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Twenty tips for learning Irish


For Bliain na Gaeilge 2018, this is a list of twenty tips for people who are thinking of learning Irish. Don’t forget that the best tip of all is START NOW AND DO A LITTLE EVERY DAY!


Learn a song from YouTube, and hunt down the lyrics on Wikipedia or other sources. (Suggestions: Coinleach Ghlas an Fhómhair, Don Oíche Úd i mBeithil, Éamonn an Chnoic.)

Write shopping lists in Irish. By the time you’ve written oinniúin or trátaí or bainne twenty times, you’ll never forget it!

Extend this to to-do lists, caithfidh mé na héadaí a iarnáil, caithfidh mé arán a cheannach, caithfidh mé dul chuig an gharáiste, ba mhaith liom an chistin a ghlanadh, ba mhaith liom siopadóireacht a dhéanamh.

Listen to Irish music by Clannad or Altán.

Use online resources like Duolingo and Transparent Irish.

Use to find interesting phrases and check pronunciations.

Write a list of common words or phrases on paper and carry them round with you.

Keep a diary, using very simple sentences – don’t be over-ambitious!   Chuaigh mé chuig an Ollmhargadh. Cheannaigh mé bia. Bhuail mé le mo chara sa chaifelann. D’ól mé caife. Labhair muid srl.

Buy some post-it notes and put them up in your house so that you are seeing the words fuinneog, doras, cófra, inneall níocháin all the time.

Read up on a news story in English and then search for an article on

Find a radio programme on Raidió na Gaeltachta and listen to it, just to get the sound of the language in your head.

Find a programme on TG4 that interests you and watch it a few times.

Check out the Irish material on BBC NI and other online sites.

Buy a children’s picture dictionary (First 1000 words in Irish).

If you’re a Potterhead, buy the Irish version of book 1 Harry Potter agus an Órchloch and read a little bit each day.

If you’re not, get a classic book like Kidnapped or Round the world in 80 days or Dracula and read the English side by side with the Irish translation.

Change the settings on BBC Weather so that you get some of the details in Irish.

Find an Irish Word of the Day on your phone or email.

Draw a mind map of a particular topic and attach words and phrases to it.

If you’re religious, learn a prayer in Irish and use it every day.

Join theirishfor and other Twitter feeds on and in Irish.


December’s Twit of the Month – Michael Krasny

December’s Twit of the Month was originally intended to be Peter Linebaugh, an indifferent Marxist historian who has given his support to Cassidy’s crazy theories about the Irish origins of slang. However, a week ago, I happened on an interview given by Cassidy late in 2007, and broadcast on St Stephen’s Day (26th of December) in that year. You can find it here:

The interview was conducted by a radio presenter and academic (a professor of English at San Francisco State) called Michael Krasny. Like all interviews with Daniel Cassidy, it is an embarrassing mixture of arrogance, stupidity, fake modesty and name-dropping. As with other interviews with Cassidy, Krasny makes no attempt at all to cut through all the bullshit and establish the truth.

Anyway, the nonsense in this KQED interview begins almost immediately. Michael Krasny reels off a list of some of the fake derivations given by Cassidy, words like scram, skedaddle and jazz. All of these have been dealt with here. Use the search box above to find out more.

The interview begins with Daniel Cassidy trying to pretend that he speaks some Irish by reciting a sentence he has learned by heart – badly. Unfortunately, Krasny interrupts him several times, so he has to repeat the first phrase three times. This phrase is supposed to be “Tá áthas orm” (I am happy) but what he actually says three times is “Tá amhas a’am” (I have a hooligan). The rest of it is not much better and demonstrates beyond doubt that Cassidy knew no Irish and probably didn’t have access to anyone who could speak good Irish either (for example, áit a bhí an Ghaeilge beo should be áit a raibh an Ghaeilge beo – anyone comfortable with Irish grammar would know this).

The rest of this tiresome interview is no better. It’s the same old shite. Cassidy says that glom, a word meaning to grab, comes from Irish. As we’ve already seen, it came into standard English from Scots glaum, and it probably originates in Scottish Gaelic. This is the explanation given by the mainstream dictionaries. It completely invalidates Cassidy’s claim. Why Krasny couldn’t look up a dictionary himself, or at least adopt the time-honoured motto that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, is unclear. I note that Krasny taught in San Francisco State university. So did Cassidy, before he became a lecturer at New College of California. Did they know each other?

It would take too long to go through every lie, every piece of incompetence, every wasted opportunity to bring out the truth in this appalling interview. Brag doesn’t come from Irish and the OED doesn’t say that it is from a word meaning trousers (that’s a similar French word which doesn’t enter English until long after brag was first used and is therefore not the origin of brag in English). Duking doesn’t come from Irish tuargain, which is not pronounced as duking anyway. Spiel, as Krasny says but doesn’t press for, comes from Yiddish and has no connection to a Scots Gaelic word speal (which isn’t pronounced spiel, as Cassidy pronounces it here) and which doesn’t mean a sharp hoe (it’s a scythe). All of Cassidy’s claims, about jazz and sucker and kike and cant are all crap. The man blithely lies and mispronounces and fakes meanings and fails to point out that his idiotic ‘Irish’ equivalents for baloney and nincompoop and bunkum were his own inventions, not real phrases in the Irish language.

Krasny doesn’t seem to care. He gives Cassidy an easy time of it, buys all his bullshit, gives him a platform to sell this arrogant trash to unsuspecting people and even attacks his fellow academics for their anti-Irish bias in not recognising Cassidy’s made-up rubbish as fact.

However, the worst of it is in the phone-in section of the programme. A couple of people are critical of Cassidy but Krasny doesn’t dig deeper. In fact, when one caller points out that he has got it wrong about the origins of the word tinker, and says ‘it goes to prove the point many people have called – you are reaching’, Krasny and Cassidy thank him quickly and move on.

Finally, I feel I should explain what I meant by Cassidy’s false modesty. Cassidy says several times that he isn’t sure of every word. On the surface, he sounds like a reasonable human being. Yet a little more than a month after this, using a fake identity, Cassidy answered critics on a forum about language like this:

“Barret the Parrot had better kiss the toin (buttocks) of his publishers at Oxford. With his books down around 270,000 and 600,000 on Amazon, whereas Cassidy’s book is in 5th reprint in 7 months and just won an American Book Award.

Is it a twerp (duirb, a worm)? Is it a dork (dorc, a dwarf)? Or is it Barrett the Parrot? No it’s “Superscam” (aka Barret the English Parrott) and his phoney made-up quotes.

Here are REAL QUOTES that haven’t been hahahahaha deleted hahahahahahaha.

Believe Barrett the Parrott (AKA Superscam) or Dr. Joe Lee, who is a native Irish speaker and the Director of Irish Studies at NYU? Professor Lee is one of the foremost scholars in the field of Irish Studies in the US and Ireland.”

(Lee, of course, was a friend of Cassidy’s.) In other words, while he was being treated the way he felt he had a right to be treated, as a genuine academic with a valid theory, Cassidy managed to pretend to be a sane and reasonable person. When anyone tried to confront him with the truth, he regressed to being an ignorant, infantile narcissist who was completely incapable of dealing with the least challenge to his fragile ego.

Krasny should have spotted the logical inconsistencies, smelt the bullshit and acted accordingly. Instead, he became one of this man’s many unwitting enablers and accomplices in his project of deceiving Irish America and lining his own pockets with the profits of his fraud. It is for that reason that I am happy (or should that be, I have a hooligan?) to award Michael Krasny December’s Twit of the Month Award.


Another ludicrous claim of Cassidy’s is that the word bailiwick (meaning someone’s sphere of influence or control) is from the Irish baile aíoch. This is clearly rubbish for two reasons.

Firstly, the phrase baile aíoch is completely unattested in Irish outside of Cassidy’s fantasy version of the language, although the two elements which Cassidy put together to make this phrase, baile and aíoch, do exist. Baile means home or town, while aíoch means hospitable, and is related to the word aoi, meaning guest. So this phrase might just mean “hospitable home”, though the word aíoch is not very common.

So what’s wrong with this as the origin of bailiwick? Let’s imagine a group of Irish-speaking gangsters discussing their activities in New York in the 19th century. Are they really going to refer to their ceantar (area) or ríocht (kingdom) or fearann (domain) or talamh (ground, land) as mo bhaile aíoch? I can’t see it. It is an unlikely enough phrase anyway, but if I did hear it, I would think of a guest house, or their own house, or even the old home back in the Old Country, not an area which is under someone’s control in a city.

It is also highly unlikely that the word aíoch (pronounced ee-okh or ee-oh] would become wick in English.

And in any case, if Cassidy had done some basic research (something he was obviously too lazy or stupid to do) he would have realised that bailiwick has been in English for nearly six hundred years. It means the area of influence of a bailiff. The most famous bailiwick is probably the Bailiwick of Jersey in the Channel Islands, which obviously has no connection with the hospitable homes of Irish wise-guys.

A Hatepost

I have recently had some visitors from a forum on language where someone has posted a flattering link to this blog. You can find it here:

The commenter is entirely accurate in his or her comments about Cassidy and his fraudulent academic career and his even more fraudulent ideas about Irish. I am delighted when people notice this blog and publicise my efforts. However, I was slightly taken aback at the description of Cassidyslangscam as a hateblog.

After all, I think I am quite rational and dispassionate in my debunking. I ask people to search for evidence and to go to the primary sources themselves. And I am motivated by love of the Irish language, love of truth, love of learning …

However, when I started thinking about it (and also while thinking about the comments on the way writers lie to themselves on Emma’s blog Jot It Down), I realised that I may be rational and public-spirited and devoted to discovering and spreading the truth, but I am also motivated by a strong hatred. My blog IS a hateblog. I hate everything that Cassidy stood for: childish ignorance masquerading as a fresh way of thinking; using Irish nationalism and socialism and other radical causes as smokescreens to protect his nonsense from criticism; the rampant hypocrisy of blethering about equality while enjoying the status and privileges of being a professor – without even a bachelor’s degree; the way that stupid and gullible people have been mobilised in defence of this nonsense by public figures and journalists who should be telling them the truth.

So, hateblog it is! I’ll wear the label with pride. There are plenty of things in this world which deserve to be hated. Cassidy’s book, his theories and his crony friends should be despised by any sensible, decent person.

P.S. You can find Emma’s blog here. Check it out!

Saoirse cainte

Bhí mé ag amharc ar na tuairiscí ar an ár a rinneadh sa Fhrainc. Tá trua an domhain agam do dhuine ar bith a fuair bás nó a gortaíodh nó a chaill gaol nó cara sna heachtraí tragóideacha seo.

Cé go mbíonn an chuid is mó de na tuairiscí ag díriú ar an fhoréigean, tá cuid de na tuairiscí ag déileáil le ceist chonspóideach na saoirse cainte agus teorainneacha na saoirse sin.

Creidim go raibh an ceart ag foireann Charlie Hebdo an t-ábhar sin a fhoilsiú. B’fhéidir go raibh cuid de na rudaí a d’fhoilsigh siad rud beag leanbaí, dar liom, agus tuigim do na Moslamaigh sin a shíl go raibh an t-ábhar sin maslach, ach is é bun agus barr an scéil go bhfuil an tsaoirse cainte thar a bheith tábhachtach. Tá sí tábhachtach do Mhoslamaigh, do Chríostaithe, d’aindiachaithe. Tá sí tábhachtach do gach duine, fiú dóibh siúd nach n-aithníonn an tábhacht sin, mar bíonn an cine daonna ag insint bréag agus ag cur na fírinne as a riocht, agus níl dóigh ar bith ann leis an fhírinne a dhearbhú ach díospóireacht a dhéanamh agus rudaí a phlé go saor.

Má chuireann sin olc ar dhaoine áirithe, bhal, is mór an trua sin. Gan sin, is é a bhíonn againn ná ceartchreideamh dolúbtha nach ndéanann freastal mar is ceart ar riachtanais an duine, agus a fhágann i ndroch-chás é.

Ní chreidim gur cheart clóphreasanna a bhriseadh, nó daoine a scríobhann drochleabhair a scaoileadh nó iad a chur sa phríosún. Is cacamas ceart é leabhar Cassidy ach tá ceart ag daoine é a léamh agus creidiúint ann. Agus tá dualgas ormsa é a cháineadh. Is ceart í saoirse cainte, ach is pribhléid í fosta, agus pribhléid nach bhfuil ag a lán daoine. Níor chóir dúinn neamhshuim a dhéanamh di ná an ceart sin a chur amú ar theoiricí craiceáilte agus ar bhréaga.

Na bunúsaithe a mharaigh foireann Charlie Hebdo agus an póilín cróga Moslamach Ahmed Merabet, ní chreideann siadsan i gcearta an duine, ná i saoirse cainte, agus ní chreideann siad gur chóir dóibh na rudaí a gcreideann siad iontu a bhunú ar fhianaise. Ní hamhlaidh domsa. Creidim i saoirse cainte, agus creidim go bhfuil freagracht orainn í a chosaint.

Is mise Charlie.

Is mise Ahmed.

Free speech

I have been watching the coverage of the atrocities in France. I feel deeply sorry for everyone who has died or been injured or lost a loved one or friend as a result of these tragic events.

While most reports focus on the violence, some of the news coverage has also dealt with the vexed question of free speech and how far it should go. I believe that the people at Charlie Hebdo had a right to publish what they did. I may have found some of what they published puerile, and I can understand the attitude of some Muslims who feel that this material was insulting, but the bottom line is that freedom of speech is important. It is important to Muslims, to Christians, to atheists. It is important to everyone, whether they recognise the fact or not, because human beings lie and distort the truth, and the only way to establish what the truth is is by debating and discussing – freely. If this offends or annoys some people, then that’s too bad. Without that, you end up with rigid orthodoxies which don’t reflect people’s needs and end up making them unhappy.

So, I don’t believe in smashing presses, or shooting people who write bad books or putting them in jail. Cassidy’s book is rubbish but people have a right to read it and believe in it, just as I have a duty to criticise it. Freedom of speech is a right, but it’s also a privilege which many people in the world don’t enjoy. We shouldn’t take it for granted or waste it on crank theories and lies.

The fundamentalists who shot the staff at Charlie Hebdo and the brave Muslim policeman Ahmed Merabet don’t believe in human rights, or freedom of speech, or basing their beliefs on evidence.

I do. I believe in the right of freedom of speech, and the responsibility to defend it.

Je suis Charlie. Je suis Ahmed.