Monthly Archives: August 2014

A Reply To Owen

I have had a comment relating to the word ‘cooze’ from a Cassidy supporter called Owen Kelly. This is an American slang term which makes its appearance first after the Second World War. There is no agreement about its origin, but Wikipedia states that words in Kurdish and Arabic with the meaning of vagina are similar in sound to cooze, and also that Danish has a slang term kusse with the same meaning. The Wikipedia entry suggests that the word might have been brought back by American GIs returning from North Africa after the war.

Cassidy’s claim is that the word comes from Irish cuas, which means a nook or recess and which Cassidy claims means vagina. As I have shown, there is no evidence that the word cuas ever had the meaning vagina in any dialect of Irish.

Owen’s opening comment is to ask why cuas couldn’t have been used by Irish speakers in America in this way, even if it isn’t found in Ireland with this sense. My answer is that, as Yiddish speakers say, yes, and if my grandmother had balls she’d be my grandfather.  OK, there is an infinitesimally small chance that cuas might have been used in this way, and might have lain dormant in some small community for a hundred years before becoming common after the Second World War. However, linguists and lexicographers don’t like explanations which involve two what-ifs and a maybe, and neither do I. After all, if you don’t think any evidence is needed, where do you stop? For example, the French word for thigh is cuisse. What if some obscure and unrecorded French dialect used this as a word for vagina, and what if this was brought to New Orleans, and maybe it became common in American English after the War as cooze …  In other words, methodology which can be used to prove anything ultimately proves nothing.

Owen goes on to say that he has read Cassidy’s book (well, I would hope so, if he’s commenting on it) and that most of it is convincing. This is not an argument. It is an opinion. He gives no information about his knowledge of Irish or lack of it, or why he believes himself to be qualified to make this judgement and most importantly, he makes no attempt to square this with the information provided on this blog or given by other critics of Cassidy.

I have probably covered about half of the claims made by Cassidy here. So, did I get it wrong? How? And if I didn’t, does Owen seriously think that I got my analysis right but everything else in Cassidy’s book which I haven’t (yet) covered is correct? As I have said to other people who have expressed the same opinions, if you want to defend Cassidy, then you’ll have to deal in specific information, not vague opinions.

Finally, Owen repeats the hoary old chestnut about the tendency of the Anglo world to discriminate against the Irish, as if that somehow confirms Cassidy’s argument. Even if you accept that this kind of discrimination occurs in academia, is there any evidence to suggest that it extends to preventing people knowing about word origins? I mean, do the origins of obscure words really matter so much to the powers that be? Is any nation really going to be so keen to assert their ownership of words like cooze and wanker?

The fact is, there is no evidence of dictionary makers in England or in America discriminating against Irish or Gaelic words. There are dozens of Irish words in the dictionaries which are accepted by the lexicographers, words like puss and shebeen. Why did these supposedly biased lexicographers accept these while rejecting the vast majority of Cassidy’s claims? The answer is very simple. There is evidence for puss and shebeen being Irish. There is simply no evidence for the majority of Cassidy’s claims. Cassidy didn’t know any Irish and his work was botched and completely without value.

In short, I’m fed up repeating myself for the benefit of people who can’t be bothered reading the posts here properly or presenting an intelligent argument. I mean, which part of phrases like ‘con-man’, ‘compulsive liar’ and ‘complete ignorance of the Irish language’ do these people not understand? I am not going to provide a platform for vain and intellectually lazy people to make absurd claims about the supposed merits of Cassidy’s work. In future, any such comments will simply be deleted UNLESS they deal with specific facts rather than vague generalisations.

After all, if the fools who believe in Cassidy’s absurd ideas want to express their ignorance in public, there are plenty of places where they can do that, or they can found their own blog where they can repeat the same old nonsense over and over again without having to touch base with reality at all. As for this blog, it is about telling the truth and shaming Daniel Cassidy and that’s how it’s going to stay.

Passionate Intensity

Some people might think that the following piece is in poor taste, dealing as it does with the funeral oration for Cassidy delivered by his crony Peter Quinn. However, I intend to carry on because I do not think the dead deserve any more respect than they deserved when they were alive and Quinn’s oration contains so much poisonous anti-intellectual bullshit that it is really asking for it. Here’s part of what Quinn had to say:

Musician, writer, activist, Danny was the single greatest scholar I ever met – the truest intellectual – putting to flight and to shame that monstrous regiment of impotent academic hacks and time-servers who, with all their Ivy League credentials and foundation grants and university chairs, failed to uncover what Danny did with a single, frayed, dog-eared dictionary that he’d inherited.

How the Irish Invented Slang is a monumental achievement!

It will endure, no matter the bluster and bull of the Dictionary Dudes.

Despite the huffing and puffing of all the king’s horses and all the king’s men (or the queen’s, for that matter), the paladins of the OED will never again put together an honest version of their tome until they acknowledge the work of Danny Cassidy.

The arrogance and the hypocrisy of this piece is staggering. If Cassidy was a great intellectual, then what is it that makes a great intellectual? Laziness? Megalomania? Incompetence? Running away with insane thoughts and refusing to provide any evidence for your mad conjectures? Quinn rails against the ‘monstrous regiment’ of academics with their Ivy League credentials and university chairs. Yet Cassidy went to Cornell University, which last time I heard was Ivy League. He was even a member of a fraternity with whatever naked mud-wrestling, groupthink and cronyism that entails. And while nobody has ever made public what grade of degree he got, my guess would be a fairly poor one. Yet somehow he was able to walk into a job as a professor and sit down in his comfortable university chair, without having to get a doctorate, or conduct valid research, or publish papers, unlike all of those whom Quinn arrogantly dismisses as time-serving academic hacks.

Quinn’s peroration continues. It’s like listening to a North Korean news item on the death of Kim Jong-Il. Apparently, Cassidy was vastly smarter than anyone else in the academic world and using a dog-eared pocket dictionary and his burning intelligence he completely revised the linguistic history of the USA. Of course, according to Quinn, the Dictionary Dudes won’t admit this because their work is dishonest while Cassidy’s work is the real thing.

The fact is that Cassidy was the most butt-naked emperor ever to flaunt his shriveled credentials to the general amusement of academia and the general admiration of fools. I have no objection to Quinn saying that Cassidy was a friend to social justice, or a great companion, a fine musician, brilliantly witty company, an excellent salsa dancer, or possessed of a curious talent for farting Annie Laurie through a keyhole. All these may or may not be true but I am in no position to argue about them. What I object to – very strenuously – is the ludicrous idea that he made any contribution of any value to the world of linguistics or Irish studies, because it is blindingly obvious that this is not the case.

The dictionary makers are real scholars who work hard. Anyone who doubts this should find a full copy of the Oxford English Dictionary in a library and see how much detailed work and scholarship is involved on every single page of that book. Then take a look at How The Irish Invented Slang and see what a shoddy and half-arsed job Cassidy made of his so-called ‘research’.

Finally, there is a very interesting line in Quinn’s piece which suggests to me that Quinn’s subconscious was more ambivalent about Cassidy than his conscious mind. In another obituary for Cassidy, Quinn began with a quotation from W.B. Yeats. In this oration, he talks about ancient Egyptian mythology and half-human, half-animal figures. He then uses a very distinctive phrase, that Cassidy was a deeply spiritual man of passionate intensity and resonant laughter.

One of the most famous poems in world literature is Yeats’s The Second Coming, a vision related to his theories about history running in two-thousand year cycles. The Christian cycle is running out and something new, antithetical to Christianity, represented in the poem by a sphinx-like figure, is ‘slouching towards Bethlehem to be born’.

And one of the signs of this is that ‘the best lack all conviction, while the worst, are full of passionate intensity.

According to Quinn, Daniel Cassidy was also full of passionate intensity. Could it be that Quinn’s subconscious was trying to send him a subtle warning that behind Cassidy’s passionate intensity, there was nothing but an arrogant, opinionated liar with no capacity for self-doubt and that by supporting Cassidy, he was making a king-size noodle of himself?

Stud Poker

I found an article dating from 2009 the other day in the online newsletter of a well-known republican band called the Wolfe Tones which repeats many of Cassidy’s ludicrous claims as ‘fun facts’, though without attributing them to the Great Fraud. Most of these ridiculous claims have been dealt with before, childish rubbish such as button coming from beart t-aon and wanker from uath-anchor. However, I did notice one claim which I have not examined before here, the claim that stud poker comes from the Irish stad, meaning to stop. Following Cassidy, the newsletter says: ‘In 1870 a new poker [ poca] game came into being called stud poker or in Irish stad stop where the dealer does not go from player to player but stops stad with the house.’

Is there any evidence for stad being the origin of stud in stud poker? No, obviously not. For one thing, if the concept of stopping is such a salient aspect of the game, why isn’t stopping mentioned in the Wiki article on stud poker? Secondly, the game was always known as ‘stud horse poker’ in early references, including the legislation banning it in Texas in 1885.

A newspaper letter from 1985 gives this account of its origins:

Having earned my living for more than a decade with a pack of cards, as a professional magician, your editorial (Aug. 5), “Poker Is Poker Is Poker,” caught my interest. I may be able to shed some light on the phrase “stud horse poker.”

The first game of stud poker is said to have been played in a backwoods saloon somewhere in Ohio, just after the Civil War. The game on this occasion started as draw poker. During the course of play came a pot that was opened by a player holding three kings. There was much raising before and after the draw. The dealer, the man who opened and one other man stayed.

Having bet all his money, the man who opened put his cards down, ran outside, and came back into the room leading a spirited stallion, which he tied to the back of his chair. Then he realized that during his absence the other players had probably seen his three kings. So he made a proposition:

“You fellows know damned well what I’m betting on and I’ve got all my money up on it. Now I propose that to make it fair all around each man turns three of his cards face up, discard two, and draws two more face down. I’ll gamble this here thoroughbred stud horse on my chances.”

In other words, stud poker is no more likely to come from Irish than any of the other words in this ridiculous book.