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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.

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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’.

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 Focloir.ie 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 Tuairisc.ie

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: https://ww2.kqed.org/forum/2007/12/26/daniel-cassidy/

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.

Bailiwick

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: http://n3ta.com/forum/index.php?showtopic=9542&st=900

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!https://wordsaretheweapon.wordpress.com/2015/11/19/how-to-combat-writing-lies/comment-page-1/#comment-99

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.