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Cassidese Glossary – Keister

For some time now, some of my on-line friends have advised me to provide a version of CassidySlangScam without the invective aimed at Cassidy and his supporters. In response to that advice, I am working on providing a glossary of the terms in Cassidy’s ludicrous book How The Irish Invented Slang with a short, simple and business-like explanation of why Cassidy’s version is wrong.

This seems to be a common expression in America but it is completely unknown in Ireland. It is used to mean ‘bottom’ and seems to be an informal and inoffensive word often used with children. According to Daniel Cassidy in his work of pseudo-etymology, How The Irish Invented Slang, this word derives from the Irish word ciste meaning ‘chest, coffer, treasure, fund’. This is nonsense. The Irish word is derived from Latin, either directly or via an Old English borrowing.

The original Latin word is cista, which means a chest or box. This Latin word was also borrowed into German as Kiste, which is pronounced quite like keister. The German expression Kiste has several meanings. One is trunk or case and the other is what you use to sit on a trunk or case, your backside. This is the origin of the word keister in American speech. As I have already said, the term keister is completely unknown in Irish English, and the word ciste does not have the meaning of backside, so Cassidy’s claim is obviously incorrect.

Cassidese Glossary – Keen

For some time now, some of my on-line friends have advised me to provide a version of CassidySlangScam without the invective aimed at Cassidy and his supporters. In response to that advice, I am working on providing a glossary of the terms in Cassidy’s ludicrous book How The Irish Invented Slang with a short, simple and business-like explanation of why Cassidy’s version is wrong.

Daniel Cassidy, in his work of fake etymologies, states that the English verb ‘to keen’ comes from the Irish word caoineadh, which means to cry, to mourn or to lament. This is entirely correct. However, the Irish origin of keen is given in all the English dictionaries and long predates Cassidy. You can find more information here: https://www.etymonline.com/word/keen

In fact, Cassidy claimed that there are hundreds of words of Irish origin in American slang which bigoted etymologists had refused to recognise. Examples like this show that where words genuinely derive from Irish, etymologists are more than willing to admit the fact.

Cassidese Glossary – Kabosh, Kybosh

For some time now, some of my on-line friends have advised me to provide a version of CassidySlangScam without the invective aimed at Cassidy and his supporters. In response to that advice, I am working on providing a glossary of the terms in Cassidy’s ludicrous book How The Irish Invented Slang with a short, simple and business-like explanation of why Cassidy’s version is wrong.

I have posted before about the supposed Irish origins of the phrase ‘to put the kybosh on something’. In a post called Putting The Kybosh On Cassidy (May 2016) I pointed out that kybosh has often been claimed to be of Irish origin, a corruption of caip bháis or caidhp bháis, meaning death cap. The usual explanation for this is that it refers to the black cap donned by a judge when passing the death sentence, though other claims include that it refers to a method of torture used by the English called pitch capping, or to a part of a shroud that covers the face of the dead. There is no evidence for the phrase caip bháis existing in Irish at all, and caidhp bháis is only used in the late 20th century as the name of a fungus known as the death cap in English.

Cassidy found the claim about the Irish origins of kybosh online and included it in his book but it is clear that this particular mythical etymology predates Cassidy by almost one hundred years.

We don’t know where the word kybosh really comes from. You can find an interesting discussion of the term kybosh by Anatoly Liberman on the OUP blog:

https://blog.oup.com/2013/08/three-recent-theories-of-kibosh-word-origin-etymology/

As I stated in another blog post, More On The Irish Origins of Kybosh, I found an explanation for the myth about the Irish origins of the word in the Irish Newspaper Archive. The earliest references to the word in Irish newspapers were in 1909. They were also by far the most interesting. In an article called An American Professor on England published on November 29th 1909, an anonymous staff author of the Freeman’s Journal wrote:

Many expressions familiar in American-English are clearly translations or adaptations from the Gaelic: not a little slang was good idiomatic Gaelic, and such an extraordinary word as kybosh – “to put the kybosh on a man or a scheme” – takes a very curious interest when, as Mr J.H. Lloyd tells in one of his invaluable vocabularies to Irish poems or stories – it is traced to the extinct phrase “the cap of death” – i.e. the black cap of the hanging judge.

J.H. Lloyd, or Seosamh Laoide, was an Irish language expert. However, Lloyd himself then replied to this on December the 2nd in the Freeman’s Journal, complaining that his views had been misrepresented:

Dear Sir – In your issue of 29th November, one of your leader writers, towards the end of the article “An American Professor on England”, quotes me in connection with the word “kybosh”, to put the kybosh on a man or a scheme. So far, he is correct. When, however, he adds the explanation “the cap of death,” apparently attributing this to me, he is very much astray.

In the vocabulary to Mac Mic Iasgaire Bhuidhe Luimnigh, published by the Gaelic League, I set down that caidhp bathais, to my surmise an expression of the lost Leinster dialect of Irish, was the probable etymon of “kybosh”.

He goes on to say that caidhp bathais would mean the cap or coif of the crown of the head. He says that kybosh could not come from caidhp báis because the o of kybosh is a short vowel. He states clearly that he has never actually found an example of this phrase in use in the Irish language (“though I have failed to find the word in use in an Irish dress”). In other words, the myth about caidhp bháis can be traced to one mistaken reference in 1909 and has been repeated endlessly ever since.

However, while there are plentiful uses of kybosh, coybosh and even caidhp bháis in the Irish papers from the second decade of the 20th century until the last few years, there are absolutely no traces of caidhp bháis, caip bháis, caidhp bhathais or caip bhathais (or any of the versions without the séimhiú which modern Irish grammar would require) anywhere before the 1909 references. This is 75 years after kybosh’s first appearance in England. And we need to note that many expressions like spraoi and craic have made their homes in the Irish language and been accepted as intrinsic and ancient parts of that language by its speakers, even though they aren’t.

Cassidese Glossary – Juke

For some time now, some of my on-line friends have advised me to provide a version of CassidySlangScam without the invective aimed at Cassidy and his supporters. In response to that advice, I am working on providing a glossary of the terms in Cassidy’s ludicrous book How The Irish Invented Slang with a short, simple and business-like explanation of why Cassidy’s version is wrong.

A juke joint is an old word for an inn or drinking-house in North America. It is believed to derive from the American English dialect of African origin known as Gullah, where juke or joog apparently had the meaning of wicked or unruly. In other words, it’s a rowdy or disorderly house.

Daniel Cassidy, in his book of false etymologies How The Irish Invented Slang, claimed that this comes from the Irish word diúg, which means to drain, to drink or to suck. There is absolutely no evidence for this and nobody in Irish has ever talked about a pub or inn as a teach diúgtha or teach diúgaireachta, so why would a phrase that doesn’t exist in Irish have been borrowed from Irish? It’s simply nonsense.

Cassidese Glossary – Joint

For some time now, some of my on-line friends have advised me to provide a version of CassidySlangScam without the invective aimed at Cassidy and his supporters. In response to that advice, I am working on providing a glossary of the terms in Cassidy’s ludicrous book How The Irish Invented Slang with a short, simple and business-like explanation of why Cassidy’s version is wrong.

 

In his work of fanciful and fake etymologies, How The Irish Invented Slang, Daniel Cassidy claimed that the word joint, an old slang term for a house or bar or place in general, derives from Irish. The real experts are in agreement that the word seems to have originated in the English of Ireland, though not in the Irish language. As the Online Etymological Dictionary says:

Slang meaning of “place, building, establishment” (especially one where persons meet for shady activities) first recorded 1877, American English, from an earlier Anglo-Irish sense (1821), perhaps on the notion of a side-room, one “joined” to a main room.

For Cassidy, it has no connection with joining or adjoining. To him, it comes from the Irish word díonta, which according to Cassidy means:

Díon (pron. jinn), díonta, (pron. jínnta), n., a shelter, a roof, state of being wind and watertight; fig., a shelter of any kind, a house, shack, shanty, lean-to, “roof over your head”, tent. Díonta, (pron. jínnta), p.p. sheltered (from elements), protected. Díonta = Díon, n. (Ó Dónaill, 413)

This is not an accurate account of the meanings of díon/díonta. The word díon primarily means roof in Irish. It can also be used in a more general sense to mean protection. Thus uiscedhíonach means waterproof in Irish and tú féin a chur faoi dhíon duine means to place yourself under someone’s protection. However, it would not be used to mean a shelter or hide or hut, because there are better words for that, such as foscadh or scáthlán or dídeanDíonta is simply the plural of the noun díon and means rooves (or roofs if that is your preferred spelling). Díon is also a verb in Irish and díonta can be the past participle of that verb – i.e. roofed or protected. However, words do not cross easily in Irish between grammatical categories and díonta would not be used for a roofed place or sheltered place, as Cassidy implies, any more than you would say “I took shelter in a roofed” in English.

The word díonta is also pronounced jeenta, which doesn’t sound much like joint anyway.

Cassidese Glossary – John

For some time now, some of my on-line friends have advised me to provide a version of CassidySlangScam without the invective aimed at Cassidy and his supporters. In response to that advice, I am working on providing a glossary of the terms in Cassidy’s ludicrous book How The Irish Invented Slang with a short, simple and business-like explanation of why Cassidy’s version is wrong.

 

John was apparently a slang term in America long ago for a steady boyfriend. Now it is used of the client of a prostitute or for a sugar daddy (apparently – the latter meaning is one I’ve never heard even though I watch a lot of American films.)  Anyway, I would have thought this was quite an easy term to explain. John used to be the most common name in English. People signing into a hotel room would sign as Mr and Mrs John Smith. There are John Does and Dear John Letters and Johnny-Come-Lately. It is just a natural word to use of a regular guy, a person you don’t know much about.

Daniel Cassidy, in his etymological hoax, How The Irish Invented Slang, came up with an Irish language explanation for this. Here is Cassidy’s claim:

Teann (pron. t’ann, ch’ann, j’ann, joun), n., a champion; a firm man; fig. a well-to-do-man; a support; a resource; adj., wealthy, well-to-do, strong, well-established, steadfast. Cara teann, a steadfast, constant friend; feirmeoir teann, a well-to-do farmer. Teannaim sparán, I fill a purse well. Teanntóir, n., a backer, a helper, a support. (Dineen, 1191.)”

Dinneen’s (Cassidy consistently misspelled this name) dictionary is a strange and eccentric book. Most people who work with the language tend to prefer Ó Dónaill’s Foclóir Gaeilge-Béarla, so let’s look at the definition of teann there.

As a noun, teann is defined as: 1. (a) Strength, force; (b) stress, strain; 2. (a) support, backing resource (b) assurance, confidence, boldness. 3 Power, authority  4 (In prepositional phrases) (a) ar theann a dhíchill, he is doing his very best (b) i dteann a réime, at the height of his career, (c) le teann oibre, by dint of hard work.

As an adjective, it is: 1 Tight, taut; 2. (a) Firm, strong, (b) steadfast, constant, 3. Well-established, bold, assured, (b) well-to-do, 4 Forceful, emphatic, confident, assured. 5 Hard, severe.

There is nothing here about champions, firm men or well-to-do men. Let’s look at Dinneen’s version.

As an adjective, it is “Teann, -a, -einne, a., tight, firm, stiff, taut, rigid, plump or well-filled (as a bag, etc.), well-set, stout, powerful, hardy, forward, well-contested, well-to-do, downright, decisive, strict; teann as, confident in; teann ar, severe on; teann le, filled or packed with; feirmeoir teann, a well-to-do farmer; fear teann, a stern man, al. a burly man; sursaing theann, a tight-pulled or well-filled belt; chomh teann le lamhnán, as firm (distent) as a bladder; comh teann géar is do b’fhéidir leis, as quickly as he could; láir sheang nó cairiún teann, a slender mare or a firm-set nag (are the best of the kind); teann le bainne, filled with milk (as an udder); is teann mar sin é, that is very forward of you (S.N.); ach mur’ teann ar charaid chan teann ar námhaid, if you cannot rely on a friend you cannot rely on an enemy; aimh-theann, not austere (Contr.)”

As a noun, Dinneen says this: “Teann, g. teinn, tinn, pl. –ta, m., strain, distress, support, strength, resource, effort, violence, supremacy (over, ar); a firm man,a champion; teann na nGall, foreign oppression; teann i dteann, might for might; teann re teann id.; le teann deifre, feirge, 7c., through sheer haste, anger, etc.; ar theann a dhíchill, doing his level best, ar theann a anama, id.; re teann truaighe dhó, through sheer pity for him; gabhaim neart agus teann i, I obtain strength and support in, assume dominion in; níor ghabhadar teann ná treise i, the failed to conquer; do-ghním teann as, I take pride in, make much of; ó nach tarrthaidh an buille teann air, since the blow did not take effect on him; tá teann ar a chúlaibh aige, he has strong resources.”

The only part of this which corresponds with the meaning which Cassidy is giving to teann is Dinneen’s ‘a firm man, a champion’. I suspect that this is a very old and poetic expression, not the kind of thing you would find in normal conversation, and I have certainly never heard it used in this way. As others have pointed out, Cassidy took complex terms and cherry-picked the obscure meanings which suited him without taking into account the way these words are really used in the language.

Cassidese Glossary – Jizz

For some time now, some of my on-line friends have advised me to provide a version of CassidySlangScam without the invective aimed at Cassidy and his supporters. In response to that advice, I am working on providing a glossary of the terms in Cassidy’s ludicrous book How The Irish Invented Slang with a short, simple and business-like explanation of why Cassidy’s version is wrong.

Cassidy links this word to jazz and claims that it derives from Irish teas. There is no evidence of this. See the article on Jazz above.

The Daniel Cassidy Memorial Lecture

On the 9th of November, in San Francisco, as part of a festival called Hinterland, the Irish broadcaster and historian Myles Dungan will give the inaugural Daniel Cassidy Memorial Lecture. The Hinterland festival has two independent parts, one in County Meath and the other (HinterlandWest) in California. The Irish festival is also linked to the Hay Festival on the border between England and Wales.

Anyone who has read this blog carefully will realise that there is something very strange about the idea of commemorating Daniel Cassidy or celebrating his life.

The HinterlandWest Festival describes Cassidy thus:

Daniel Cassidy was a much-loved musician, and academic who ran the Irish Studies programme at New College, San Francisco up to the time of his death in 2008.

The comma is interesting. Did they originally have a comment about his skills as a writer and linguist but decided to remove it because they realise that the boat sailed on that one a long time ago? Or do they simply have problems with punctuation?

The facts in relation to Daniel Cassidy are clear. He was certainly a musician, though an indifferent one.

With regard to his status as an academic, there is no doubt that Cassidy worked as a lecturer at New College of California for around twelve years. Cassidy himself claimed (under a rather obvious sock puppet identity) that he had worked before that at San Francisco State but I have no confirmation of this claim.

What is very clear is that he was not entitled to be a lecturer in any university because he had no qualifications. Some sources, such as Wikipedia, claimed for a long time that he graduated from Cornell. Cassidy himself claimed to have been educated at or studied at Cornell and then at Columbia. The SF Irish American Crossroads Festival website says that Cassidy studied first at Columbia and then at Cornell, but this is contradicted by accounts of his life given by Cassidy in interviews.

The fact is that Cassidy attended Cornell for about four years on a scholarship, but left the university in 1965 without receiving a degree. He never attended Columbia University and he never got a primary degree or a postgraduate degree.

In other words, the reality is that Cassidy was just some unqualified guy who had wandered in off the street with an attitude and the gift of the gab and had no right to even apply for a job as a teacher. This is confirmed again and again in his book and in the numerous articles that appeared in newspapers around the time of its publication. In his book, Cassidy demonstrates time and time again that he didn’t care about facts or telling the truth. He knew nothing about the methods used by genuine academics. The book is weak and badly argued, with its fake phonetics, ludicrously bad referencing, a tendency to dishonestly miss out anything that conflicted with his theories and an even more disturbing tendency to simply invent phrases in ‘Irish’ that never existed and in many cases could never exist, phrases like fo-luach and sách úr and béal ónna and teas ioma and uath-anchor. The book really is a complete mess and anyone who thinks that How The Irish Invented Slang is going to make a genuine contribution to the world of etymology is delusional.

It has also been suggested that Cassidy used his unearned status as a lecturer to sexually harass young women who were unlucky enough to be studying under his guidance. This claim came from a person who left a message here and who studied at New College. I have no idea whether it’s true or not but knowing Cassidy’s arrogance and self-obsession and lack of boundaries, I don’t consider it at all unlikely.

Myles Dungan, who is delivering this inaugural Daniel Cassidy Memorial Lecture (let’s hope it’s also the last), interviewed Cassidy just after his book was published. I have already dealt with this elsewhere on this blog. It was a fairly feeble interview and a poor piece of journalism, which gave Cassidy an easy ride and failed to ask any difficult (and obvious) questions. It is strange to find Myles Dungan, who gave this toxic fraud a platform to sell his garbage to unsuspecting people back then, once again stepping up to support this liar more than a decade later. It’s doubly strange in that Myles Dungan is well-known for a blog that debunks fake news stories from history.

I don’t know who was responsible for establishing this Daniel Cassidy Memorial Lecture and damaging the reputation of the HinterlandWest Festival by associating it with a man who is universally despised by all right-thinking people. I suspect that Elizabeth Creely, one of the most vociferous Cassidy loyalists, had a hand in this bizarre decision. Whoever is responsible, the fact is that Cassidy was not a person deserving of commemoration or celebration. He was a criminal, a liar, a narcissist, a hypocrite and a total waste of space. No decent human being would knowingly associate themselves with this man and his deceptions.

Cassidese Glossary – Jiffy

For some time now, some of my on-line friends have advised me to provide a version of CassidySlangScam without the invective aimed at Cassidy and his supporters. In response to that advice, I am working on providing a glossary of the terms in Cassidy’s ludicrous book How The Irish Invented Slang with a short, simple and business-like explanation of why Cassidy’s version is wrong.

Daniel Cassidy, in his work of false etymology, How The Irish Invented Slang, claimed that jiffy, as in the phrase “in a jiffy”, comes from the Irish deifir, which means hurry. This claim is certainly better than Cassidy’s usual standard. Deifir does sound a bit like jiffy, especially in an Ulster pronunciation. And the meaning is similar, though not identical. However, there are problems with Cassidy’s claim.

While the origin of jiffy is unknown, it seems to have been a cant term used by thieves in the late eighteenth century in England. It is thought that jiffy or giffy was cant for lightning. It may be related to dialect terms like gliff, which can mean a sudden light. There is very little Irish influence on English criminal cant, though there is some. And while the term deifir is similar in meaning to jiffy, it is not a perfect match. Nobody in Irish would ever use the preposition in with deifir – in a hurry is faoi dheifir in Irish. Focloir.ie gives a number of expressions for the similar expression in two shakes (of a lamb’s tail): i bhfaiteadh na súl, ar an bpointe boise, ar iompú do bhoise, in áit na mbonn, i mbomaite. It is hard to see why Irish speakers would not have used an expression like this rather than a word meaning “hurry”.

Cassidese Glossary – Jerk

For some time now, some of my on-line friends have advised me to provide a version of CassidySlangScam without the invective aimed at Cassidy and his supporters. In response to that advice, I am working on providing a glossary of the terms in Cassidy’s ludicrous book How The Irish Invented Slang with a short, simple and business-like explanation of why Cassidy’s version is wrong.

Jerk, a slang term for “tedious and ineffectual person,” first appears in American carnival slang in 1935. Its origin is uncertain, but it possibly derives from jerkwater “petty, inferior, insignificant”. This term goes back to the days of steam trains, when the water for the steam engine needed to be replenished regularly. In small towns, they needed to form a human chain and “jerk” the water (i.e. lift it on a rope) to fill the engine. Thus a small, hick town was known as a jerkwater town. (Some experts say that jerking water refers to a system whereby water was lifted while the train was in motion, but this doesn’t change the basic argument, that jerkwater is a railroad term for an insignificant town). This may have also been influenced by the phrase jerk off, referring (for obvious reasons) to masturbation.

These are the facts. Daniel Cassidy, in his book How The Irish Invented Slang, claimed that this word derives from déirceach. Déirc is the Irish for alms and a déirceach can be either a beggar or a person who gives out alms, and Cassidy makes much of the fact that both beggars and charity-givers (many of whom offered starving people food in return for a nominal religious conversion in Ireland) were both regarded as jerks by the Irish. If this were the genuine etymology, this speculation might be of interest, but déirceach is not a common word and especially not in the sense of beggar, which is usually bacach in spoken Irish. There is absolutely no reason to suppose that déirceach is the origin of the American English jerk or has any connection with it.