Category Archives: Uncategorized

Cassidese Glossary – Bubba

For some time now, some of my on-line friends have advised me to provide a version of CassidySlangScam without the invective aimed at Cassidy and his supporters. In response to that advice, I am working on providing a glossary of the terms in Cassidy’s ludicrous book How The Irish Invented Slang with a short, simple and business-like explanation of why Cassidy’s version is wrong.

 

Bubba and its shortened form bub are believed to be 19th century American English terms representing a childish mispronunciation of brother. (Though there are other theories – the Anglo-Romani linguist Ian Hancock claimed an African origin through Gullah, though this theory has not met with general acceptance.)

Cassidy claims that the bubba of the poor American south and a 17th century slang term bubber meaning ‘a drinker’ are the same, thus defining the term bubba as meaning ‘a thief, a trickster, a drinker’. In fact, if you look at cant dictionaries, bubber is defined as ‘a large drinking bowl; a drinker’ and there is no logical reason to link bubba with the earlier cant term.

Cassidy derives bub and bubba (and bubber) from the Irish words bob (meaning ‘a trick’) and its derivative bobaire, (meaning ‘a trickster’, though Cassidy claims that it figuratively means ‘a wise guy’.). As these Irish expressions have nothing to do with the meanings of bubba or of bubber, there is no reason to suppose a connection.

 

Advertisements

Cassidese Glossary – Bannock

For some time now, some of my on-line friends have advised me to provide a version of CassidySlangScam without the invective aimed at Cassidy and his supporters. In response to that advice, I am working on providing a glossary of the terms in Cassidy’s ludicrous book How The Irish Invented Slang with a short, simple and business-like explanation of why Cassidy’s version is wrong.

While Cassidy gives the word bannock, this seems to be in the book for no other reason than as an excuse to mention his mother-in-law’s cooking, as this is not a word of Irish or of Gaelic origin. While there are similar words in both Irish (especially in Scottish-influenced northern dialects like Donegal and Rathlin) and in Scots Gaelic, according to the Oxford Concise Ulster Dictionary, page 15, this word is from ‘Old English bannuc, itself from Latin panicium, “bread”’.

Cassidese Glossary – Baloney

For some time now, some of my on-line friends have advised me to provide a version of CassidySlangScam without the invective aimed at Cassidy and his supporters. In response to that advice, I am working on providing a glossary of the terms in Cassidy’s ludicrous book How The Irish Invented Slang with a short, simple and business-like explanation of why Cassidy’s version is wrong.

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

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

The phrase béal ónna is not an Irish phrase. It does not exist. It is composed of two words: béal, which is very common and means mouth, and ónna, which is so uncommon and obscure that it doesn’t even get a mention in Ó Dónaill’s 1300 page dictionary of Modern Irish. Corpas na Gaeilge, a searchable database of over seven million words, shows that ónna was used up to the early 18th century in poetry. If we look up béal ónna on Google, we find that all the references are to Cassidy and his theories. This is not the case with genuine terms for nonsense in Irish like seafóid or raiméis. (Try it yourself!) Of course, we cannot prove that béal ónna never existed and as the old maxim says, absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. That much is true – but absence of evidence IS absence of evidence. You cannot prove that baloney comes from béal ónna if there is no evidence for the existence of béal ónna in Irish.

The truth is, the phrase baloney almost certainly derives from an anglicised version of Bologna, and was used of a sausage resembling luncheon meat that was originally made in that city. By the 1860s, people were referring to Bologna sausage as baloney in America. The earliest reference to its metaphorical use to mean ‘rubbish’ was in the 1920s. This extension seems to be an example of an interesting linguistic phenomenon called the minced oath. This is quite common. A minced oath is simply where an obscene or blasphemous or unpleasant word is disguised by cutting bits off it, or by saying a word which sounds a bit like it. In other words, people probably said baloney instead of balls, bollocks or bullshit.

Cassidy’s ‘pronunciation guide’ is also very strange. There are basically two ways to construct a pronunciation guide in books on language. The usual way is to use an ad hoc system based on English. For example, you could transcribe béal as bayl or seafóid as shaffoyj. The other way is to use the International Phonetic Alphabet, which is more precise but harder for people without a background in linguistics to interpret and understand. Cassidy mixed up bits of the IPA, bits of Irish orthography and bits of English in a random mess which could hardly be described as a system at all. For example, in this case, he used bæl óna as his version of the phonetics of this (invented) phrase. The æ is from the IPA but Cassidy assumed that it was pronounced as in the vowel of aesthetic, as the ay of bay or the ee of tree. In reality, it represents the vowel sound of ‘cat’. The ó is found in Irish orthography but it is not found in any version of phonetic transcription that I have ever encountered.

Cassidese Glossary – Aroon

For some time now, some of my on-line friends have advised me to provide a version of CassidySlangScam without the invective aimed at Cassidy and his supporters. In response to that advice, I am working on providing a glossary of the terms in Cassidy’s ludicrous book How The Irish Invented Slang with a short, simple and business-like explanation of why Cassidy’s version is wrong.

Aroon (Irish a rún, ‘oh my secret!) is another common endearment which passed into limited use in English in sentimental Irish plays and ballads.

Cassidy didn’t understand the Irish vocative case. The rule, as given by the Christian Brothers on page 55 of their grammar, is that there is no inflection on a noun in the vocative singular where the expression is used metaphorically or affectionately. That means that it should be ‘a rún’ or ‘a stór’, not ‘a rúin’ or ‘a stóir’.

(See an Irish language explanation of this rule here: http://www.scriobh.ie/ScriobhIe/Media/Graimear%20Gaeilge%20na%20mBraithre%20Criostai_Eag1999.pdf)

Cassidy used both the correct version and an incorrect version of this phrase in his book. In his definitions, he misspells it as a rúin twice but then spells it correctly in the name of the song Siúil a Rún (though he misspells the word Siúil as Siúl, using the verbal noun instead of the imperative).

It should also be noted that Cassidy mentions ‘many songs in North American roots music in which the phonetically written Irish language lyrics are often treated as macaronic or nonsense syllables’. This claim is untrue but it also misuses the term macaronic, which refers to texts that use more than one language, not nonsense language.

Beannachtaí na Féile Pádraig

I would like to wish everybody who has read or supported this blog a very happy St Patrick’s Day. I will shortly be embarking on a Cassidese Glossary, a series of articles which will debunk Cassidy’s claims succinctly and clearly, one by one.

Ba mhaith liom Beannachtaí na Féile Padraig a ghuí ar gach duine a leigh nó a thacaigh leis an bhlag seo. Beidh mé ag tosú gan mhoill ar Ghluais Uí Chasaide, sraith alt ina mbréagnóidh mé tuairimí bómánta Cassidy i mbeagán focal agus go tomhaiste, ceann ar cheann.

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 someone 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.

I choose to take The Vintage News’ rubbish 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 nobody is deserving of anyone’s respect or tolerance for being a liar, however funny they think these lies are.

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.