Monthly Archives: May 2018

Puncher

The word ‘puncher’ meant a cowboy. The word punch means to strike or to prod or to poke. It derives from French and has been in common use in English for six hundred years.

Daniel Cassidy, in his atrocious book How The Irish Invented Slang, doesn’t mention these facts in his discussion of the word. He chooses instead to trace the word to the Irish paintéar, which he says means ‘a tying cord or rope, a noose, a lasso, a snare for catching animals …’ He cites Dinneen’s Irish dictionary as a source. Strangely, this isn’t what Dinneen’s dictionary says. Dinneen’s entry for paintéar begins thus: ‘a painter or panter, a snare, noose, gin or trap, a binding cable …’

In other words, this is an Irish word, certainly, but it was borrowed from the English word painter, which is a nautical term for a rope used to tie up a boat. This is also of French origin (i.e. the English borrowed it from French) but unrelated to the French term which is really the origin of punch.

In other words, you obviously don’t get to be that incompetent by accident. Cassidy deliberately missed out the important information relating to the real origins of puncher and the English origins of paintéar in order to make a fake case for an Irish origin. What a con-man!

 

 

Is focal eile ar bhuachaill bo é ‘puncher’. Ciallaíonn an focal punch bualadh nó broideadh nó sá. Tagann sé ón Fhraincis agus tá sé in úsáid go coitianta sa Bhéarla le sé chéad bliana anuas.

Ina leabhar amaideach How The Irish Invented Slang, ní luann Daniel Cassidy na fíricí seo ar chor ar bith.  Ina áit sin, maíonn sé gur tháinig puncher ón Ghaeilge paintéar. Deir sé go gciallaíonn paintéar ‘a tying cord or rope, a noose, a lasso, a snare for catching animals …’ Luann sé foclóir an Duinnínigh mar fhoinse. Ach ní hé sin an sainmhíniú a bhí ag an Duinníneach. Tosaíonn cur síos Uí Dhuinnín ar an fhocal paintéar mar seo: ‘a painter or panter, a snare, noose, gin or trap, a binding cable …’

Lena rá ar dhóigh eile, is focal Gaeilge é paintéar, cinnte, ach iasacht atá ann ón fhocal Béarla painter, focal bádóireachta a chiallaíonn rópa a úsáidtear le bád a cheangal. Tháinig an focal seo ón Fhraincis fosta (fuair lucht an Bhéarla ón Fhraincis é) ach níl baint ar bith aige leis an téarma Fraincise a thug an focal punch don Bhéarla.

Lena rá ar dhóigh eile, ní de thaisme a tharlaíonn bréaga mar seo. Is d’aon turas a theip ar Cassidy an fhaisnéis thábhachtach a bhaineann le fíorstair an fhocail puncher agus bunús Béarla paintéar a lua ionas go dtiocfadh leis cás bréige a dhéanamh gur Gaeilge a bhí ann. A leithéid de chaimiléir gan náire!

 

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Gaff

In Daniel Cassidy’s insane and inane book, How The Irish Invented Slang, Cassidy tried to prove that hundreds of words in English derive from Irish.

His methodology was simple: he hunted through Irish dictionaries to find a word which resembled the target word in English. When he couldn’t find anything suitable (which was usually the case), he took two or three Irish words and combined them into a ‘well-known phrase’ which had never been used in Irish, and for which Cassidy was happy to provide a fake definition.

Occasionally, Cassidy found words which seemed a good fit (at least for some of the meanings) but made no attempt to establish whether they were loanwords into Irish or loanwords from Irish to English.

Cassidy claimed that the word gaff meaning a boat-hook comes from the Irish gaf or geaf. However, gaf or geaf really comes from English and English got the word from Provencal  gaf via French.  The word gaffe meaning a blunder, is the same word. A quick search on the free and fully-searchable Electronic Dictionary of the Irish Language will confirm that gaf/geaf is not an ancient word in Irish. It is plainly, obviously and clearly a loanword.

Incidentally, the unrelated word gaff meaning a home or a place is from Romani gav.

 

I leabhar amaideach, craiceáilte Daniel Cassidy, How The Irish Invented Slang, rinne Cassidy iarracht a chruthú gur tháinigh na céadta focal i mBéarla ón Ghaeilge.

Bhí a chuid modhanna simplí: chuaigh sé a chuardach i bhfoclóiri Gaeilge le focal a aimsiú a bhí cosúil leis an sprioc i mBéarla. Nuair nach bhfuair sé a dhath (rud a tharla níos minice ná a mhalairt), fuair sé dhá fhocal nó trí fhocal i nGaeilge agus chuir sé le chéile iad le ‘frása coitianta’ a chruthú nach raibh riamh ann i nGaeilge, agus bhí Cassidy sásta sainmhíniú bréige a chur ar fáil fosta.

Ó am go ham, thagadh Cassidy ar fhocail a bhí fóirsteanach i gcosúlacht (maidir le cuid de na ciallanna, ar a laghad) ach ní dhearna sé iarracht ar bith a fháil amach an iasachtaí  a fuair an Ghaeilge ó theanga eile a bhí iontu, nó iasachtaí ón Ghaeilge sa Bhéarla.

Mar shampla, rinne Cassidy iarracht a mhaíomh go bhfuarthas an focal Béarla gaff, a chiallaíonn crúca báid, ón Ghaeilge gafgeaf. Is é fírinne an scéil, áfach, go bhfuair an Ghaeilge na focail gafgeaf ón Bhéarla, agus go bhfuair an Béarla an focal ón Phroibhinsis gaf tríd an Fhraincis.  Is ionann é agus an focal Béarla gaffe, a chiallaíonn botún. Má dhéanann tú cuardach are DIL, foclóir Gaeilge atá saor in aisce agus atá go hiomlán inchuardaithe, beidh tú ábalta a dhearbhú nach focal seanbhunaithe sa Ghaeilge é gaf/geaf. Is léir agus is ríléir gur iasacht atá ann.

Dála an scéil, níl baint ar bith ag an fhocal seo leis an fhocal gaff a chiallaíonn baile nó áit. Is ón Romainis gav a tháinig an ceann sin.

Much kerfuffle about nothing/Cíor thuathail faoi kerfuffle

In many places on line it is claimed that the word kerfuffle is derived from the Irish phrase cíor thuathail. For example, the Oxford English Dictionary says that it is perh. from Scots curfuffle (prob. from Sc. Gaelic car ‘twist, bend’ + imitative Scots fuffle ‘to disorder’), or rel. to Ir. cior thual ‘confusion, disorder’.

This ‘Irish’ phrase is not correct. The real Irish phrase is Cíor thuathail, confusion, bewilderment. For example, you could say ‘Tá an seomra folctha ina chíor thuathail aige’, – he has made a total mess of the bathroom. Cíor thuathail is pronounced keer hoo-il. The first element seems to be cíor, which means a comb or the crest of a bird. Tuathal means left-handed or anticlockwise.

In reality, the derivation of kerfuffle from Scots makes perfect sense. There are lots of related words for disorder like curfuggle and curfuddle, as well as words like curslap and curwallop which contain the same first element. You can find more information about this at the Dictionary of the Scots Language: http://www.dsl.ac.uk/entry/snd/cur

So, kerfuffle almost certainly doesn’t derive from Irish. However, looking at this reminded me of a question I have had for a long time and which nobody has been able to answer satisfactorily. Where does the Irish expression cíor thuathail come from?

If we take cíor to mean comb or crest in Irish, as it usually does, this makes little sense. What is a left-handed comb, or a left-handed crest? However, in researching this, I did find one possible origin. According to an old Irish dictionary published in 1768 (Focaloir Gaoidhilge-Sax-Bhearla Or an Irish-English Dictionary by John O’Brien), there is a literary term Cíor-ghal, where the gal means courage and the cíor is an old word for hand given by Ó Cléirigh in his Foclóir no Sanasan Nua in 1643, a borrowing from the Greek cheir.

This would make perfect sense. There are lots of expressions linking left-handedness to disorder or clumsiness in many languages. You only have to think of words like sinister or gauche in English, or ciotógach and tuathalach in Irish (both of which mean clumsy as well as left-handed).

Please note, however, that this is not a certainty. This is a possibility and needs to be confirmed by experts on the history of Irish. Scum like Daniel Cassidy were quite happy to jump to conclusions about language, rejecting sensible explanations on the flimsiest of grounds. Real scholars don’t behave the way Cassidy did. Real scholars care about the truth and act accordingly.

 

Is minic a mhaítear ar line gur tháinig an focal kerfuffle ón fhrása Gaeilge cíor thuathail. Mar shampla, deir an Oxford English Dictionary gur féidir gur ón Albanais curfuffle (is dócha ó Ghaidhlig na hAlban car ‘casadh, lúbadh’ + focal aithriseach Albanaise fuffle ‘cur in aimhréidh), nó gaolta le Gaeilge cior thual ‘corrabhuais, rírá’.

Ní Gaeilge an frása seo, ar ndóigh. Cíor thuathail an leagan ceart. Mar shampla, thiocfadh leat a rá: ‘Tá an seomra folctha ina chíor thuathail aige’. Ciallaíonn an focal cíor, rud a úsáidtear leis an ghruaig a réiteach, nó an círín ar chloigeann éin. Ciallaíonn tuathal ciotógach nó in éadan na gréine.

Ar ndóigh, tá an tsanasaíocht ón Albanais thar a bheith sochreidte. Tá a lán focal eile ar rírá ar nós curfuggle agus curfuddle, chomh maith le focail ar nós curslap agus curwallop a bhfuil an chéad chuid den fhocal mar an gcéanna. Is féidir níos mó a fhoghlaim faoin fhocal seo ag an Dictionary of the Scots Language: http://www.dsl.ac.uk/entry/snd/cur

Mar sin de, tá sé chóir a bheith cinnte nach focal Gaeilge é kerfuffle. Ach, agus mé ag amharc ar an cheist seo, chuir sé i gcuimhne dom go bhfuil ceist i mo chloigeann leis na blianta faoin fhrása seo, ceist nach bhfuair mé freagra sásúil uirthi riamh. Is é sin, cá has a bhfuarthas an cor cainte sin cíor thuathail?

Má ghlacaimid leis go bhfuil an ghnáthchiall cíor agus go gciallaíonn sé gléas le do chuid gruaige a chíoradh nó an círín ar chloigeann circe, níl mórán céille ag baint leis. Agus sin ráite, tháinig mé ar bhunús féideartha amháin agus mé ag déanamh taighde. De réir seanfhoclóir Gaeilge a foilsíodh in 1768 (Focaloir Gaoidhilge-Sax-Bhearla Or an Irish-English Dictionary le John O’Brien), tá seantéarma liteartha ann, Cíor-ghal. Ciallaíonn an gal misneach agus is seanfhocal ar lámh é cíor, focal a luann Ó Cléirigh ina Foclóir no Sanasan Nua in 1643, iasacht ón Ghréigis cheir.

Tá an méid seo le ciall. Tá a lán frásaí ann a nascann ciotógacht le hamscaíocht nó le haimhréidhe, ina lán teangacha. Ní gá ach focail ar nós sinister agus gauche a lua sa Bhéarla, nó ciotógach agus tuathalach i nGaeilge.

Agus sin ráite, ní féidir a bheith cinnte faoin tsanasaíocht seo. Níl ann ach féidearthacht agus ní mór do shaineolaithe ar stair na teanga é a dhearbhú. Sin an difear le gramaisc mar Cassidy. Bhi seisean i gcónaí sásta dóigh a dhéanamh dá bharúil féin agus diúltú do mhíniúcháin eile, míniúcháin níos fearr, ar na cúiseanna is laige amuigh. Ní dhéanann fíorscoláirí na rudaí a rinne Cassidy. Is maith le fíorscoláirí an fhírinne, agus bíonn siad ag gníomhú dá réir.

 

Twits of the Month – Internet Experts

This month’s twits are a broad category rather than an individual, though I will refer to individuals who belong to this class as well. The category is that of Internet experts. By this, I don’t mean people who are experts on the Internet or its use. I mean people who have appointed themselves as experts on topics like etymology and who go around ‘helpfully’ adding information and reviews about the subject on public forums and sites like Amazon and Goodreads. Here’s an example, a man called Brian McCarthy who gave Cassidy’s ridiculous book a glowing review and a four star rating on Goodreads. Whatever changed his mind, he then wrote the following as a comment:

Further to my review – the book has a lot of conjecture (as do dictionaries) so you can’t assume it’s all correct. Some say it’s enjoyable fiction or even 100% false. You can’t prove it one way or the other but if you have an open mind you can learn from it.

I need hardly point out that comparing the outright fantasies in Cassidy’s book to the (generally) intelligent speculations of lexicographers is stupid. However, the thing that most annoys me here is the idea that ‘you can’t prove it one way or the other’. Why can’t you prove it one way or the other? I’ll return to that question below.

There are lots of people like this, and they come from all walks of life. For example, on Quora, we find the following from a retired academic with a number of degrees, Dr Robert Jeantet (https://www.quora.com/Where-did-the-term-Holy-cow-originate-from):

When one thinks of expressions as “gee whiz”, “gee whillikers”, “darn”, or even “holy cow”, it is easy to trace them to New York slang of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Their origin, however, escapes the learned minds of most classically-trained linguists who do not know Irish Gaelic. Fortunately some fluent speakers of Gaelic have been able to explain the origin of these terms, including “holy cow”. I quote below from Daniel Cassidy’s book, “How the Irish Invented Slang”.

On the same thread, there is a comment from someone called Stephen Taylor, who styles himself an ‘amateur etymologist’, who also takes all Cassidy’s claims like Holy Cow from Holy Cathú and Gee whillikers from Dia Thoil(l)eachas and Gee Whiz from Dia Uas as genuine.

Now, I’m sure these are decent people and well-intentioned (though not all the people on line who support Daniel Cassidy’s dross are nice or well-intentioned people, by any means), but they do deserve to be criticised. Why? Well, there is enough bogus shite out there on the internet already. The idea that things cannot be proven so all you can do is decide what you want to believe is a cop-out. When you encounter claims from people like Daniel Cassidy or Graham Hancock or Erich von Daniken, you need to check all the facts carefully and make a decision accordingly.

Let’s just take the example of Holy Cow. You can easily find accounts of the genuine explanations here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holy_cow_(expression).  You can also look up Irish dictionaries here (https://www.focloir.ie/ga/dictionary/ei/Dia) where you will find that there is no evidence for the existence of the phrases Dia Thoil(l)eachas, Dia Uas, Holy Cathú or Holy Mac Ríúil. They are completely fake phrases, invented by Cassidy to sound like the English targets. The Irish for God’s will is Toil Dé, not Dia Thoil(l)eachas. Cathú means temptation, not grief (though grief is an obscure subsidiary meaning) and there is no evidence it’s ever been used in an exclamation. And the phrase Mac Ríúil doesn’t exist at all.

Of course, Cassidy claimed that these were real phrases. He offered no evidence. No explanation for why nobody else had ever made the connection between these phrases and the Irish equivalents. No explanation why the only references to these ‘Irish’ phrases on Google are to Cassidy and his book (unlike real Irish phrases like Dia ár sábháil).  And Cassidy had a proven record of inventing things, randomly grabbing terms like Ku Klux Klan, Gunga Din, Abracadabra and Bailiwick to claim them for Irish. (Though he had dropped three of these particular fantasies by the time he came to write the book.)

In other words, I think people like McCarthy and Jeantet and Taylor should just ask themselves this simple question. If there were a law against spreading bogus information, if you could end up fined or in jail for doing it, would you still enthusiastically click that button, or would you do five minutes of research before helping to increase the amount of fake nonsense in the world? If the answer is the latter, perhaps you should be doing that anyway.

Amadáin na Míosa – Saineolaithe an Idirlín

Is catagóir leathan iad amadáin na míosa seo in áit duine nó daoine ar leith, cé go ndéanfaidh mé tagairt do dhaoine ar leith a bhaineann leis an aicme seo chomh maith. Is é an chatagóir atá i gceist ná saineolaithe Idirlín. Ní saineolaithe ar an Idirlíon nó ar úsáid an Idirlín atá i gceist agam, ach daoine a cheap iad féin mar shaineolaithe ar ábhair ar nós na sanasaíochta agus a bhíonn ag roinnt a gcuid ‘eolais’ ar an tsaol ar fhóraim agus ar shuíomhanna poiblí mar Amazon agus Goodreads. Seo sampla amháin, fear darb ainm Brian McCarthy a thug léirmheas iontach dearfach agus rátáil ceithre réalta do leabhar amaideach Cassidy ar Goodreads. Cibé rud a chuir air teacht ar athchomhairle, scríobh sé an méid seo a leanas mar thuairim ar a léirmheas:

Further to my review – the book has a lot of conjecture (as do dictionaries) so you can’t assume it’s all correct. Some say it’s enjoyable fiction or even 100% false. You can’t prove it one way or the other but if you have an open mind you can learn from it.

Ní gá dom a rá gur rud bómánta é na fantaisiochtaí gan chiall i leabhar Cassidy a chur i gcomparáid leis na buillí faoi thuairim (a bhíonn ciallmhar, den chuid is mó) a dhéanann lucht na bhfoclóirí. Ach an rud is mó a chuireann isteach orm anseo ná an tuairim nach féidir é ‘a chruthú bealach amháin ná bealach eile’. Cén fáth nach dtig leat é a chruthú bealach amháin ná bealach eile? Fillfidh mé ar an cheist sin thíos.

Tá a lán daoine den chineál seo ann agus is dream an-éagsúil iad fosta. Mar shampla, tá an píosa seo a leanas le feiceáil ar Quora, le hiarléachtóir a bhfuil roinnt céimeanna aige, an Dr Robert Jeantet (https://www.quora.com/Where-did-the-term-Holy-cow-originate-from):

When one thinks of expressions as “gee whiz”, “gee whillikers”, “darn”, or even “holy cow”, it is easy to trace them to New York slang of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Their origin, however, escapes the learned minds of most classically-trained linguists who do not know Irish Gaelic. Fortunately some fluent speakers of Gaelic have been able to explain the origin of these terms, including “holy cow”. I quote below from Daniel Cassidy’s book, “How the Irish Invented Slang”.

Ar an chomhrá chéanna, tá tuairim ó dhuine éigin darb ainm Stephen Taylor, a thugann ‘sanasaí amaitéarach’, air féin agus a ghlacann teoiricí amaideacha uilig Cassidy i ndáiríre, rudaí mar Holy Cow ag teacht ó Holy Cathú, Gee Whillikers ó Dia Thoil(l)eachas agus Gee Whiz ó Dia Uas.

Anois, is dócha gur daoine deasa na daoine seo, agus nach bhfuil siad ag iarraidh bheith mioscaiseach (cé nach daoine deasa dea-chroíocha iad gach duine a thacaíonn le Cassidy agus a chuid raiméise ar line, ná baol air), ach sílim féin go bhfuil cáineadh tuillte acu anseo. Cad chuige? Bhal, tá go leor amaidí amuigh ansin ar an idirlíon cheana féin. An dearcadh nach féidir rud ar bith a chruthú agus nach féidir rud ar bith a dhéanamh ach cibé rud is mian leat a bheith fíor a roghnú, níl ansin ach séanadh freagrachta. Nuair a fhoilsíonn daoine ar nós Daniel Cassidy nó Graham Hancock nó Erich Von Daniken rudaí amaideacha, ní mor duit na fíricí a chinntiú go cúramach agus cinneadh a dhéanamh dá réir.

An frása Holy Cow, mar shampla. Ní deacair cuntas a fháil ar na mínithe cearta anseo: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holy_cow_(expression)   Agus is féidir leat foclóirí Gaeilge a aimsiú anseo (https://www.focloir.ie/ga/dictionary/ei/Dia). Sna foinsí sin, gheobhaidh tú amach nach bhfuil fianaise go raibh frásaí ar nós Dia Thoil(l)eachas, Dia Uas, Holy Cathú nó Holy Mac Ríúil riamh ann. Tá said go huile agus go hiomlán bréagach, rudaí a chum Cassidy ionas go mbeadh siad cosúil leis na frásaí Béarla ó thaobh fuaime de. Is é Toil Dé an Ghaeilge atá ar ‘the will of God’, ní Dia Thoil(l)eachas. Ní chiallaíonn cathú brón (cé gur fochiall den fhocal é sin) agus níl fianaise ar bith ann gur baineadh úsáid as riamh mar uaillbhreas. Agus níl an frása Mac Ríúil ann ar chor ar bith.

Ar ndóigh, mhaígh Cassidy gur fíorGhaeilge a bhí sa raiméis seo. Níor thug sé fianaise ar bith dúinn. Níor mhínigh sé cad chuige nach ndearna duine ar bith eile nasc idir na frásaí seo agus a gcomhfhrásaí a d’aimsigh seisean i nGaeilge. Níor mhínigh sé cad chuige nach bhfuil tagairt ar bith do na frásaí ‘Gaeilge’ seo ar Google ach tagairtí do Cassidy agus don leabhar bhómánta aige (ní hionann agus fíorGhaeilge ar nós Dia ár sábháil). Agus bhí nós na cumadóireachta ag Cassidy. Bhí bréagbhunúis ‘Ghaeilge’ cumtha aige do leithéidí Ku Klux Klan, Gunga Din, Abracadabra agus Bailiwick. (Cé go raibh trí cinn de na fantaisíochtaí áirithe seo dearmadta aige faoin am ar scríobh sé an leabhar.)

Lena rá ar dhóigh eile, sílim gur chóir do dhaoine mar McCarthy agus Jeantet agus Taylor an cheist shimplí seo a chur orthu féin. Dá mbeadh dlí ar na leabhair in éadan eolas bréige a scaipeadh, dá dtiocfadh leat fíneáil nó téarma príosúnachta a fháil as sin a dhéanamh, an mbeifeá sásta cliceáil ar an chnaipe bheag sin go fóill, nó an ndéanfá cúig nóiméad taighde roimh chur leis an méid amaidí ar an idirlíon? Más é an dara ceann é, b’fhéidir gur chóir duit sin a dhéanamh cibé.