Cassidy’s Plagiarism

In 2008, Daniel Cassidy published a dreadful book called How The Irish Invented Slang. His claim in this book was that he inherited a pocket Irish dictionary in 2001 from a friend and decided to learn a word a day, and in the process he realised that hundreds of English words came from Irish. Cassidy – who according to some people was passionate about the Irish language and Irish culture – was 57 years old before he decided to start learning a little Irish. He had been an Irish Studies professor for five years at that time (though he had no qualifications at all and presumably lied his way into that job.)

Many of the supporters of Cassidy and his absurd ‘research’ have admitted that a lot of Cassidy’s claims were wrong but said that he should be praised for the things he did get right. Those of us who realise how wrong Cassidy was and how arrogant he was in his wrongness don’t accept this. There is hardly anything worth having in Cassidy’s book and hardly any of the material which is even remotely possible can genuinely be attributed to Cassidy.

For example, in October 2003, a user called Paul posed a question on an Irish language learners’ site called the Daltaí Boards. He wanted to know about Irish words in English for a project. The users of the site provided him with lots of possible candidates. For example:  galore from go leor; smashing from is maith sin; slug from slogadh; smithereens from smidiríní; shebeen from síbín; glen from gleann; Tory from Tóraí; bog from bogach; bard from bard; slogan from sluaghairm; banshee from bean sí;  whiskey from uisce beatha; brogue from bróg (shoe) and barróg (lisp); gulp from ag alpadh; shanty from seanteach; slew from slua; longshoreman from loingseoir; moniker from Shelta munik; kibosh from caidhp bháis; dig from an dtuigeann tú?

As I have stated before, some of these are correct or are likely to be correct, though some are definitely wrong and in several  cases there is doubt about whether they come from Irish or Scottish Gaelic. The origins of bard are complex and it is as likely to come from Welsh as from Irish. Gulp dates to medieval times and has a cognate in Dutch gulpen, which meant (amongst other things) to guzzle, and in any case, the idea that people would borrow the ag along with the basic word alpadh is absurd. There is no evidence that caidhp bháis actually exists as a phrase. It is only in the dictionaries as the name of a fungus.

But it really doesn’t matter whether these words and phrases are right or wrong. The point is, Cassidy used many of these words in his book without crediting the source. He plagiarised them from this forum, which he joined in January 2005, long after this thread was published in October 2003. He posted on this forum for a while, was mocked and criticised by some of the other members and eventually stopped posting under his own name, just occasionally posting barbed comments under fake names but without disguising his highly idiosyncratic and childish turns of phrase.

The only real talent Cassidy possessed was a talent for glomming and grabbing things which didn’t belong to him. He was a thief, a fraud, a charlatan and a liar.

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