Category Archives: Uncategorized

Blindboy and the Atlanteans

I have to confess, I’m not a huge fan of Blindboy Boatclub. It’s not that I have any problem with his politics or social beliefs and I think ‘Horse Outside’ was a great song. However, readers of this blog might remember the incident a few years back when The Rubberbandits issued a list of words brought by Irish immigrants to America, which was composed entirely of lying Cassidese nonsense. When challenged to retract the garbage they had just injected into cyberspace, they countered that there was no need because people would have seen the objections online, which shows a certain arrogance on their part and a worrying naivety about how things work on the internet. (Since then, they’ve actually deleted it.)  

Anyway, I am still thinking about doing a piece on Bob Quinn’s Atlantean, so I have been doing a little background reading. I was looking for any real evidence of a musical connection between Ireland and North Africa, so when I noticed that Blindboy has done a podcast on this subject, I decided to listen to it.

It wasn’t great. For someone who claims to be fascinated by history and to work hard doing his research, there is precious little evidence of that in the podcast itself. He starts off with one of the central pieces of ‘evidence’ used by Quinn in his book, a 19th century article which questions whether Irish is spoken in North Africa. Obviously, the correct answer to this is ‘No, let’s talk about something else’.

The author of this Victorian article talks about how sometime in the 1790s a group of Tunisian sailors came ashore in Antrim and conversed with locals who could only speak Irish.  While Blindboy eventually comes to the conclusion that he doesn’t believe that this happened and that it is lumping the Irish together with other colonised peoples (which is probably right – he does have some bullshit sensors), there are other things you could say about it. How many Tunisian ships found their way to Antrim during the Napoleonic Wars? And how many other examples can you find of fake claims of mutual intelligibility? Lots, because it’s a kind of urban myth. For example, there’s the story about the Bronte/O’Prunty family being raided by Welsh soldiers in the 1790s and being able to speak to them. (Which couldn’t have happened, because Welsh and Irish are too different.) Or the story about Francis Xavier being able to understand Japanese using his Basque. (Also batshit crazy because they’re two unrelated languages.)

Anyway, he spends way too much time blathering about these baseless anecdotes (which is what they are) and doesn’t look up what linguistic and historical fact tells us about the Tamazight or Berber people. They didn’t speak Irish, or any form of Celtic. There are no mysterious Celtic-like words recorded in their language which would indicate that anybody there once spoke a form of Irish or Celtic.

He brings in the Lebor Gabála or Book of Invasions, which he describes as a book written in the 400s. Later he calls it a book written in 400. Not according to Wikipedia, which says it’s a book written in the 11th century. Apart from the odd bit of ogham, there were no writers and no writings in Ireland in 400 AD. But apparently, Blindboy just FUCKING LOVES history. Hmmm.

And so it continues. He harps on about the well-known fact of a Barbary monkey skull being found at Navan fort, dating to between 390 BC and 20 BC. (He says skeleton but it was only a skull, so we don’t know if there was ever a live monkey in Iron Age Ireland.) Personally, I don’t find this so remarkable. Items like gems and silk were traded vast distances in ancient times. Why not pets?

He mentions Bob Quinn’s theories and says that in DNA terms, Quinn is wrong, because the DNA evidence now tells us that the Irish came from Iberia. This podcast was made in June, 2021. In 2018, the world of European prehistory was rocked by a paper in Nature which completely reversed the paradigm that had existed beforehand about an Iberian origin for the Irish. The theory that Northern Europe was repopulated from the south after the Ice Age turned out to be totally wrong. In reality, genetic evidence shows there was a near-total genetic replacement of the Irish population (around 90%, and a major replacement in the rest of Europe) by a population originating on the Steppes. This change roughly corresponds (at least in Ireland) with the Bell Beaker Culture. It also seems to correspond with the arrival of the Indo-European languages in Europe. This is probably the biggest story in our knowledge of European prehistory EVER. Why, three years after it broke, is the history-loving Blindboy completely unaware of it? Probably because he wastes too much of his time on FUCKIN’ FASCINATIN’ shite like Atlantean and How The Irish Invented Slang instead of the real stories that are revolutionising our knowledge of the past.

Finally, more than halfway through, he gets to the issue of similarities between Irish music and Berber music. And it wasn’t worth waiting for, I can tell you. He plays a sample of a Berber singer and then another sample of a sean-nós singer. They sound a little alike to me but there would be no problem recognising which is which. As he later admits, the Berber singer sounds a little like the Muslim call to prayer. He talks about melisma, which is the technique of singing one syllable using a number of ornamental notes. To me, this seems to be a fairly natural thing to do when singing. I don’t think it necessarily implies any great cultural contact. And if it does, many people have said that sean-nós is based on Christian liturgical music, which undoubtedly originated in the Middle East (as did Christianity, of course) and there is every chance that Muslim music and Christian liturgical music come from a shared root, which means that there is no mystery about any similarity.

Anyway, there’s more old bullshit. Some Berbers have a clan name that sounds like Magill. Wow! That proves they’re Irish!!! And there’s a mound called Msoura in Morocco which looks a bit like Newgrange and other ‘Celtic sites’. Newgrange? Celtic? What exactly is Celtic about Newgrange? Msoura is believed to be about 2000 years old, unlike Newgrange which is far older, dating back to before (as far as we know) there were any Indo-European speakers, including Celtic speakers, in Ireland.

Then he talks about Quinn’s terrible book and series, Atlantean, and how hard done by Quinn was. Apparently, Blindboy has historian friends who roll their eyes when Quinn is mentioned but the Blindboy thinks the way Quinn was treated was really unfair and that a lot of this response is down to racism. I’ve heard this argument before, not surprisingly, from Quinn himself. For example, here’s a piece from Wikipedia: He also asserts that a close-minded, elitist attitude among academics prevents a more sympathetic appraisal of his work. More controversially, he maintains that critics of his work are guilty of an unconscious racism, or in his own words, of being afraid of the idea that Irish people might have ‘a touch of the tar’ about them.

Which is utter garbage. The defence ‘if you disagree with me, you must be a racist’ is infantile, and cowardly, and intellectually lazy, and just so typical of pseudo-scholars. Cassidy did the same thing. Anyone who disagreed with Cassidy was immediately branded an Anglophile and a hater of the Irish.

Blindboy then says that although Quinn’s ideas might be 80% bullshit, there is the other 20% which contains bizarre coincidences that need to be looked at properly. Again, all pseudo-scholars and bullshit-merchants tend to come out with the same arguments, including this one. Personally, I am not seeing anything worth having in Quinn’s work, let alone 20%, but even if it does exist, would you be as kind about a mainstream history book that is four-fifths garbage? If an author has a fascinating theory, shouldn’t THE AUTHOR just make a bit of effort to present the facts they’re sure of rather than presenting something mixed with loads of total nonsense?

And finally, Blindboy says that we should examine it because if it proves it’s bullshit, then that is helpful. Yes, I would agree that establishing that something is bullshit is useful. But my argument would be that if something is badly done, why should sceptics be the ones to establish its crappiness?  If there’s any truth to the theory, someone will eventually do the research properly and establish that fact. Proper books will be written, by real scholars. So the responsibility is on Daniel Cassidy, or Graham Hancock, or Gavin Menzies or Bob Quinn to fact-check their own work and present something that isn’t full of crap. It’s not up to us to sift through the crap in hopes of finding something of value and it’s deeply unwise to waste your time looking for diamonds in a dungheap or encourage others to do so.

In other words, Blindboy, I would start listening to your eye-rolling historian friends (especially if it’s Liam Hogan) rather than going for nonsense because it’s SO FUCKIN’ FASCINATIN’. Develop those bullshit sensors! Learn to recognise pseudoscience and pseudohistory and common or garden bullshit and learn to think rationally and encourage other people to do the same.

Just look at what happened to Russell Brand, who turned into a conspiracy-loving, red-pill popping, rabbithole-exploring whackjob. I’m sure there’s a lot of money in that kind of thing, Blindboy, but is it really what you want to spend your life doing?

Nollaig Shona agus Bliain Úr Faoi Mhaise!

Ba mhaith liom an deis a thapú anseo míle buíochas a ghabháil le gach duine a lean nó a léigh an blag seo i rith na bliana. Go raibh bliain den scoth agaibh sa bhliain 2023!

Seo daoibh carúl galánta sa teanga s’againne, Don Oíche Úd i mBeithil:

Ba é Aodh Mac Cathmhaoil (Aodh Mac Aingil) a chum an t-amhrán galánta seo. Rugadh Mac Cathmhaoil sa bhliain 1571 i gContae an Dúin, níos lú ná 30 míle ar shiúl ón áit a bhfuil mise ag scríobh an bhlaig seo sa teanga a shaothraigh seisean ar feadh a shaoil. Bhí saol lán eachtraíochta agus léinn aige in Éirinn, sa Bheilg agus san Iodáil. Fuair sé bás sa bhliain 1626 sa Róimh agus is in Eaglais San Iseadór a cuireadh é.

Baineann an leagan seo úsáid as an tseaniolra thabharthach –aibh (col ceathrair –ibus na Laidine, mar shampla, sa tseanfhocal ‘e pluribus unum.’) Níl sin le fáil sa teanga nua-aoiseach. Agus is minic a bhíonn ‘faoin ghrian’ nó ‘faoin ngrian’ sna leaganacha nua-aoiseacha, cionn is nach dtuigeann Gaeilgeoirí an lae inniu an frása ‘ar grian’ a chiallaíonn ‘ar domhan.’ Níl baint ar bith aige leis an fhocal bhaininscneach grian (‘sun’ an Bhéarla).

Don oíche úd i mBeithil

beidh tagairt ar grian go brách,

don oíche úd i mBeithil

gur tháinig an Briathar slán;

tá gríosghrua ar spéarthaibh

‘s an talamh ‘na chlúdach bán;

féach Íosagán sa chléibhín,

‘s an Mhaighdean Á dhiúl le grá

Ar leacain lom an tsléibhe

go nglacann na haoirí scáth

nuair in oscailt gheal na spéire

tá teachtaire Dé ar fáil;

céad glóir anois don Athair

sna Flaitheasaibh thuas go hard!

is feasta fós ar an talamh

d’fhearaibh dea-mhéin’ siocháin!

Yon Night In Bethlehem (English translation of the above)

I would like to take the opportunity here to thank everybody who has followed or read this blog during the year. Have a great year in 2023!

Here is a beautiful carol in our language, Don Oíche Úd i mBeithil:

This beautiful carol was composed by Aodh Mac Cathmhaoil (Aodh Mac Aingil). Mac Cathmhaoil was born in 1571 in County Down, less than 30 miles away from where I am writing this blog in the language that he cultivated throughout his life. He had an eventful and studious life in Ireland, in Belgium and in Italy. He died in Rome in 1626 and he was buried in St. Isidore’s Church in that city.

Yon night in Bethlehem

will be talked of on earth forever

yon night in Bethlehem,

the night the Word was born;

there is a glow in the skies

and the earth is covered with white;

behold Jesus in the cradle

and the Virgin feeding Him with love.

On the bare stones of the mountain

where the shepherds take their shelter

when in a bright opening of the sky

God’s messenger is there;

a hundred glories to the Father,

in the Heavens above so high!

and forever after on the earth

peace to men of good will!

Dymphna Lonergan and Sheila

As promised, I have managed to take an hour or two out of my busy schedule to cobble together another article on the shockingly bad research of Irish-Australian academic Dymphna Lonergan. Here is the last instalment of my work on Lonergan, dealing with her theories about the origins of the Australian term Sheila as a somewhat negative or dismissive term for a woman.

The earliest use of this Australian term, according to the Australian National Dictionary, is an article in the Monitor (Sydney) in 1828, describing the St Patrick’s Day disturbances:

Many a piteous Shala stood wiping the gory locks of her Paddy, until released from that duty by the officious interference of the knight of the baton.

The standard derivation for the Australian term among linguists and scholars is that it comes from the Irish Síle either because it was a common name or because it was a generic name for an Irish woman in much the same way as Paddy was used for men. For example, Diarmuid Ó Muirithe discusses the Irish name taking the form Sheila in Australia as a ‘slang word for a girl’. Currently the Oxford English Dictionary is cautious but suggests ‘it may represent a generic use of the (originally Irish) personal name Sheila the counterpart of Paddy’. The Dinkum Dictionary expresses greater certainty: ‘Sheila’ was a common female name in Ireland, used alongside the name “Paddy” to represent the archetypal Irish couple’. There are traces in the folklore of parts of the Irish diaspora that Síle was supposed in tradition to be the wife of St Patrick and her feast day was celebrated on the 18th of March.

Lonergan doesn’t buy this version, that Sheila was a common name and that it was used as a generic name for Irish womanhood.

It is surprising that no one, apparently, has questioned these written assertions that the name Sheila is common in Ireland. It is not. Nor has the name Sheila ever been used in the generic sense of a counterpart to Paddy in Ireland. Neither was the name Sheila common in eighteenth century Australia. Between 1788 and 1828 over two thousand female convicts were transported to Australia from Irish ports.[1] … There were no Sheilas on board those convict ships. The Irish language name SÌle is usually translated into English as Julia. There were no Julias on board these convict ships.

In fact, the absence of Sheilas in official records means nothing, because the official Anglophone culture was completely blind to the Irish language. Let’s take the example of the Irish equivalent of James, Séamus. (You could just as easily use Seán or Conall or Dónall as examples.) The name Séamus is quite common today and we know from various sources that where Irish was spoken, Séamus was a common name. Are any of them ever recorded that way? No. In Church records, they would have been recorded in Latin, as Jacobus. In land records, they would have been registered as the English James, whatever they called themselves or were known as by their neighbours. This would also have been the case in most of the civil registration. Look at any Gaeltacht area and you will find people registered as John, James, Hugh, Thomas, not as Seán, Séamus, Aodh or Tomás.

As Lonergan says, the Irish Síle was usually rendered as Julia, but apparently there were no Julias aboard the convict ships before 1828. I am not sure about this because a few years later, the ships were full of them. A list of the convicts in Tasmania (van Diemen’s Land) in the 1830s and 1840s gives a large number of Julias:

Ahern, Julia     Australasia 246 20 17 March 1849 at Cork, Ireland

Boland, Julia      Phoebe 724 28 March 1844 at Waterford, Ireland

Byrne, Julia    Phoebe 717 30 31 August 1844 at Dublin (City), Ireland

Callaghan, Julia      Maria II 965 20 October 1848 at Cork Co. October Sessions, Ireland

Connolly, Julia     Emma Eugenia 1119 23 4 February 1850 at Newington Quarter Sessions, England

Cronin, Julia      Earl Grey 1054 26 10 July 1849 at Cork Co., Ireland

Culnane, Julia     Martin Luther 1252 23 30 June 1851 at Co Cork, Ireland

Daly, Julia      Gilbert Henderson 275 21 19 September 1839 at Glasgow Cot. Justy., Scotland

Donovan, Julia    Arabian 761 40 4 August 1846 at Cork City, Ireland

Doyle, Julia      Hindostan 255 33.5 4 December 1838 at Lancaster (Liverpool) Quarter Sessions

Dwyer, Julia     Jane II 153 19 18 October 1832 at Middlesex G.D., England

Farrell, Julia     Maria II 419 20 October 1848 at Queens Co. Oct. Sessions, Ireland

Ferrin, Julia     Waverley 235 56 18 April 1842 at Dublin (City), Ireland

Hastings, Julia    Duke of Cornwall 869 47.5 13 April 1850 at Limerick Co., Ireland

Higgins, Julia    Cadet 683 18 5 April 1847 at Central Criminal Court [Old Bailey], London,

Leary, Julia     Kinnear 409 39 3 March 1848 at Cork City, Ireland

Lynch, Julia    Martin Luther 541 32 9 July 1851 at Co Waterford, Ireland

Maher, Julia    Earl Grey 1094 40 25 June 1849 at Kings Co., Ireland

Mahoney, Julia    Atwick 264 19.5 14 August 1837 at Central Criminal Court, England

Mccarthy, Julia    Blackfriar 1266 56 16 September 1850 at County Cork, Ireland

Mccarthy, Julia    John William Dare 1356 24 14 December 1850 at Co. Cork, Ireland

Mccarthy, Julia    Maria II 983 18 September 1848 at Co. Cork, Ireland

Mullins, Julia     Providence II 50 18 15 September 1825 at London, England

Murphy, Julia    Aurora II 1280 31 16 December 1850 at Central Criminal Court (Old Bailey),

Murphy, Julia    Garland Grove 442 38 22 August 1842 at Central Criminal Court, England

Phillips, Julia    John William Dare 454 30 4 June 1851 at Dublin City, Ireland

Pigott, Julia     Waverley 357 26 16 October 1846 at Tipperary, Ireland

Reardon, Julia    William Bryan 132 19 11 March 1833 at Middlesex, England

Smith, Julia    Mexborough 478 24 6 January 1841 at Dublin, Ireland

Sullivan, Julia    Australasia 887 22 20 March 1849 at Kerry, Ireland

Walsh, Julia     John Calvin 729 22.5 3 August 1847 at Kildare, Ireland

Whelan, Julia    Martin Luther 976 21 12 January 1852 at Queens Cty, Ireland

White, Julia     Arabian 688 24 31 August 1846 at Dublin City, Ireland

Wilson, Julia     Mary Anne III 403 32 27 April 1840 at Dublin City, Ireland

A fact that Lonergan fails to mention is that the name Síle was sometimes translated with the names Cecilia, Celia or Cecily, and there are a few of these:

Donohoe, Celia    Mexborough 319 50 15 March 1841 at Galway, Ireland

Hart, Celia    Hope 458 20 8 January 1842 at Sligo, Ireland

Hocks, Celia    Maria II 783 20 October 1848 at Mayo Co. Oct. Sessions, Ireland

Kavanagh, Celia    Earl Grey 383 18 12 July 1849 at Wexford, Ireland

Shannon, Celia    Hope 507 21 5 April 1841 at Mayo, Ireland

Walsh, Celia    Blackfriar 902 45 28 March 1849 at Mayo, Ireland

Carr, Cecilia    Lord Auckland 942 24.5 17 January 1848 at Galway Town, Ireland

Connors, Cecilia    Lord Auckland 951 35 6 April 1848 at Wexford, Ireland

Higgins, Cecilia    Phoebe 591 36 17 October 1843 at Westmeath, Ireland

Egan, Cicely    St Vincent 186 23 20 February 1848 at Lancaster, England

All these women were either convicted in Ireland or had unmistakeably Irish surnames, which means that most of them, if not all, were probably known as Síle rather than Julia or Cecilia.

So, Lonergan is wrong about the name Sheila and its variants. There is no doubt that it was a common enough name in 19th century Ireland. There is no doubt that some convicts called Síle were sent from Ireland to Australia under names like Julia and Cecilia around the time that the first reference to the word sheila is recorded in Australia. And there is certainly clear evidence that Sheila was a generic term for an Irish woman and that the name Sheila was associated with the name Patrick, as the St Patrick’s Day quotation from an Australian newspaper suggests.

Anyway, what is Lonergan’s distinct take on the word Sheila? Why does she want to ‘disprove’ the idea that the word Sheila in Australian slang refers to Irish women? 

From what I can see, her suggestion is that síle doesn’t represent the Irish name but rather an expression for an effeminate man or a homosexual. Her theory seems to be that it was used by convicts of their gay lovers in the early days of settlement when there were few women and many men and that from this it was later used as a rather disrespectful term for a woman. In fact, the word síle is defined as homosexual in the excellent dictonary of sexual slang by Ó Luineacháin, a book I have referenced before in these pages and there is no doubt that it is linked to effeminacy in earlier Irish dictionaries going back to Dinneen’s second edition in 1927. (it isn’t mentioned in the first edition in 1904). To the best of my knowledge, there is no source dating back before 1927. And of course, though there is evidence that síle has been used as a term for an effeminate male in the twentieth century, this is a subsidiary use of the female name Síle. It’s not a separate word with a separate origin.

In fact, if we look for the origin of Síle in the sense of an effeminate male, I would suggest the most likely scenario is that síle in this sense is a conscious recreation of the English word sissy. There is some doubt in English whether sissy is from a shortened form of sister or a shortened form of Cecilia, which would put it in the same class as terms like Molly and Nancy, both of which have been used to describe men who don’t conform to gender stereotypes. However, apparently the pejorative use of sissy only dates back in American English to 1885-1890 and it quickly spread to the English of Britain and (presumably) Ireland. Because Sissy is used in Ireland (including in Irish-speaking areas) as a pet name for Síle/Sheila, it seems likely that people who were bilingual and aware of the meaning of sissy in English could have used the name Síle as an Irish equivalent of sissy. If this is the case, the use of síle for an effeminate person probably wouldn’t date back before 1890.

Of course, there’s no evidence that Síle for an effeminate man is modelled on English sissy but by the same token, there is no evidence that síle was used to refer to effeminate people or gay people in Irish prior to the 1920s.

There’s also nothing in the Australian uses of Sheila to suggest that it originally applied to homosexual relationships among convicts. Of course, if it were true, it would be a great story. So male chauvinist pigs who dismissively talk about sheilas are actually using a term originally used by gay convicts to describe their boyfriends? How delicious is the irony there? But of course, the fact that it’s a good narrative should make us even more careful and sceptical, not less. Who cares if it’s a good story if it isn’t true? Where’s the evidence? 

And of course, it has been spread far and wide because it’s a good story, not because Lonergan has any evidence or any good reason for thinking it’s true. She seems to have a child-like love of publicity and this is what drives her sub-standard and ludicrous research.

Dymphna Lonergan’s Bad Etymology

I have commented on Dymphna Lonergan before. She is Irish-born but she has carved out a career for herself as an academic at Flinders University in Australia. A few years ago, she published an entire book about the Irish influence on Australian speech. I have tried to obtain a copy of her book but it is not easy to find a second hand copy and I am not prepared to spend a large amount of money on this. However, some claims made by Lonergan are well represented and covered in other sources on line, so I feel that I am being fair by limiting myself to these claims where I have sufficient information to make a clear judgement.

Interestingly, she has commented on Daniel Cassidy’s work (

The American writer Daniel Cassidy in his book How the Irish Invented Slang claims most American slang comprises Irish words in disguise. His claims have been challenged, but I suggest his work is still of value in seeing Irish words existing outside that language and in American English, Australian English and Newfoundland English where they sometimes serve new purposes.

It is quite extraordinary that anyone studying the area of Irish influence on English would choose to ignore the hundreds of made-up Irish expressions in Cassidy’s work but it is quite clear that Lonergan’s research in this field falls well short of the standards that a genuine academic would expect.

Anyway, I will divide my posts on Lonergan into three parts. The first will cover a rag-bag of minor absurdities. The second will cover the foolish claims made by Lonergan about the origins of the term didgeridoo. The third will cover her equally dodgy claims about the origins of the Australian term ‘sheila’ for a woman.

So, why do I think Lonergan is such a poor researcher? Well, let’s start with a couple of very clear examples.

For example, on a blog called Tinteán, we find a comment from Lonergan on the term pampootie. The pampootie or pampúta is a type of moccasin worn traditionally by the people of the Aran Islands in the west of Ireland. They are usually known as bróga úrleathair (rawhide shoes) in Irish but the term pampúta is also found. The origin of the word is unknown but it is worth noting that almost no native Irish words begin with the letter p.

Here is Lonergan’s claim:

In a similar vein the Irish pampúta, ‘a moccasin or primitive shoe made from two pieces of leather’, originating on the Aran Islands, has made its way into Australian Aboriginal English as pampuu, meaning ‘a shoe’.

Do you see the problem with this argument? Basically, the problem is that it isn’t an argument. It’s a random assertion without any attempt to provide evidence. While it’s possible that an Aran Islander made his or her way to remote parts of Australia and that the Aboriginal speakers adopted the term from them, this isn’t the only possibility, or indeed the most probable. The word pump means a flat shoe in English. It has had that meaning in English since the 16th century and the English word isn’t derived from pampootie or pampúta. Doesn’t pampuu sound more like pump than pampúta? Of course it does!

If this were an occasional lapse on Lonergan’s part, you could forgive it, but unfortunately, this kind of garbage is far from occasional in her work. In the same source, we find this claim about the word doodeen. Doodeen is a familiar Hiberno-English term, a transliteration of the Irish dúidín, which refers to a short clay pipe. However, here’s another gem from Lonergan in relation to this word:

Another Irish word that has travelled globally is the word dúd ‘a stump’ in its diminutive form dúidín. It can still be heard in Irish English as doody, the word for a baby’s pacifier.

Why do I object to this? Well, there are lots of terms like this for a baby’s dummy or pacifier in lots of areas. Here in the north of Ireland, we call it a dodie. They also call it a dodie in the north of England, where Irish influence is very unlikely. These terms resemble also the word diddy, which is a common term for a nipple in various dialects of English. It’s not completely impossible that Lonergan is right about this but … where’s the evidence? There isn’t even a decent examination or discussion of easily available evidence, never mind a search for more obscure sources. Lonergan thinks it comes from dúidín, therefore it comes from dúidín!

One source I found was a lecture given by Lonergan in TCD in Dublin. I was astounded at a couple of instances she gives of phrases quoted from Irish people in Australia that she thinks prove that they were thinking in Irish. The first is from a prisoner called Paddy Galvin who was being whipped to make him rat on his fellow conspirators and who said that:

You may as well hang me now, for you will never get my music from me.

Lonergan says that this has been supposed to be poetic but according to her, it really reflects the fact that Galvin was thinking in Irish, because the word music can mean information in Irish. Really? Her only ‘evidence’ is from the Ó Dónaill’s dictionary, which cites the expression ‘beidh ceol faoi seo’ as meaning ‘there will be talk about this’. That isn’t the same as saying that ceol (music) means information. It doesn’t. There is no evidence of anyone using ceol in this way. Does a song mean a row because you can say ‘don’t make a song and dance about it’? No. If Galvin said something like ‘Bheadh sé chomh maith agaibh mé a chrochadh anois, mar ní bhfaighidh sibh mo chuid ceoil asam go deo na ndeor,’ that sounds every bit as poetic and unprosaic in Irish as it does in English. Her claim that Galvin’s utterance represents a normal Irish expression that sounds poetic when translated is simply nonsense.

She also quotes a comment about a priest, who was said to have ‘the swiftest and sweetest tongue of Irish that I ever heard’. This, according to Lonergan, shows that the person who said this was thinking in Irish because the term sweetest tongue evokes the Irish term blasta, meaning tasty but often applied to language. The problems with this are so obvious it hardly seems necessary to point them out. For one thing, there are other terms in Irish that correspond more closely to sweetest tongue. What about briathra meala, honeyed words, or binnghlórach, sweet-voiced? And then, of course, you would have to prove that the image of words being sweet or honeyed is not used in other languages like English. Again, this is nonsense. You only have to think of words like mellifluous, honey-flowing, a term often applied to language.

But Lonergan doesn’t bother working this out. ‘I knew they were Irish speakers, because of the way they spoke English’. No, you really don’t know that, because there is nothing in these utterances that suggests their original language of composition was Irish.

Before leaving this initial look at silly claims made by Lonergan, let’s look at the expression brumby. She seems to be quite proud of having conned compilers of dictionaries into taking her claim seriously but it really is quite stupid. The term brumby is used to refer to feral horses in the Australian outback. The most likely explanation is that brumbies descend from horses originally belonging to James Brumby who left some horses when he relocated to Tasmania in 1804. Lonergan thinks that brumby really comes from bromaigh, the plural of the Irish word bromach, which means a colt, a young male horse. Quite apart from the fact that Brumby is a well-attested character who can be proven to have existed, there are several problems with Lonergan’s claim. One is that words tend to be borrowed in their most simple form in language contact, so you would expect it to be borrowed as bromagh and the plural to be bromaghs. Which sound even less like brumby. The other is that of all the words for horse, why would it be bromach? Why not a generic term for a horse like capall or beithíoch? Why would a word for a young male horse become the term for all wild horses? I can’t see any reason why it would!

In other words, I think Lonergan is a terrible researcher and I have demonstrated as much above. However, the worst myths she has been guilty of promoting are the ones about the slang term Sheila for a woman and the utterly ridiculous idea that didgeridoo comes from Irish. I will deal with each of these in an individual post. Watch this space!

Coming up on CassidySlangScam

I have had very little time to contribute to Cassidyslangscam recently but I am not completely finished with the blog. There are a number of loose ends that I have not tied up yet and I intend to get them all done some time this year. Hopefully!

What kind of material will be included? Well, I would like to start (soon) with a brief article about an interesting Irish idiom (mún dreoilín san fharraige) and its links to similar idioms in other languages. Watch this space for that one!

I also plan to publish a review of the fascinating research of Barbara Freitag into the Sheila-na-gig, statues which are found on churches and castles in Ireland (and in other countries) of naked female figures displaying their genitalia. Are they pagan fertility symbols or Christian warnings against licentiousness? Where does the expression Sheila-na-gig come from and what are its origins in the Irish language? I hope to be able to provide some information on these questions and others here.

I would like to write a proper debunking of the abysmal ‘research’ of the Australian academic Dymphna Lonergan, originator of the notion that didgeridoo is derived from an Irish phrase, whose work is almost as amateurish and phoney as Cassidy’s.

And I would dearly love to have a go at a man called Bob Quinn and his ridiculous theories about the north African origins of the Irish. That has been on the cards for a long time but I would like to research it properly and do the subject justice (even if Quinn couldn’t be bothered doing that!)

In other words, I do plan to post here when I have the time to do so. I will also answer questions or comments when they warrant an answer. That is, when the comment or question is coherent and actually raises a sensible issue. Believe me, many of the comments I have had here are completely incoherent and absolutely not worth answering!

Beware of Fakelore!

Oíche Shamhna Shona daoibh!


This is an old blog post I have decided to republish for Halloween.

We are getting ready for Hallowe’en here. It is one of my favourite festivals of the year. To our Celtic ancestors, it was Samhain, the end of summer, the Celtic New Year. (Pronounced sow-inn, with the sow part as in female pig, not Sam-hain as in the way Donald Pleasance mangles it in the film.) Because the Celts believed in the importance of liminality, of the edges between realities, they believed that this festival night between one year and the next was somehow outside of ordinary time. It was therefore a gateway which allowed worlds to bleed into each other. On this night alone, the dead were able to return to the places they loved in this world.

I love folklore and tradition. I have no problem with traditions that grow and change (ever tried carving a…

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A Recommendation

A while back, I bought a copper photo etching from talented New Zealand artist Chris O’Regan. I had intended to write about it before now but I’m only just getting around to it. Anyway, the picture took a while to make its way from the Land of the Long White Cloud to Ireland but I was really delighted with it and I promised Chris that I would give him a bit of publicity here.

The effect of the picture is very unusual. According to Chris himself, the etching process involved uses a polished copper surface where the etched areas are treated with a patina (a chemical) that permanently turns the recessed areas black and brown and the unetched areas are left with the copper shining through. The image will literally last hundreds of years because of the way it was made. It came in a tasteful and elegant wooden frame.

Chris has done several of these pictures. My picture is of Brian O’Nolan (otherwise known as Flann O’Brien or Myles na gCopaleen).

The picture is a fitting tribute to one of the greatest of Irish writers. As I am a Flannatic and a Mylesian, I am delighted to have such an attractive image of my favourite writer on prominent display in my house.

However, there is a special reason why I notice this picture every day as I go past it. Anyone who has ever lived near the sea will know that a seascape is never the same from one hour or one day to the next. As with the sea, the fact that this picture has a reflective copper surface means that it is always different depending on the light filtering in from outside. It is muted on a dark, cloudy day, while on a sunny day, the image of the great man’s face stands out and captures your attention.

If you are looking for an unusual and tasteful ornament for your home, or a different and special gift for someone who loves Irish culture and literature, check out Chris’s website here:

Home – Celtic Art Dagda Metalwork

Bliain Úr Faoi Mhaise Daoibh

So, several vaccines are now ready for distribution. Personally, I can’t wait to get my injection. I will take it as soon as it is offered to me, just as I take the flu vaccine every year, because I trust in the integrity of the healthcare professionals and academics who provide vaccines. I know that there has already been a lot of nonsense in cyberspace about how the vaccine will restructure your DNA, make women infertile, inject you with a microchip that will turn you into a slave of Bill Gates …

I once described Cassidy’s theories as a ‘dumbass conspiracy theory’ and it is interesting that one of the buffoons who has supported Cassidy’s nonsense in a number of places is also a strong promoter of anti-vaxx woo and nonsense. It is interesting to see how the same thought processes (if it is right to dignify them with that name) are in evidence in both Cassidy’s garbage and the anti-vaccine narratives. Indeed, somebody once described Cassidy as ‘the Andrew Wakefield of linguistics’.

Anyway, let me explain how conspiracy theories work with a simple guide on how to be a conspiracy theorist. If you’re sad enough to think that this is a worthwhile way of spending your time, this is how you do it.

Firstly, the experts are always wrong. It doesn’t matter how many degrees they have, how much they are respected by their peers, a bunch of sad and lonely and totally unqualified people on the internet can see right through their bullshit and know much better than professors and scholars and lecturers – mar dhea (that’s the Irish for – NOT!)

Secondly, the experts are corrupt. So even if they know they’re wrong, they’ll try to sell you a false version because the experts are corrupt and they’re all in it together. They are stooges of the Man, keeping the likes of you and me in our place for nefarious forces that actually control everything, who are lizard people, or Bill Gates, or the Chinese, or the Illuminati, or the English, or the Freemasons, or the Communists, or the international Judaeo-Levantine conspiracy (Delete as appropriate – or hell, why bother? Why don’t you just blame ALL the usual suspects and claim they’re all conspiring together!)

Thirdly, while the experts are wrong or corrupt, there are occasional experts out there who really know their stuff and that’s why all the other experts have ganged up on them (‘Nine out of ten doctors believe the other doctor is a dick’). People like Andrew Wakefield, and of course, the late Daniel Cassidy, who was cold-shouldered by the dictionary dudes of the Oxford English Dictionary FOR NO OTHER CRIME THAN SHOWING THEM UP BY BEING RIGHT! (Of course, Cassidy was almost never right about anything and Wakefield was struck off but let’s not get hung up on boring little details like the truth!)

Fourthly, don’t be afraid to sling the shit. People who disagree with you aren’t just people with a different perspective (probably caused by their possession of more facts and a better education than you). No, they’re doing it for some nefarious and malicious reason. People who disagree with you that the Jonestown massacre was caused by CIA mind control experiments or that JFK was killed by aliens are pro-English, or anti-Irish, or opposed to liberal agendas, or in favour of liberal agendas, or racists, or not racist enough or all of the above. Calling them all fascists or stooges of the Man is so much easier than trying to argue with them, especially if your particular theory is some moronic shite like ‘Polio isn’t a serious disease’ or ‘Fauci refused to listen on AIDS and millions died as a result’, which are obviously total bullshit.

Fifthly, lay it on with a trowel. Use flattery on the people who agree with you. They’re probably not very bright either, so they won’t realise they’re being manipulated when you invite them to laugh at the stupidity and lack of street-smarts of the experts who can’t see the facts that a sensible non-sheeple type like you can see so clearly. That Covid-19 is a hoax, for example, or that the silly experts think that brag comes from a Gaulish word for trousers. (Covid isn’t a hoax and the experts don’t think that brag comes from a Gaulish word for trousers, but don’t worry, these people don’t do any fact checking, so just say whatever lies come into your head! They’ll never know the difference!)

Of course, don’t forget to monetarise the shit you’re promoting. The really diehard conspiracy theorists probably spread this nonsense pro malo publico, without profiting from their fantasies, but remember you can exploit the clickbait potential of lies to earn a few extra quid. In Cassidy’s case, he was more traditional, selling his ludicrous collection of fake, made-up derivations to unsuspecting members of the public.

And finally, as we’ve said, the people who buy into this rubbish aren’t very clever, so the chances of them going to Snopes or other sources to check up on what you’re saying (or believing it if they do) are not very high. However, if you do want to stop sensible people from finding out what a moron you are, there are ways of protecting yourself from criticism. One of these is to keep it vague. People can’t argue with you if you just hint at things without actually saying anything specific. Saying Covid is a hoax is general so if someone tries to argue with you, you can always say that that isn’t what you meant and they are missing the point. Other good methods are to be really cryptic (“you have plainly swallowed what should not be swallowed. I will leave you to ponder your own folly”) or to recommend obscure articles and books (they don’t have to be relevant), with a vague “If you read this book you will realise I am right”. As long as you don’t explain why or how, they can’t argue with you, even if they get hold of the book or article concerned.

Anyway, that’s my take on how conspiracy theorists roll. If I sound angry and bitter, then you’re dead right! I am. People have been spreading nonsense about the Irish language for more than a decade, claiming that hundreds of entirely fake expressions are ‘Irish’, and all because of one dishonest, nasty little con-man and a gaggle of shallow and stupid people with egos the size of oil tankers for whom doing a U-turn is an impossibility. However, nobody is going to die because of the internet being full of phoney Irish Gaelic, however irritating it may be. When people spread nonsense about vaccines and Covid, people die. Some people who might have had five or ten or twenty or more years of healthy and useful life are dead because of the ignorance and arrogance of people who would rather believe nonsense from someone on the internet than listen to the people who actually know what they’re talking about. Which is unforgiveable. I don’t care how much free speech is your right, or how much you long to have your opinion heeded by others on some on-line echo chamber, or how mentally ill you are. Spreading dangerous lies is not the way to make yourself feel better.

To everybody else, to all those sensible and decent people like me who don’t spend all their time leaking poison on line and who aren’t compelled to lie like a fucking carpet for no particular reason, let’s hope you and yours have a much better 2021. We all deserve it.

The Letters Q and R

There are 22 new headwords in the Q and R sections of the glossary in Daniel Cassidy’s How The Irish Invented Slang: 4 in the Q section and 18 in the R section. With the 344 words covered in previous sections, we now have 366 words. As with the other sections, there is no evidence that Cassidy got it right in any case. There are no words that are ‘smoking guns’, irrefutable evidence that stands up to all scrutiny and reverses the previous orthodoxy. Rather, what we see is more and more sloppy research, definitions rewritten, words drawn from Irish and from Scottish Gaelic willy-nilly, made-up phrases that no Irish speaker would ever use.

The next section will cover the words in the S section of the glossary. This will be quite a long section but it will also contain many interesting words.