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.

Ballum Rancum

In 2003, a crony of the late fake professor Daniel Cassidy called Terry Golway, who at the time was writing a column for the New York Observer, allowed Cassidy to take over his column as a guest. Cassidy did what Cassidy always did – abused the kindness of the victims who fondly imagined themselves to be his friends to promote his insane theories. It is to be noted that the New York Observer no longer exists as a paper. Perhaps the fact that someone in a position of trust at the paper was stupid enough to allow Cassidy to publish fantasy garbage like this in it goes some way to explaining its demise.

In Cassidy’s guest article, he discussed a number of supposed 19th century criminal slang terms given by Joseph Matsell in his criminal slang dictionary and associated with the film Gangs of New York. Being an adept con-man as well as a nut, Cassidy realised that finding an angle to do with the film would enable him to promote his fake nonsense about Irish to an uncritical and naïve public and that this would help to spread his ideas virally. Thus, this was the first outing for Cassidy’s stupid claim that the obscure Irish word ráibéad (meaning a whopper or big item in the Irish of one parish in Connemara) was the origin of the Dead Rabbits gang, not a story about a dead rabbit being thrown on the ground in a fight.

Anyway, while it is not worth going through the other claims made by Cassidy in this article, there is one interesting phrase which shows very clearly how Cassidy rolled, the phrase ballum rancum. Firstly, while ballum rancum is quoted as a criminal slang phrase by Matsell, it’s highly unlikely that it was ever used by New York criminals. Matsell borrowed from lots of English flash and cant dictionaries. Its original meaning was an orgy, a naked dance.This phrase, along with the phrase rank ball and related terms like buttock ball and bare ball are found in lots of 17th century English plays, such as Dryden’s Limberham: “fresh Wenches, and Ballum Rankum every night”. The phrase seems to have originally been ‘rank ball’ (rank often had a sexual meaning in 17th century English) and it was then turned into ‘beggar’s Latin’ as ballum rancum.

In this article, Cassidy ignores the fact that it long predates the massive Irish immigration to New York. He tries to pretend that this is Irish and that it comes from the ‘Irish’ phrase ball iomrá na gcumainn. Of course, this is not a real Irish phrase. Ball in Irish means member, spot, place, iomrá means mention and na gcumann (not na gcumainn) means ‘of the loves/ friendships/ companies/ societies’. So, if it existed, it would mean something like ‘the spot of mention of the companies’. Of course, you don’t talk about ‘a mentioning spot’ in Irish. You might say “an áit a bhfuil gach duine ag labhairt uirthi” or “an áit sin atá i mbéal an phobail”. So, where did Cassidy get ball iomrá na gcumainn from? He simply made it up, as usual. Cassidy was a stupid, lazy, half-mad, deceitful little bastard and any of his cronies who has defended or enabled this pompous fake-Irish scumbag should be totally scarlet with shame.


San Francisco Irish-American Crossroads Festival

For several years now, I have been criticising the organisers, friends, sponsors and supporters of the San Francisco Irish-American Crossroads festival. It was founded by Daniel Cassidy, phoney professor with no degrees, and has persisted in spreading the lies from Cassidy’s book and pretending that they were the truth.

Every year at this time, I look out online to see which of Cassidy’s vile cronies will be appearing in the festival. However, this year, there seems to be no information about the festival, which normally starts about the beginning of March.

It looks as if the festival is finished, and that the 15th Festival in 2018 will be the last. I certainly hope so. Cassidy was simply a con-man, a traitor to the Irish language and the Irish people, and his work should only be held up to other people as an example of how not to do things. The organisers of the festival made up their minds a long time ago not to tell the truth.

I hope that a new festival will rise from its ashes, one with less phoneys involved, one that doesn’t try to pretend that an obvious criminal was some kind of hero, or promote ridiculous theories about the Irish language by a man who didn’t know any Irish at all.


Le roinnt blianta anuas, tá mé ag cáineadh eagraitheoirí, cairde, urraithe agus tacaitheoirí na féile, the San Francisco Irish-American Crossroads. Ba é Daniel Cassidy a bhunaigh an fhéile, ollamh bréige nach raibh oiread is céim BA aige, agus ón chéad lá, níor stad muintir na féile seo de bheith ag scaipeadh na mbréag a foilsíodh i leabhar Cassidy agus ag ligean orthu gur lomchnámha na fírinne a bhí iontu.

Ag an am seo gach bliain, amharcaim ar líne lena fháil amach cé acu compánach de chuid Cassidy a bheas ag seinm nó ag tabhairt léachta ann. Agus sin ráite, níl aon eolas le fáil faoin fhéile i mbliana. Tosaíonn an fhéile i mí Mhárta de ghnáth.

De réir cosúlachta, tá deireadh leis an fhéile agus ba é an 15ú Féile in 2018 an ceann deireanach. Tá súil agam gurb amhlaidh atá. Ní raibh i Daniel Cassidy ach caimiléir, fealltóir don Ghaeilge agus do mhuintir na hÉireann, agus níor chóir a chuid saothar a úsáid mar eiseamláir, ach amháin mar eiseamláir den dóigh nár choir rudaí a dhéanamh. Rinne eagraitheoirí na féile an cinneadh na blianta ó shin cloí leis na bréaga agus gan bacadh leis an fhírinne.

Tá súil agam go dtiocfaidh féile eile i gcomharbas uirthi, féile a bhfuil daoine ionraice páirteach inti, féile nach mbíonn ag iarraidh a chur in iúl gur laoch de chineál éigin a bhí sa choirpeach seo gan náire, féile nach ndéanann iarracht tacú le teoiricí áiféiseacha a chum amadán nach raibh Gaeilge ar bith aige. 

Moolah Isn’t Irish

I have just noticed a tweet put out by Shamrock Clubwis (Wisconsin Shamrock Club) on January the 12th.

Today’s slang word from the Irish language is “Moolah.”

Moolah comes from the Irish phrase, “Moll Oir,” meaning “a pile of gold.”

Thanks to Daniel Cassidy’s “How The Irish Invented Slang,” from 2007.

It’s unfortunate how this garbage just keeps on circulating, disappearing and then surfacing again like a dead rat in a blocked drain. No, there is no evidence that moolah has any connection with Irish. While Cassidy’s suggestion of moll óir is much better than his usual standard (at least the phrase could exist and doesn’t infringe any grammatical rules) there is precious little evidence of anyone, anywhere using this phrase. On Google, the one example I found was in relation to a taped interview with a native Irish speaker from Donegal. In a description of the contents of the audio, it talks about someone finding a pile of gold (moll óir) under a flagstone. However, listening to the actual audio, the phrase isn’t mentioned.

There are numerous theories about the origins of the word moolah, which first appears in America in the 1930s. The strongest suggestion, as far as I’m concerned, is the Spanish phrase (especially associated with Venezuela) bajáte de la mula, which literally means ‘get down off the mule’ and figuratively means ‘give me the money!’ Mula sounds exactly like moolah. (However, there are problems with this. See the comment from David Gold below.)

Moll óir, on the other hand, sounds like ‘moll oar’. In other words, it sounds absolutely nothing like moolah.


Tá mé díreach i ndiaidh tvuít a fheiceáil a chuir Shamrock Clubwis (Wisconsin Shamrock Club) suas ar Twitter ar an 12ú lá de mhí Eanáir.

Today’s slang word from the Irish language is “Moolah.”

Moolah comes from the Irish phrase, “Moll Oir,” meaning “a pile of gold.”

Thanks to Daniel Cassidy’s “How The Irish Invented Slang,” from 2007.

Ní thagann. Más féidir leat an Ghaeilge seo a léamh, beidh a fhios agat nach frása coitianta é “moll óir”. Agus níl an frása sin ar dhóigh ar bith cosúil le moolah, agus cé go bhfuil a lán teoiricí ann faoi bhunús an fhocail moolah, an ceann is fearr, is dócha, ná an frása Spáinnise (atá le cloisteáil go coitianta sa Veiniséala, de réir cosúlachta) “bajáte de la mula”, a chiallaíonn “tuirling den mhiúil” ach a bhfuil brí fháthchiallach leis, mar atá, “tabhair dom an t-airgead!”  Tá an focal mula go díreach cosúil le moolah, ní hionann agus moll óir. (Agus sin ráite, tá fadhbanna ag baint leis an tsanasaíocht seo fosta – féach na tuairimí thíos.)

Holy Mackerel

Of all the stupid things invented by Daniel Cassidy and presented to the world as truth in his idiotic work of fake etymology How The Irish Invented Slang, none is more ludicrous than his claims about the English exclamation ‘Holy Mackerel’, which dates back to 1803. 

Holy Mackerel, as we’ve said before, belongs to a class of exclamations called minced oaths, where a similar word is said in order to avoid a vulgar or blasphemous term. Thus, the French say Sacré Bleu (Holy Blue) to avoid saying Sacré Dieu (Holy God), and the Irish say Dar Fia (by the deer) instead of Dar Dia (by God). Holy Mackerel is probably a minced oath for ‘Holy Mary’. Mackerel is particularly appropriate because the mackerel is associated with Roman Catholics – people of the Catholic tradition tend to eat fish on a Friday instead of meat, and mackerel was a common choice.  Mackerelism was used as a pejorative slang term for Catholicism in the 19th century.

Cassidy claimed that this was wrong and that it derives from an Irish phrase mac ríúil – ‘kingly son’. In other words, it was supposedly something to do with Jesus. The problem is that while mac rí (son of a king) is a common phrase for a prince in Irish, mac ríúil is not. By definition, a prince is a mac rí. But princes are princely, not kingly and ríúil means kingly, not royal. That’s another word, ríoga.

As with the other minced oaths dealt with by this pompous dilettante (Holy Cow, Holy Gee), there is no evidence for mac ríúil (or the older spelling mac righiúil) existing in the Irish language as a term for a prince, or for Jesus.


As na rudaí amaideacha uile a chum Daniel Cassidy agus a chuir sé i láthair don tsaol ina leabhar bómánta bréagshanasaíochta How The Irish Invented Slang, is beag ceann acu atá chomh bómánta lena chuid tuairimí faoin uaillbhreas Béarla ‘Holy Mackerel’, atá le fáil chomh fada siar leis an bhliain 1803.

Mar a mhínigh mé roimhe seo, baineann Holy Mackerel le haicme uaillbhreas ar a dtugtar mionnaí mionaithe. Sa mhionn mhionaithe, baintear úsáid as focal atá cosúil leis an bhunfhocal le focal gáirsiúil nó blaisféimeach a sheachaint.  Mar sin de, deir na Francaigh Sacré Bleu (Gorm Naofa) le Sacré Dieu (Dia Naofa) a sheachaint, agus deir muidne  Dar Fia in áit Dar Dia. Is dócha gur mionn mionaithe é Holy Mackerel bunaithe ar ‘Holy Mary’. Tá maicréal (nó ronnach nó murlas más iad sin na focail atá agat air) thar a bheith fóirsteanach cionn is go raibh baint idir an t-iasc sin agus Caitlicigh – ar ndóigh, bíonn Caitlicigh ag ithe éisc ar an Aoine in áit feola, agus bhí maicréal saor agus flúirseach. Baineadh úsáid as Mackerelism mar théarma maslach ar an Chaitliceachas sa 19ú haois.

Deir Cassidy nach bhfuil an tsanasaíocht seo ceart agus go dtagann sé ó fhrása ‘Gaeilge’, mar atá mac ríúil, ainm ar Íosa. Ar ndóigh, ní raibh mac ríúil riamh ann sa Ghaeilge. Níl ann ach cumadóireacht.

Go díreach mar an gcéanna leis na mionnaí mionaithe eile a phléigh an t-amadán poimpéiseach seo (Holy Cow, Holy Gee), tá ciall leis na bunúis Bhéarla agus níl ciall ar bith leis an ‘Ghaeilge’ a chum Cassidy. 


It’s a terrible disgrace that there are a lot of people in the world of the Irish language who supported the con-artist Daniel Cassidy, author of the idiotic book How The Irish Invented Slang. For example, Máirtín Ó Muilleoir was prepared to support him and described him as ‘our friend’. Joe Lee speaks Irish too. It seems that he supported this weak-minded book because of his friendship with friends of Cassidy’s. In the case of Liam Ó Cuinneagáin, it seems that he was responsible for providing teachers for the Gaeltacht Weekends in San Francisco. If he had criticised Cassidy, he would probably have lost whatever money and status is associated with that, because Cassidy’s supporters have the upper hand in the world of ‘Irish Studies’ in California.

Pól Ó Muirí is a journalist with the Irish Times. In an article which is still available here  (, he praises Cassidy’s dim-witted efforts, though, apparently, he didn’t know Cassidy, unlike the people mentioned above. It is hard to understand why he would be prepared to praise rubbish like this. He says, for example, that there is sense to the theory proposed by Cassidy that buckaroo comes from the Irish phrase ‘bocaí rua’. Of course, bocaí rua makes no sense in Irish. Were the cowboys all ginger? And as everybody knows, buckaroo comes from the word vaquero, which means ‘cowboy’ in Spanish!  

He also says that John Wayne speaks the word clábar (Irish for mud or curdled milk) when referring to women being thick in the film True Grit. That much is true and the word clabber is a word of Gaelic origin, without doubt. What he doesn’t say (he probably hadn’t done any fact-checking at all) is that bonny-clabber and clabber came into the English language from Irish bainne clábair and clábar early in the 17th century. They were in common use in the English of England, America and the West Indies for hundreds of years when John Wayne used the term in True Grit. 

There is an interesting article on Wikipedia about the word Clabber:



Is mór an díol náire é go bhfuil a lán daoine i saol na Gaeilge a thug tacaíocht don chaimiléir Daniel Cassidy, údar an leabhair amaidigh How The Irish Invented Slang. Mar shampla, bhí Máirtín Ó Muilleoir sásta tacú leis agus ‘ár gcara’ a thabhairt air. Tá Gaeilge ag Joe Lee fosta. De réir cosúlachta, thug seisean tacaíocht don leabhar laginntinneach seo mar gheall ar a chairdeas le cairde de chuid Cassidy. I gcás Liam Uí Chuinneagáin, de réir cosúlachta, bhí seisean freagrach as múinteoirí a chur ar fáil don Deireadh Seachtaine Gaeltachta in San Francisco. Dá gcáinfeadh seisean Cassidy, is dócha go gcaillfeadh sé cibé airgead agus stádas atá ag baint leis sin, mar tá lucht tacaíochta Cassidy i réim i saol an léinn Éireannaigh in California.

Is iriseoir leis an Irish Times é Pól Ó Muirí. In alt atá go fóill ar fáil anseo (, molann sé iarrachtaí bómánta Cassidy, cé nach raibh aithne aige ar Cassidy, de réir cosúlachta – ní hionann agus na daoine eile a luadh thuas. Is deacair a rá cad chuige a raibh sé sásta amaidí mar seo a mholadh. Deir sé, mar shampla, go bhfuil ciall ag baint leis an teoiric a bhí ag Cassidy gurbh ón fhrása Gaeilge ‘bocaí rua’ a tháinig an focal buckaroo. Ar ndóigh, níl ciall ar bith le bocaí rua sa Ghaeilge. An raibh na buachaillí bó uilig rua? Agus mar is eol do chách, tháinig buckaroo ón fhocal vaquero, a chiallaíonn ‘buachaill bó’ sa Spáinnis!  

Deir sé fosta go labhraíonn John Wayne an focal clábar agus é ag rá go mbíonn na mná ‘ramhar sa réasún’ sa scannán True Grit. Tá an méid sin fíor agus is focal de bhunús Gaeilge é clabber, gan amhras. An rud nach ndeir sé (is dócha nach raibh na fíricí fiosraithe aige ar chor ar bith) ná gur tháinig na focail bonny-clabber agus clabber isteach sa Bhéarla ó bhainne clábair agus ó chlábar na Gaeilge go luath sa 17ú haois. Bhí siad in úsáid go coitianta i mBéarla Shasana, Mheiriceá agus na nIndiacha Thiar leis na céadta bliain nuair a d’úsáid John Wayne an téarma in True Grit.

Tá alt spéisiúil ar Wikipedia faoin fhocal Clabber:

Craic Baby

Last Christmas, I received a copy of the book Motherfoclóir. As I explained in several posts here, I generally like the concept of the book, but I was less impressed with its author’s etymological skills. Recently, I happened to be in a bookshop and I saw a copy of the successor to Motherfoclóir, Craic Baby. I stood for a while and glanced through it. As with the previous book, most of it seems interesting enough. However, I did happen across a discussion of the words crack and craic. Again, I was very underwhelmed with his comments on this subject.

The facts about the origins of crack/craic are well-known and have been discussed here before. From a meaning of a loud noise in Middle English (also in Scots), it came to mean boastful talk and conversation. It’s found all over Scotland and Northern England. In more recent times, it has been Gaelicised as craic but there is no evidence that it is derived from Irish. There is also plenty of evidence that it doesn’t.

Ó Séaghdha said that there are several pieces of ‘evidence’ for the Irish origin of craic. One is the word craiceann, which means skin, but has a secondary meaning of sex, as in the phrase ag bualadh craicinn, literally beating skin. (Ó Séaghdha misspells this as ag bualaidh, which is an elementary mistake.) The link between craic and craiceann is obvious nonsense. I mean, does Béarla (the Irish word for English) constitute proof that béar (bear) is an ancient Irish word? Is there an intrinsic link between skillet and skill, or kit and kitten? Of course not. And the idea that craiceann has a subsidiary meaning of sex and sex is fun so craiceann means fun is pretty silly.

Even sillier is the second piece of ‘evidence’, namely the existence of the word craiceáilte, which means cracked or crazy. While there are some native words formed with -áil or -eáil, most words with these endings are words of foreign origin. Here are some common examples: cniotáil (to knit); traenáil (to train); pacáil (to pack). These can also generate nouns for people who do things: a scíálaí is a skier, a paraisiútálaí is a parachutist. They can also form adjectives: cócaráilte means cooked, fancyáilte is fancy (in speech – you wouldn’t usually write it), and craiceáilte is cracked. In other words, this is obviously a non-Irish word.

As I say, I haven’t read this book. If I receive a copy of Craic Baby for Christmas (and there’s every chance I will), I will read it and probably enjoy most of it. However, if there’s ever a number three in the series, I do hope he resists the temptation to make any etymological speculations because he really isn’t very good at it.


An Nollaig seo caite, fuair mé cóip den leabhar Motherfoclóir. Mar a mhínigh mé i roinnt postálacha anseo, is maith liom coincheap an leabhair, go ginearálta, ach is lú an dúil a bhí agam i scileanna sanasaíochta an údair. Seachtain ó shin, tharla dom bheith i siopa leabhar ag amharc ar chomharba Motherfoclóir, Craic Baby. D’fhan mé i mo sheasamh ansin ar feadh tamaill agus bhreathnaigh mé ar roinnt leathanach. Mar a bhí leis an leabhar roimhe, bhí an chuid ba mhó de measartha spéisiúil. Agus sin ráite, tháinig mé ar phlé ar an fhocal craic, nó crack. Agus arís eile, is beag an meas a bhí agam ar na rudaí a bhí le rá aige faoin ábhar seo.

Pléadh na fíricí faoi bhunús craic/crack anseo agus in áiteanna eile. Fuaim ard an chiall a bhí le crack sa MheánBhéarla (agus san Albainis fosta), agus ansin fuair sé ciall eile, mar atá, caint ghlórach mhórtasach. Tá an focal le fáil ar fud na hAlban agus Thuaisceart Shasana fosta. Le blianta beaga anuas, rinneadh Gaelú ar an fhocal mar chraic, ach nil aon fhianaise ann gur tháinig sé ón Ghaeilge. Agus tá a lán fianaise ann nár tháinig sé ón Ghaeilge, ar ndóigh.

Dúirt Ó Séaghdha go bhfuil cúpla píosa ‘fianaise’ ann le bunús Gaelach an fhocail craic. Ceann de na píosaí fianaise seo ná an focal craiceann, a bhfuil an chiall thánaisteach ‘gnéas’ leis, ar ndóigh, mar shampla, sa fhrása sin ‘ag bualadh craicinn’. (Mílitríonn Ó Séaghdha an focal seo mar bualaidh – is meancóg bhunúsach é sin.) Is léir gur raiméis é an nasc idir craic agus craiceann. Mar shampla, an gcruthaíonn an focal Béarla gur focal ársa Gaeilge é béar? An bhfuil baint idir camall agus scamall? Agus is amaidí fosta an tuairim a nochtann Ó Séaghdha go gciallaíonn craiceann gnéas agus is mór an spórt é gnéas agus mar sin de, is ionann craiceann agus craic!

Tá an dara píosa ‘fianaise’ níos amaidí fós, is é sin, go bhfuil an focal craiceáilte ann. Mar a thuigfidh Gaeilgeoir ar bith arbh fhiú an t-ainm, is comhartha é -eáilte gur focal gallda fréamh an fhocail traenáilte agus postáilte agus péinteáilte. Lena rá ar dhóigh eile, cruthaíonn foirm an fhocail craiceáilte nach focal dúchasach é craic.

Mar a dúirt mé, níl an leabhar seo léite agam. Má fhaighim cóip de Craic Baby don Nollaig (agus tá gach seans ann go bhfaighidh), léifidh mé é agus is dócha go mbainfidh mé sult as an chuid is mó de. Agus sin ráite, má scríobhann Ó Séaghdha an tríú leabhar sa tsraith choíche, tá súil agam nach mbacfaidh sé le tuilleadh buillí faoi thuairim a thabhairt faoin tsanasaíocht, mar is cinnte nach bhfuil tuairim dá laghad aige faoi stair na bhfocal.