassidy’s Do-It-Yourself definition at face value and don’t look at the original sources, the Irish dictionaries. Here’s what Ó Dónaill says:

1. Cavity; hollow, recess. ~ crainn, hollow of tree. ~ aille, hole in cliff. 2. Cove, creek. 3. Anat: Sinus, cup. ~ coirp, sróine, body, nasal cavity.

Dinneen is pretty much the same, though it does say that cuas means ‘an orifice in physiology’.

There is an excellent book of Irish-language sexual slang which I have mentioned before. It is Ó Ghlíomáil go Giniúint by D. Ó Luineacháin (Coiscéim, 1997). In this 76 page treatise, Ó Luineacháin gives a huge number of slang terms. Yet he fails to mention the use of cuas to mean vagina. The reason for this is quite clear. It doesn’t mean vagina. Its usual meaning is a shallow alcove or inlet or recess. There is no evidence apart from Cassidy’s invented quotes and nothing Cassidy said is worth a nine-dollar note.

I don’t know where cooze comes from, but it doesn’t come from cuas.

More lies, more distortions, more nonsense.

 

 

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Copper and Cop

 

Cassidy derives copper, in the sense of a policeman, from the Irish word ceapadh, meaning to capture, to appoint, to think. The experts on language, who have actually done some research on the subject, disagree with him. They discount the various folk etymologies about Constable On Patrol or early policemen wearing big copper helmets or big copper badges or receiving a penny a day as wages (!) and they focus on the slang term cop, which is attested from the 18th century and means to seize or to capture. They trace this word to an obsolete French word caper, which ultimately comes from Latin. This word is almost certainly a cognate of the Irish ceapadh as well as capture and captive in English. But there seems no good reason to assume an Irish origin for a term which is found in England and which is hardly found at all in Ireland, where people traditionally talked about peelers and bules (and péas in Irish). Ceapairí are sandwiches in Irish, not policemen!

Here’s an interesting quote from Grant Barrett:

‘It doesn’t require a fluent or native understanding of Irish Gaelic, which I do not have and which Cassidy does not have, either—he is usually careful to leave this point unclear—to see that he’s taking words that have complex meanings and cherry-picking the subsenses that most suit his purposes.’

This is exactly what he’s done in most of his definitions, and it can be seen very plainly here. I personally find it bizarre and a mark of the completely random and ad hoc nature of his associations between Irish and English that he chooses to regard cop and copper as coming from  two completely different words. To me, unless there is strong evidence to the contrary, it seems reasonable to assume that cop is a shortened form of copper or that copper is an extension of cop. Cassidy relates copper to the verb ceapadh which means to catch or capture or think or appoint. Cop, says Cassidy, comes from the noun ceap which I am fairly certain is unrelated  to the verb ceapadh. The noun ceap is a very complex term with lots of different meanings. Here are the meanings as laid out on WinGléacht (the electronic version of Ó Dónaill’s dictionary):

1. stock, block, base, pad

1a  ceap crainn, tree stock; tine chip, log fire; ceap cloiche, stone post;ceap dearnála, darning egg; ceap díslí, diestock; ceap treo, step; ceap na bhfiacla, jaw;

1b ceap magaidh, laughing-stock

2 last

3 nave, hub

4 compact body: ceap tithe, block of houses; ceap oifigí, office block

5 (of person) chief; (of person) protector

6 bed, plot: ceap plandaí, plant bed; ceap cabáiste, cabbage bed. 

Ceap is certainly not the usual word for chief or boss. People often use saoiste, or bas, or cipín (in Donegal). But I don’t think I’ve ever heard ceap used this way and it isn’t the first thing you’d think of if you heard  the word in conversation.  And of course, Cassidy doesn’t quote the rest of the definitions. Just as Grant Barrett says, he picks out the meaning that suits him and  ignores the rest in order to dishonestly present a case which looks convincing,  just like the consummate liar and con-man  he was.

To summarise, cop/copper probably come from an English dialect verb meaning to seize or to take, which is ultimately of French origin. This verb is probably a cognate of the Irish word ceap(adh), which is pronounced kyapp(a/oo) but it is very unlikely that ceapadh is the origin of copper.

Craps

Another ridiculous claim made by Daniel Cassidy in his nonsensical book, How The Irish Invented Slang, is the idea that the name of the game of craps, an American dice game, comes from Irish. All of the dictionaries trace the origins of craps to Louisiana. The game derives from crapaud, the French for toad, because people squatted like a toad over the ground as they played it. Cassidy doesn’t bother mentioning this alternative, well-established and highly probable explanation.

Cassidy’s made-up explanation is that it comes from  crath abair, which Cassidy says means ‘shake-say’. Of course, this would really be craith or croith, not crath, and it wouldn’t sound much like craps (krah-abbur is the way most people would pronounce it). If craps were of Irish origin, it would be far more likely to have some connection with cnaipí (pronounced krippee in Ulster Irish, which means buttons).

Cassidy’s suggestion Is wildly improbable, like almost every suggestion in this ridiculous book. There is absolutely no evidence for it and the French explanation makes a lot more sense.

Carrying The Banner

Another utterly ridiculous claim in this absurd book, How The Irish Invented Slang, is that the slang term ‘carrying the banner’ comes from the Irish comhshaoránach bonnaire, which supposedly means ‘fellow-citizen foot-man or walker’. If you speak any Irish at all, which Cassidy didn’t, you will realise how crazy this claim is.

For one thing, the word saoránach originally meant a freeman. It only acquired its current meaning of citizen when the Irish state was struggling to develop a modern vocabulary after the language had been sidelined for centuries by the British. It first occurs in this sense in the 1922 constitution. And bonnaire is an unusual word for a walker or a footman. The whole phrase (which would be pronounced koh-heerannah bonnarra if it really existed) is ridiculously contrived. It is not real Irish. It was invented to order by an ignorant fantasist in order to sound like an English slang expression.

Then there is the little matter that carrying the banner, a slang term for walking the streets all night, is very easy to understand. If you carry the banner in a parade, you keep walking the streets. You don’t bring the banner into a bar or a house. You walk with it. So this is a jocular way of saying that you have nowhere to stay and you walk the streets all night. It’s not rocket science. How anyone could be stupid enough to believe Cassidy’s version is a mystery to me.

Hall of Shame Special – Eamon Loingsigh

A while back, I came across a blog by someone called Éamon Loingsigh. I have to confess, I don’t understand the name. It needs to be either Mac Loingsigh or Ó Loingsigh and without either the word for son or grandson the genitive form of Loingseach, Loingsigh makes no sense.

Anyway, his blog contains a number of references to Daniel Cassidy’s work. As you would expect from someone who is an active supporter of a proven charlatan, the blog shows an almost total indifference to the facts. Many of Cassidy’s claims which have been dealt with and dismissed, not only by me but by other scholars, are simply trotted out as though they were facts, though a number of the supposed Irish words as given by Loingsigh are written wrongly, even in terms of the way Cassidy gave them in the book. Thus Loingsigh has béal ánna as the origin of baloney, not béal ónna as Cassidy claimed (and of course, neither of them are genuine Irish anyway!) He has de raig where Cassidy has de ráig, gearr-ol ur where Cassidy has gearr-ól úr and he has bás (the Irish for death, not boss) where Cassidy had bas.

We are also told that the word “moniker” can be attributed to the word, “munik” in Irish gypsy language called Shelta, again, we can thank Mr. Cassidy for figuring this out. Really? So how come my Collins’ English Dictionary, published in 1990, says that moniker comes from Shelta munnik? Wow, that was a difficult discovery to make! That dictionary is quite big and you could do yourself a mischief turning those heavy pages! Loingsigh’s posts show no originality or ability to research or to think critically. Again, this is typical of Cassidy’s supporters. For example, here are a few paragraphs of the utter crap which he offers:

Even as the cloistered British professors and American Anglophiles tried disassembling Cassidy’s evidence, the research ended up becoming a breakthrough that stifled the English language protectorates. These Oxfordonians would much rather avoid admitting any influence on the English language such as slang that came from the tenant farmers in Ireland that were exiled to American cities like Boston, Philadelphia and New York where, on the city streets, the secretive slang of rebels and thieves reached up into daily usage.

When the How the Irish Invented Slang won the 2007 American Book Award for nonfictional, it was settled. Although some research still needed to be done to have multiple sources, it was established that the Irish language had had a profound and previously undocumented influence on the English language.

Unearthed by Cassidy’s studying of a Foclóir Póca, or Irish-EnglishFocloir Poca pocket dictionary along with the skills produced by studying the language and history of the Irish in his position at the head of the Irish Studies program at New College of California, Cassidy uncovered lingual gems such as the word “crony.”

Pure nonsense, without any basis in fact. Whatever stifling their protectorates (???) has meant for the dictionary dudes, they haven’t come any closer to accepting the half-arsed nonsense in Cassidy’s book as fact. Nor will they, because the book is almost entirely rubbish. Yeah, ‘some research needed to be done to have multiple sources’ – multiple as in more than zero, that is! Because there isn’t any evidence for the existence of a word like comhrogha in Irish in the sense of friend or pal, so how can it be the origin of crony? And most of Cassidy’s claims are the same.

The reason why I have decided to have a go at Eamon Loingsigh is very simple and it’s the same reason why I started this blog. I don’t like bullshit. I posted a comment on Loingsigh’s website explaining that Cassidy’s ideas were nonsense and that he had got it wrong. Did he engage in discussion, defend his ideas, find some evidence? Nope. The comment sat awaiting moderation for six weeks and I am assuming that it has now been deleted. This is typical of the behaviour of Cassidy’s supporters. When challenged with hard facts, they scuttle under the nearest rock and refuse to engage in debate. It is probably typical of deniers and pseudoscientists everywhere. They want to hold forth like experts but ask them to actually present some evidence and they turn tail and run. Pathetic!

Mo Hurley

One of the most interesting blog posts I have read on the subject of Daniel Cassidy is this one, from a friend of his called Mo Hurley:

http://mohurley.blogspot.co.uk/2008/10/remembering-danny-cassidy.html

This shows many of the flaws of the Cassidese Liberation Front in that it blames the dictionary dudes for their refusal to give the Irish their due, ascribes Irish origins to words like lollapalooza and kybosh and doesn’t check the sources very well. At one point, it claims that this is a quote from Cassidy:

“The English language does not often absorb other languages, especially the Celtic languages. Irish has the longest association with English of any language on the planet, yet in England all we’ve got are a handful of words such as whiskey.”

Of course, this is not a quote from Cassidy. This is nearly the antithesis of everything that Cassidy claimed, as Cassidy insisted without evidence that hundreds if not thousands of common English words were derived from Irish. The quote above is saying that very few words were borrowed from Irish and it comes from a genuine academic called Terence Dolan.

However, this blog post does not belong in my hall of shame. Why? Because while Hurley plainly admired and liked Cassidy, and you would expect her to be as positive as possible in an obituary, she is quite open about the fact that she found most of his Irish derivations of English words dodgy and hard to believe. She says that he may have done more harm than good, that:

“I didn’t always agree with Danny’s interpretations of Irish and the development of street slang, as he sometimes played it a little too fast and loose with linguistics. Danny didn’t speak Irish and didn’t know the grammatical rules of Irish, an ancient highly inflected Indo-European language.”

She also says that  the post is: “in honor to the man himself, not the (de)merits of his book.”  

So, while there are things I dislike about the blog, she is displaying an admirable amount of integrity here and drawing a clear line between the man and his crazy theories. Unfortunately, this kind of integrity is rare. Most of Cassidy’s friends still insist that his crazy theories must have been right because he was a personal friend of theirs, which frankly is an insult to the rest of us and especially to our intelligence.

Graft

Graft is a slang term for corruption in America, and in England and Ireland people generally mean ‘hard work’ when they talk about graft. The derivation of the term graft in this sense is unknown and it is also unclear whether it is related to graft in the sense of grafting something onto a plant.

Cassidy says that grafter is from the Irish grafadóir. According to him, this means “a grubber, a scrounger or moocher; fig. a professional politician”. This looks pretty impressive, until you start to think about it carefully and look for evidence. Firstly, I would have thought that graft was the basic word and that grafter and grafting are derived from it. Yet the word grafadh (pronounced graffa or graffoo), which is the activity, doesn’t sound much like graft, which has a very English look to it. There are lots of words in English with -ft at the end – loft, soft, aft, daft, raft. But none in Irish.

Then there is the little matter of the meaning. According to Ó Dónaill and Dinneen, the word grafadh means to grub or hoe, to dig through the topsoil and remove roots and stalks. It doesn’t mean to mooch or to scrounge and has no connection with politicians.

So why did Cassidy say it did? Well, probably because Cassidy was a liar and a fantasist.

He gives no references, so it is impossible to check if he had a genuine source which contradicts the dictionaries but I’m quite sure he didn’t. Some people  – especially internet trolls – seem to think that the system of referencing used by academics is simply an arcane and random set of rules designed to keep amateurs out and give the academics themselves an unfair advantage. As examples like this show, the system of referencing developed so that people can check facts and sources for themselves and to make it harder for people to lie by presenting fake information as fact.

All I can do in this case is stress that the Irish dictionaries do not support Cassidy’s assertion. It is true that the Irish for a hoer slightly resembles an American slang word for a corrupt politician. The rest of Cassidy’s claim is fantasy and the likelihood of there being any connection between the word graft and Irish is very, very remote.