Category Archives: An Ghaeilge

All About Baloney

I have already dealt with Cassidy’s claims about the Irish origins of the word baloney elsewhere on this blog. However, I don’t think I’ve ever told the whole story of Cassidy’s lies in relation to this word.

Put simply, Cassidy claimed that the American English term baloney, the name of an Italian sausage from Bologna, used as a disguised version of blarney or balls or something similar, really comes from the ‘Irish’ phrase béal ónna:

Béal ónna (pron. bæl óna), silly loquacity, foolish talk; blather; blarney; stupid gossip.

As I said before, the phrase béal ónna doesn’t exist. What’s more, Cassidy was actually told this before the book was published. However, before I deal with that, let’s just look at the ‘Irish phrase’ béál ónna. Béal is a well-known Irish word. It means a mouth. Ónna is an old, literary word meaning naïve, simple, innocent. It isn’t found at all in the main modern Irish dictionary, Ó Dónaill. It is found in the earlier Dinneen’s dictionary, which tends to mix up words from different registers and eras.

There is actually a word that is quite similar to ónna in English, the word callow. Callow is no longer a current word in the language. You get it in phrases like ‘a callow youth’ but many English speakers wouldn’t know it or use it. As for people using the phrase ‘callow mouth’ to mean nonsense, there is just as much evidence of this as there is for Cassidy’s béal ónna. In fact, people don’t say ‘stupid mouth’ or ‘dumb mouth’ or ‘idiot mouth’ for nonsense either. And in Irish, they don’t combine béal with more common words for stupid to make béal amaideach, or béal bómánta, or béal dúr.

On 25 April 2006, an unregistered guest on the Daltaí Boards posted the following on a discussion on language survival and gender:

Your wingnut assertion about women killing the Irish language is a bunch of béal ónna agus dríb. You sound like a leathcheann foirfe.

This was Cassidy. Béal ónna was his version of baloney, and dríb was his candidate for the English tripe. The smartass tone and the wordplay is so distinctive and so typical of Cassidy. When another person said that they didn’t understand ‘a bunch of béal ónna’, Dennis King posted this comment:

Bain triail as Google. [Try Google] It’s one of the cockeyed concoctions of Dan Cassidy (or is that Jerry de Rossa?). Ní Gaeilge é ar chor ar bith. [It’s not Irish at all.]

Then Cassidy (using a different IPA and identity) posted three comments in succession on 26 April:

A Chara,

Re: béal ónna, simple, silly, foolish talk.

Is it incorrect to use ónna with béal?

ónna, indec. adj., simple, silly. (Dineen, p. 821.)

I should have written leathdhuine: a half-witted person, or a half-smart fool.

But I thought béal ónna was grammatically correct, though I defer to the experts on this site and stand corrected if it is improper.

Of course, a leathdhuine only uses leathcheann (one side of the head.

Why is the adjective ónna incorrect with the noun béal? I am very new to Irish.

Thanks,

Ed “a Lorgaire (Seeker) from New Jersey”

‘Ed’ then posted two citations which prove that ónna existed in 17th century Irish. Nobody bothered replying to any of these comments. Of course, ónna does exist and that is beyond question. Béal ónna doesn’t and that is also beyond question. And there is nothing ungrammatical about béal ónna. Béal is a noun, and ónna is an adjective. Almost all adjectives come after the noun in Irish. Cassidy was missing the point. Callow mouth isn’t ungrammatical in English either but that doesn’t mean it exists. My guess would be that because nobody bothered to reply to his posts, Cassidy thought he had won the argument.

That’s how ignorant and stupid the man was.

 

 

A Brief Update

This is just a quick update on a few issues we have touched on over the past few months. Firstly, Belfast politician Máirtín Ó Muilleoir, who once described Cassidy as a friend and who over the last year or two has had a motto prominently displayed on his Twitter feed in very poor Irish (Bí thusa an t-athrú a ba mhaith leat a fheiceáil ar an domhan.) Perhaps he or one of his team has spotted my criticism, because the offending piece of bad Irish is gone.

Unfortunately, he hasn’t seen fit to apologise for supporting Daniel Cassidy’s fake etymology and crony friends. As we have also learned recently, Ó Muilleoir, as part of a consortium of Irish businessmen, bought the egregious IrishCentral from Niall O’Dowd last year. If anyone was expecting this to make a difference to the quality of the journalism on IrishCentral, they will be disappointed. The rubbish in support of Daniel Cassidy and against fluoridation, and even the articles which support a white supremacist myth of Irish slavery are still there. The only difference is that the comments which often provide a welcome counterweight to the moronic content of the articles themselves are now missing. Business as usual at IrishCentral, then, in spite of the change of management.

However, Ó Muilleoir isn’t alone in refusing to say sorry or explain himself. We are still waiting for Hugh Curran to apologise for supporting Cassidy (and implying that he is a native speaker of Irish when he can’t speak the language at all!)

We have also heard nothing back from Columbia University. What do you have to do to get an answer from these people? My advice to any prospective students – go to Cornell instead!

And of course, we’ve never heard a word of apology from the Boston writer Michael Patrick MacDonald for helping to spread these lies about the Irish language. MacDonald is also a crony of Cassidy, as well as a crony of Máirtín Ó Muilleoir. (These people all know each other – they’re like some kind of cult.) Having helped to smear the internet with hundreds of fake Irish derivations on behalf of a charlatan who worked as a ‘professor’ in spite of the fact that he had no qualifications at all, these people think they can just walk away whistling with their hands in their pockets and pretend nothing happened. Personally I am dearg le fearg (red with anger) about this abuse of the Irish language. The least we have a right to expect is a heartfelt apology from these high-profile members of the CCC (Cassidy Crony Club).

I was also looking at the AK Press website the other day. Strangely, there is no mention of Cassidy or his book on the website of the company that published it. That suggests to me that this rubbish is finally out of print and that AK Press are kicking over their traces and that they now realise that Cassidy was a fake – a self-obsessed, sexist, ignorant fraud who lied about his qualifications and whose book was a pompous, dishonest piece of cultural appropriation. Why aren’t they doing the right thing, then? Why are they just ignoring the fact that they bestowed this dross on the world, rather than fessing up and asking for forgiveness? Well, business is business. I suppose they have to think about their reputation and their brand identity, just like all the other capitalists … Some radicals!

Finally, I wanted to mention the excellent series of articles by Liam Hogan on the Irish Slavery meme. His articles on the subject are laid out here:

https://medium.com/@Limerick1914/all-of-my-work-on-the-irish-slaves-meme-2015-16-4965e445802a

I recommend that anyone who respects the truth checks it out. And while you’re at it, compare it to the shite on the same subject that’s still there on IrishCentral, courtesy of Niall O’Dowd and his crony friends.

Pash

Daniel Cassidy, in his insane work of fake etymology, How The Irish Invented Slang, tried to convince people that he had made a major discovery. This discovery was that the Irish language didn’t die out in America and had a massive influence on the speech of ordinary Americans, a contribution which has been ignored by snobbish scholars and lexicographers and apparently went unnoticed even by Irish linguists and academics who could actually speak the language. Cassidy, who didn’t have any qualifications at all, and knew no Irish, was a fantasist and liar and con-man. Most of the supposed ‘Irish’ candidates for the origins of slang terms were made up by Cassidy himself. There is no evidence for their existence.

Even after years of debunking this pompous rubbish, I can still open his book and quickly find another example of the kind of puerile crap that demonstrates that Cassidy, far from working like a true scholar, was more like a toddler playing with fuzzy felt.

For example, Cassidy claims that the English slang term pash comes from Irish:

Pash, n., a long and enthusiastic kiss; passion. “Australian and New Zealand term for French or tongue kissing. Used mainly by teenagers and preteens. Used also in a situation so that adults won’t know what they are talking about …” (Urban Dictionary Online.)

Páis [pron. pásh], n., passion.

Apart from the obvious point that pash is just as likely to be a shortening of English passion rather than anything from Irish, we should also remember Cassidy’s total ignorance of the Irish language and his willingness to doctor and distort the material he found in dictionaries to convince badly-educated people of his case. Here’s what Ó Dónaill’s Foclóir Gaeilge-Béarla has to say about the word páis:

páis, f. (gs. ~e). Passion, suffering. An Pháis, P~ Chríost, P~ ár dTiarna, the Passion (of Christ, of Our Lord). Domhnach, Seachtain, na Páise, Passion Sunday, Week. An Pháis a léamh, to read the Passion (from the gospels). ~ oíche a fhulaingt, to endure a night of travail, of suffering.

In other words, páis is used pretty much exclusively in the religious sense of a crucifixion or a torment. There is another word, a straight Gaelicisation of the English passion (and pronounced the same), paisean. It is this word – or a native equivalent like tocht – which is used for strong emotions like love or desire, not the word páis.

More On Boliver

A while back, I published a post on Cassidy’s claims about the nickname Boliver. According to Cassidy, his Irish grandfather was nicknamed Boliver because it represented the Irish words bailbhe [boliva] or balbhán [balawaan], which come from balbh meaning ‘dumb’ or ‘unable to speak’. This was because, according to Cassidy, his grandfather was notoriously quiet.

As I pointed out at the time, this is very unlikely. Firstly, there are kinder words for silent or laconic, like grusach, ciúin, beagfhoclach, béaldruidte. Then balbhán (a dumb person, a person unable to speak) doesn’t sound a lot like Boliver and bailbhe is an abstract noun meaning dumbness. Irish nicknames are simply not formed out of abstract nouns. Mostly they are formed from adjectives and it’s quite unlikely that a noun like bailbhe would be used as a nickname.

There is also a question about what else Boliver might mean. After all, Simón Bolívar was the revolutionary saviour of Latin America and throughout the twentieth century, his image was on advertising posters and cigar boxes all over the States. There is also the vaudeville character Patsy Bolivar, a kind of stooge in a comedy act in Boston in the 1870s or 80s. This is believed to be the origin of Patsy as in “I’m just a patsy.” Patsy is a common Irish version of Patrick.

However, the plot thickens (slightly). I recently came across a word in Ó Dónaill’s Foclóir Gaeilge-Béarla, the word baileabhair. It is defined thus:

baileabhair, s. (In phrases) ~ a dhéanamh de dhuine, to make a fool of s.o. Tá mé i mo bhaileabhair acu, they are exasperating me. Ná déan ~ díot féin, don’t speak, act, in a silly manner.

Could this be the origin of Bolivar in the name Patsy Bolivar, and thus the ultimate origin of the nickname Bolivar? Was Cassidy right about the Irish origin but wrong about the word it derives from?

It seems unlikely for one very clear reason. In most parts of Ireland, a broad –bh- is pronounced as a w. Only in Munster is a bh routinely pronounced as a v, even when broad. The word baileabhair is found in the early nineteenth century in a story set in Tyrone by the native Irish speaker William Carleton, in the form bauliore. It is also found in similar forms in Mayo, Connemara and Wexford. There is no evidence of it in Munster and no evidence of it being pronounced as boliver instead of balour.

In other words, while baileabhair looks like a good lead, it turns out to be improbable. (And interestingly, Cassidy missed it, in spite of it being on the same page of Dinneen’s dictionary as bailbhe!) It is much more likely that it is from Simon Bolivar, whose portrait was on cigar boxes and cigar stores all over America from the beginning of the twentieth century.

However, this also demonstrates the fact that in many cases (like ‘so long’) there are lots of different possible explanations. It’s not enough to make a claim of Irish origin. You have to discount – or at least examine – the other possible explanations too. Of course, Cassidy distorted the evidence by refusing to look at any explanations but his own.

 

Nár laga Dia do lámh, a Mhaitiú!

I notice that the appalling IrishCentral has changed its system of comments. Unfortunately it hasn’t changed its policy with regard to publishing complete crap. Anyway, the comments have disappeared and a note states that the old comments will gradually be restored. Brendan Patrick Keane’s ridiculous article on Cassidy’s ‘research’ has only one comment at present, a newly-added comment from Maitiú Ó Coimín, who says simply that “Cassidy was a fraud and his book is nonsense.” You took the words right out of my mouth, Maitiú!  Once again, it is members of the Irish-speaking community who are stepping up to the plate to defend our beautiful language against Cassidy’s lies.

Tugaim faoi deara go bhfuil an tobar caca sin IrishCentral i ndiaidh a chóras tuairimí a athrú. Ar an drochuair, níor athraigh sé a bheartas maidir le cacamas lom a fhoilsiú. Cibé, tá na tuairimí a bhí ann ar shiúl anois agus deir nóta go gcuirfear ar ais iad de réir a chéile. Níl ach an t-aon tuairim le léamh faoi bhun an ailt áiféisigh a scríobh Brendan Patrick Keane ar ‘thaighde’ Cassidy, tuairim le Maitiú Ó Coimín a cuireadh ann ó rinneadh na hathruithe. Ní deir Maitiú ach an méid seo: “Cassidy was a fraud and his book is nonsense.” (Ba chaimiléir é Cassidy agus is raiméis a leabhar.)  Maith thú, a Mhaitiú! Mar a déarfadh mo bhéal féin é! Arís eile, is baill de phobal na Gaeilge atá ag seasamh an fhóid leis an teanga álainn s’againne a chosaint ar bhréaga Cassidy.

Slats

Cassidy points out the amazing similarity between the word slats in English, which can be used as a slang term for the ribs, and an identical word in Irish:

Slat, pl. slats, n. a rib or ribs, especially those of a person.

Slat, pl., slata,n. a rib, ribs (of the body), (Dinneen, 1052).

This is a typically stripped-down, sculpted presentation of the facts. The reason why Cassidy doesn’t quote from the major modern Irish dictionary, Ó Dónaill, is that it doesn’t give the meaning ribs for the word slat. You can find the following entry at the excellent focloir.ie:

slat1, f. (gs. -aite, npl. ~a, gpl. ~). 1. Rod. (a) Slender stick; cane, switch. ~ sailí, choill, sally-, hazel-, rod. An t~ a thabhairt do dhuine, to take the rod to s.o. Bhain sé ~ a sciúr é féin, he cut a rod for his own back. ~ bhuachailleachta, tiomána, rod used to herd, to drive, cattle. ~ iascaigh, iascaireachta, fishing-rod. ~ ribe, rod with snare attached. ~ chlaímh, sword-stick. ~ mhaoile, strickle (for levelling). (b) Wand. ~ draíochta, magic wand. ~ ríoga, sceptre. Bheith faoi shlat ag duine, to be ruled by s.o., to be under s.o.’s thumb. ~ mhaoraíochta, big stick, control, coercion. (c) Slender bar. ~ chopair, iarainn, copper, iron, rod. ~ croiche, transverse bar of pot-rack. ~ chuirtín, curtain-rod. ~ ghunna, ramrod. ~ loine, piston-rod. ~ phota, pot-hook. ~ teallaigh, fire-iron. ~ tumtha, dip-stick. El: ~ charbóin, since, carbon, zinc, rod. S.a. crios 3. (d) ~ tomhais, measuring-rod; yardstick, criterion. ~ a chur ar rud, to measure sth.; to run the rule over sth. Dá gcuirfeá ~ ar Éirinn (ní bhfaighfeá a leithéid), if you were to search the whole of Ireland (you wouldn’t find the like of it). ~ dá thomhas féin a thabhairt do dhuine, to pay s.o. in his own coin. (e) Rail. ~ staighre, stair-rail. ~ droichid, rail guarding side of bridge. (f) Nau: ~ bhéil, ~ bhoird, gunwale. Tá sí síos go ~ an bhéil, it (boat) is down to the gunwale, heavily loaded. (g) Nau: ~ seoil, sail-yard. ~ bhrataí, jack-staff. (h) ~ droma, backbone. Síneadh ar shlat a dhroma, ar shlat chúl a chinn, é, he was stretched on the broad of his back. (i) Arb: ~a dubha, mountain willow. S.a. domhnach 1. (j) Algae: ~a mara, sea-rods. S.a. ceann1 1(l). (k) Bot: ~a gorma, bitter-sweet, woody nightshade. ~a dearga, spotted knot-grass. (l) Sapling, slip, scion. ~ de bhuachaill, de chailín, slip of a boy, of a girl. (m) Astr: ~ an Rí, an Bhodaigh, an Cheannaí, belt of Orion. (n) Physiol: ~ (fhearga), penis. 2. Meas: Yard. ~ ar fad, a yard long. Rud a thomhas ina shlata, to measure sth. in yards. ~ éadaigh, yard of cloth. S.a. cóta 2. 3. (pl.) Outskirts. Ar shlata na cathrach, on the outskirts of the city. (Var: pl. ~acha)

Dinneen’s Irish dictionary does give the meaning ribs for slat, but buried among these many other meanings. It is also worth remembering that the usual word for rib in Irish is easna.

As for the English word slat, Dictionary.com says:

a long thin, narrow strip of wood, metal, etc., used as a support for a bed, as one of the horizontal laths of a Venetian blind, etc.

The same source tells us that it is sometimes used as a slang term for the ribs and that its origin is from French: 1350-1400; Middle English sclat, slatt a slate < Middle French esclat splinter, fragment …

The French language Wiktionary tells us that the ultimate root of this word is a Frankish (i.e. Germanic) word which is etymologically linked to the English word slit.

A look on eDIL shows that slat is a very ancient term for a rod or stick in Irish. It has cognates in other Celtic languages and derives, according to McBain’s Gaelic Dictionary (which contains etymological notes) from the Proto-Celtic *slattā, which means a stalk or staff.

In other words, there is absolutely no room for doubt that these two words, in spite of the fact that they sound the same and are similar in meaning (both mean a kind of rod or stick), have no etymological connection. People who are ignorant of languages will assume that the fact that they are similar in both meaning and form means they must be related. However, we have already discussed such random similarities in the context of the Irish daor, which means expensive, and the English dear, with the same meaning. These two words also have totally different etymologies and are unrelated. The fact is, when comparing thousands and thousands of words from one language with the thousands and thousands of words in another, it would be surprising if we didn’t find matches of this kind. What makes them more than random coincidence is when we find lots of them following a regular pattern, which is not the case here.

An open letter to the Columbia Registrar

A couple of years ago, I wrote to Columbia University to warn them that Cassidy and some of his supporters claimed that Cassidy had a degree from Columbia. Obviously, it is important for academic institutions to protect the integrity of the degrees they offer and no self-respecting university would want to be linked to an obvious fraud like Cassidy. I’ll assume that my previous communications with Columbia went astray and I have decided to contact them again. To that end, I have sent the following letter (by post) to Barry Kane, the Registrar:

Dear Mr Kane

For the past two years I have been working on attacking the late Daniel Cassidy, his supporters and his book How The Irish Invented Slang through a blog called cassidyslangscam on WordPress. You probably haven’t heard of Cassidy but most people with an interest in Irish language and culture have heard of him. Cassidy worked (if that’s the right word) for over 12 years in New College of California, a small and now defunct liberal arts college, as Professor of the Irish Studies department. He was a darling of the American left, friendly with lots of important figures like Ishmael Reed, Peter Linebaugh, Alexander Cockburn and Peter Quinn and he garnered a lot of publicity throughout the English-speaking world. He was also a manipulative, narcissistic fraud who invented nearly every Irish phrase in his crazy book and apparently had no academic qualifications at all.

Most sources say that he had a degree from Cornell. Others say that he had degrees from Cornell and Columbia. For example, the In Memoriam section on the website of the San Francisco Irish-American Crossroads Festival says that his primary degree was from Columbia. Most other sources suggest that he had a postgraduate degree from Columbia. Acting on a tip-off I contacted Cornell where the registrar told me that he never completed his degree there, though he spent between three and four years studying there. (There are full details of this on the blog.)

In a Q&A, you say that: “More than anything else, the Registrar is the guardian of the academic record and is responsible for its accuracy and integrity. There is no room for error in what we do. Our work must be perfect.” This is true but if people are allowed to gain respect, academic positions and financial gain unchallenged by falsely claiming to have Columbia qualifications, this seriously undermines the value of that work. I realise that you must be very busy but I would ask you to investigate Cassidy’s Columbia degree and issue a statement on the question, either through this blog or through your own official channels.

It will be interesting to see if we receive any reply from Columbia this time. It would be fantastic to demonstrate finally that Cassidy’s Columbia degree was just as fraudulent as the degree he claimed to have from Cornell!