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Céim Síos Do Cassidy

Nuair a thosaigh mé ar an bhlag seo a scríobh cúpla bliain ó shin, rinne mé cinneadh go scríobhfainn an chuid is mó de i mBéarla. Ní hé nach mbeinn ábalta an blag a chumadh i nGaeilge, ach tá an blag seo dírithe go príomha ar dhaoine a chreideann san amaidí a scríobh Daniel Cassidy ina leabhar How The Irish Invented Slang. Is Gael-Mheiriceánaigh formhór na ndaoine sin, nó daoine de bhunús Gaelach atá lonnaithe i dtíortha eile a bhfuil an Béarla i réim iontu. Is beag Gaeilgeoir arbh fhiú Gaeilgeoir a thabhairt air a chreidfeadh i leithéidí ‘uí bhfolaíocht án’ (an frása as a bhfuair an Béarla an focal high-falutin’, dar le Cassidy.) Duine ar bith a bhfuil Gaeilge mhaith aige, thuigfeadh sé láithreach nach bhfuil sa leabhar seo ach bocamadán craiceáilte ag smaoineamh os ard.

Agus sin ráite, is mór an díol spéise caimiléireacht Cassidy do lucht labhartha na Gaeilge, agus is iomaí duine a bhfuil an teanga aige a chuir in aghaidh na raiméise seo, leithéidí Eoin Uí Mhurchú ar An Tuairisceoir. Mar sin de, sílim gur cheart dom an scéal is nua a roinnt libh sa teanga s’againne.

Fuair muid teachtaireacht ar na mallaibh ó dheirfiúr Cassidy. Bhí mé i gcónaí amhrasach faoi cháilíochtaí Daniel Cassidy mar gheall ar a olcas a bhí an leabhar ach chuir sé iontas an domhain orm nuair a chuala mé nach bhfuair Cassidy a chéim riamh ó Ollscoil Cornell. Chuaigh mé i dteagmháil leis an Chláraitheoir ag Cornell, agus dhearbhaigh sise nach bhfuair Daniel Cassidy céim ón choláiste sin riamh. De réir cosúlachta, ní raibh cáilíochtaí ar bith aige. Ní raibh céim, ná céim mháistir, ná dochtúireacht aige. Caimiléir a bhí ann, duine a bhain úsáid as calaois agus béal bán le daoine saonta a robáil agus le dallamullóg a chur ar amadáin.

Tá muid ag fanacht le tuilleadh eolais a fháil ó Ollscoil Columbia agus ó San Francisco State, mar a raibh Cassidy ag teagasc sular thosaigh sé a obair in New College of California. Coinnigí súil ar an bhlag seo! Tá rudaí ag éirí iontach spéisiúil!

A Victimless Crime?

Recently, we found out that the late ‘Professor’ Daniel Cassidy, a lecturer in Irish Studies at the now defunct New College of California and author of an appalling and almost completely fictional book called How The Irish Invented Slang did not have a degree from Cornell, as is currently claimed on his Wikipedia biography. His sister Susan tipped us off and the fact that he failed to graduate was then confirmed by the registrar at Cornell, Cassie Dembosky. Some sources claim that he had a degree from Columbia University and I have contacted the registrar there to see whether or not Cassidy gained any qualifications from them. As only a few sources even mention Columbia and the details are garbled, I doubt whether there is any substance to these claims either. (For example, on the Irish Crossroads Festival website it says that he had a degree from Columbia and a Master’s in History from Cornell. It seems highly unlikely that Cornell would have given him a postgrad after he was kicked out of his undergrad studies there and most sources don’t even mention Columbia.) His sister also says that it was his brother Michael who studied at Columbia, not Daniel Cassidy.

I have also contacted the registrar at San Francisco State, where it is claimed Cassidy taught before he was given his Professorship at New College of California. I will post any further news here as it arrives. However, while we’re waiting for clarifications, it seems timely to anticipate some of the things that Cassidy’s supporters might have to say about these revelations in relation to their hero.

Firstly, I’m not expecting any of them to say sorry or accept that they’ve made a mistake. Cassidy’s supporters are far too arrogant and smug to apologise. Like Cassidy himself, most of these people seem to be of the opinion that they are incapable of making a mistake and that they know better than an ivory tower full of dons and experts.

I’m also sure that some of them will shrug and say that it doesn’t matter. After all, some people thought that Cassidy was a great teacher and nobody realised that he didn’t have the qualifications a professor is supposed to have. So where’s the harm?

Well, it doesn’t take a genius to work out where the harm is. Maybe Cassidy seemed competent but the book suggests he had no idea about methodology or genuine research. And even if he was very able and a great lecturer, so what? I believe in equality of opportunity. If a person meets the criteria for a job and has better experience and skills and qualifications than the other candidates, they should be given the post, regardless of their colour or sexual orientation or whether they have the approbation of the local Grand Poo-Bah of the Orange Order. When people lie about their qualifications, what right do they have to lecture others about ethical and decent behaviour?

After all, suppose that Cassidy earned a salary of 50,000 dollars a year at NCC for a period of twelve years as a professor. And let’s assume that even in a badly-run and nepotistic outfit like NCC he wouldn’t have been given a professorship with no qualifications. That’s six hundred thousand dollars that went to Cassidy when it should have gone to someone with appropriate qualifications. This is a white-collar crime and didn’t involve violence but is it really so much better in moral terms than walking into a bank with a fake gun and stealing sixty thousand dollars?

The law still calls it theft. In 2014, a Professor of Business Studies at Polk State called David Scott Broxterman, 55, was arrested and charged with grand theft over $100,000 and cheating. That figure was based on his earnings for the job for which he was unqualified. The State Attorney’s Office said he submitted fake transcripts to Polk State claiming he earned a doctorate degree from the University of South Florida in 2007 and that he displayed a forged diploma in his office. Apparently the diploma was badly produced, with a signature from USF President Judy C. Genshaft that should have been Judy L. Genshaft, the wrong color and placement of the USF seal and the word “Board” misspelled “Baord.” Broxterman was a popular teacher and had an overall rating of 4.9 out of 5 on the popular website ratemyprofessor.com.

The only real difference between Broxterman and Cassidy is that Cassidy got away with it for a lot longer. That, and the fact that Broxterman actually had some genuine qualifications!

An Unqualified Failure

Revelations have come thick and fast over the past week. Firstly, Susan (Daniel Cassidy’s sister), tipped us off that Cassidy never received his degree from Cornell. I contacted Cassie Dembosky, Registrar at Cornell, who has responded very quickly. This is what she had to say:

Thank you for this information. I’m writing to confirm that Daniel Patrick Cassidy, Jr. did not graduate from Cornell University. He was withdrawn from the university on June 8, 1965.

In other words, the claim made on his Wikipedia entry that he was a Cornell graduate is as phoney as the claims made about Irish in his absurd book. Cassidy did not have a degree.

I have contacted the registrar at San Francisco State, because this raises a lot of questions. How did Cassidy end up with a Professorship at New College of California when the majority of the population in some developed countries is better qualified than he was? What qualifications did he claim to have when he found work lecturing in San Francisco State?

So much for all Cassidy’s blather and lies about equality and the rights of the underdog! I am really looking forward to hearing from the Registrar at SFS. Watch this space!

Dhá Bhliain de Cassidyslangscam

Bhuel, shílfeá nach raibh ann ach faiteadh na súl ach tá dhá bhliain i ndiaidh dul thart ó chuir mé tús leis an bhlag seo. Tá obair mhaith déanta agam, dar liom, agus tá mé bródúil as an méid atá curtha i gcrích anseo.

Go raibh maith agaibh as spéis a chur sa bhlag seo agus san ábhar seo.

An Ghaeilge Abú!

Beannachtaí na Féile Pádraig daoibh!

More On Cassidy’s Degree

Recently, I received messages from Cassidy’s sister in which she stated that Cassidy flunked his degree at Cornell. If this is the case, then it seems to suggest that Cassidy had no degree.

As I have said before, I cannot prove that this particular claim is true, but I think it certainly makes sense. There is a lack of any solid information in accounts of Cassidy’s educational background. While it says on Wikipedia that he graduated from Cornell, in other interviews he simply talks about studying at Cornell. There is no indication anywhere of what level of degree he might have achieved, if any.

The fact is, knowing what I know about Cassidy, I consider the claim entirely credible. I have met plenty of narcissists like Cassidy and I know that someone like him, on realising that getting a good job required lying about his educational background, would immediately invent lots of justifications for committing such a fraud. I wudda had dat degree, only coicumstances was against me. I should really do dis, because dey need more Irish-American workin’-class stiffs like me. If I can geddaway wid dis, dat proves dat dese guys in academia are da real frauds. Dey should be thanking me! I can do good things for Irish-America if I can only get a break. I’m smart. I’ll prove it once I get into da job! etc. etc. etc.

Hopefully, Cornell University will look at this question and let the world know officially whether Cassidy was a graduate. While we wait for corroborating evidence, all I can say is that there is a real question mark about whether Cassidy had any kind of academic qualification at all. I always thought that a primary degree was a poor basis for a professorship. Graduating from high school (assuming that he even did that!) is an even poorer basis for a chair. It might entitle him to a job as a janitor. But a professorship? Not a chance!

Ballyhoo

The word ballyhoo was originally carnival slang for the spiel which a showman used to get people to gather round his show. It is first recorded in this sense in the early twentieth century and around the same time, it is found in the more general sense of a ruckus or a hubbub.

Now, Cassidy (and Loretto Todd before him – one of the rare examples of a word which both of them claimed for Irish) claimed that this word comes from the Irish bailiú, which means gathering or collecting. There is nothing terribly improbable about this claim but neither is it a great fit. A ballyhoo is a loud thing full of razzamattazz. Bailiú is rattling a box for St Vincent de Paul outside of mass on a Sunday.

And then, of course, there is the little matter of alternative claims.

It seems that the most likely origin of the word is a shortened form of Ballyhooly, which meant a ruckus or rumpus or fuirse-má-rabhdaileam (what a great Irish expression that is!) This apparently derives from Ballyhooly in Count Cork. According to the OED, this came about because Ballyhooly was famous for faction fighting. While one irate local has commented on line that this is a slur on the good name of Ballyhooly, the idea that Ballyhooly was a byword for faction fighting is confirmed in a book called Cork Past and Present, published in 1905:

“At the close of the 18th century, there was a poor and plain Catholic Church about a mile from Ballyhooly but on the southern side of the river Blackwater. It was built on the side of a hill on the road to Rathcormac.
In the year 1819 a lamentable scene was witnessed within its walls. A few of the parishioners were at enmity with some of their neighbours and even in their place of worship and heedless of the counsel of their priest, they could not restrain their angry feelings, but came to blows.”

Apparently at least one person was killed when the riot spilled out onto the roadway outside. By the 1830s, to ‘give someone Ballyhooly’ meant to give someone hell, as in an 1837 story set in the west of Ireland in Tait’s Edinburgh Magazine.

In other words, a shortening of Ballyhooly is a pretty good fit for the origin of ballyhoo – at least as good as bailiú, anyway.

Did Daniel Cassidy Have a University Degree?

Wow! For several years now, I have been posting regularly here, trying to convince people that Daniel Cassidy’s insane theories about the Irish origins of American slang have no basis in fact. In the process, I have often questioned Cassidy’s qualifications. According to Wikipedia, he had a degree from Cornell. He seems to have had no other qualifications. No Master’s degree, no doctorate. Not even a diploma. However, I never doubted that he had a primary degree.

This rainy and miserable evening, I logged on to the computer to start writing a post about the subject of the word ballyhoo and the claims made by Loretto Todd and Daniel Cassidy about its origin from the Irish word bailiú. However, when I logged on, I was amazed to receive a message from Cassidy’s sister Susan Cassidy Connors:

Danny was always an FOS person–he was older than he claimed, was a liar and a thief, and tore the family apart.

BTW, he did attend Cornell, but flunked out!

So, it looks as if the Cassidy scandal might be an even bigger scandal than I thought. We knew that Cassidy was guilty of egoism and misinformation and deception but if this is correct, then Cassidy was guilty of far more. Claiming to have an academic qualification to obtain employment is a serious criminal offence, and surely nobody would have employed him as an academic knowing that he had no academic qualifications at all! Several sources also mention Columbia, with one of them claiming that he graduated from that university, but as this is only one source, it seems unlikely.

As it stands, of course, I cannot prove this claim one way or the other. I have contacted the Registrar’s Office at Cornell to inform them and I hope that they will investigate and issue a statement on this if appropriate. I suggest that the Registrar’s Office at San Francisco State should also investigate if Cassidy worked with them and what proof he offered of his academic qualifications. (According to a discussion on Wikipedia on the origins of the word jazz, Cassidy worked on the faculty of SFS before taking up his chair at NCC, which was in 1995.)

To those who have followed cassidyslangscam with interest, watch this space. Things are starting to get very interesting!

Hot Dog!

In his absurd work of fake scholarship, How The Irish Invented Slang, the late Daniel Cassidy got it wrong in so many ways. However, none of Cassidy’s claims are more wrong or more absurd than his claims about three related American slang expressions, Hot Dog!, Hot Diggity! and Hot Diggity Dog! While the term hot dog for a sausage in a bun apparently dates back to the 19th century (and apparently derives from the idea that dog meat actually ended up in the sausages!) and these expressions as exclamations of delight or surprise date back to the 1920s, there is some doubt about their origins. I assumed that hot dog was the original version and that it was a minced oath for Holy God, but I suppose that expression would be more common here in Ireland than in the States. Other sources think that young people accustomed to the deliciousness of the hot dog used it as a generic expression for a good thing.

Daniel Cassidy really surpassed himself with his explanations for these expressions. He took an element (from Dinneen’s Dictionary) which is so old-fashioned that it would have been obsolete a thousand years ago, the element –tach, which comes from a verb for to swear. This is an element in ancient and well-established words in Irish, like éitheach meaning ‘lie’ but there were probably still Viking settlements in Ireland when it was last used productively to form such words in the language. He also used another old, literary term for lamentation or groaning, iacht. Thus according to Cassidy, hot diggity dog is árd-iachtach-tach, which The Great Fraud says means ‘a loud oath; a loud declaration; crying out loud!’ Thus anyone trusting Cassidy and believing what he said would think this is a recognised and recognisable exclamation in the Irish language, rather than a ridiculous mash-up of obsolete words and affixes from ancient and medieval Irish thrown together randomly with a fake English definition attached.

Árd-iachtach-tach? Really? This is like taking a word from Chaucer, a word from Anglo-Saxon and a misspelt modern word and combining them without any regard for grammar or usage. This is a perfect example of why this dishonest, idiotic travesty of a book should be publicly burned.

Gavin Menzies

A couple of years ago, I read a book by Gavin Menzies which I had picked up in a second-hand bookshop. It was called 1421: The year the Chinese discovered America and purports to show that the Chinese went to various places long before Europeans, including places like South America and Australia. I read the first few chapters with interest but it didn’t take long for me to realise that this book and the theories contained in it are nonsense and that Menzies belongs in the same category as Graham Hancock or Ancient Aliens, or indeed, Daniel Cassidy.

The other day, I decided to read the reviews of this book on Amazon. There are a number of parallels or similarities between the profile of reviews given to Cassidy’s book and those for other works of pseudoscholarship, including Menzies’ recent work on Atlantis, which describes a Minoan Empire mining copper in Bronze Age America (there is an interesting discussion of this on Jason Colavito’s blog: http://www.jasoncolavito.com/blog/reviewing-gavin-menzies-atlantis-pt-6)

The first similarity is the overall pattern of the reviews. I’m no statistician, but let’s use a genuine work of archaeology as a control. Genuine works of archaeology like The End of the Bronze Age by Robert Drews tend to get lots of fours or fives. Occasionally they will get one or two begrudging ones or twos. However, if we look at the pseudoscience books, we find lots of rave and raving reviews. However, they also attract a minority of intelligent and well-reasoned attacks at the bottom end of the rating system. There is very little around three. For example, Cassidy’s book currently has forty reviews, the vast majority of them by idiots who think that Cassidy is genuinely an Irish scholar, little in the middle, but eight very hostile and negative reviews. This is almost exactly the pattern we find with Gavin Menzies’ books. Sensible reviews are in the minority but the quality and intelligence of the negative reviews is much greater.

We also find other common features between Menzies’ pseudo-archaeology and Cassidy’s pseudo-linguistics. For example, both Cassidy’s supporters and Menzies’ supporters regard any criticism of their idol as proof of a conspiracy among academics to protect their own bailiwick from amateurs or to distort the truth for other, unspecified motives. For example, here’s one review on Amazon.com:

There’s been an extreme amount of organized criticism toward Menzies and the subject of 15th century Chinese exploration to the New World. Perhaps, some of it is warranted. But, it is also clear that a lot of this criticism is motivated by something other than pure scholarly interests. To me, these guys should feel the least threatened and I don’t understand the animus. They already have the overwhelming influence of 500 years of Euro-centric recorded history on their side. Why not at least allow a minimal amount of latitude for alternative views. They act like this is akin to Holocaust denial. I know from my own study of both American and Asian history that we are always discovering new things.

Frequently, the conspiracy involves racism. In the Cassidist version, people are refusing to believe in the Irish origin of English words because they are Anglophiles, or anti-Irish. In the case of Menzies’ claims about the Chinese expeditions to places like Australia, some of Menzies’ supporters think that the denial of Menzies’ claims are because of anti-Chinese racism.

It also results in the conviction that there has been an centuries long conspiracy to ensure that, despite evidence to the contrary, we continued to believe the myths surrounding these “explorers” thus claiming the achievements of discovery for “the West” to the exclusion of China which was the real discoverer of so much of the world. Once the evidence has been presented (extremely eloquently and convincingly by Gavin Menzies) it is obvious that a people such as the Chinese whose inventiveness gave the world gunpowder, paper, silk, porcelain (hundreds of years before the West could produce it)and much else would have sought to sail (in huge and advanced ships) and discover the world outside their own country. I look forward to the author turning his attention to exploding further myths we hold to.

The fact is, of course, that this is a worthless red herring. Nobody is saying the Chinese were a bunch of dullards who wouldn’t have been capable of amazing discoveries. As all Irish people know, the Chinese are a great bunch of lads. But did they make these particular discoveries? If there were valid evidence available, I would accept it quite willingly. I would also like Irish to have given lots of words to English but it didn’t. Which brings me to the next point.

Most of the people who post in support of books like this have absolutely no bullshit sensors. They are incapable of spotting stupid or crazy claims. Time and again, they assert that the evidence is so strong that there can be no further argument. Thus we have people on Amazon congratulating Menzies on doing DNA analysis on people in South America and finding Chinese DNA in them! Of course, Menzies himself did hardly any first-hand research, let alone conducting DNA analysis. And it is quite obvious that his claims about Chinese DNA in the Americas are nonsense. Go looking for corroboration and you will find none. The DNA of the indigenous peoples of North and South America largely comes from East Asia. We always knew that. Therefore it is no surprise that their DNA resembles that of their ancestors from Asia. What the evidence doesn’t show is that a Chinese fleet turned up six hundred years ago and left their DNA in populations in North and South America. If this were the case, it would be demonstrable (because DNA changes and DNA separated from China for 20,000 years is different from DNA separated from China for 600 years), and it would be a smoking gun, absolute proof. So this is obviously a false claim, as is the claim that there are villages in South America where the local Indians speak Chinese. Any linguist who proved that could retire on it.

Unfortunately, what this shows is that there are a lot of stupid people around, and that’s why the Cassidys and the Menzies of this world manage to sell so many books.

Billy Club

According to Daniel Cassidy, the King of the Irish-American Liars, the term ‘billy club’ (a policeman’s truncheon) comes from Irish. The orthodox dictionaries tell us that this is an American term first recorded in 1848, and was originally burglar’s slang for ‘a crowbar’. According to these sources, it is probably derived from the personal name William/Billy, on the analogy of terms like jack and jimmy and jemmy and jenny, all of which also meant crowbar. Cassidy (of course) disagrees with the experts. According to him it is a buille club, with buille being the Irish for ‘blow, stroke, hit, whack’.

Let’s just examine this claim carefully. Firstly, what is the Irish for club? Dredging words up from my own memory, there is bata, sail éille, cleith ailpín, maide and smachtín. A search of the dictionaries also brings up words like lorga and lorgaid. However, it seems bizarre to put the word for blow next to any of these words, just as it would seem strange to talk about a blow-club in English. I mean, what other kind of club is there? A wave-around-in-the-air-in-a-menacing-fashion-for-a-few-minutes-then-put-it-back-in-the-cupboard-club? Or a pointy stab-club, which some people refer to as a sword? And buille is pronounced bwullya, which really isn’t that close to billy anyway.

In short, this is just as stupid as the rest of this idiotic book. The orthodox claim, as given on etymology sites and in dictionaries, is far more likely than Cassidy’s nonsense.