Tag Archives: academic fraud

An open letter to the Columbia Registrar

A couple of years ago, I wrote to Columbia University to warn them that Cassidy and some of his supporters claimed that Cassidy had a degree from Columbia. Obviously, it is important for academic institutions to protect the integrity of the degrees they offer and no self-respecting university would want to be linked to an obvious fraud like Cassidy. I’ll assume that my previous communications with Columbia went astray and I have decided to contact them again. To that end, I have sent the following letter (by post) to Barry Kane, the Registrar:

Dear Mr Kane

For the past two years I have been working on attacking the late Daniel Cassidy, his supporters and his book How The Irish Invented Slang through a blog called cassidyslangscam on WordPress. You probably haven’t heard of Cassidy but most people with an interest in Irish language and culture have heard of him. Cassidy worked (if that’s the right word) for over 12 years in New College of California, a small and now defunct liberal arts college, as Professor of the Irish Studies department. He was a darling of the American left, friendly with lots of important figures like Ishmael Reed, Peter Linebaugh, Alexander Cockburn and Peter Quinn and he garnered a lot of publicity throughout the English-speaking world. He was also a manipulative, narcissistic fraud who invented nearly every Irish phrase in his crazy book and apparently had no academic qualifications at all.

Most sources say that he had a degree from Cornell. Others say that he had degrees from Cornell and Columbia. For example, the In Memoriam section on the website of the San Francisco Irish-American Crossroads Festival says that his primary degree was from Columbia. Most other sources suggest that he had a postgraduate degree from Columbia. Acting on a tip-off I contacted Cornell where the registrar told me that he never completed his degree there, though he spent between three and four years studying there. (There are full details of this on the blog.)

In a Q&A, you say that: “More than anything else, the Registrar is the guardian of the academic record and is responsible for its accuracy and integrity. There is no room for error in what we do. Our work must be perfect.” This is true but if people are allowed to gain respect, academic positions and financial gain unchallenged by falsely claiming to have Columbia qualifications, this seriously undermines the value of that work. I realise that you must be very busy but I would ask you to investigate Cassidy’s Columbia degree and issue a statement on the question, either through this blog or through your own official channels.

It will be interesting to see if we receive any reply from Columbia this time. It would be fantastic to demonstrate finally that Cassidy’s Columbia degree was just as fraudulent as the degree he claimed to have from Cornell!

The top ten Cassidy lies

There are still many people out there who are determined to carry on spreading the same old lies about Daniel Cassidy. Why do they do it? Some of them are obviously friends of Cassidy’s who want to continue believing in the myth rather than looking the facts squarely in the face. Others are just trolls, fantasists and compulsive liars, just like their hero Cassidy. Still others are stupid and naive people who have been conned into thinking that support for Cassidy is support for Irish Republicanism or socialism, while criticism of Cassidy is criticism of those causes. Anyway, to help balanced and rational people who find their way to this site to understand what a liar Cassidy was, here is a list of the top ten lies from and about Daniel Cassidy. Enjoy!


Cassidy was qualified

Cassidy went to Cornell but flunked out in 1965. While there is no direct evidence of Cassidy claiming that he was a graduate, there is plenty of indirect evidence. The most important piece of indirect evidence is that Cassidy worked as a professor in New College of California (and apparently he lectured in San Francisco State before that). Who would give someone a lecturer’s job if they didn’t have any degrees at all? It seems clear that there was some kind of fraud here. Until someone provides evidence to the contrary or explains how Cassidy became an academic with only a high school diploma, then the logical assumption has to be that he committed a crime in accepting a job as a lecturer, probably stealing in excess of half a million dollars from the American education system by using non-existent qualifications to gain employment.


The Rule of Tír

According to Cassidy, this is a rule of Irish pronunciation. In fact, it’s just another piece of nonsense invented by Cassidy. Cassidy made use of a forum for Irish learners to find out how to pronounce certain sounds. He was too stupid to understand the linguistic explanations given. Eventually, one poster said:

BOTTOM LINE?!  How do I say “tír?”




I’ll bet every native speaker would understand me no matter which I said.

In other words, this poster was saying, it doesn’t matter what you say really because people will understand you, NOT that native speakers use these forms interchangeably. But in the insane world of Cassidy’s head, this casual online comment was transformed into The Rule of Tír, a fictional ‘rule’ which states that they ARE interchangeable!


Cassidy’s grandparents

Cassidy, using his sockpuppet identity of Medbh, claimed that his grandparents spoke Donegal Irish. He gives no further details. Grandparents (plural) means that at least two of his grandparents were supposedly speakers of Donegal Irish. According to a family tree on Ancestry.co.uk, only one of Cassidy’s grandparents was born in Ireland. She was from Monaghan, so she didn’t speak Donegal Irish. The rest were born in New York and Toronto. Some of his forebears had Munster names like O’Brien and Garrity. There seems to be no certainty about where the Cassidys themselves came from, but it’s primarily a Fermanagh name, not a Donegal name.


Cassidy and Dallas

Cassidy claimed that he was in the newsroom of the New York Times as a rookie journalist the day JFK was shot in 1963. Yet Cassidy stated elsewhere that he was still in Cornell until 1965 and started as a rookie journalist in the NYT after he was booted out of Cornell university with no degree.


Cassidy was award-winning

According to the sources on line, Cassidy won an award for poetry at Cornell, before they kicked him out. In his adult life, he only won one award. He received an American Book Award for his ridiculous dreckfest How The Irish Invented Slang in 2007. We don’t know who the judges were (they don’t tell us in any detail how the judging is done), but I find it interesting that at least four of his friends are currently on the board of the Before Columbus Foundation ( based in Oakland, CA), which hands out the awards (David Meltzer, Ishmael Reed, T.J. English and Jack Foley). Cassidy was also supposed to have received a nomination (which isn’t an award) for an Emmy for his documentary Civil Rights and Civil Wrongs, but there is no independent confirmation of this anywhere on line.


Cassidy’s work was endorsed by many Irish speakers

This is nonsense. Some Irish speakers did support Cassidy, but we have to remember several points here. Almost all those who provided support for Cassidy (Máirtín Ó Muilleoir, Ciarán Ó Pronntaigh, Joe Lee) knew him. We have no information about the circumstances in which they gave their support. Had they read the book or were they asked to provide a favourable review ‘blind,’ without seeing the finished article? The reaction to Cassidy’s work among genuine Irish speakers who didn’t know him has been very hostile, and many people who have only a nodding acquaintance with the language have praised his work while pretending to be better informed about Irish than they really are – just like Cassidy himself.


Cassidy’s work was ‘peer-reviewed’

This is claimed by his sockpuppet identity Méabh, and repeated by some of his more enthusiastic and less intelligent supporters. Cassidy’s work was not peer-reviewed (the closest it got to that was when it was rejected by an academic reviewer when Cassidy tried to get it published by the University of Limerick). It was given reviews in newspapers, which is not the same thing at all. In fact, if a body of experts on linguistics, slang and the Irish language were assembled together to assess the merit of Cassidy’s work, not only would they fall about laughing, they would not be peers of Cassidy’s. A peer means an equal. Cassidy knew absolutely nothing about any of these subjects. Cassidy’s peers were other fake Irish loudmouths with no qualifications and no idea about their ancestral culture.


Cassidy was ‘passionate’ about the Irish language

As one Irish blogger who had listened to too many fools in New York said: Cassidy argued in his book that many American English slang words were derived from Gaelic, a claim with which some disagreed. But if they thought his argument thin, they must never have experienced his vast passion for the Irish language. Let’s just examine this one closely. Cassidy lived his whole life in cities like New York and San Francisco. There were Irish organisations in both these cities giving classes in the language. Linguaphone used to offer a course in Irish, starting in 1957, which would have been available anywhere. Yet somehow, Cassidy managed to avoid learning any Irish – or indeed buying any books, dictionaries or tape courses in or on the language – until 2001, when he was left an Irish dictionary in someone’s will. Some passion! And he never succeeded in learning any Irish. He had no idea about the pronunciation, the grammar, or the usage. Cassidy’s interest in Irish was shallow dilettantism, not passion.


A working-class hero is something to be ..

Cassidy really played up the working-class hero thing, cultivating a broad Brooklyn accent and talking about his past as a merchant marine (though it’s hard to work out when, or indeed, if, he was ever a merchant marine). His sister Susan commented that: Cockbum also said that Danny grew up in the “slums of Brooklyn”. we grew up on Long Island in the ’50’s – it was all country … And while his family may have been ordinary folk, they don’t seem to have been that poor. His father ran an Irish bar. Cassidy won a scholarship to the New York Military Academy, alma mater of Donald Trump and Stephen Sondheim, and then went on to Cornell. Not exactly Les Misérables


“…this pioneering book proves that US slang has its strongest wellsprings in nineteenth-century Irish America.”

I started writing this blog before I knew anything about Daniel Cassidy. The more I learned, the more I despised him. All I knew at the start was that the book was nonsense and that a number of high-profile buffoons were trying to pretend that it isn’t nonsense, for reasons best known to themselves. The fact is, this book is stuffed with lies. You can find lies on every page. And we’re talking whoppers here, not minnows. Cassidy invented the overwhelming majority of the Irish ‘phrases’ in this book. They have never existed. Since I began this project, none of the buffoons who have lauded this idiotic garbage has tried to defend Cassidy. We have had the occasional idiot or troll calling in to make sweeping generalisations about how the Irish talk a lot so American English must be full of Irish. But none of them has answered the challenge which I have repeatedly given them – to provide evidence that Cassidy’s phrases had any existence independent of his crazy echo-chamber of a head. Of course, none of them ever will do, because there is no evidence. Cassidy made it all up as he went along.

A Christmas Warning

At the moment, Daniel Cassidy’s absurd book is way down on the Amazon sales lists – somewhere around 750,000th. on both Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk. If there were any justice, this trashy, awful book would be out of print. However, I have no doubt that soon, people will look around for a present for their relatives and that someone will be stupid enough to buy this rubbish for their friends and family.

I have said it before and I’ll say it again – if you give this book as a present, you are giving out a clear message about yourself. At least some of the recipients will find this blog or other negative reviews of this book. If they have any sense at all, they will realise that you are an idiot. A crank. A flat-earther. A flake. A total amadán, just like its author.

So, this Christmas, if you can’t think of anything to give people, don’t give this rubbish. Give a global gift from Trócaire or Oxfam or whatever the equivalent is where you live, or make a contribution to a charity on their behalf and put the receipt in a card. Give hope and help to people who need it, and say something positive about yourself.

Don’t give the gift of ignorance this Christmas.

Will The Real M.M. Please Stand Up?

I recently had a go at Cassidy and some of his cronies, who posted reviews of one another’s books on Amazon without giving any indication of who they were. This is an immoral thing to do, in my opinion. It’s not against the law, though it is against Amazon’s own rules: “…family members or close friends of the person, group, or company selling on Amazon may not write Customer Reviews for those particular items.”

I had another look at some of the comments surrounding Amazon reviews of Cassidy’s work. One of the strongest critics on Amazon.com was D. Norder, who made a spirited and entirely sensible attack on Cassidy’s lack of methodology and total incompetence. Norder made the minor mistake of talking about Gaelic rather than Irish – if it is a mistake. After all, Cassidy frequently dragged in Scots Gaelic when he couldn’t find what he was looking for in Irish dictionaries and the term Gaelic can be used to cover both languages (and Manx).

Among those who criticised Norder was a person calling themselves M.M.. Referring to this supposed lapse by Norder, M.M. had this to say:

Seems from the other comments that D. Norder has been outed as not knowing his/her facts. But those of us that have studied Irish history are well acquainted with revisionists that try to gloss over or completely discredit facts that do not align with their agendas.

This comment is nasty, irrational and entirely inappropriate. Cassidy’s book is so full of lies and inaccuracies and grandiose crazy claims unsupported by any evidence at all, while Norder is dealing in a couple of genuine facts like the origin of bunkum. To pretend that this is about revisionism is showing scant respect for those who genuinely oppose revisionist rewritings of Irish history. As I’ve said here before, Cassidy was a revisionist (revisionism means rewriting history, whatever the political slant). His work was obviously nonsense. Open any page at random and you will find a piece or several pieces of demonstrable rubbish.

Worse still, M.M. is pretending to be simply a concerned citizen defending Cassidy because they think he was right.

However, if we look at M.M.’s profile, we find that she (I think it’s a woman) was: ‘the student coordinator for an Irish Studies Program at a private University in San Francisco’ and that she was ‘very involved in the Irish American community.’ I may be wrong about this, but I think the only Irish Studies Program in a private university in San Francisco was the one at New College of California, which would mean that M.M. was a close associate of the late Daniel Cassidy. In other words, far from being an impartial observer with a love of truth, this is a partisan scumbag who is determined to gloss over or lie about any facts which don’t align with her twisted agenda of defending a worthless buffoon who she happened to consider a friend.

You will probably be able to find out who this particular scumbag is by looking at Irish Studies and New College of California on Google and searching for someone with the initials M.M.

Of course, if these people had any shame at all, they would be tormented by a deep sense of self-disgust and self-loathing as they skulk around the Internet depositing arrogant, dishonest crud like this. However, as people like M.M. and the rest of the Cassidy Cargo Cult seem to be without the slightest glimmer of shame, we’ll just have to do the disgust and loathing for them.

Anatomy of a Cromance

I have previously criticised the crony friends of Daniel Cassidy, charlatan and fake etymologist, who have been responsible for artificially boosting Cassidy’s reputation and selling his irritating and insane drivel to Irish American suckers.

It is interesting to look at the way some of these cronies operate. Let’s just look at the particular constellation of cronies who founded the Irish American Writers and Artists back in 2008. According to that organisation’s website this historic event took place at a literary festival in Charlottesville, Virginia. After the session, Peter Quinn and T.J. English, ‘historian and author Daniel Cassidy’ (!!!),  New York Times columnist and author Dan Barry, and Maureen Dezell, all adjourned to the pub and founded the IAWAA. I am not criticizing the supposed aims of the IAWAA here. Insofar as there is any genuine radicalism among these people, I would support it. We know that Cassidy’s radicalism was completely fake, of course. I mean, what possible justification could you give for taking a job as a college professor without even having a degree, or faking Ivy League qualifications to claim such a job? How is that serving the cause of social justice? It’s not as if straight chalk-white Christian dudes like Cassidy are under-represented at the highest level in American society!

However, if we look at the reviews on Amazon, we find that Cassidy’s book was supported by a certain paquinn47, who gave it a rave review and five stars.

“Cassidy’s thesis isn’t going to go away and overwrought denunciations should give way to the work of grappling with the certainty that Cassidy has started a revolution of Copernican dimensions.”

The same paquinn47 also gave five stars and a rave review to Dan Barry’s book ‘City Lights: Stories About New York.’

In neither review does he give the slightest indication that he is Peter A. Quinn the novelist or that he knows the authors. In one case, of course, he wrote the introduction to the book he’s reviewing, which is a pretty big vested interest. Another reviewer of Dan Barry’s book is a certain Daniel P. Cassidy, who tells the reader to ‘Buy this book. Then buy another and give it to a friend. Read it and feel renewed.’

Again, there is no indication in the review that these people knew one another. In the case of the Barry book, there are only six reviews on Amazon. The reviews from his two mates, Cassidy and Quinn, are one third of the ratings.

Daniel P. Cassidy also reviewed Peter Quinn’s book Hour of the Cat, again without revealing anything about the relationship between himself and Quinn, such as the fact that a character called Danny Cassidy is mentioned in the book or that one of his later books was dedicated to him. ‘Hour of the Cat is flat-out one of the best books I have read in a dog’s age’.  Daniel P. Cassidy only wrote three reviews on Amazon. One for Dan Barry, one for Peter Quinn, and a hostile one about a book which Cassidy criticises as being full of ‘wing-nut etymologies’. Talk about pots and kettles!

The question is, is it wrong to review books by your cronies without giving any indication that they are cronies? It certainly isn’t illegal but I think it’s completely unethical. After all, people read the reviews to find out whether to buy the book. If you are the author’s best friend, you should really declare that in the review.  It isn’t enough to give your name. How many people would know that paquinn47 is Peter Quinn or that he is a friend of Cassidy and Barry? (As opposed, for example, to the Irish Peter Quinn of Belfast Media Group, former GAA chairman, who was involved in the purchase of the Irish Echo in 2008, a paper which allowed Cassidy to write a column on his ‘discoveries’ just before his death.)

Some of you will remember the Orlando Figes incident a few years back, where the expert on Russian history, Orlando Figes, wrote scathing reviews of his rivals using the false name Historian. Figes apologised and claimed that he was suffering from depression at the time. I believe him. People do strange things when they’re depressed and his actions were so pointless and ultimately damaging to his reputation. He was and is a successful historian and didn’t need to resort to tactics like that.

Cassidy, of course, wasn’t a talented historian. He wasn’t even an historian. He knew nothing about anything, and without his loyal cronies spreading nonsense about what a great book How The Irish Invented Slang is, it is unlikely that he would have sold many copies of this truly dreadful piece of garbage.

Niall O’Dowd and Peter Quinn

Recently there has been a spike in the sales of Cassidy’s ridiculous book, How The Irish Invented Slang. A quick check online showed that the most likely reason for this spike is that IrishCentral has once again republished a truly awful article by Brendan Patrick Keane which praises Cassidy’s stupid and indefensible ideas. Personally, I find this kind of thing impossible to understand. Cassidy’s work has been slammed by all the academic authorities who have bothered to comment. It has been mocked by Irish speakers, myself included. It was originally to have been published by an academic publisher but was rejected because an Irish academic warned them of its worthlessness. You can open any page and find something stupid and demonstrably wrong. And to top it all, we now know that Cassidy was a fraudster who claimed to have degrees from high-status universities, while the reality is that he had no degrees from anywhere and was not entitled to the status of a professor.

So, why would Niall O’Dowd and IrishCentral publish this rubbish again? I decided to check out the names of Niall O’Dowd and Cassidy’s arch-crony Peter Quinn on Google. Within two minutes, I had the grainy picture above, taken at a Flax Fund Dinner in NY last year. There they are, the person who runs IrishCentral and the man who described Cassidy as his ‘best friend’. You can draw your own conclusions, just as I have done. Of course, it doesn’t necessarily mean that there is a vile conspiracy among a bunch of arrogant and over-privileged Irish-American cronies to protect the reputation of Daniel Cassidy at all costs and in spite of all the evidence that he was a worthless fraud. There are other possibilities. Perhaps it is just down to stupidity and groupthink. Or perhaps Niall O’Dowd cynically realises that dumbass conspiracy theories sell better than the facts.

And of course, he’d be right about that. Blogs like this or the attacks on Cassidy on Language Log will never attract as much attention as Brendan Patrick Keane’s ignorant, badly-written tripe on IrishCentral. However, if I could attract a million hits a week by saying that Cassidy was right, I still wouldn’t do it. I’d rather get fifty hits a week and tell the truth than get a massive following by promoting lies and nonsense. I guess that’s just the way I’m made.

Narcissistic Personality Disorder

In earlier posts, I suggested that Cassidy had some kind of narcissistic personality disorder. Note that I didn’t say he suffered from NPD. I know from personal experience that people with personality disorders are rarely the ones who suffer. It’s usually the people around them who do the suffering.

Some people might think it strange that a person who is completely self-obsessed, selfish and narcissistic would be able to inspire the kind of loyalty that Cassidy’s supporters obviously feel towards him. However, we should remember here that while they are quite prepared to show a very negative side to people who have nothing they want or who stand up to them, narcissists are famous for their ability to charm those they want to use or control, which explains why so many cult leaders and con-men are narcissists.

Here is a list of some of the most important characteristics of a person with NPD:

1. Has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements).

His book was, according to Cassidy, bigger than Frank McCourt’s and he had degrees from Cornell and Columbia – though in reality he didn’t have any degrees from anywhere.

  1. Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love.

A short while after his idiotic book was published, Cassidy was already using his new-found status as a published author by helping to found the Irish American Writers’ and Artists’ Association.

  1. Believes that he or she is “special” and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions).

Look at all the ‘friends’ that Cassidy boasted of an association with, the professors and writers who provided glowing reviews for his crazy book.

  1. Requires excessive admiration.

There is a term in the literature about narcissism which is quite useful – the notion of narcissistic supply. Unfortunately, unlike the eponymous Narcissus, real narcissists do not content themselves with hanging around in woods gazing longingly at their own reflection in a limpid pool. Fans and admirers are the mirror these people require. Their followers are simply the cannon-fodder in the narcissist’s ongoing war against reality. The flip-side of this is that the narcissist gets really angry when they are challenged, which is known as narcissistic rage.

For an example of narcissistic rage, here’s Cassidy holding forth through a sock-puppet identity in response to critics of his idiocies about the word jazz: “You do not own the word “jazz” (teas) on Wikipedia or anywhere else. You are not balancing anything. Your article is replete with inaccuaracies and distortions. It is an embarassemnt. The attempt to marginalize Daniel Cassidy’s pioneering work on the word “jazz” and hundreds of other American vernacular words and phrases in his new book How the Irish Invented Slang: the Secret language of the Crossroads is pathetic. Cassidy’s book has been hailed by scores of respected academics, journalists, writers, and Irish language scholars, since its publication 3 months ago. See the Irish Times, The Irish Independent, The Belfast Telegraph, Irish News, The Derry Journal, RTE, Ireland’s national broadcaster, and Irish language publications like La Nua, Beo, and Foinse, as well as American media, including ABC radio, KPFA, WBAI, the SF Chronicle, and NY Observer,and this is just in the first weeks after publication. I shall continue to put up the Irish sanas of jazz. These last feeble attempts to censor Cassidy’s work are laughably pathetic. Let’s put it to mediation. I will provide 20 PUBLISHED articles supporting Cassidy’s thesis. All you have are the same old white boy cronies and Anglophile dictionary dudes.”

  1. Has a sense of entitlement, i.e., unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations.

Yes, taking a job as a professor when you don’t have a degree, don’t speak Irish and have never published anything of any value certainly suggests a sense of entitlement.

  1. Is inter-personally exploitative, i.e., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends.

Did Cassidy ever stop to ask himself whether all the people who quoted his shit would be humiliated or shamed by their association with him? Probably not, but plainly these people were all used and exploited by Cassidy.

  1. Lacks empathy: is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others.

How about this from his sister Susan? “He just believed that he was so much smarter than everyone else that no one would dare to question him. I certainly would have never questioned him because he would have been so abusive. I spent most of my life just listening to his bullshit.”

  1. Is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her.

Cassidy continually scoffed at the dictionary dudes and the genuine academics who wouldn’t play according to his rules. For example, here’s one of his comments, given under yet another sock-puppet identity: “Zwicky has no books published on etymology, slang, or Irish, while Barrett is just a shill for the Oxford Dictionary which publishes his barely selling boring slang dictionaries. I agree with the reviewer above. The Anglophile neo-conservative lexicographers got caught with their English knickers down on Irish language influence on American vernacular and now they are piling on Cassidy with ad hominem attacks.”

  1. Shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes.

As his sister said: He really thought he was so much smarter than everyone–a real egomaniac with an inferiority complex–that’s why he always barked at anyone who dared to question him.

The evidence that Cassidy was a total narcissist is very strong. Certainly much, much stronger than any of the evidence for the Irish derivation of slang Cassidy provided in his ridiculous book.

In Cahoots

There is no certainty about the origin of the term ‘in cahoots.’ It is first found in American English in 1829. There are two sensible theories about its origins, plus the usual ridiculous nonsense from Cassidy.

The explanation given by the Oxford English Dictionary is that English got the expression from the word French cahute, meaning a cabin or hut, which was borrowed into Scots in the 16th century. The metaphor is the same as being ‘in bed together’ – the conspirators are in a narrow space, close together. There is then a mystery about how it survived without reference for hundreds of years and surfaced in American speech in the 19th century. However, that is not so strange. Many settlers came from Scotland and it is not so strange that expressions would survive in isolated mountain communities without being written down.

However, there is another explanation, and perhaps a better one. The OED states that others have claimed an origin in the French word cohorte, the source of the English ‘cohort,’ which originally meant a band of soldiers and now means a friend or companion.

Cassidy’s claim is typically stupid and dishonest. He says that the Irish comh-údar means ‘a co-author, co-originator, co-instigator, fig. partner.’ This is one of Cassidy’s made-up definitions. In fact, comhúdar (there isn’t a hyphen in it in modern Irish) isn’t given in the dictionary, though comh (meaning joint or co-) is a common enough prefix in Irish. While údar has a range of meanings on its own, there is no evidence of anyone using comhúdar to mean anything else but a co-author of a book, document or report. Comhúdar doesn’t sound much like cahoots. If people said cahooder, he would have a point. But they don’t and comhúdar is just too wide of the mark, even if it really meant partner, as Cassidy claimed.

My money would be on the French-Scottish shed but we will probably never know for sure because the evidence simply doesn’t exist. But at least the words cahute and cohort actually existed and can be proven to have existed. There is no Irish expression comh-údar meaning a partner. It was invented by a narcissist in California about ten years ago.

A Really Stupid Review of Cassidy’s Book

In the post I wrote on the word cac (Irish for shit), I criticized a foolish and pseudo-intellectual article by Jonathan Scott in the Journal of Socialism and Democracy online. This review of Cassidy’s book manages to build a towering edifice of pretentious verbiage on the shifting quicksand of Cassidy’s insane speculations, and I feel that it is high time that I had a further go at dismantling the foolish arguments advanced by the author.

The author of this childish and pompous review, Jonathan Scott, was obviously impressed with Cassidy:

Daniel Cassidy’s How the Irish Invented Slang is a specialist work of linguistic scholarship, but it cuts across many academic disciplines. This explains its particular power, for it cannot be reduced to linguistics, Irish studies, American studies, ethnography or cultural theory, and yet none of these disciplines can remain the same as a result of his work.

Of course, in reality, Cassidy’s work was simply a hoax and a con-job manufactured by a narcissist with no genuine qualifications and no knowledge of Irish, linguistics, history or (apparently) anything else. It has had and will have no lasting influence on any of these disciplines, though some naïve and foolish individuals have taken some of Cassidy’s claims seriously and suffered the consequences by shaming themselves in public.

One of the stupidest claims in this article is the one about the phrase ‘Don’t be a pussy!’ It’s worth quoting in full here because it’s so ridiculous and so full of nonsense:

By the end of Cassidy’s study not only is the claim that Shakespeare was Irish plausible, but also many mysteries of American vernacular, extremely perplexing hitherto, are finally solved – the offensive word “pussy,” for example. From a feminist standpoint, the word is pornographic and its use morally indefensible, as it associates the female genitalia with weakness and cowardice, thus belonging to misogynist discourse. Cassidy shows that “pussy” is an Irish word, both a noun and an adjective (pusaire: n., a crybaby; pusach: adj., pouting, whimpering, sulking). In Irish, “Don’t be a pussy!” means “Stop crying all the time!” or “Be brave!” Of course this is how American boys and men, and girls and women too, always use the word, but without knowing its Irish root they’re indeed guilty of deploying it in sexist way, by comparing their (almost always male) object of ridicule to a female’s private parts – what everyone wrongly assumes when they say it. The original Irish meaning of the word is actually gender-free – it can refer to a male or a female – and has no connection whatever to the Latin word pusa, which refers to the labia. “Pussy,” like all the Irish words in Cassidy’s text, was passed down from one generation of Irish-Americans to the next, and then adopted by Americans of all languages and ethnicities, both because of its appealing lyrical quality and its special knack for signifying precisely what the speaker is trying to say. 

This is, of course, total and complete horse feathers. Leaving aside the nonsense about Shakespeare being Irish, it is true that the word pus in Irish means a sulky expression or a protruding mouth. This is well known as the origin of expressions like sourpuss in English. It is commonly used in Irish dialects of English as well as in American dialects.

However, there is no evidence that pussy in phrases like ‘don’t be a pussy!’ derives from Irish words like pusachán or pusaire or pusach. Where’s the evidence? Why don’t people in communities in Ireland where the tide of Irish retreated only a couple of generations ago say things like ‘don’t be a pussy?’ They don’t because these are Americanisms, not Irishisms. And what about the tendency of borrowed words to follow the syntax of the language they came from? People say ‘don’t be an ommadawn’ because they realise that amadán (fool) is a noun. If they borrowed amaideach (foolish), they would say ‘don’t be amaideach!’ not ‘don’t be an amaideach!’ So, if they said ‘don’t be pussy’ or ‘don’t be a pussahawn’ or ‘don’t be a pusser’, Cassidy might have a case. They don’t and he doesn’t.

Furthermore, the author seems to be throwing things in here which are not even claimed in the book. He claims that pusa is Latin for the labia. It isn’t. The Latin for the labia is … labia, stoopid! There is a word pusa in Latin. It means a girl, not a vagina. Cassidy claimed (wrongly) that pussy in the sense of vagina comes from the plural of pus in Irish, pusa – not Latin – and thus means lips and figuratively vagina, so Cassidy’s claim was that pusa, pusaire, pusach and pusachán are all related anyway, which, if it were true, would invalidate the argument made above.

In fact, Cassidy was wrong about this as well. (After all, Cassidy was wrong about nearly everything.) There is no evidence of anyone using the word pusa in Irish to mean vagina or labia and the fact is, pussy for vagina is clearly of Germanic, not Celtic or Latin origin. The usual word for vagina in Irish is pit or pis (pronounced pitch or pish). Even more damningly for the incompetent attempt at an argument above, a common pejorative word for an effeminate man and (in more recent usage) for a gay man in Irish is the word piteog. The –eog part is a feminine diminutive, so it literally means ‘a little vagina.’ In other words, an ignorant native speaker of Irish might well attack someone they consider to be weak or effeminate with a phrase like ‘ná bí i do phiteog!’ which literally means ‘don’t be a little vagina!’ (And allow me to get up on my soapbox here. As in English, the use of words like piteog in Irish is a mark of stupidity and bigotry. It says a lot about the deficiencies of the person using it and nothing at all about the victim of the homophobic abuse. It should be avoided by anybody with a brain.)

Of course, Cassidy wouldn’t have known any of this because Cassidy didn’t speak any Irish. He didn’t know anything about the language or the culture surrounding it or the historical context or the methods used by real academics. He was a total arse and that’s pretty much all there is to say about the matter.