Category Archives: Drossary

A glossary entry about one of Cassidy’s crazy theories, debunking that particular word or phrase and explaining why it is nonsense.

Chuck

Cassidy introduces his treatment of the word chuck as follows:

Chuck, v., chucking, vn., to throw, especially to throw or pitch a ball; tossing, discarding. Uncertain origin or onomatopoeic. (Chapman, 71; OED)

Cassidy’s claim is that “The Irish teilg (pron. chel’әg, throw) is spelled “chock” when it gets tossed into English slang in the 16th century.”

Why isn’t this true? Well, there are a couple of points to remember. One, Cassidy’s ‘system’ of referencing as shown above is completely inadequate. Cassidy gives information about the meaning and possible origins of the word. Then, he gives two different sources, Chapman and the OED. There is no way of knowing which pieces of information come from which books, or indeed if all the ‘information’ comes from either of them. It was a standard practice of Cassidy’s to slip in his own inventions in these multi-source definitions. And who is Chapman? Well, it’s hard to know when you’re dealing with a book with no bibliography, but I would assume it’s probably Robert Chapman of the Dictionary of American Slang. The OED states that chuck is probably from the Old French chuquer, later choquer, “to knock, to bump”. Other sources concur with this possible origin – for example, Eric Partridge’s Origins (originally published in 1958, though my edition was published in the 1990s). While it is not completely certain, it’s a reasonable guess. It was in Cassidy’s interests to pretend that there is no other possible origin because of the weakness of his own half-baked suggestion.

Another problem with Cassidy’s Irish origin is that the word chuck was first used at the end of the 16th century in English. Cassidy likes to claim that many words were borrowed this early from Irish but the only evidence for this is Cassidy’s own discredited words like dock from tobhach or queer from corr. In reality, there seems to have been little Irish influence on English as early as this (apart from words relating to warfare like kern and gallowglass and bonnaught, which the English had good reason to learn).

However, the main reason is that teilg doesn’t sound anything like chuck. Why would anyone borrow a word from Irish and pronounce it in a completely different way? And how can you prove a connection when the two words are so totally unalike?

Teilg does primarily mean to hurl or throw in modern Irish. It originally meant to release, to throw, to shoot a bow, to give birth, to shed tears. You can find a full list of meanings under telcud at the online dictionary eDIL (http://www.dil.ie/search?search_in=headword&q=telcud). It is pronounced something like chelleg in Ulster dialect while in the south it would be tellig. (You can find sound files for the three main dialects on focloir.ie: http://www.focloir.ie/ga/dictionary/ei/cast#cast__12)

In other words, not only is Cassidy’s claim unlikely, the choquer origin makes a lot more sense, which is why Cassidy pretended it didn’t exist. Which is another good reason to chuck your copy of How The Irish Invented Slang …

 

 

July’s Twit of the Month – Eamonn McCann

In June, my inaugural Cassidyslangscam Twit of the Month was Jeffrey St. Clair, an ‘investigative reporter’ who was comprehensively hornswoggled by Cassidy’s puerile bullshit. In that post, I mentioned a clapped-out media ganch (ganch= a Hiberno-English expression for someone who talks too much) from Derry. For July’s Twit of the Month, I have chosen the aforementioned media ganch, Eamonn McCann of Derry.

This is part of an article McCann wrote on HotPress:

When I wrote here two years ago of Danny’s insistence that “jazz” derived from the Donegal-Irish “teas” (heat), the dominant reaction was derision.

But no-one has since been able to challenge Cassidy’s prodigious research, tracing the term back to post-Famine Donegal, then to “jass”, first used by an Irish-American sports writer of a “hot” pitch in baseball in 1913, and then in evolution to define a form of “Dixieland” music.

In the past year, the New York Times has carried a feature-page filled with testimonials to the solidity of Danny’s research. Academics and writers have accepted the validity of his thesis – that Irish is the source of much American slang.

This is complete crap and it certainly provides no evidence for the claims made. I mean, what research? There are dozens of theories about the origins of the word jazz, which first occurred in a musical context in 1912. Here’s a brief selection of them:

From the word jasmine, because jasmine oil was used in brothels and became associated with sex.

From Creole brothels where jezebels (prostitutes) worked.

From Creole patois jass “strenuous activity,” especially “sexual intercourse.”

From a black entertainer called Jas (James).

From a black entertainer called Chas (Charles).

From a Chicago musician called Jasbo (Jasper) Brown.

From jaser, a French word meaning conversation or intercourse, in various senses.

From the French word chasser, to hunt.

From a variant of jasm, a slang term dating back to 1860 that means ‘pep, energy’ and is related to jism for semen.

From various African languages, words like Mandingo jasi, ‘to become unlike oneself’.

From deas, the Irish for nice.

Cassidy’s claim that the word comes from teas is no more likely than any other claim on the list, and considerably less likely than most. (We also have to take into account that Cassidy believed the word teas was pronounced jass in Donegal – it isn’t, in any dialect of Irish. The difference between teas and deas is as phonemic as the difference between tip and dip or bad and pad in English.) Then Danny Cassidy ‘gusted into the musty world of etymology like a blast of ozone into smog’, as McCann puts it. In reality, of course, the forums of etymology were a bracing open space with continual discussion and debate, an ozone-rich place where nonsense was blown away by gales of common sense. Cassidy, the bearer of a rich urban smog of fanciful nonsense, didn’t last long when he tried to present his rubbish to etymologists. He withdrew himself from any forum he had joined but continued to believe he was right, in spite of all the criticism.

The New York Times article contained no ‘testimonials to the solidity of his research.’ This particular piece of brain-dead pseudo-journalism was simply an interview with Cassidy in a bar where he spouted some of his nonsense. Since the publication of his book, no specialist in the fields of linguistics or Irish studies has endorsed his work. None of his etymologies has been accepted by academia and not because of any anti-Irish bias. It is simply because his etymologies are all shite.

We should also point out that when Eamonn McCann calls Cassidy Danny, this is because he had known him for twelve years at the time he was writing the article. He got to know him when Cassidy was making one of his documentaries and McCann was a talking head on the film. That’s why McCann is taking everything Cassidy said as the truth – not because any of it is true, but because Cassidy was a crony of his. However, I probably wouldn’t have bestowed my Twit of the Month Award on McCann if it weren’t for the following piece, which is not only very stupid but also deeply dishonest.

The Oxford English Dictionary reckons that lunch “perhaps evolved from lump, on the analogy of the apparent relation between hump and hunch, bump and bunch.” Scholarly, eh? Danny’s truer story comes with a tour of 19th century Irish bar-rooms in New York and San Francisco: “Lunch is the plural Irish noun lóinte (pron. lónche) meaning ‘food, victuals, rations, ‘grub’ – from ‘Middle Irish lón, Old Irish lóon; (it is) cognate with Old Breton lon.” (Mac Bain’s Gaelic Etymological Dictionary; Dineen, 675; Ó Dónaill, 800.)

Sounds definitive to me.

Of course, if you look up what the OED really has to say about the vexed and tricky origins of lunch and luncheon, it is a lot longer and more complicated than the eighteen words given above. It’s a fact that lunch was used for a lump of bread or cheese over four hundred years ago in English. It is also a fact that there was a word nuncheon which meant a light meal in the afternoon, and that this is the probable origin of luncheon and that some people think the end was knocked off luncheon giving lunch, and that the modern use of lunch has nothing to do with the older word meaning a lump. If you’re really interested, there’s a link here which explains it all:

http://www.wordorigins.org/index.php/site/comments/lunch_luncheon/

As for Cassidy’s ‘Irish’, it is (as usual) a total distortion of the facts. While Cassidy copied most of the etymological details out of McBain’s Etymological Dictionary, he missed things out and put things in. No dictionary defines lón as ‘grub’, of course. Its meaning was originally ‘fat, lard’, I suppose because people needed to store fat for the winter both as food and lighting fuel. It then came to mean provisions (not exclusively food) and indeed lón cogaidh or armlón mean ammunition in modern Irish. Lón was sometimes used in the plural as lónta or lóinte, but the English etymologies for the English word lunch are far more convincing, even if they are somewhat confusing. Only an anti-intellectual dimwit with a huge chip on his shoulder would call Cassidy’s claims definitive and dismiss the scholarship of the OED.

And that, really, is where McCann has earned his Twit of the Month Award. The word definitive means that something is resolved with authority. Not only is Cassidy’s spiel distorted and devoid of any original research and any merit, the OED treatment of these words is comprehensive and scholarly. It’s also complex and difficult to follow, as the truth very often is. (As McCann found out on the Nolan Show, where he made Diane Abbott look polished.) The idea that Cassidy’s simplistic and twisted account of the facts is in any way comparable to the OED or to any other real scholarly account of etymology is just nonsense. Worse than that, Cassidy was a ‘professor’ who didn’t have any degrees and didn’t speak any Irish and the only reason McCann is supporting him here is because they were mates.

This is the holier-than-yous Eamonn McCann, who constantly excoriates the privileged and their cronyism. However, in this case, he shows that he is just as willing to forget the facts and support a pal because of cronyism, even if that pal betrayed all socialist principles by becoming a professor with only fake qualifications and betrayed the Irish language by pretending to be an Irish scholar without knowing any of the language. And that’s not even taking the allegations of Cassidy’s sexual harassment of his students into account. Still, perhaps, it was ’emotionally true’, even if it was really a pack of lies.

With all this in mind, I am delighted to bestow my July Twit of the Month Award on Eamonn McCann, pompous clapped-out media ganch and unashamed pal of Daniel Cassidy. It is richly deserved.

Miller

I am rapidly reaching the point where I find it hard to find new stupidities in Cassidy’s book that I haven’t already debunked. However, there are odd exceptions here and there. One unplucked piece of low-hanging fruit is the claim that ‘miller’, an old cant term for a fighter or boxer, is from Irish.

Firstly, the most parsimonious explanation is quite simply that this expression is an extension of the word miller, someone who keeps or works in a mill. Millers have always had the reputation as strong, rough men, even back as far as Chaucer. And of course, milling can mean grinding, breaking, destroying. In other words, you don’t need to look any further than English ‘miller’ for the origins of the English slang expression ‘miller’. Unless you’re a flake like Daniel Cassidy, of course.

Cassidy’s explanation, as usual, lacks any evidence.

Miller, n., a boxer, a murderer. “Miller, a Killer …” (B.E.’s Dictionary of the Canting Crew, 1699.)

Míle (pron. m’íl’ə), n., a warrior, a soldier; a champion, a hero. Mill, v., to break, to injure; to damage, to destroy. (Dineen [sic], 742; Ó Dónaill, 859, 860.)

One person’s killer is another person’s miller (míle, pron. m’íl’ə, hero, warrior, soldier; champion; destroyer.)”

The problem with this is that míle is not a particularly good match in terms of sound (it’s pronounced meelya or meela – note that Cassidy’s phonetic transcription was as fake as everything else in his miserable ‘skill set’) and it’s not a particularly common word. There are dozens of other words which suit the meaning of boxer or soldier or warrior far better, words like dornálaí (boxer), or saighdiúir (soldier). Míle is actually a fairly obscure borrowing of the Latin word mīles, the root of military and militia.

And it has no etymological connection with the word mill, meaning to destroy in Irish. (MacBain’s dictionary: destroy, Irish, Old Irish millim: *mel-ni-, root mele, fail, miss; Lithuanian mìlyti, fail; Greek @Gméleos, useless, wretched …) The word destroyer added to the list of meanings of míle above is yet another example of the kind of casual random dishonesty that makes Cassidy’s book so totally worthless. And in any case, only an irrational, brain-burned nut-job like Cassidy would think that giving two totally different words with different etymologies as the origin of one English expression would help his case!

Gandy Dancer

Gandy dancer is a term from the old days of the expansion of the railroads in America. A gandy dancer was a labourer who hooked an iron bar under the tracks, then ‘danced’ on the bar to lever the track up so that others could shovel stones and gravel underneath it.

There is no certainty about where the term came from, but there are many stories and claims. The iron pole used was called a gandy, but whether this came from the expression gandy dancer or gave rise to it is not known. Some claim that a gandy dancer was originally a fairground term for a dealer in cheap shlock. Some claim it was used by George Borrow, who died in 1881. Others say that there was a Gandy Manufacturing Company in Chicago, but there is no evidence of this. A gandy is also Newfoundland slang for a pancake and an English term for a goose.

This uncertainty was like shite to a bluebottle for Daniel Cassidy. Unfortunately, there was no appropriate term available in Irish, but he managed to find something which was close enough to fool a few suckers. His candidate was cinnte, which he claimed meant ‘constant’. In other words, the gandy dancers were ‘constantly’ dancing on the iron rod to lift the rails.

Why isn’t this a good candidate? Well, firstly, there’s the pronunciation. Imagine that somewhere there is a town in England called Kinchester. Knock off the –ster at the end, and you have a reasonable approximation for cinnte. Kin-cha, gandy. Kin-cha, gandy. Not even slightly similar, are they? And in case you don’t believe me, look at focloir.ie (http://www.focloir.ie/ga/dictionary/ei/certain), which gives sound files for the word cinnte in the three main dialects of Irish.

As for the meaning, Cassidy does his usual trick of distorting the truth and rewriting definitions. Cinnte is defined by Ó Dónaill as certain, sure; definite; mean, stingy; constant. You can find the full entry here: http://www.teanglann.ie/ga/fgb/cinnte  Even though constant is given as one meaning in the dictionary, (apparently fearthainn chinnte can be used to mean constant rain, though I’ve never heard it) I don’t think any Irish speaker would give it this meaning independent of any other clues. Cinnte means sure, certain, and it’s a very common word. If someone said damhsa cinnte to me, it would make me think of it as certain dancing, or definite dancing, or determined dancing, (whatever they might mean!) not constant or continual dancing. And even if it did mean constant, isn’t this a bit strange, in English or in Irish? After all, if someone is called a dancer, isn’t this because they perform their ‘dance’ on the iron rod most of the time? So why would it be so important to specify that they do it a lot?

Of course, Cassidy again displays his ignorance of the language by mixing modern spellings from Ó Dónaill with old spellings from Dinneen, and he copies the phrase fearthainn chinnte wrongly as fearthainn cinnte, showing once again that he knew nothing about the language.

In short, wherever gandy dancer comes from, we can be quite sure it doesn’t come from the Irish adjective cinnte. This claim was first made relatively recently by a narcissistic idiot in California and it is high time it was consigned to the dustbin of crap etymologies along with the rest of Cassidy’s ridiculous theories.

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.

 

 

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.