Category Archives: The Cassidy Scandal

This is an item about Cassidy or his friends or the scandal of how a book full of pseudoscientific nonsense has come to be treated like a genuine work of scholarship by people, many of whom are probably smart enough to know better.

Baloney

I have noticed that many of the early posts on this blog get relatively little traffic, so I have decided to start republishing some of them.

Another oft-quoted piece of Cassidese is the phrase béal ónna. According to Cassidy, béal ónna is the origin of the American slang word baloney, meaning nonsense or rubbish.

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

There are two major points we need to be clear on here. First of all, the Irish phrase béal ónna is not an Irish phrase. It does not exist. It is composed of two words: béal, which is very common and means mouth, and ónna, which is so uncommon and obscure that it doesn’t even get a mention in Ó Dónaill’s 1300 page dictionary of Modern Irish. Before Cassidy, nobody had ever linked it to béal to make a phrase béal ónna. If you used the phrase among Irish speakers they would look at you in confusion and wonder what you were talking about. It is pure invention from a total fantasist.

Look it up on Google! You will find no references to the phrase on line apart from direct quotes from Cassidy. The only other example I came up with was on a forum, where it was used casually to mean nonsense by someone whose username was Dancas1 – obviously Daniel Cassidy the great fantasist himself!

Secondly, baloney is an example of an interesting linguistic phenomenon called the minced oath. This is quite common, and exists in many languages. A minced oath is simply where an obscene or blasphemous or unpleasant word is disguised by cutting bits off it, or by saying a word which sounds a bit like it.

Thus the French avoid saying Sacré Dieu (Holy God) by saying Sacré Bleu (Holy Blue). The Irish say dar fia (by deer) instead of dar Dia (by God) or daingniú air (strengthening on it) instead of damnú air (damnation on it). The English say things like Gee Whizz (Jesus) and Blimey (God Blind Me) or Sugar (shit).

It isn’t a difficult concept. It explains terms like Baloney, which is a minced oath for balls or bollocks. It also explains phrases like Holy Moly or Holy Mackerel and a number of other minced oaths for which Cassidy proposed ridiculously improbable Irish meanings.

There are many naïve and silly people out there who have looked at Cassidy’s claims and asked the question, how did scholars miss these obvious Irish derivations? If you stop to think about it, the answer is pretty clear. There have been lots of clever Irish people who spoke Irish and English and if these phrases were really so obvious, they would have been spotted and suggested before.

The reason why scholars didn’t spot them is simply because almost all of them were invented by Cassidy and don’t exist!

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I do not like thee, Dr Fell

In another post, I dealt with some of the late Barry Fell’s weird theories about Celts, Libyans, Ancient Egyptians and other groups in the Americas in ancient times.

Fell’s book, America BC, is full of absurdities. An ‘inscription’ found on the shore apparently reads: “Cargo platforms for ships from Phoenicia.” Yet, as other critics have pointed out, apart from inscriptions, there is no evidence. Where is all the rubbish which all civilisations produce? Why do no inscriptions turn up in archaeological sites where the stratigraphy can confirm their antiquity? This is a little like some archaeologist in thousands of years’ time (probably a genetically-enhanced chimp) finding a sign saying “Ellis Island – Welcome to America” but without finding any trace of New York!

As I have said before, I’m no expert on Libyan, or Ancient Egyptian, or even on Ancient Celtic. However, in order to be suspicious of Barry Fell’s ideas, you don’t need to be an expert. You just need to be sane.

One of the silliest and most incompetent parts of a very silly and incompetent book is the chapter where Barry Fell decides that many place names in New England are of Celtic origin. Fell’s claims are ludicrous. There is a fundamental inconsistency in them. Fell uses the meanings which speakers of Native American/Canadian languages themselves and experts in those languages have identified in the names of rivers and other places as a guide, and then claims to find Celtic equivalents to these meanings. In the process, he twists and corrupts the Scottish Gaelic language, a language which he had a slight knowledge of, and mixes it with Celtic etymological roots to invent phrases which are loosely similar to the Native American names. The logical problem with this is obvious. The meanings derived from the Algonquian language make sense within that language. So how can these names derive both from Algonquian and from Celtic?

For example, according to Russell the Algonquian meaning of the stream Ammonoosuc is “Stream of the small fish.” Fell interprets this as Am.-min-a-sugh using (according to him) Ancient Celtic roots, and comes up with the explanation “small stream for taking out (fish)”. This is highly suspect. Where does the root am come from? There is an Ancient Celtic word ambara, meaning a stream, but am? Then sugh is presumably the same as the modern Irish meaning to absorb. This isn’t likely to be used in the context of fishing.

A place called Cohas which means pine is linked by him to gaelic ghiuthas [sic] which also means pine. (The spelling with gh at the beginning is a clear indication that Fell knew very little Gaelic.) The names really aren’t that similar in the two languages.

From this weak start, it quickly descends into the totally ridiculous. The Merrimack river had a number of Indian names, one of which was Kaskaashadi, the Native American meaning of which is unknown. However, Fell thinks it looks like the supposed Gaelic phrase ‘g-uisge-siadi, which, according to Fell means with waters which flow slowly. But the Gaelic words for slow are mall, slaodach, ríamannach, sialtach. Where does siadi come from? What’s that ‘g doing there? I’ve no idea but at least I’ve more of an idea about Gaelic than poor old Barry Fell.

Fell also gives a ‘Gaelic’ derivation to the alternative name Merrimack, which he derives from the ‘Gaelic’ words mor-riomach, which (according to Fell, means ‘of great depth.’) . Try looking up the words mor-riomach, with or without grave accents on the first o and the i, in a Gaelic dictionary. You won’t find anything. Also, if you look it up on Google you will only find references to Fell’s ‘research’. I imagine the root of this word is something akin to réim in Irish, which means range or extent, but who knows? There are no references, no evidence that any of these phrases really exists or could have existed or meant what Fell said they meant.

Another two phrases which seem to be the product of Fell’s imagination are the stream Piscataqua, which supposedly means white rock, and another stream called Seminenal, which he claims means grains of rock. Fell’s Gaelic candidates are Pios-cata.-cua, and semen-aill. I have no idea what is happening with Pios-cata.-cua. Pios is obviously a loanword from Middle English or French, the same word as the Irish píosa or the English piece, so this dates it to the last eight hundred years, no earlier. The cata and cua aren’t usual or comprehensible words for white or rock. I don’t recognise them and I can’t be bothered looking for them.

According to Fell, the name Quechee corresponds to the Gaelic cuithe, meaning a hole or ravine. In fact, if you look up the word cuithe in a Gaelic dicionary you find that it means pit, trench; bank, drift; breastwork; stronghold. The ‘ravine’ meaning seems to be Fell’s invention. As always with this kind of pseudo-scholarship (it’s found throughout Daniel Cassidy’s work), minor tweaks are made to the meanings of both the source and target language so that it looks like there is an amazingly close correspondence. When you examine the primary sources, these amazing correspondences disappear.

Fell also claims that the New Hampshire name Uncanoonucks, a name which translates from the Algonquian as ‘a woman’s breasts’ can be compared to Scottish and Irish expressions for hills using the term Paps in English. He claims that this represents the Scottish Gaelic Uchd-nan-Ugan. This expression uchd-nan-ugàn is a total fabrication on Fell’s part. Uchd (Irish ucht) means breast, while ugàn is a Scottish Gaelic expression for top of the breast or neck. In other words, this bizarre phrase would really mean something like ‘breast of the tops of the breast.’ In reality, the word used for these geographical ‘paps’ is cíoch in Irish and cìoch in Scottish Gaelic, as in Sgurr na Cìche (The Paps of Jura) in Scotland and the Paps of Anu in Kerry (Dá Chíoch Anann).

Even more dishonest than that is the claim that the element –nock is used in New England place names for hills or mountains. This is true, it does occur in such names. But it isn’t the element that means hill or mountain, so any similarity to Irish cnoc is completely meaningless.

I could keep going and trash the rest of Fell’s ‘research’ on place names in New England but it really isn’t worth it. This is not a serious attempt to arrive at the truth. Fell was simply a fantasist and his book America BC is a worthless testament to human folly, just like Daniel Cassidy’s book on slang.

October’s Twit of the Month – Hugh Curran

For this month’s Twit of the Month, I have decided to return to Hugh Curran of Maine. Readers of this blog will remember that in the winter of 2016 and the spring of this year, I took issue with many of this man’s comments on IrishCentral. These comments (now deleted along with most of the accumulated comments on IrishCentral) were complete nonsense. They supported Daniel Cassidy and his preposterous theories, arrogantly ‘corrected’ people who knew more than he did, and criticised genuine etymologists for not giving enough credence to these absurd claims. In these comments, he implied that he was a fluent native Irish speaker. A quick look on line was sufficient to show that he is not fluent in Irish and he himself has admitted this since.

Hugh Curran claimed that Cassidy’s book “is sometimes maligned because a few of the several hundred words are of questionable Gaelic origin, yet the vast majority are correct and the book makes for fascinating reading.” In another post, he claimed that about 40-50% of Cassidy’s derivations were correct. Not only do these two judgements conflict with each other, they are also both nonsense.

I lambasted him on this blog for this behaviour but I also set him a challenge. If he can find ten derivations which are correct out of the hundreds in Cassidy’s book, I will remove my comments about him. Just ten out of hundreds. The only condition was that they had to be original to Cassidy and not plagiarised by Cassidy from other people. I also said that if he couldn’t find them and issued a formal apology for supporting this dreck and misleading people, I would also remove the comments critical of him and substitute it with the apology.

Since then, we have heard nothing from Curran. He hasn’t been able or willing (actually, let’s get real – he hasn’t been able) to find evidence for the outlandish claims he was making. And he is obviously way too up himself to apologise.

Some people might think I am wrong to single out someone like this. He is plainly interested in Irish and Irish culture, even if he doesn’t know much about them. He is an ecologist (though I wouldn’t be alone in regarding the ‘deep ecology’ that he teaches as a load of New Age woo), a political liberal, a supporter of gun control, and he has worked with the homeless. All of these things are very laudable. But does that give him the right to go onto public forums, misrepresent himself as an expert on the Irish language and essentially make up a number of ludicrous claims about the merits of Cassidy’s work? No, it doesn’t! Sensible people have a duty to challenge nonsense like that.

The recent debate about the Irish Slavery meme and the heroic work of Liam Hogan in defence of the truth has shown how much fake information is out there. Most of this fake information is spread by people who believe it’s true, even though it’s clear that the overwhelming majority of them have no idea how to separate bullshit from fact and massively over-estimate their own intelligence and level of education.

One thing is sure. People who spread fake information are a menace. Whatever they think their motives are, their shallowness and arrogance are helping to make the world a worse place.

That’s why my October CassidySlangScam Twit of the Month is Hugh Curran, fake Gaeilgeoir and pompous spreader of fake information.

More on Mike McCormack

Liam Hogan has just posted an excellent response (https://medium.com/@Limerick1914/the-ancient-order-of-hibernians-history-ireland-magazine-and-the-accommodation-of-ahistorical-ec393928e787) to the childish attack on his reputation in the letters section of History Ireland by Mike McCormack (National Historian of the Ancient Order of Hibernians). Hogan makes a fabulous job of demolishing McCormack’s arguments. He also shows that McCormack, far from being a genuine historian with a right to get on his high horse about distortion of history, is a worthless dilettante who cuts and pastes sources without actually referring to the originals at all.

However, this is not the first time that McCormack’s stupidity has damaged the reputation of the organization he claims to love, the Ancient Order of Hibernians.

For example, in 2005, he wrote a ridiculous article (http://www.aohalexandria.org/2016/12/04/ogham-writing-dark-ages-produce-americas-first-christmas-cards/) which takes seriously the discredited claims of the late Dr Barry Fell, who believed that hundreds of scratches and random marks on rocks in the USA were really inscriptions in the ancient Irish ogham script. Fell really surpassed himself when he ‘read’ the following message on a cliff in Wyoming County, WV, in 1982 or 1983.

A ray will graze the notch on the left side, at the time of sunrise on Christmas Day, the first season of the year, the season of the blessed advent of the savior Lord Christ, behold he is born of Mary, a woman.

(If you think the bit about rays falling somewhere on a particular day is familiar, let me remind you that Raiders of the Lost Ark came out just before this, in 1981!) Suffice it to say that from a number of chaotic scratches, Fell claimed to make out a number of ogham letters, and these ogham letters were then interpreted by him as a form of ogham without any vowels, written in a mixture of Old Irish and Latin. For example, having identified a string of ‘text’ as FGBRRMRMBN, Fell interpreted this to mean Feg berir Maire mbena, or, as he claims, ‘Behold, he is born of Mary, a woman.’ I’m no expert on Old Irish but that doesn’t look at all convincing as a real sentence, and the string of letters could be interpreted pretty much any way you want. As Dr John Carey, a Celtic scholar at Harvard said: “Finding these sequences in purported Ogam inscriptions … seems to open the door to unbounded subjectivity: I hope that it isn’t unduly uncharitable to say that I could produce ‘Celtic text’ based on these principles for virtually any series of letters (or strokes) which you supplied”

You can find a full account of Fell’s ‘discovery’ of this supposed ogham message here: https://cwva.org/wwvrunes/wwvrunes_3.html

You can also find an excellent refutation of Fell’s theories here: https://cwva.org/ogam_rebutal/wirtz.html

In another article (http://aoh.theloveclan.net/aboutus.html), McCormack takes equally ludicrous claims about the origins of the AOH seriously. He claims that the Defenders, an agrarian Catholic society of the late eighteenth century, was founded in 1565 with the motto Friendship, Unity, and True Christian Charity. In English? In Ireland in the 16th century? No real historian would accept this claim, which was plainly invented to beef up the antiquity of the ‘Ancient’ Order of Hibernians. (The Buffaloes aren’t Antediluvian either!) There is also no evidence that the AOH was founded in the 17th century.

History provides us with the names of many of these organizations, and even limited details of some. We know, for example, that the motto of the Defenders in 1565 was Friendship, Unity, and True Christian Charity, but the secret manner in which these societies operated left few records for modern analysts. As a result, a true history of their times may never be written. Today’s AOH with its motto “Friendship, Unity, and Christian Charity” is the most recent link in the evolution of these ancient societies. Organized in Ireland for the purpose of defending Gaelic values, and protecting Church and clergy, it is the successor to the secret societies of old.   Although the name AOH can only be traced back to 1641, the organization can claim continuity of purpose and motto unbroken back to the Defenders of 1565.

In other words, this guy has been spreading his nonsense for years. I am no fan of the AOH, but I find it hard to believe that there was nobody in their membership better qualified to be their National Historian than Mike McCormack. How did they end up with this buffoon making them into an international laughing stock? Red faces all round for the AOH!

Irish ‘Slaves’ In The Amazon

In my last few posts, I have switched from attacking Daniel Cassidy and his ignorant supporters. My recent posts have been concerned with Liam Hogan and his heroic struggle against the Irish Slavery Meme, a ridiculous piece of fake history which tries to show that the Irish were sold into slavery in America and the Caribbean and that they suffered worse than the African slaves. Of the people promoting this rubbish, the majority of them are White Supremacists and other Neo-Nazis, while others are people of a strong Irish nationalist bent who like the glow of victimhood they derive from it.

I am not a historian and anyone who is interested in this subject should read Liam Hogan’s excellent work on the subject, where he has patiently and intelligently dissected the lies and nonsense being put forward by the revisionists. However, I have noticed that there is one subsidiary claim about Irish ‘slavery’ which has been spread far and wide, yet it is completely untrue. While Liam Hogan has dealt with the real facts about this (https://medium.com/@Limerick1914/as-intentional-as-the-forgetting-that-follows-82a309014d45) I don’t think he has tackled the false version directly. (If he has and I have missed it, my apologies!)

The false claim is that the first ‘record’ of Irish slaves in the New World was in 1612, when a group of Irish ‘slaves’ were ‘sold’ to a settlement in the Amazon. For example:

Putting two and two together, King James I started sending Irish slaves to the new world. The first recorded sale of Irish slaves was to a settlement in the Amazon in 1612, seven years before the first African slaves arrived in Jamestown. (http://www.thenewportbuzz.com/the-irish-slave-trade-the-slaves-that-time-forgot/7191)

The facts of the matter are quite clear. In 1612, a group of Munster Irish settlers went to the Amazon. They were led by two brothers from Youghal called Purcell. None of them were slaves. They went voluntarily, with the aim of growing tobacco and trading with the English and the Dutch. Here’s one source that tells it like it is, without any fake claims of slavery:

The first Irish settlement in Latin America is thought to have been along the Amazon, set up by the Anglo-Irish tobacco trader Philip Purcell in 1612. Purcell and a colourful character who followed him in 1620, Bernard O’Brien …

Who is this libtard revisionist trying to whitewash Irish slavery out of the record? Actually, this is from a book (Wherever Green Is Worn: The Story of the Irish Diaspora) by that well-known bleeding heart, snowflake and Brit-lover Tim Pat Coogan (yes, I’m being sarcastic, and why the f*** not?)

So, if these people were free men and not Irish slaves, why do so many people online repeat the nonsense that they were slaves? The answer is that it is based on a misinterpretation of one of the main texts in the development of the Irish slaves meme, an article called England’s Irish Slaves (1995) by Robert E. West.

This article (http://www.ewtn.com/library/humanity/slaves.txt) is one of the principal texts which conflates and confuses slavery with indentured servitude and has therefore given rise to the myth of Irish slavery. However, it doesn’t state that Irish people were sold into slavery in 1612 in the Amazon. Here’s what it says:

Records are replete with references to early Irish Catholics in the West Indies. Gwynn in Analecta Hibernica, states: ‘The earliest reference to the Irish is the establishment of an Irish settlement on the Amazon River in 1612.”(1)

West wasn’t saying these were slaves. He was setting out the context for the Irish in the Americas. Someone else has then looked at this and because of the provocative title with the word ‘Slaves’ in it, has assumed that these Irish people were unfree. As with so many elements of the Irish slavery meme, bad reading of texts and endless copying of secondary sources without checking the facts has turned this baseless nonsense into ‘a thing’.

Of Irish Slaves and Irish Slang

I have recently had cause to criticise the absurd ‘Irish Slavery Meme’ which has been challenged by a number of historians, most notably Liam Hogan of Limerick. While this may seem like a deviation from the aims of CassidySlangScam, which is primarily about the Irish language and more specifically about the ridiculous fake Irish etymologies produced by the late Daniel Cassidy, there are clear parallels between these two dishonest sets of claims.

In both cases, a meme which is almost entirely rubbish is being circulated virally, often by horrible people with a particular agenda. With Cassidy’s work, many of his supporters are naïve and foolish people who believe they are defending the Irish language when they support Cassidy’s ridiculous made-up rubbish. With the Irish Slavery Meme, many of them are White Supremacists who claim that their ancestors had it worse than African slaves but you won’t find them bitching and moaning and asking for positive discrimination, blah blah blah …

In both cases, the meme is of relatively recent origin. Cassidy’s ludicrous nonsense first started to spread when he published his first articles in 2003. The Irish slavery meme has precursors going back over a hundred years in the work of Thomas Addis Emmett but didn’t go mainstream until  the publication of To Hell or Barbados, a highly inaccurate book written by a journalist (not a historian) and published in 2001. It has never had any currency among genuine historians.

In both cases, there is a core of genuine information surrounded by immense quantities of guff. In both cases, the genuine information is non-controversial and accepted by both sides. In the Cassidy case, there is a handful of derivations which are accepted (shebeen, puss, phoney etc.) by all dictionaries but most of Cassidy’s claims link English expressions to made-up ‘Irish’ phrases. In the Irish Slavery meme, there is no doubt that a certain number of people were essentially kidnapped from Ireland and transported against their will to the colonies (especially for a few years in the 1650s) where they were forced to work as indentured servants for a number of years. The followers of this meme vastly inflate the numbers involved, claim that the indentured servants were slaves or were treated worse than slaves, and that this ‘Irish slave trade’ continued for hundreds of years.

In both cases, we find some of the same names supporting this rubbish: IrishCentral and Niall O’Dowd; Donnacha DeLong; Mike McCormack.

In both cases, the fakeness of most of the evidence presented can easily be established. It’s just that people are either too lazy to go looking for it or unwilling to have their fantasy version of the world challenged by facts.

In both cases, anyone who argues that this meme is fake news and completely untrue is verbally attacked by people who claim that their position is ‘anti-Irish’ or Anglophile, or that they are ‘deniers’, as if denial of lies is a bad thing!

In both cases, this results in the claim that orthodox academia has somehow suppressed the truth about the Irish origins of American slang or the suffering of hundreds of thousands of Irish slaves and that these ‘truths’ should be acknowledged by academics or taught in schools – even though there isn’t a shred of evidence that these things happened.

More on Caribbean Slang

I had a message recently from someone called mat_leith (Mat Leith? Mat from Leith? Who cares!)  in relation to my post on Irish and Jamaican slang. In that post, I discussed how few traces the Irish language left on Caribbean slang (though I am quite prepared to accept that Irish was spoken by some people in the Caribbean and America, both black and white). Here’s his message:

Your actually a retard there are atleast half a dozen patois words with clear irish origions

Yeah, I’m a retard, as is the academic whose work I quoted. I mean, why respect Professor John Wells’ opinion just because he’s a linguist with a BA from Cambridge, an MA and a PhD from UCL, fluency in a Celtic language (Welsh) and decades of experience, as well as being in a very long-term relationship with a guy from Montserrat?

I wouldn’t bother answering this nonsense at all but it does give me a chance to reiterate my position on when people deserve a reply and when they don’t. So, to all the deluded trolls and arrogant dumbasses like Mat out there, people who continually fall into the abyss of ignorance that lies between what they know and what they think they know, let me just make myself clear. I am not interested in your opinions. If you’re just going to send me a message to tell me how smart you are (even if you can’t spell you’re or origins), don’t bother. If you have any genuine evidence to offer (such as what the five or six words of Irish origi(o)n in Caribbean English are), then please supply it so that I can refute it or agree with it. If not, go and waste someone else’s time.