One of the most stupid claims in Cassidy’s book (and there are SO MANY OF THEM) is the one about whale. Apparently, to whale on someone means to beat or hit them. Nobody knows for sure where this word comes from. My first thought was that it might be from the power and violence of a whale, which could easily smash a boat with one flick of its tail, but apparently that’s not it.  It seems that this use of whale as a verb meaning beat or whip first occurs in the late 18th century and it has been suggested (quite reasonably) that it comes from the word wale, to mark with wales (variant of weals) or stripes, which has been used since the 15th century.

Cassidy, of course, disagrees and comes up with his own childish guess. According to him, it comes from bhuail, the past tense of buail, meaning to hit. As I have said before, words and phrases are not just borrowed any old how between languages. Cassidy thought it was OK to take any form which suited his purpose, plural, grammatically inflected, past tense, a hotchpotch of bad grammar or even just bits of phrases. Whichever form sounded most like his target was the one that ‘must’ have passed from pidgin Irish to slang English.

So, in the case above, if we allow the different mutations, we have buail (booil), bhuail (wooil or vooil depending ón dialect), mbuail (mooil). And of course, as we’ve seen in Cassidy’s overuse of aingí, vowels counted for nothing in his methodology. So the word buail could give ríse to whale, wheel, meal, mole, moll, mall, ball, bowl, bowel, vowel, veal, vole, and a couple of hundred other English words. When you’re casting your net as widely as this, it’s not difficult to find impressive-looking connections.  But they are only impressive if you don’t look too closely. In fact, you could say the same thing about Cassidy and all his works. They are only impressive if you don’t look too closely.

1 thought on “Whale

  1. DebunkerOfCassidy Post author

    It turns out that this was plagiarised by Cassidy from an Irish language forum, the Daltaí forums. In December 2005, there was a discussion about words in English from Irish, and the whale/bhuail connection was suggested by a poster called James. In a post a little while later, James then backtracked and said that there was no evidence for it. In other words, he acted like a rational human being, unlike Cassidy. Did Cassidy know about this? Probably, because Cassidy had been a member of the forum and had outstayed his welcome. There were several references to Cassidy on this thread, who used the name Dancas. “Oh, geez…just wait until Dancas sees this one…you’ll get hundreds of alleged Irish-isms.” “They sound as made up as Dancas’s …” Just goes to show what a shameless thief and liar Cassidy was.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.