Monthly Archives: October 2016

Beware of Fakelore!

We are getting ready for Hallowe’en here. It is one of my favourite festivals of the year. To our Celtic ancestors, it was Samhain, the end of summer, the Celtic New Year. Because the Celts believed in the importance of liminality, of the edges between realities, they believed that this festival night between one year and the next was somehow outside of ordinary time. It was therefore a gateway which allowed worlds to bleed into each other. On this night alone, the dead were able to return to the places they loved in this world.

I love folklore and tradition. I have no problem with traditions that grow and change (ever tried carving a turnip? – believe me, pumpkins are a lot easier and the result is much better!)

Vampires and monsters are fun, and the Irish have given many such stories to the world. Le Fanu and Stoker virtually created the modern vampire tradition, Le Fanu was a major influence on MR James, the greatest ghost-story writer of all time. Even Frankenstein has a brief incident set on the Irish coast.

However, while we should cherish our folklore, we should avoid fakelore. For example, Cassidy himself claimed that the Hoodoo comes from a distinctively Irish supernatural being called the uath dubh. The only problem is that the uath dubh does not exist in Irish folklore. There is no such thing.

Likewise, people like Bob Curran and Peter Haining and Peter Tremayne are responsible for a lot of sloppy research which makes untenable claims about Irish tradition. There is now a sizeable body of material floating around on the internet about the Irish origins of vampire folklore. But when we examine these claims, we find that there is no evidence for any of the paradigm-changing material.

For example, it is claimed that the villain of a County Derry story, Ábhartach, drank blood when he returned from the dead and that he was a described as a neamh-mharbh and as a dearg-diúlaí. Patrick Weston Joyce tells the story in his book but he doesn’t mention blood-drinking or the spurious Irish terms above.

There is also the claim that a book was displayed in Trinity College when Stoker was there containing references to Irish vampirism. In Brian Earls’s sensible and restrained article in the Dublin Review of Books (http://www.drb.ie/essays/blood-relations), this is stated to have been a copy of Keating’s Foras Feasa ar Éirinn, which has an account of revenants in book one, chapter ten, but the revenants don’t drink blood and are referred to as ‘the dead’ (na mairbh) or ‘bodies’ (coirp). Other accounts claim that the book gives an account of the legend of Ábhartach (which it doesn’t) or that it uses words like neamh-mharbh and dearg-diúlaí (which it doesn’t). The most bizarre version is in an article in Ireland of the Welcomes: “Owen Harding says there was a manuscript published about this legend from an anonymous writer. It was entitled The Abhartach, Dreach-Fhoula. This document was exhibited up till 1868 in none other than Trinity College which Stoker attended. So is it likely that Stoker used this story to base his novel on? Harding believes it is.”

Another weird piece of fakelore is the Dearg-Due, or Dearg-Dul, or Derrick-Dally, or Dearg-Diúlaí (sic). According to some sources, this is an ancient Irish vampire. However, the evidence for any of this is very, very weak. The earliest reference I can find to a dearg-dul is a 1928 book on vampires, Vampires, Their Kith and Kin (later republished as The Vampire in Europe) by a bizarre character called Montague Summers. He certainly mentions the dearg-dul. He says, simply, “In Ancient Ireland the Vampire was known simply as dearg-dul, “red blood sucker”, and his ravages were universally feared.” Another account of this creature is said (by Haining and Tremayne) to be found in the Irish Monthly Review of 1874, but none of those who quote this source has ever actually found the reference or provided any account of what the article says, or even if it exists. It seems to me that this is probably derived from the Irish deargadaol (Devil’s coach-horse), originally known as a darbdael or darb-dóel. In the former spelling, it occurs as early as the Book of Ballymote of 1391. The deargadaol is not red and is not a vampire. In fact, it is black. The word is formed from the two words doirb (a water beetle) and daol (a beetle), and this was later corrupted to Dearg-Daol or Deargadaol. Pádraig Pearse wrote a short story (published in 1916) called An Dearg-Daol, which concerns a woman who has been cursed from the pulpit by a priest for some unknown sin, and who is known as the Dearg-Daol because it is one of the three cursed creatures (the other two are the viper and the wren, presumably because of its propensity for marine pollution ….) I suspect that dearg-due arose from poor handwriting – many people write an l like an e and they are easy to confuse. It also seems to me that forms like Dearg-Diúlaí are attempts to explain this word by people with little or no Irish. They are very improbable. Dearg doesn’t mean blood, and why wouldn’t it be dearg-dhiúlaí (jarrig-yoolee) anyway?

Another problem is the absurd claim that Dracula derives from various ‘Irish’ phrases like Droch-fhoula or Droch-fhola or Dreach-fhola. Droch-fhoula obviously isn’t Irish, because there is no ‘ou’ in Irish orthography. Drochfhola is Irish for ‘of bad blood’ but words in the genitive can’t stand on their own in Irish, so it doesn’t really make sense. The Dreach-fhola is another strange one. Dreach is a masculine noun so it should be Dreach Fola (It is I, Count Draffola??!!) However, this is supposed to be from a lecture delivered by a man called Ó Súilleabháin, the head of the Irish Folklore Commission, who supposedly mentioned a castle called Dún Dreach-Fhola in Magillicuddy’s Reeks inhabited by blood-drinking fairies. But there is no written record of this, not in his writings or anyone else’s. And there is no doubt about the link between Dracula and Transylvania in Bram Stoker’s book.

Please note here that I am not criticising ordinary bloggers or commentators who have repeated these claims in good faith (though I do think people like Bob Curran, Peter Haining and Peter Tremayne deserve to be criticised). There is a difference between Cassidy’s supporters and these people. Cassidy’s supporters are championing a hoax which arose because of one man’s arrogance and dishonesty. It was discredited as soon as it came out, and those who support Cassidy have chosen to ignore the facts because of egoism and stupidity. The mess we find in relation to vampirism and Irish folklore comes from lots of different sources. Arguably nobody has deliberately lied about this stuff (with the possible exception of Owen Harding and Bob Curran.) These errors have arisen largely as a result of bad referencing, bad research, bad copying, accuracy slip and certainty creep, extreme gullibility, Chinese whispers and even bad handwriting.

Litir Oscailte Chuig Rónán

Bhí mé ag éisteacht le clár Rónáin inniu. Is breá liom Rónán Mac Aodha Bhuí. Bíonn scoth na Gaeilge le cluinstin ar a chlár agus níorbh aon eisceacht clár an lae inniu. Bhí roinnt daoine ina chuideachta agus is é saibhreas na Gaeilge a bhí i gcaibidil acu. Bhí go maith agus ní raibh go holc, go dtí gur luaigh Rónán an focal snagcheol. Chuir duine éigin téacs isteach. Cad chuige ar úsáid Rónán an focal snagcheol? Ní focal Béarla é jazz, dar leis an téacsóir. Is focal Gaeilge é, mar dhea, a thig ón fhocal deas. Tháinig téacs eile. Ní hea, arsa an ceann sin. Is ón fhocal teas a thig sé. Aidhe, agus fuair an Béarla rock ón Ghaeilge fosta, mar bíonn sé de nós ag lucht an rac-cheoil na seomraí san óstán a raiceáil i ndiaidh dóibh ceolchoirm a dhéanamh…

Agus ansin, luaigh Rónán leabhar Cassidy. Nár scríobh duine éigin leabhar i Meiriceá faoi na focail Ghaeilge atá le fáil sa Bhéarla?

Cuireann rudaí mar sin díomá orm. Tá go leor fianaise sa bhlag seo agus in áiteanna eile ar an idirlíon nach raibh sa Chasaideach ach leathghealt, lán-amadán agus caimiléir cruthanta. Ní raibh eolas dá laghad aige ar an Ghaeilge, agus cé gur Ollamh a bhí ann go hoifigiúil, ní raibh oiread agus céim aige. Is mór an náire nach mbíonn lucht na Gaeilge ag magadh go neamhthrócaireach faoin bhocamadán sin a luaithe agus a luaitear a ainm nó a theoiricí bómánta i lúb cuideachta.

Ní lia saoi ná tuairim maidir le bunús an fhocail sin jazz, agus ní fiú na teoiricí bómánta sin a nascann an focal leis an Ghaeilge a chur ar an liosta, dar leis na saineolaithe, gan trácht ar iad a chur ag barr an liosta! Más mian le daoine a chreidmheáil gur ón fhocal teas a tháinig jazz, bíodh acu, ach is bréag lom a rá nach bhfuil míniú ar bith eile ann nó go bhfuil tuairimí bómánta Cassidy chun tosaigh ar na barúlacha eile.

A Rónáin, a chara, is maith liom do chlár agus tréaslaím do shaothar leat. Léiríonn do chlár nach bhfuil an Ghaeilge marbh ná baol air, agus nach gá do lucht na Gaeilge sodar i ndiaidh na nGall agus scáil na teanga s’againne a fheiceáil i ngach aon chrístín agus drochfhocal atá le cluinstin san Oileán Úr, go díreach mar a bhíonn lucht na cráifeachta ar lorg aghaidh Íosa i ngach aon phancóg agus giota arán rósta dá bhfeiceann siad. Ní linne an snagcheol, agus ní le Cassidy agus a lucht leanúna an teanga s’againne ach an oiread.

Gosh Darn It, Danny

Another really stupid claim made in Daniel Cassidy’s book is that the expression ‘darn it’ comes from Irish.

Why is this stupid? Well, for one thing, there is no doubt about where darn it really comes from. It is first recorded (in America) in 1781. Early references include specific claims that darn is a euphemistic substitution for damn. The existence of expressions like ‘gosh darn it to heck!’ and ‘darnation’ leave us with little room for doubt that this is another minced oath, like Baloney! or Gee Whizz! or Holy Cow!

Cassidy ignores the logical explanation and claims that it comes from dothairne air. This word does exist but it is quite obscure. Ó Dónaill’s dictionary has this:

dothairne, f. (gs. ~). Affliction. Díth is ~ ort! Bad scran to you!

Dinneen has this:

dothairne g., id., f., evil, mischief; misfortune; do dhíth is do dhothairne ort, misery and misfortune attend thee.

Unusually, Cassidy’s definition is not too far from Dinneen’s and Ó Dónaill’s. In this case, Cassidy has resisted the temptation to add any ‘figurative’ meanings from his own imagination.

The problem is this. If we put “dothairne air” into Google, we get no hits at all. If we put “damnú air” into Google, we get (well, today I got) 1360 hits. So, dothairne is not as common in Irish as Cassidy would like us to believe and of course, Cassidy didn’t speak Irish and knew nothing about the language.

Incidentally, there is a variant of this which gets a handful of hits on Google, the fake word ‘daithairne’. This comes from a singularly dim-witted article by Brendan Patrick Keane on IrishCentral, where Keane was apparently too lazy to copy the word out from Cassidy’s book properly, and too stupid and ignorant of the Irish language to realise that daithairne violates a basic rule of Irish orthography, caol le caol is leathan le leathan. (It would take too long to explain this properly, but basically, consonants have two values depending on whether they are next to an i,e or an a,o,u. For example, in mise, pronounced misha, the s is slender because it has an i and an e next to it. In measa, pronounced massa, the s has an a before it and after it, so it’s broad. The –aithai- string is strange in Irish because it’s slender on one side and broad on the other.) Still, at least this is on IrishCentral where it will hardly be noticed. A little more rubbish there will be like mún dreoilín san fharraige (a wren pissing in the sea.)

Incidentally, dang it (which Cassidy’s razor-sharp intellect somehow missed) might just have an Irish connection. In Irish, damnú air (damn it) is sometimes disguised as daingniú air (strengthening on it). It is not impossible that this gave rise to dang it, as there is no word dang in English.

Onwards and Upwards

Since I started Cassidyslangscam, there has been an increase every year in the number of visitors and the number of hits. This year is no exception. I have already surpassed the number of visitors and hits the site got last year. And that means that more people around the globe have been warned about the worthlessness of Cassidy’s fake research, and that can only be a good thing.

More on the Folklore Poker

In December 2015, I wrote a post (The Tyranny of Narrative) in which I questioned Cassidy’s story about how his ludicrous book How The Irish Invented Slang came to be written. As I explained in that post, there are a number of reasons for doubting Cassidy’s claim that he came up with his theory after inheriting a pocket Irish dictionary and noticing words in Irish which were similar to English slang terms. For one thing, Cassidy’s sister Susan doubted its truth. Then there is the fact that Cassidy was a pathological liar and that very little of what he said and wrote is trustworthy. And then again, there is the fact that Cassidy’s little origin myth about the pocket dictionary (which he insisted on calling a Folklore Poker rather than a foclóir póca) exists in two different forms. Plus the fact that the words which Cassidy claimed to be examples of the similarities he had spotted are mostly obscure terms which don’t occur in the pocket Irish dictionary he inherited.

Anyway, in another post (Cassidy’s Plagiarism) I also pointed out that many of the more believable (though none the less wrong) claims in Cassidy’s book had already appeared on an Irish language forum called the Daltaí Boards in 2004. Cassidy joined this forum and bothered people with his nonsense for a while in 2005 but of course, he may have read it many times before he joined. I suggested at the time in the comments that Cassidy perhaps derived his theory not from the pocket dictionary, but from reading the posts on the Daltaí Boards.

Recently, I had another look at this question and decided to find out when the earliest evidence of Cassidy’s ‘research’ can be found online. I found that Cassidy wrote an article in the NY Observer (standing in for his crony Terry Golway) in January 2003 about the links between criminal cant and Irish. If he had already posted in 2003, then plainly, he wasn’t influenced by the posts about Irish influence on the Daltaí Boards. However, there was something that just didn’t sound right to me, so I decided to check the Daltaí Boards again.

It turns out that the exchange in 2004 wasn’t the first discussion of words of Irish origin in English on the Daltaí Boards. There was an earlier exchange in April 2002, in which a number of terms were discussed, including shanty, slew, slogan, trousers, smithereens, galore, kybosh, whiskey, leprechaun, banshee, bard, bog, brogue, colleen, glen, jockey, keen, pet, so long, phoney, longshoreman, do you dig?, spree.

So, what’s the real story about Cassidy’s ‘epiphany?’ It seems to me that the story about the pocket dictionary is full of holes. Perhaps Cassidy noticed one or two words that other people have mentioned before (like snas and snazzy) but I think it was his surfing on Google that really gave him the first claims for his book. And then he went on the rampage with his own imagination, inventing hundreds of nonsensical Irish phrases like bocaí rua and gruaim béil and sách úr and leathluí géag and gus óil to fill his book up and turn it into the collection of total garbage which has polluted the world’s libraries and bookshelves ever since.

It’s Official: The Etruscans Were Irish!

[I would like to make it quite clear that THIS IS NOT A REAL THEORY. I AM TAKING THE PISS. Unfortunately, it is the nature of the Internet that people flit around reading little bits of things and then tweeting about them and republishing them in other ways, so it is no surprise that there is a thing called Poe’s Law, which states that unless the material is clearly labelled as ironic, somebody will always take your parodies and satires at face value. On this blog, I have already had people take seriously claims that the phrase Vichy Water is from Irish and that the Irish language has a word for the sound horses make when you pull their feathers out. Seriously! So, just to be clear, I’m being sarcastic – Etruscan is NOT an early form of Irish.]

The Irish Milesian Academy For Intellectual Arts (IrishMAFIA), founded five years ago to further the work of the late Daniel Cassidy, have come up with their biggest and boldest claim yet. According to Brendan Patrick Gurne, Head of Creative Etymology with IrishMAFIA:

“We were looking at Google and found a website about Etruscan, an ancient language of Italy, and its links to extra-terrestrials, the Illuminati and home-made anti-gravity machines. We then found a vocabulary of Etruscan and were amazed to find clear parallels between Irish and Etruscan. We are convinced that Etruscan is in fact an early form of Irish and that through the Etruscans, Irish was responsible for the Roman Empire and the whole history of Western Civilization.

Let’s look at some examples. For example, clan is Etruscan for son. This is just like clann in Irish, which means children. The Etruscan for jar is pruchum, which is like the Irish próca. Shuthi, meaning a vault or grave is very like the Irish or sidhe, meaning a fairy mound or grave mound. The Etruscan word for a state, tuθi (tuthi) is almost exactly the same as Irish tuath, meaning a petty kingdom. Cel, the word for earth, ground or soil, is very similar to cill, which means churchyard. The Etruscan for bull, thevru, is very like Irish tarbh. The Etruscan for I is mi, which is just like Irish . The Etruscan for a free person is zeri, which is just like the Irish word saor. And what about mech, meaning lady or queen? Surely this is the same word as Macha, the ancient goddess of war who gave her name to Armagh? There can be no doubt about it. The Etruscans were Irish.”

Reaction to the revelation from academic linguists has been universally skeptical and hostile, but it has been enthusiastically repeated by the Irish Times, the Irish News, IrishCentral , the Irish Echo, RTÉ, Michael Patrick MacDonald, Joseph Lee and Peter Linebaugh.

[WARNING: THIS IS SATIRE! The Etruscans were NOT Irish. The vast majority of Etruscan vocabulary bears no relation to any Celtic language. Próca isn’t originally an Irish word. Clann is an early Irish borrowing of Latin planta. Cill also comes from Latin and is related to English cell. The taurus/tarvos word for bull is found in many Indo-European languages and is probably Afro-Asiatic in origin. The others are just coincidental similarities, helped along by selective use of definitions. It just goes to show how easy it is to make random and completely worthless connections when you are dealing with a fairly large set of data.]