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September 2018’s Twits of the Month – The Vintage News

The September 2018 Twit of the Month is a site called The Vintage News. They have put up a short video called American slang words we never knew were invented by the Irish. In the video, a lot of ridiculous derivations made up by Cassidy are given, along with a couple which Cassidy borrowed from more trustworthy sources:

Snazzy =Snasah: (sic, Snasach is the right version). Cassidy didn’t make this one up. Although the connection between snazzy and snasach is believable enough, it is not likely to be correct. When the term snazzy was first used, it referred to a person called Snazelle – Snazzy was his nickname.

Spiel = Speal. A speal is a scythe, an instrument used to cut grass. It rhymes with the name Al. There is a similar word in Scots Gaelic and there is a subsidiary meaning in that language, namely, sharp words. In other words, that isn’t its meaning in the Irish language. And of course, spiel comes from German (apparently, it’s not from Yiddish – see comments below).

Baloney = Béal ónna. Of course, there is no such phrase as béal ónna. Daniel Cassidy made it up.

Bunkum = Buanchumadh. We have discussed this one before. It is a reference to Buncombe County, and a politician called Felix Walker. There is no such phrase as buanchumadh. It is simply nonsense made up by Daniel Cassidy.

Swell = Sóúil. Sóúil means luxurious (hardly a match to any meaning of the word swell) and it is pronounced so-ool, which doesn’t sound much like swell either. Also, the real origin of swell is well-known and explained here: https://www.etymonline.com/word/swell

Slugger = slacaire. Slacaire sounds like slackarra, so why would it have become slugger, not slacker? Also, there are lots of words in English which have meanings like beating, trudging, words like slug and slog and slag, as well as words like schlagen in German. You can find some notes on them here: https://www.etymonline.com/word/slug#etymonline_v_23704

Dork = dorc. According to this idiotic piece of non-information on Vintage News, the Irish dorc means dwarf. Really? News to me. And the word dork is widely believed to be a disguised form of ‘dick’.

Croney = comh-roghna. Again, this is an entirely fake phrase invented by Cassidy. Croney is believed to be Cambridge slang of the late 17th century and derived from Greek chronios, old.

Phoney = fáinne (ring). This is quite likely true (in my opinion) but predates Cassidy by decades. It possibly derives from fake gold rings used in scams, known as fawneys. However, the link is not universally accepted, and David L. Gold, who is a knowledgeable and intelligent etymologist, is one of the sceptics.

Dude = dúd. There is no evidence for a Gaelic origin of dude, a 19th century term for a dandy. Most scholars regard it as derived from the song Yankee Doodle Dandy, who stuck a feather in his cap and called it macaroni (macaroni was 18th century slang for a dandy).

Slum = ‘s lom (é). Is lom é is a made-up Cassidy phrase. Even if it did exist, anyone with any background in linguistics will realise that phrases like this are not usually borrowed. Also, slums are not usually bare, which is the meaning of lom. And of course, as it originally referred to bedrooms or flophouses, the word slum almost certainly comes from slumber.

Fluke = fo-luach. According to Cassidy, this phrase means a windfall or a rare reward. The phrase fo-luach does not exist and if it did, it would mean something like a ‘subsidiary value’. Pure nonsense.

Nincompoop = naioidhean. Actually, Cassidy’s original claim was that nincompoop comes from the ‘Irish’ naioidhean ar chuma búb, supposedly an insulting phrase meaning an infant in the shape of a booby. This is not a real phrase, of course. Nincompoop probably comes from the Latin phrase Non compos mentis.

Scam = ‘s cam é. Cassidy claims that scam comes from this phrase, which might just mean ‘it is crooked’. So, when you say, it’s a scam, you are apparently saying It’s an it is crooked. Yeah, right. In reality, there are a number of possible origins for scam. The front runner is probably the Spanish escamotear, which is a verb meaning to scam or to rob.

Boogaloo = bogadh luath. According to Cassidy, the phrase boogaloo comes from Irish. Boogaloo comes from bogadh luath, which means ‘early moving’ and is pronounced bogga looa or boggoo looa. Why? What connection does this have to the known uses of boogaloo? Your guess is as good as mine. Meanwhile, back on planet Earth, boogaloo is believed to have been coined in the 1960s, and derives from the onomatopoeic music style boogie-woogie.

Puss = pus. This is true but is accepted by all dictionaries and predates Cassidy by decades. Puss as in a dig in the puss or a sourpuss (not puss as in cat) comes from the Irish word pus, which means a pouting lip.

So, what have we got here? A couple of (perhaps) genuine derivations from Irish, along with a large collection of fantasy nonsense invented by the late Daniel Cassidy in his book How The Irish Invented Slang. The comments, which number nearly 2000, are interesting. Many people expressed scepticism about this nonsense, especially spiel, which is the most obviously wrong. Eoin Ó Murchú pointed out that this was all rubbish derived from Cassidy’s book. One person, Dilean Mac Searraigh, said “Most of these are ridiculous … there are Irish words in English … but these are totally inaccurate gibberish. Someone literally just made them up.”

The critics were then rebuked by a dimwit called Rhonda Pennington:

I can’t believe a fun post like this has generated such snarky remarks. It’s all in fun. Why does everything have to be an argument these days? Where is your sense of humour, people?

I’m sure others will be wondering the same as me. Where exactly is the fun? Where’s the humour? This is largely a collection of fantasy without any foundation in fact. Yet there is no indication that this is ironic or not meant to be true. What has promoting non-facts that aren’t true about other people’s languages and cultures to do with fun, especially languages which have been subject to discrimination for generations? If this were claiming to be a list of words and phrases from Gullah or Cherokee but it was mostly made-up, I’m inclined to think that it wouldn’t be regarded as fun. I think most people would regard it as cultural appropriation or (and this is the way I view it) as racism.

Pennington seems to be saying that when someone shovels shit on your head, you should thank them politely, perhaps ask for some more shit and take it all as a big joke. You are quite at liberty to do that, Rhonda (although it’s not your language and culture that are being targeted by these frauds). I choose to take this as a deliberate attempt to deceive, because the facts about Cassidy and his dishonesty have been out there for years. The people at Vintage News did no research. Vintage News is responsible for deliberately spreading nonsense as if it were fact, and neither they nor you are deserving of anyone’s respect or tolerance for being a liar, however funny you think these lies are.

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Amadáin na Míosa, Meán Fómhair 2018 – The Vintage News

Is é Amadán na Míosa i Mi Mheán an Fhómhair 2018 ná suiomh a bhfuil The Vintage News air. Tá físeán beag acu darb ainm American slang words we never knew were invented by the Irish. San fhíseán, tugtar a lán sanasaíochtai aiféiseacha a chum Cassidy, maraon le dornán a fuair Cassidy  ó fhoinsí atá níos iontaofa:

Snazzy =Snasah: (ar ndóigh, Snasach an leagan ceart). Níor chum Cassidy an ceann seo. Cé go bhfuil an nasc idir snazzy agus snasach sochreidte go leor, ní dócha go bhfuil sé ceart. Nuair a baineadh úsáid as Snazzy den chéad uair, bhi sé ag tagairt do dhuine darbh ainm Snazelle – Snazzy an leasainm a bhí air.

Spiel = Speal. Ciallaíonn speal gléas a úsáidtear le féar a ghearradh. Rímeann sé leis an ainm Al. Tá focal cosúil leis i nGaidhlig na hAlban agus tá fochiall leis sa teanga sin, mar atá, focail ghéara. Ní Gaeilge sin, mar sin. Agus ar ndóigh, tagann spiel ón Ghearmáinis. (Nil baint ar bith aige leis an Ghiúdais, de réir cosúlachta.)

Baloney = Béal ónna. Ar ndóigh, níl a leithéid de fhrása ann agus béal ónna. Chum Daniel Cassidy é.

Bunkum = Buanchumadh. Tá an ceann seo pléite againn roimhe seo. Tagairt atá ann do Buncombe County, agus polaiteoir darbh ainm Felix Walker. Níl a leithéid de fhrása ann agus buanchumadh. Níl ann ach cumadóireacht eile de chuid Cassidy.

Swell = Sóúil. Ciallaionn an focal sóúil saibhir, sómasach, galánta (níl baint dhíreach idir ciall an fhocail seo agus ciall an fhocail swell) agus níl sé róchosuil leis an fhocal swell ó thaobh fuaime de. Ní hamháin sin, ach tá fíorbhunús swell aitheanta ag na saineolaithe. Tá an bunús sin mínithe anseo: https://www.etymonline.com/word/swell

Slugger = slacaire. Níl slugger iontach cosúil le slacaire ó thaobh fuaime de, ar ndóigh. Tá a lán focal i mBéarla a bhfuil ciallanna ar nós bualadh, siúl go trom srl. acu, focail ar nós slug agus slog agus slag, chomh maith le focail ar nós schlagen sa Ghearmáinis. Thig leat nótaí a fháil orthu ach an nasc seo a leanúint: https://www.etymonline.com/word/slug#etymonline_v_23704

Dork = dorc. De réir na raiméise seo ar Vintage News, ciallaíonn an focal dorc ‘abhac’ i nGaeilge. An gciallaíonn? Níor chuala mise sin riamh. Agus de réir na saineolaithe, is leagan truaillithe den fhocal Béarla ‘dick’ atá san fhocal sin dork.

Croney = comh-roghna. Creidtear gur béarlagair Ollscoil Cambridge atá ann, a cumadh sa 17ú haois agus a tháinig ó chronios, focal Gréigise a chiallaíonn ‘sean’.

Phoney = fáinne (ring). Tá an ceann seo fíor, is dócha, (dar liomsa, cibé) ach bhí sé ann i bhfad sular thosaigh Cassidy ar a fheachtas cumadóireachta. Tagann sé ó na fáinní (fawneys) a bhí in úsáid le daoine a robáil. Agus sin ráite, nil gach duine ar aon intinn faoin nasc idir fawney agus phoney, agus tá David L. Gold, sanasaí cumasach éirimiúil, ar dhuine de na sceiptigh.

Dude = dúd. Níl fianaise dá laghad ann gur Gaeilge é dude, téarma ar ghaige sa 19ú haois. An chuid is mó de na scoláirí, deir siad gur tháinig sé ón amhrán Yankee Doodle Dandy, a sháigh cleite ina chaipín agus a thug macaroni air (i mbéarlagair an 18ú haois, bhí an chiall gaige leis an fhocal macaroni fosta).

Slum = ‘s lom (é). Is frása de na frásaí a chum Cassidy é ‘Is lom é’. Agus fiú dá mbeadh an frása sin ann, thuigfeadh duine ar bith a bhfuil cúlra aige nó aici sa teangeolaíocht nach ndéantar frásai mar seo a fháil ar iasacht. Ní hamháin sin, ach ní bhíonn plódcheantair ‘lom’. Agus ar ndóigh, áit chodlata an chiall a bhí le slum agus mar sin de, is dócha go bhfuil baint ag an fhocal leis an Bhéarla ‘slumber’.

Fluke = fo-luach. De réir Cassidy, ciallaíonn fo-luach deonú Dé nó duais neamhchoitianta. Níl a leithéid de chor cainte ann sa Ghaeilge agus dá mbeadh, is é ‘subsidiary value’ nó rud éigin mar sin an chiall a bheadh aige. Raiméis agus amaidí!

Nincompoop = naioidhean. Lena rá mar is ceart, is é a mhaígh Cassidy’s ná gur tháinig nincompoop ón ‘Ghaeilge’ naioidhean ar chuma búb. Dar le Cassidy, is masla é seo a bhí coitianta sa Ghaeilge fadó. Ní fíorGhaeilge é sin, ar ndóigh. Is dócha go bhfuair an Béarla nincompoop ón fhrása Laidin non compos mentis.

Scam = ‘s cam é. Deir Cassidy gur tháinig scam ón fhrása seo, atá cineál aisteach (déarfá ‘tá sé cam’ de ghnáth). Mar sin de, nuair a deir tú ‘it’s a scam’, is é atá á rá agat i nGaeilge ná ‘Is is cam é é!’ Aidhe, is dócha go bhfuil an ceart agat. Is é fírinne an scéil go bhfuil a lán sanasaíochtaí féideartha ann. An ceann is minice a luaitear ná an briathar Spáinnise escamotear, a chiallaíonn duine a scamáil nó a robáil.

Boogaloo = bogadh luath. Dar le Cassidy, is ón Ghaeilge a tháinig an focal boogaloo, ón fhrása bogadh luath (?). Ar ndóigh, níl bogadh luath cosúil le boogaloo agus níl baint ar bith idir boogaloo agus bogadh luath ó thaobh céille de. Ach, le filleadh ar réadúlachta an phláinéid seo, creidtear gur cumadh boogaloo sna 1960í, agus gur leagan atá ann den stíl cheoil boogie-woogie, a bhfuil a ainm onamataipéach, is dócha.

Puss = pus. Tá an ceann seo fíor, ach glacann gach foclóir Béarla leis an tsanasaíocht seo agus bhí an ceann seo ann i bhfad sular scríobh Cassidy a leabhar. Tagann puss (sa chiall a dig in the puss nó sourpuss) ón fhocal Gaeilge pus.

Cad é atá againn anseo, mar sin? Cúpla fíorshanasaíocht ón Ghaeilge, agus a lán finscéalaíocht agus raiméis a chum Daniel Cassidy ina leabhar How The Irish Invented Slang. Na tráchtanna ar Facebook, is mór an díol spéise iad. Scríobh a lán daoine nach raibh an raiméis seo inchreidte, go háirithe an téarma spiel, ar léir gur ón Ghearmáinis nó ón Ghiúdáis a tháinig sé. Dúirt Eoin P. Ó Murchú (bullaí fir, a Eoin!) go neamhbhalbh gur raiméis a bhí ann a fuarthas ó leabhar Cassidy. Scríobh duine amháin, Dilean Mac Searraigh: ““Most of these are ridiculous … there are Irish words in English … but these are totally inaccurate gibberish. Someone literally just made them up.”

Ach is léir gur chuir sé isteach go mór ar óinseach darb ainm Rhonda Pennington go raibh daoine ag cosaint na fírinne in áit bréaga a scaipeadh go randamach:

I can’t believe a fun post like this has generated such snarky remarks. It’s all in fun. Why does everything have to be an argument these days? Where is your sense of humour, people?

Tá mé cinnte nach mise an t-aon duine leis an cheist seo a thógáil, ach cá háit a bhfuil an chraic? Cad é an greann? Is é atá sa stuif seo ná bailiúchán finscéalta nach bhfuil fréamhaithe san fhírinne ar chor ar bith. Ach níl rud ar bith ann a thugann le fios gur íoróin atá ann nó nach bhfuil sé in ainm a bheith fíor. Cad é go díreach an bhaint idir acmhainn grinn agus fíricí bréaga a chur chun tosaigh faoi theangacha agus faoi chultúir daoine eile, go háirithe teangacha a bhfuil leatrom á dhéanamh orthu leis na glúnta? Dá mbeadh siad ag maíomh gur liosta d’fhocail a tháinig ó Gullah nó Cherokee atá ann, ach nach raibh sa chuid ba mhó de ach deargchumadóireacht, ní dóigh liom go nglacfadh daoine leis nach raibh ann ach craic. Is dócha go sílfeadh an chuid ba mhó de na daoine nach raibh ann ach leithghabháil chultúrtha nó (an dearcadh atá agam féin) ciníochas lom.

De réir cosúlachta, tá Pennington ag rá linn anseo, nuair a chaitheann duine lán sluaiste de chac ar do chloigeann, ba chóir duit do bhuíochas a ghabháil leo go muinte, iarraidh orthu tuilleadh caca a chaitheamh anuas ort agus glacadh leis nach bhfuil ann ach píosa grinn. Cead agatsa sin a dhéanamh, a Rhonda (cé nach í an teanga s’agatsa atá faoi ionsaí, ar ndóigh). Is fearr liom féin amharc air seo mar iarracht dallamullóg a chur ar dhaoine d’aon turas, mar go bhfuil an fhírinne faoi Cassidy agus a mhí-ionracas amuigh ansin leis na blianta. Ní dhearna muintir Vintage News taighde ar bith. Tá Vintage News freagrach as raiméis a scaipeadh mar a bheadh fírinne ann, agus níl meas nó caonfhulaingt tuillte acusan nó agatsa ó dhuine ar bith as bréaga a insint, is cuma cé chomh greannmhar agus atá na bréaga céanna, dar leat féin.

 

June’s Twit of the Month – Joe Lee

A couple of weeks ago, on the 22 May 2018, there was a symposium in honour of Joe Lee at Glucksman Ireland House in New York. The symposium was called J.J. Lee and Irish History: Scholar, Colleague, Mentor.

As I have written before, Lee has done some good work. Lee is a genuine historian, who has written a lot of excellent books and articles. However, as I have also said, Joe Lee was friendly with many friends of Daniel Cassidy, and that is probably the reason why he wrote this positive review for the book How The Irish Invented Slang:

“In this courageous, crusading manifesto, Daniel Cassidy flings down the gauntlet to all those compilers of dictionaries who fled to the safe haven of ‘origin unknown’ when confronted with the challenge of American slang …The originality and importance of the argument makes this an exciting contribution to both American and Irish Studies. This is a landmark book, at once learned and lively, and quite enthralling as to how American English acquired so vibrant a popular vocabulary.”

This review is rubbish, of course, because Cassidy’s book is rubbish. I have no idea why Lee chose to support a piece of fake scholarship like How The Irish Invented Slang.

It is very interesting that two of Cassidy’s friends were in conversation with Lee at the Symposium: 12.30 pm: Reflections of Directors of Glucksman Ireland House: Prof. Bob Scally & Prof. Joe Lee in Conversation with Dr. Terry Golway. Golway was a crony of Cassidy’s, and Bob Scally wrote a review which was as positive as Lee’s on the back of Cassidy’s book:

Irish Americans especially will be delighted to know they have been speaking Irish all along in their slang and American English, while believing and bemoaning that they had lost their native tongue many years ago. With imagination and scholarship, Cassidy has restored this hidden treasure to us in a book that is filled with revelations, wit and humour.

As I said, I don’t know why Joe Lee and his friends chose to ignore the evidence and insult the Irish people like this. It’s hard to understand it, especially in the case of Lee, a man who has enough Irish to recognise immediately that the likes of béal ónna and béalú h-ard and pá lae sámh are not Irish.

One thing is sure: like everyone who was friendly with Cassidy, Lee has been diminished as a scholar, as a teacher and as a human being because of that friendship. I don’t know if Lee is a fraudster and a liar, but he certainly supported Cassidy’s dishonest book, and that is a huge stain on his reputation.

That is why I am pleased to bestow the title of Twit of the Month for June 2018 on Joe Lee, who helped a con-man to sell a bad book and didn’t do a hand’s turn subsequently to rectify the situation.

Puncher

The word ‘puncher’ meant a cowboy. The word punch means to strike or to prod or to poke. It derives from French and has been in common use in English for six hundred years.

Daniel Cassidy, in his atrocious book How The Irish Invented Slang, doesn’t mention these facts in his discussion of the word. He chooses instead to trace the word to the Irish paintéar, which he says means ‘a tying cord or rope, a noose, a lasso, a snare for catching animals …’ He cites Dinneen’s Irish dictionary as a source. Strangely, this isn’t what Dinneen’s dictionary says. Dinneen’s entry for paintéar begins thus: ‘a painter or panter, a snare, noose, gin or trap, a binding cable …’

In other words, this is an Irish word, certainly, but it was borrowed from the English word painter, which is a nautical term for a rope used to tie up a boat. This is also of French origin (i.e. the English borrowed it from French) but unrelated to the French term which is really the origin of punch.

In other words, you obviously don’t get to be that incompetent by accident. Cassidy deliberately missed out the important information relating to the real origins of puncher and the English origins of paintéar in order to make a fake case for an Irish origin. What a con-man!

 

 

Is focal eile ar bhuachaill bo é ‘puncher’. Ciallaíonn an focal punch bualadh nó broideadh nó sá. Tagann sé ón Fhraincis agus tá sé in úsáid go coitianta sa Bhéarla le sé chéad bliana anuas.

Ina leabhar amaideach How The Irish Invented Slang, ní luann Daniel Cassidy na fíricí seo ar chor ar bith.  Ina áit sin, maíonn sé gur tháinig puncher ón Ghaeilge paintéar. Deir sé go gciallaíonn paintéar ‘a tying cord or rope, a noose, a lasso, a snare for catching animals …’ Luann sé foclóir an Duinnínigh mar fhoinse. Ach ní hé sin an sainmhíniú a bhí ag an Duinníneach. Tosaíonn cur síos Uí Dhuinnín ar an fhocal paintéar mar seo: ‘a painter or panter, a snare, noose, gin or trap, a binding cable …’

Lena rá ar dhóigh eile, is focal Gaeilge é paintéar, cinnte, ach iasacht atá ann ón fhocal Béarla painter, focal bádóireachta a chiallaíonn rópa a úsáidtear le bád a cheangal. Tháinig an focal seo ón Fhraincis fosta (fuair lucht an Bhéarla ón Fhraincis é) ach níl baint ar bith aige leis an téarma Fraincise a thug an focal punch don Bhéarla.

Lena rá ar dhóigh eile, ní de thaisme a tharlaíonn bréaga mar seo. Is d’aon turas a theip ar Cassidy an fhaisnéis thábhachtach a bhaineann le fíorstair an fhocail puncher agus bunús Béarla paintéar a lua ionas go dtiocfadh leis cás bréige a dhéanamh gur Gaeilge a bhí ann. A leithéid de chaimiléir gan náire!

 

Gaff

In Daniel Cassidy’s insane and inane book, How The Irish Invented Slang, Cassidy tried to prove that hundreds of words in English derive from Irish.

His methodology was simple: he hunted through Irish dictionaries to find a word which resembled the target word in English. When he couldn’t find anything suitable (which was usually the case), he took two or three Irish words and combined them into a ‘well-known phrase’ which had never been used in Irish, and for which Cassidy was happy to provide a fake definition.

Occasionally, Cassidy found words which seemed a good fit (at least for some of the meanings) but made no attempt to establish whether they were loanwords into Irish or loanwords from Irish to English.

Cassidy claimed that the word gaff meaning a boat-hook comes from the Irish gaf or geaf. However, gaf or geaf really comes from English and English got the word from Provencal  gaf via French.  The word gaffe meaning a blunder, is the same word. A quick search on the free and fully-searchable Electronic Dictionary of the Irish Language will confirm that gaf/geaf is not an ancient word in Irish. It is plainly, obviously and clearly a loanword.

Incidentally, the unrelated word gaff meaning a home or a place is from Romani gav.

 

I leabhar amaideach, craiceáilte Daniel Cassidy, How The Irish Invented Slang, rinne Cassidy iarracht a chruthú gur tháinigh na céadta focal i mBéarla ón Ghaeilge.

Bhí a chuid modhanna simplí: chuaigh sé a chuardach i bhfoclóiri Gaeilge le focal a aimsiú a bhí cosúil leis an sprioc i mBéarla. Nuair nach bhfuair sé a dhath (rud a tharla níos minice ná a mhalairt), fuair sé dhá fhocal nó trí fhocal i nGaeilge agus chuir sé le chéile iad le ‘frása coitianta’ a chruthú nach raibh riamh ann i nGaeilge, agus bhí Cassidy sásta sainmhíniú bréige a chur ar fáil fosta.

Ó am go ham, thagadh Cassidy ar fhocail a bhí fóirsteanach i gcosúlacht (maidir le cuid de na ciallanna, ar a laghad) ach ní dhearna sé iarracht ar bith a fháil amach an iasachtaí  a fuair an Ghaeilge ó theanga eile a bhí iontu, nó iasachtaí ón Ghaeilge sa Bhéarla.

Mar shampla, rinne Cassidy iarracht a mhaíomh go bhfuarthas an focal Béarla gaff, a chiallaíonn crúca báid, ón Ghaeilge gafgeaf. Is é fírinne an scéil, áfach, go bhfuair an Ghaeilge na focail gafgeaf ón Bhéarla, agus go bhfuair an Béarla an focal ón Phroibhinsis gaf tríd an Fhraincis.  Is ionann é agus an focal Béarla gaffe, a chiallaíonn botún. Má dhéanann tú cuardach are DIL, foclóir Gaeilge atá saor in aisce agus atá go hiomlán inchuardaithe, beidh tú ábalta a dhearbhú nach focal seanbhunaithe sa Ghaeilge é gaf/geaf. Is léir agus is ríléir gur iasacht atá ann.

Dála an scéil, níl baint ar bith ag an fhocal seo leis an fhocal gaff a chiallaíonn baile nó áit. Is ón Romainis gav a tháinig an ceann sin.

Twits of the Month – Internet Experts

This month’s twits are a broad category rather than an individual, though I will refer to individuals who belong to this class as well. The category is that of Internet experts. By this, I don’t mean people who are experts on the Internet or its use. I mean people who have appointed themselves as experts on topics like etymology and who go around ‘helpfully’ adding information and reviews about the subject on public forums and sites like Amazon and Goodreads. Here’s an example, a man called Brian McCarthy who gave Cassidy’s ridiculous book a glowing review and a four star rating on Goodreads. Whatever changed his mind, he then wrote the following as a comment:

Further to my review – the book has a lot of conjecture (as do dictionaries) so you can’t assume it’s all correct. Some say it’s enjoyable fiction or even 100% false. You can’t prove it one way or the other but if you have an open mind you can learn from it.

I need hardly point out that comparing the outright fantasies in Cassidy’s book to the (generally) intelligent speculations of lexicographers is stupid. However, the thing that most annoys me here is the idea that ‘you can’t prove it one way or the other’. Why can’t you prove it one way or the other? I’ll return to that question below.

There are lots of people like this, and they come from all walks of life. For example, on Quora, we find the following from a retired academic with a number of degrees, Dr Robert Jeantet (https://www.quora.com/Where-did-the-term-Holy-cow-originate-from):

When one thinks of expressions as “gee whiz”, “gee whillikers”, “darn”, or even “holy cow”, it is easy to trace them to New York slang of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Their origin, however, escapes the learned minds of most classically-trained linguists who do not know Irish Gaelic. Fortunately some fluent speakers of Gaelic have been able to explain the origin of these terms, including “holy cow”. I quote below from Daniel Cassidy’s book, “How the Irish Invented Slang”.

On the same thread, there is a comment from someone called Stephen Taylor, who styles himself an ‘amateur etymologist’, who also takes all Cassidy’s claims like Holy Cow from Holy Cathú and Gee whillikers from Dia Thoil(l)eachas and Gee Whiz from Dia Uas as genuine.

Now, I’m sure these are decent people and well-intentioned (though not all the people on line who support Daniel Cassidy’s dross are nice or well-intentioned people, by any means), but they do deserve to be criticised. Why? Well, there is enough bogus shite out there on the internet already. The idea that things cannot be proven so all you can do is decide what you want to believe is a cop-out. When you encounter claims from people like Daniel Cassidy or Graham Hancock or Erich von Daniken, you need to check all the facts carefully and make a decision accordingly.

Let’s just take the example of Holy Cow. You can easily find accounts of the genuine explanations here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holy_cow_(expression).  You can also look up Irish dictionaries here (https://www.focloir.ie/ga/dictionary/ei/Dia) where you will find that there is no evidence for the existence of the phrases Dia Thoil(l)eachas, Dia Uas, Holy Cathú or Holy Mac Ríúil. They are completely fake phrases, invented by Cassidy to sound like the English targets. The Irish for God’s will is Toil Dé, not Dia Thoil(l)eachas. Cathú means temptation, not grief (though grief is an obscure subsidiary meaning) and there is no evidence it’s ever been used in an exclamation. And the phrase Mac Ríúil doesn’t exist at all.

Of course, Cassidy claimed that these were real phrases. He offered no evidence. No explanation for why nobody else had ever made the connection between these phrases and the Irish equivalents. No explanation why the only references to these ‘Irish’ phrases on Google are to Cassidy and his book (unlike real Irish phrases like Dia ár sábháil).  And Cassidy had a proven record of inventing things, randomly grabbing terms like Ku Klux Klan, Gunga Din, Abracadabra and Bailiwick to claim them for Irish. (Though he had dropped three of these particular fantasies by the time he came to write the book.)

In other words, I think people like McCarthy and Jeantet and Taylor should just ask themselves this simple question. If there were a law against spreading bogus information, if you could end up fined or in jail for doing it, would you still enthusiastically click that button, or would you do five minutes of research before helping to increase the amount of fake nonsense in the world? If the answer is the latter, perhaps you should be doing that anyway.

Stool Pigeon

There are hundreds of stupid and dishonest claims in Daniel Cassidy’s book, How The Irish Invented Slang. None is more stupid or dishonest than Cassidy’s theories about the phrase stool pigeon.

The facts are well-known. A stool pigeon was originally a decoy, a pigeon attached to a stool or some other wooden structure used to lure other pigeons. There is some doubt about the real meaning of the stool element. Some people regard it as a corruption of a word stall which originally meant a decoy.

Its earliest occurrence is in this context, in a work of 1812 called History of Animals: Designed for the Instruction and Amusement of Persons of Both Sexes by Noah Webster:

In this manner, the decoy or stool pigeon is made to flutter, and a flock of pigeons may be called in their flight from a great distance.

It was not long before it acquired the meaning of spy or informer.

Cassidy decided, for no particular reason, that it really came from Irish, so he got a dictionary and set about trying to make up a ‘well-known phrase’ that would fool a few suckers. His first attempt, as published in the Linguistlist on July 24 2003, was stuail beidean, ‘a storer of lies and calumny’, along with stoolie coming from stuailai, a ‘storer of slander’. The word béideán is a dialectal variant of béadán, which means gossip or slander. Cassidy used the alternative version because it sounds more like pigeon. Béadán is pronounced ‘bay-dahn’. Stuáil is a gaelicisation of the English verb to stow. Its main meaning is to pad, to pack or to stow.

By the time the book was published, he’d invented another ‘Irish’ phrase, using the verb steall, which means spout. It can have the meaning tattle, but there is no evidence that anyone, anywhere, has ever used phrases like steall béideán in Irish to mean anything, let alone a police informer.

Ina leabhar amaideach How The Irish Invented Slang, maíonn sé na céadta rud nach bhfuil ciall ar bith leo ach níl ceann ar bith acu chomh bómánta le teoiricí Cassidy faoin fhrása stool pigeon.

Ní deacair teacht ar na fíricí. Is é a bhí I gceist le stool pigeon ná éan cluana, colúr a bhí ceangailte de stól nó de chreatlach adhmaid de chineál éigin, le héanlaith eile a mhealladh. Tá amhras éigin faoin fhocal stool. Measann saineolaithe áirithe gur stall a bhí ann, seanfhocal Béarla ar éan cluana nó decoy.

Tá an téarma seo le fail den chéad uair sa bhliain 1812, I leabhar darbh ainm History of Animals: Designed for the Instruction and Amusement of Persons of Both Sexes le Noah Webster:

In this manner, the decoy or stool pigeon is made to flutter, and a flock of pigeons may be called in their flight from a great distance.

Níorbh fhada go bhfuair sé an chiall bhreise de spiaire nó brathadóir de chuid na bpóilíní.

Shocraigh Cassidy, ar chúis éigin nach eol do dhuine ar bith ach é féin, gurbh ón Ghaeilge a tháinig sé, agus mar sin de, thóg sé foclóir agus thosaigh sé ar ‘chor cainte’ a chumadh a chuirfeadh dallamullóg ar roinnt glasóg gan chiall. An chéad iarracht a rinne sé, foilsíodh ar an Linguistlist é ar an 24 Iúil 2003. Séard a bhí ann ná stuail beidean, ‘a storer of lies and calumny’, (recte stuáil béadán) maraon le stoolie, a tháinig, dar le Cassidy, ó stuailai, a ‘storer of slander’ (recte stuálaí). Is leagan malartach canúnach é béideán den fhocal béadán, a chiallaíonn cúlchaint nó feannadh. Bhain Cassidy úsáid as an leagan sin cionn is go bhfuil sé níos cosúla le pigeon. Is leagan Gaelaithe stuáil den bhriathar Béarla to stow. Ciallaíonn sé pacáil nó líonadh.

Faoin am ar foilsíodh an leabhar, bhí frása eile ‘Gaeilge’ cumtha aige, steall béideán. Ciallaíonn steall an rud céanna le sceitheadh. Tá an chiall cúlchaint ag baint leis, ach níl fianaise ar bith ann gur bhain duine ar bith, áit ar bith, úsáid as frásaí mar ‘steall béideán’ i nGaeilge le ciall ar bith a chur in iúl, gan trácht ar an chiall ‘brathadóir de chuid na bpóilíní’.