Monthly Archives: July 2014

The Blether Region

I recently found an interesting item on a Northern Irish-based blog called The Blether Region. I have tried to reblog it but for some reason it hasn’t worked, so here is a link: http://scots-anorak.blogspot.co.uk/2014_02_01_archive.html The author is attacking Brendan Patrick Keane’s idiotic article on IrishCentral about Cassidy’s ‘research.’ Check it out, but here is a little bit of the article!

“The article draws on the book How the Irish Invented Slang: The Secret Language of the Crossroads (Counterpunch) by Daniel Cassidy, which has been roundly condemned by serious linguists. Perhaps the most annoying aspect of such claims is the serial refusal to present etymologies plausible to an Irish-speaker (Mr. Cassidy evidently not being one himself). The variant “Gee whilikers” is glossed as deriving from Dia Thoileachas, or “God’s will”. But ask an Irish-speaker how to say “God’s will”, and the answer is likely to be something like Toil Dé.

Once again, how annoying that Irish Central has seen fit to publish such claptrap.”

Absolutely right! Anyone who supports this rubbish should hang their heads in shame.

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How Daniel Cassidy Invented Etymology, Part Two

About a week ago, Eoin P. Ó Murchú published an interesting review of Cassidy’s work on an Irish-language site called An Tuairisceoir. Ó Murchú’s attitude to Cassidy’s book was very similar to mine. He thought that Cassidy was an appalling charlatan and he strongly recommended people to avoid Cassidy’s book. I reblogged Ó Murchú’s article a few days ago but for the benefit of those who don’t speak Irish, I have produced a rough translation here.

Interestingly, there have been a few comments about the review. Breandán Delap supported the views expressed by myself and Ó Murchú, while several others (Ciarán Dunbar and someone calling themselves Fear N Fearn) made some attempt to defend Cassidy’s book. However, it is worth pointing out that there is a big difference between the debate expressed in these comments and the debate as found among English speakers and especially among Irish-Americans. The debate as found in the Anglo world tends to be between people who believe that there was a kernel of truth in Cassidy’s work, which according to them was slightly ‘overreached’ but still contains a core of valid etymologies, and those of us who think that Cassidy was a pernicious, half-crazy liar. The Irish-language debate on An Tuairisceoir is between people who think that Cassidy’s work was a harmless bit of fun and that Cassidy was just joking and those who think he was a pernicious, half-crazy liar. In other words, the view from within the Irish language is that Cassidy didn’t discover anything and made no valid contribution to human knowledge. This is the view even among Irish speakers who are favourable to Cassidy and perhaps this should be a wake-up call to Irish-Americans who support this nut-job’s theories and take them at face value.

Anyway, here is a rough translation of Ó Murchú’s excellent review:

HOW DANIEL CASSIDY INVENTED ETYMOLOGY

I came home the other day to find a substantial book. It was a present. Although I had heard tell of it I couldn’t say that I derived much pleasure from it as a present. It was How The Irish Invented Slang by Daniel Cassidy. What Cassidy sets out to demonstrate in this book is that large swathes of American English slang, and consequently of the slang of the whole world, come from Irish. He believes that there was a conspiracy by English speakers to suppress this information.

This will surprise many of us, because it was thought that we had not given much more than ‘smithereens’ and ‘banshee’ to English. Anyone who has even a slight interest in word etymologies will suspect very quickly that there is no basis to Cassidy’s opinions. Anyone with a fleeting knowledge of etymology will realise that it is essential always to be sceptical about the little stories which people spread. For some strange reason, people have the habit of believing strange little stories in spite of the evidence which would prove them wrong. This book is questionable for a number of reasons.

The main thing which planted the seed of doubt in my mind was that Cassidy goes with very unlikely Irish explanations when it would be much easier to find an explanation within the English language. He thinks the term ‘crusher’(a term for a policeman) is the same as an expression which comes from ‘cuir siar ar‘ (sic) Now, isn’t it strange that an Irish saying without much meaning would stick to the police and isn’t it odd that there should be no connection between ‘crusher’ and the English word ‘crush’?

Cassidy says that ‘S lom é’ is the origin of the English ‘Slum’. Isn’t that a really strange expression to borrow. Can you really imagine that that expression would slip from the mouth of an Irish speaker into speech? Can it be found as a common saying to describe slums? No. Not only that, Cassidy gives definitions and pretends that they come from the Irish dictionaries when that is not true at all. He loves to slap fig. onto things, saying that this is an additional meaning but in reality it is simply his own invention. (’teas ioma’ – an abundance of heat and passion; figuratively semen) I cannot find any source which demonstrates this additional meaning of ‘teas ioma’(sic). It seems likely that Cassidy couldn’t either.

‘As if that wasn’t enough, he uses whatever version he likes of any word. Joint’ an Bhéarla? Well, there is díon in Irish. What’s the plural of that? Díonta, great, that’s more like it. He goes even further, imposing whatever sound he wants on words. ‘Jeenta’, perfect!

Irish left few words in the English of Ireland in reality, so how would this language of paupers, which it was, have such a great influence on the speech of the USA? Cassidy has no satisfactory explanation for this. How did these not develop in Ireland too, how come the Gaels decided not to give these words to us too? He has no explanation for this either. If bizarre words which a competent Irish speaker of the present day would not recognise form the basis for many expressions, why aren’t common Irish words to be found in American speech too? Yet again, poor Cassidy has no explanation for this.

The kind of method he uses is to take a phrase. ‘Daniel Cassidy’ for example, then he decides that it comes from Irish. Then off he goes on his little spree of creativity. Daniel -‘Dath- ‘n-aoil’ lime-faced, white-faced, fig. white supremacist. ‘Cassidy’. Cas-a-dí The turning of her drink, surname of a bartender, mixologist, figuratively mixer, nixer. So, Daniel Cassidy means ‘white supremecist cocktail maker? Well, it means that in his own universe of lies and fraud. (I made up the bit above, just in case of any misunderstanding).

Unfortunately, many people are still supporting Cassidy. Where’s the harm, some people say, it’s only a bit of fun. In reality the opposite is true, linguistics is a difficult thing and when idiots are allowed to tackle it as they will the whole thing becomes as clear as mud. Because of the influence of the internet Cassidy’s ‘etymologies’ are there forever, they will be believed (some of them at least) in perpetuity. We should show interest in the words which the Irish gave to English but not give in to a numbskull like this who distorts the truth completely.

Cassidy was a consummate liar. A 300 page book which is full from cover to cover with fake etymologies, nonsense and lies. There is no doubt that Cassidy understood that the vast majority of these etymologies are phoney. It seems that he sought out phrases in Irish dictionaries which looked like English expressions and then he set out to forge a link.

There is an excellent blog here which pulls Cassidy’s arguments apart. https://cassidyslangscam.wordpress.com/ Whoever wrote it was driven to distraction by Cassidy and they have done an unabashed, clinical dissection of Cassidy’s lies. Cassidy is dead now, and it is my fervent hope that these lies will disappear with him. Do not buy this book and do not support nonsense like this.

An Tuairisceoir

There has been a lot of activity on the site since Eoin published his excellent article on Cassidy on the blog An Tuairisceoir. Dozens of visitors and hundreds of hits. Over on An Tuairisceoir, there have been a few comments in relation to this. At the risk of sounding like a bit of a misery, I was a little annoyed at the response of Ciarán Dunbar (who I gather is An Tuairisceoir himself). While he agrees with Eoin’s (and my) sentiments, he tries to have it both ways and to make light of the damage Cassidy has done. Here is part of his comment:

Mar fhocal freagartha ar seo agus aontaím féin leis dála an scéil.
Sa chéad dul síos, cha raibh ann ach píosa spraoi sa leabhar seo agus is trua gur glacadh dáiríre é – tarlaíonn sé sin go minic sa saol acadúil.
Ach is minic a chuala mé Daniel Cassidy ag caint ar an leabhar agus bhí sé ionraic faoi dar liom – ní raibh aon Ghaeilge aige agus ní dhearna sé ach an foclóir a léamh agus rudaí a chumadh.
Chuirfinn féin an chuid is mó den locht ar an fhoilsitheoir.
Ach seans go ndearna sé maitheas éigin – seans go raibh níos mó tionchair ag an Ghaeilge ar Bhéarla Mheiriceá ná mar a cheapadh go dtí seo – tá ar an lucht acadúil leabhar Cassidy a bhréagadh anois agus seans go bhfaighfear fírinne éigin ann más ann de thimpiste é fiú.

(As an answer to this and I myself agree with it, by the way. Firstly, this book was only a bit of fun and it’s a pity that it was taken seriously – that often happens in the academic world. But I often heard Daniel Cassidy talking about the book and he was honest, I think – he didn’t have any Irish and all he did was read the dictionary and make things up. I would put most of the blame on the publisher.

But perhaps he did some good – perhaps Irish had more influence on the English of America than was thought until now – the academics have to refute Cassidy’s book now and perhaps some truth will be found in it even if it’s by accident.)

With respect, this is neither accurate nor fair. All of the issues raised by Ciarán Dunbar have been discussed again and again in this blog but I will go through them again briefly here. If the book was taken seriously, this was because Cassidy presented it not as a bit of fun, but as a serious work of scholarship. This man attacked real scholars in the most vitriolic terms for daring to question the insane nonsense he published in this book. Did it occur to you, Ciarán, that Cassidy was honest in front of a room full of Irish people because he didn’t have a choice but to try to plead ignorance and rely on charm in those circumstances? And when he did have a choice, when he was addressing American people who didn’t speak the language either, he could afford to change his story and pretend to be an expert! Ciarán Dunbar’s reference to ‘this happens in the academic world’ is quite bizarre. Can you give us another example of tongue-in-cheek works of scholarship being misinterpreted as real? And blaming the publisher is hardly fair. There isn’t much evidence that CounterPunch did anything other than arrange for it to be printed. The book is very, very amateurish and doesn’t look as if it’s been edited at all.

And as for the idea that he did some good! Yeah, tell it to all the poor bastards who bought this book in good faith thinking it to be real. Tell it to the academics and others who were friendly towards him and who incorporated Cassidy’s insane ideas into articles, books and even TV programmes, rendering them permanently flawed. Tell it to the people who have been accused of not doing their jobs because Cassidy told the world they had lied to play down the Irish contribution to Americana.

The truth is, of course, that Cassidy would not have changed academic attitudes because he had no facts to offer, and if he had, then the correct avenue would have been to publish a couple of papers, not to write a bestseller full of nonsense and let other people sift a handful of gems out of the slurry tank.

The factitious Irish in this book is an insult to every Irish speaker. The internet is awash with fake Irish, and that is directly down to Cassidy and his army of cronies. Nobody should be making light of what Cassidy did. Anger is the correct, the only response.

Finally, while the site is enjoying a brief spike in popularity, I will repeat an appeal I have made several times before. Cassidy’s book still has a high rating on Amazon. If you have an Amazon account and you accept that Cassidy’s book should be burned rather than praised, log on and give it the poor review it really deserves.

How Daniel Cassidy invented Etymology (léirmheas)

An-jab déanta agat anseo, a Eoin! Tá sé athbhlagáilte agam anseo thíos. Tá mé fíorbhuíoch díot as an chuidiú!

An Tuairisceoir

Tháinig abhaile an lá cheana gur aimsigh mé leabhar toirtiúil romham. Bronntanas a bhí ann. Cé go raibh trácht cloiste agam air ní fhéadfainn a rá go raibh mé sásta leis mar bhronntanas. How the Irish Invented Slang le Daniel Cassidy a bhí ann. Is éard a chuireann Cassidy roimhe sa leabhar seo ná gur ón nGaeilge a thagann stráicí móra fada de bhéarlagair Béarla Mheiriceá, agus an domhain ar fad da bhrí sin. Dar leis go raibh uisce faoi thalamh ann ag lucht an Bhéarla a chuir an t-eolas seo faoi chois.

Cuirfidh seo iontas ar go leor againn ó ní cheaptar go bhfuil mórán níos mó ná ‘smithereens’ agus ‘banshee’ tugtha don Bhéarla againn. Don té a bhfuil leathspéis aige i sanas focal tiocfaidh amhras air go mear an bhfuil aon bhunús le tuairimí Cassidy. Éinne le smeareolas faoi shanas tuigfidh siad gur gá bheith in amhras i gcónaí…

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Murchadh na dTvuíteann’

I am not very keen on new technology. I don’t like telephones, mobile or immobile, and I have never tweeted in my life. However, I notice that a certain Murchadh Mór, who tweets in Irish, has recommended cassidyslangscam on his twitter account with the words “An-bhlag faoin mbobarún Cassidy”.

I am grateful to him for this – every little helps! But the wording of his tweet got me thinking. That word bobarún is a nice one. It means a fool, a twat, a booby. Although I don’t speak the same dialect as Murchadh, bobarún is perfectly clear to me. If Cassidy were right, why don’t New York taxi drivers shout ‘bobberoon!” at each other out of their cab windows? Or ‘playkyah!’ or ‘ommadawn!’, or ‘lah jeea!’ Irish is a perfectly expressive language and there are plenty of genuine Irish expressions which could so easily have been borrowed.

However, for whatever reason, almost no Irish expressions were borrowed, least of all the made-up, clumsy expressions which nobody ever used and which nobody would understand given by Cassidy in this book. That’s why this blog is so full of contempt for Cassidy, and that’s why Murchadh Mór calls Cassidy a bobarún. Because Irish speakers can immediately recognise that Cassidy’s claims about Irish are childish bullshit.

Cassidy’s Cronies

Anyone who has been following this blog will be well aware of my attitude towards Daniel Cassidy, a fraudster who invented a large number of fake Irish expressions and claimed that these were the origin of common English words and phrases, even when these English words and phrases already had well-established etymologies. As part of his strategy to convince the weak-minded and gullible, this seasoned con-man invented a bizarre scenario in which a cabal of professional linguists and dictionary-makers conspired to hide the ‘fact’ that large numbers of words derived from Irish, thus simultaneously pandering to a sense of victimhood among Irish Americans and neatly explaining why there was no evidence to corroborate his ridiculous claims.

Of course, this cabal doesn’t exist. However, it is very interesting to look at the slime trails left by Cassidy’s supporters online. It is quite clear that the vast number of people who supported Cassidy are linked both to him and to each other in an unhealthy network of cronies. I have already mentioned some of these, but let’s just have a look at some of them again.

The principal crony seems to be Peter Quinn, an Irish-American writer. He is linked to many of the other names which keep cropping up again and again. For example, there are pictures online of Peter Quinn and Eamon Loingsigh together, the Eamon Loingsigh who published a badly-written and laughable article about Cassidy’s nonsense on his blog. Peter Quinn was one of the founders of the Irish American Writers and Artists, along with Cassidy himself, TJ English and Maureen Dezell. Maureen Dezell is quoted on the jacket of Cassidy’s book. In 2008, Cassidy appeared with Peter Quinn and others at an event sponsored by Glucksman Ireland House NYU (which boasts Peter Quinn and Pete Hamill on its board) Then there is David Meltzer, whom Cassidy described as his ‘reb’, who is on the Board of the Before Columbus Foundation which awarded Cassidy’s worthless tripe an award. Then all you have to do is look at the Crossroads Irish Festival, founded and run by Cassidy. In 2002 alone, we find William Kennedy, whose name is often linked to Cassidy, Peter Quinn who described Cassidy as “my best friend”, Maureen Dezell who gave him a nice quote for his book jacket, Michael Patrick MacDonald who has posted in support of Cassidy, Marion Casey who was gullible enough to quote him in an academic paper and who is linked to Joe Lee who also made a fool of himself by backing Cassidy, and Eamonn Wall who has just been appointed to the board of the Irish American Writers Association which Cassidy jointly founded.

Jesus! Will someone open a feckin’ window and let in some fresh air! Surely, there must be a handful of other writers and artists in the Irish-American community who don’t have a Bacon Number of one in relation to Cassidy?

The fact is, Cassidy’s book is obviously and clearly a pack of lies. Yet these people and many more have helped, wittingly or unwittingly, to sell this damaging, dishonest and nasty little book to gullible people. They have lent whatever status and kudos they can provide to a con-man whose lack of intelligence and disrespect for the Irish language is manifest on every page. None of them seems to be prepared to break ranks, repudiate this charlatan and apologise for their role in the Cassidy Scandal.

This is where the real cabal and conspiracy is. Among a crowd of people who would rather do anything than admit the truth that Cassidy was wrong and that they were wrong to support him.

The bigger the overreach, the easier it is to swallow

One of the things that most annoys me about Cassidy’s followers is their refusal to admit the extent of Cassidy’s lies. They tend to prefer the euphemism ‘overreach,’ at least in relation to Cassidy’s ‘research’, so their new version of the verb ‘to lie’ goes something like this: I overreach, you lie, Cassidy overreaches, Grant Barrett lies, we overreach, linguists and lexicographers lie.

Ach ní faide gob na gé ná gob an ghandail! (What’s sauce for the goose …) So, here is a brief, ‘overreached’ biography of Cassidy:

Daniel Klatu Cassidy was born millenia ago on a distant planet appropriately located just under the tail of Taurus. He attended Cornell University under an interplanetary exchange. Being an alien, his favourite food was small rodents and he was notable for his bright green teeth. He was well-known for playing the Polynesian nose-flute on the Johnny Carson Show. He wrote over fifty romantic novels under the pen-name Dolores de Corazón, as well as some very successful homoerotic fiction under the soubriquet of Rod Biggerstaff. His Dessie Does Denver is widely regarded as a minor classic in its field. After he moved to California in the 1990s, he was barred from San Diego zoo because of his inappropriate sexual interest in a female gibbon called Fifi.

Now there are a few genuine facts in the above passage. Cassidy was born. He attended Cornell University. He moved to California. The ratio of facts to bullshit in the above passage is probably roughly the same as the ratio of truth to fiction found in the etymological claims of How The Irish Invented Slang.

However, in inventing the factoids above, I was not lying. No, I was, apparently, overreaching. Or perhaps I was being parsimonious with the truth. Or employing terminological inexactitudes. Or issuing inoperative statements. Or gilding the entire garden, including the birdbath. Or being creative to the point of criminality. But lying? Perish the thought! After all, I don’t know for a fact that the man didn’t have a sexual obsession with a female gibbon …