Over the last few weeks we have established that Daniel Cassidy did not have a degree from Cornell University and that he was probably without any academic qualifications at all. This will come as no surprise to those who have a background in Irish or linguistics, because there are so many things in this book which would arouse the suspicion of any intelligent and enquiring person. As Michael Patrick Brady so rightly commented on Popmatters back in 2007, “Cassidy is the co-founder of the Irish Studies program at the New College of California, a tiny liberal arts school, and though his bona fides seem in order, the book has a strange, casual tone that makes it hard to approach.” Yes, Cassidy’s bona fides seemed in order back then. We now know that his claim to be a genuine academic was a total crock. However, it is perhaps worth looking through some of the many reasons why Cassidy’s ‘research’ was obviously rubbish, even before the bombshell revelation that Cassidy had no qualifications.
- The book contains certain claims which are not just improbable but completely nuts, such as the claim that Gunga Din comes from Irish!
- The vast majority of Cassidy’s Irish candidates for the origin of English words and phrases are pure fantasy which are not found in Irish at all and which sound completely absurd to anyone who really speaks the language.
- Any real academic would have learned the language before writing a book about it. Cassidy didn’t feel that was necessary and many of his made-up phrases are laughable because he had no idea of grammar or usage.
- When Cassidy did take words from the Irish dictionaries, he took words out of context and used the most obscure meanings. For example, the word ceap has many meanings. Cassidy found the obscure poetic meaning of protector and claimed it as the origin of cop. This is like saying that because you can say ‘pillar of the community’ it’s also OK to say things like ‘I was talking to a pillar at the reception’.
- Cassidy rarely checked other sources for words. When he did mention the dictionary origins, it was merely to rubbish them without presenting the full facts.
- Cassidy invented a peculiar fake version of phonetic transcription which bears no relation to the real thing. For example, in phonetics, a j represents the sound usually represented with a y in English. This is Phonetics 101, yet Cassidy knew nothing about it!
- Cassidy did not use any kind of referencing system. He tended to cobble together a fake definition, some of which came from the dictionaries and some of which was his own invention, and then give three or four references to different books afterwards!
- Cassidy’s ‘evidence’ consisted not of proof for the existence of his Irish candidate phrases in Irish, but of the target phrases in the work of Irish-American writers, as if that proves anything!
I could go on but why bother? Anyone with an open mind and a titter of wit knows that Cassidy was a fraud.
Very belated Happy New Year! I’m contacting you on here because I can’t remember or find your email addy. Quick question that I’d be grateful if you can reply to in the next couple of days, if possible. Wikipedia on Australian English suggests Oz -o might come from Irish: ‘The use of the suffix -o originates in Irish: ó, which is both a postclitic and a suffix with much the same meaning as in Australian English.’ How plausible is that? I’m asking simply because I’m writing a post about Oz English and just want to say ‘possibly from Irish.’ Very grateful for your help.
Hi Jeremy, Nice to hear from you! As you know, the Celtic languages seem to be a favourite resort of etymological cranks, so when you hear an unusual etymological claim made about Irish or Welsh, it’s usually safe to assume that it’s tosh unless there is some good accompanying evidence. (Penguins and Welsh being one exception.) In other words, I think the  from Wikipedia says it all!
I must confess that I know very little about Australian English and so I don’t really know how the suffix -o is used in that dialect. Wikipedia only offers two examples, arvo for afternoon and smoko for a cigarette break. Neither of these suggest any connection with Irish, in my humble opinion.
The Wikipedia article talks about Irish ó, ‘which is both a postclitic and a suffix with much the same meaning as in Australian English.’
So what does ó mean in Irish and how is it used? Of course, ó is several words in Irish. It can mean grandson (as in O’Neill or O’Donnell) or it can mean ‘from’ and it used to mean ‘ear’ in ancient versions of the language. In this case, we are talking about one specific lexeme given by the lexicographer Ó Dónaill as:
ó6, int. O! Oh! 1. (Introducing exclamatory phrase) Ó, a Dhia! O God! Ó, go díreach! Oh, indeed! Ó, mo dhearmad! Oh, I forgot! Ó, is fíor é! Oh, it is true! Ó, an bithiúnach! Oh, the scoundrel! Ó, gan pionta agam! O that I had a pint! 2. (After exclamatory phrase) A mhic ó! My dear son! My dear fellow! A mháthair ó! Mother dear! Ár gclann ó! Our dear children! Fill, a rún ó! Come back, oh, my love!
The first meaning has nothing distinctively Irish about it. There is nothing in O God! or Oh, I forgot! that anyone in any dialect of English would find strange. So, the Wikipedia article must be talking about the use of ó after exclamatory phrases. As you can see in the examples, this is nearly always used after a vocative expression (a mhic ó = oh son ó) but it can be used with other exclamations like ochón (alas). How ‘arvo’ and ‘smoko’ demonstrate ‘much the same meaning’ as a word added to exclamations in Irish is quite beyond me.
This sounds to me like more pretentious nonsense from Dymphna Lonergan, author of Sounds Irish, but I could be wrong about that. Good luck with the article but I recommend leaving the Irish derivation of smoko where it belongs – on Wikipedia! 😊
As suspected, the claim is the usual pish. So, now I can delete not just the usual hedge ‘possibly’, but any mention at all. Thanks for your time, John.
Go ndéana a mhaith duit, a chara ó! (You’re welcome, my friend!)
PS: I’ve just looked at your post on Dympnha Lonergan and sheila, etc., again. The tosh that some ‘academics’ come out with is quite astounding.
You’re not wrong, Jeremy. It’s bad enough all the chimps and fuckwits outside the tent pissing in without people like that inside the tent with us!
Ancora mille grazie!