Tag Archives: American slang

Cassidese Glossary – Big Onion

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.

The Big Onion is a term of recent coinage based on the name for New York, The Big Apple. The Big Onion is used of the ethnic history of the Lower East Side, because that history is like peeling back the layers of an onion. There is a Big Onion walking tour (mentioned by Cassidy) that deals with this ethnic history.

In other words, the term ‘The Big Onion’ is recent and entirely self-explanatory in English.

Cassidy claims that this comes from ‘the big Anonn’, which he claims means ‘far side, other side’. In fact, anonn is a word used only with movement. You can say you went anonn over a river, but when you are on the other side, you are thall, not anonn.

Mark, Mark Anthony

Another utterly stupid claim made by Cassidy in his book, How The Irish Invented Slang, is that the English words mark or mark Anthony, slang terms for a sucker or target of a scam, derive from Irish. As usual, there is no evidence for this and plenty of strong evidence against it.

For one thing, while the word marc is Irish and means a mark, the word is a relatively modern borrowing from English and there is no evidence of it meaning target of a scam. In Irish, the earliest references date back to 1639, in the Catechismus of Tiobóid Galldubh (Theobald Stapleton).

In English, the word is very ancient. It had acquired the meaning of target by the year 1200. It was first used with the meaning of target of a scam or sucker in the 1880s.

As for Mark Anthony, a slang phrase which seems to appear first in the 1970s in America, Cassidy claims that this comes from marc andána, which he says means a rash mark. The word andána is an intensified form of dána, which means bold. Of course, there is no evidence of anyone actually saying or writing marc andána in Irish. The sole authority for its existence is one crazy man – Daniel Cassidy – who lived his whole life in the USA, never learned Irish and never acquired any qualifications.

And when you think about it, the whole thing is much more likely to be English than Irish. A mark is a target and has been since the middle ages. That word comes to be a term for the target of a scam. Then someone adds Anthony to it because everyone’s heard of Mark Anthony. It might also have been influenced by a work of 19th century Irish fiction, The Fortunes of Hector O’Halloran and His Man Mark Anthony O’Toole.

Isn’t that more likely as a scenario than Cassidy’s non-existent phrase marc andána?

Moron Niall O’Dowd – Sorry, More On Niall O’Dowd

I notice that Brendan Patrick Keane’s ridiculous piece of brown-nosing in support of Cassidy’s nonsense has once again reappeared on Nihil O’Dude’s IrishCentral, only a couple of weeks after the last time it was republished there. Since Christmas they have also republished Tom Deignan’s list of 20 books which all Irish Americans should read, another article which I have criticised here for giving support to How The Irish Invented Slang.

I should point out that I didn’t find this by chance on IrishCentral, a resource which I don’t read and which is strictly for Plastic Paddies and tourists, IMHO. I have minimal interest in the kind of rubbish that IrishCentral specialises in, items like The Top Ten Whackiest Irish Saints or Which Green Food Coloring Should You Use This St Patrick’s Day? or The Rose of Tralee Makeover: Discover Your Inner Colleen. (Just to be clear, I made these up, though the real thing is often worse.) I noticed it because Cassidy’s nasty, lying little book is once again selling more copies on Amazon, as unsuspecting suckers read Keane’s dumbass opinion piece and think the book sounds like fun.

I would like to think that the republishing of these articles is happening because someone at IrishMental has read my comments on this blog rather than because they have no ideas and are forced to endlessly recycle garbage. The thought is flattering. I would love to think that I have pissed off Niall O’Dowd and his cronies. After all, if they are republishing trash that they know to be trash simply because I criticised them for doing so, that isn’t flipping the bird to me. It’s cynically flipping the bird to their own readership. Still, pigs and grunts and all that.

Let me just say it once more, for the sake of anyone who hasn’t got the message yet. Cassidy’s book is full of fake Irish. (And O’Dowd knows enough Irish to realise that. Snua ard? Really?) Most of the words which Cassidy provided fake Irish versions for already have credible and even proven origins in English or other languages. Cassidy himself didn’t speak any Irish. Cassidy was a malignant fraud who spent 12 years pretending to be a professor on a full salary on the strength of a Cornell degree that he flunked. And we all know that the only reason why O’Dowd and the bómáin at IrishCentral are supporting this garbage is because Cassidy had lots of important cronies in New York, people like Joe Lee and Peter Quinn, and offending them by acting like a genuine journalist would open up the appalling vista of O’Dowd and his mates having to buy their own cheese and wine for a change.

What a pathetic bunch of fuckwits!

The Weird World of Ancient Aliens

I have been watching Ancient Aliens on the History Channel recently, as research for this post. If you have never watched Ancient Aliens, it is hard to describe just how bad it is. It is essentially a bunch of cranks looking at statues of gods or stone circles from the ancient world and making bizarre assertions about their links to little green (or grey) men. Any god with big eyes is an alien, anything disc-shaped is a UFO, etc. etc. The whole thing is narrated by a man who sounds a little like E.L. Wisty. Here is a piss-take of a typical item, which is only slightly sillier than the real thing.


A typical rock, you might think. [Picture of rock.] A rock like any other rock on earth. A rock picked up and brought to the USA by a young back-packer at an ancient Inca site in Peru. [Picture of someone picking up rock.] Within weeks, the young tourist was convinced that the rock was speaking to her. Mental illness, or was she driven to madness by alien voices, as many ancient alien theorists believe? [Picture of young woman covering ears with anguished expression.] 

[Cut to respectable scientist explaining about current thinking on other dimensions.]

“The current belief is that there are more than just the dimensions we can see around us in the ordinary world. These extra dimensions are hidden,  folded up in the interstices of our everyday reality.”  

[Cut to ancient alien author with crazy hair and a Greek name.]

“So, these aliens who have the technology to travel vast distances across space, they understand the multi-dimensional nature of the universe. We all know the Tardis effect of science fiction, something is bigger on the inside than the outside, right? So how do we know that this rock is not a whole spaceship? It wouldn’t surprise me. It wouldn’t surprise me at all. There could be whole fleets of spaceships inside it.”

[Cut to badly-designed graphic of alien spaceship.]


Why am I having a go at Ancient Aliens on cassidyslangscam? Well, I’m sure many people have wondered why I have expended so much time and effort on someone as marginal and unimportant as Daniel Cassidy. Partly, of course, the reason for this is that Cassidy is treating the Irish language with contempt and I happen to love the Irish language. However, there is a more serious aspect to all this.

The world is awash with pseudoscience and pseudoscholarship. Cassidy’s nonsense is just one example of people believing in any old shite without following scientific methodology, without seeking evidence. People who believe rubbish like this are just as likely to believe in graphology or the MMR link to autism, or AIDS denial, or Hancock’s nonsense about ancient civilisations. They believe in these things for the same reasons – arrogance, hubris, a desire among badly-educated people to be ‘in on’ some arcane story which the ivory-tower scholars have supposedly missed.

However, there is a big difference between these other idiotic theories and Cassidy’s nonsense. They haven’t had positive articles in the New York Times and the Irish Times. The people who peddle AIDS denial and Hancock’s rubbish about ancient civilisations under the ice caps haven’t been given receptions at New York University. They aren’t treated with respect among genuine scholars and intellectuals and quoted in history books and on television programmes.

Cassidy was, in spite of the fact that his ‘research’ was every bit as ridiculous as the worst pseudo-scholarship out there. That’s why the Cassidy Scandal is part of something bigger. And that’s why this story needs to be told.

Ed Moloney and Niall O’Dowd

I found an interesting piece on Niall O’Dowd on Ed Moloney’s blog, The Broken Elbow. You can find the whole thing on this link: http://thebrokenelbow.com/2014/05/03/niall-odowds-bile-explained/. It seems that I am unable to reblog it properly but I hope Ed Moloney will forgive me for quoting the piece below and asking visitors to this blog to check out the original.

“As regular readers of Niall O’Dowd’s Irish Central website will know, the said Niall has been devoting a lot of time and space on ad hominem attacks on myself since the arrest of Gerry Adams.

While basing his attacks on the claim that the Boston oral history archive was set up by myself to undermine the Sinn Fein leader … there is a subtext which explains the real reason for the animosity.

Essentially I found him out stealing my by-line and my articles, written for the Sunday Tribune in Dublin, to use in his Irish Voice newspaper back in the late 1980’s. It was a dirty, cheap thing to do and I confronted him about it (I chose not to go the legal route since that would endanger innocent people’s jobs) and demanded that he pay me a proper fee in future for using my journalism. He had no choice but to agree but our relationship was always a tense one, marked by mutual dislike.

I wrote about it in some length on this blog when O’Dowd first editorialised against myself and Anthony McIntyre and below is a reprint of the relevant part. But he is right about one thing: I dislike liars and will always use my journalism to expose them, whether it be lies from Niall O’Dowd, Gerry Adams, Ian Paisley or Margaret Thatcher.”

In fairness to Niall O’Dowd, I should say that he denies Moloney’s version of events. However, I have no reason to doubt Ed Moloney’s word. Niall O’Dowd, on the other hand, has been responsible for publishing and republishing all kinds of lies, nonsense and rubbish on his IrishCentral site, including the ridiculous articles by Brendan Patrick Keane about Cassidy’s insane theories, so I know who I believe!

Picnic Basket Cases

I came across an interesting parallel to Cassidy’s nonsense recently. Apparently, beginning in the 1990s with a hoax email, many people in the USA have been persuaded that the use of the word picnic is racist. The email claimed that the term originally referred to a lynching, where southern bigots randomly ‘picked a negro’ to lynch and brought the whole family out to eat fried chicken and drink mint juleps in the southern sun.

In an excellent article in Black Voice News (http://www.blackvoicenews.com/more-sections/commentary/41888-an-urban-legend-that-binds-us-the-word-picnic-.html) by Richard O. Jones, the author describes his distaste at being sent a similar email (apparently not the original hoax but someone else spreading this nonsense independently). Here is part of the email he received:

This e-mail is being sent to you as a public service announcement and as information in the form of a little known Black History Fact. This information can also be found in the African American Archives at the Smithsonian Institute. Although not taught in American learning institutions and literature, it is noted in most Black history professional circles and literature that the origin of the term “picnic” derives from the acts of lynching African-Americans. The word “picnic” is rooted from the whole theme of “Pick A Nigger.” This is where individuals would “pic” a Black person to lynch and make this into a family gathering. There would be music and a “picnic.” (“Nic” being the white acronym for “nigger.”) Scenes of this were depicted in the movie “Rosewood.”

We should choose to use the word “barbecue” or “outing” instead of the word “picnic.” Please forward this e-mail to your family and friends and let’s educate our people.

Jones’s comment is just as applicable to the garbage spread by Cassidy and his asinine followers as it is to the case of picnic:

I don’t wish to misinform my friends and family with the likes of another vicious Internet hoax. Many Black people are too quick to believe negative rumors; therefore, I refuse to contribute to national ignorance. These type of hoaxes only serve to make Black people look stupid and by no means is an advancement in education. It is too easy to go to the library and research the origin of words in dictionaries and/or encyclopedias to believe and spread every bit of garbage that comes through cyberspace.

As Jones so rightly says, in the case of picnic  just as in Cassidy’s ridiculous claims, it is very easy to disprove this rubbish. Piquenique originated in France in the 17th century. It has no connection to the American south and nothing to do with black history. The worst thing is that lynching was a real phenomenon. In fact, it still is, though a gun seems to be the weapon of choice now rather than a rope.  Denial of this supposed etymology of picnic doesn’t mean that you are denying lynching or the evils of racism. And denying the validity of Cassidy’s claims about the Irish origins of hundreds of English words doesn’t mean that you are denying the value of the Irish language or supporting an elite of WASPs against your ancestral culture. In fact, it is Cassidy’s supporters who are betraying our language and our culture out of a misplaced loyalty to an ignorant charlatan, just as supporters of the racist picnic idea are allowing themselves to be manipulated by a person or persons unknown whose agenda, whatever it is, has nothing to do with the truth.


Yes, Cassidy was a dick, but that is not the subject of this post.

According to Cassidy in his insane homage to Baron Munchhausen, How The Irish Invented Slang, the word dick, an obsolete slang term for a detective, derives from the Irish word dearc, meaning an eye. This is how the Great Fraud explains it:

“The Pinkerton’s world-famous logo was the giant ‘All-Seeing Eye.’ The Pinkerton private ‘eye’ and labor union spy was christened a dick (dearc, an eye) by the Irish-speaking subjects of its gaze: Molly Maguires, Fenians, Knights of Labor, and Wobblies.”

Whatever! I don’t know where the term comes from, though I would probably be most inclined to regard it as a corruption and shortening of ‘detective’. However, there are various ideas on the table and Grant Barrett goes through some of them in his treatment of Cassidy’s ‘research’: http://grantbarrett.com/humdinger-of-a-bad-irish-scholar

From my perspective, it is important that people realise that dearc is not a reasonable suggestion for the origin of this word. Firstly, dearc is pronounced jarrick in northern dialects and something like darrick in southern Irish. It is not the usual word for eye in Modern Irish, which is súil. I doubt if most Irish speakers would even know the word.

Cassidy’s claim is just the usual boring, self-indulgent nonsense from a delusional halfwit.


The word ballyhoo was originally carnival slang for the spiel which a showman used to get people to gather round his show. It is first recorded in this sense in the early twentieth century and around the same time, it is found in the more general sense of a ruckus or a hubbub.

Now, Cassidy (and Loretto Todd before him – one of the rare examples of a word which both of them claimed for Irish) claimed that this word comes from the Irish bailiú, which means gathering or collecting. There is nothing terribly improbable about this claim but neither is it a great fit. A ballyhoo is a loud thing full of razzamattazz. Bailiú is rattling a box for St Vincent de Paul outside of mass on a Sunday.

And then, of course, there is the little matter of alternative claims.

It seems that the most likely origin of the word is a shortened form of Ballyhooly, which meant a ruckus or rumpus or fuirse-má-rabhdaileam (what a great Irish expression that is!) This apparently derives from Ballyhooly in Count Cork. According to the OED, this came about because Ballyhooly was famous for faction fighting. While one irate local has commented on line that this is a slur on the good name of Ballyhooly, the idea that Ballyhooly was a byword for faction fighting is confirmed in a book called Cork Past and Present, published in 1905:

“At the close of the 18th century, there was a poor and plain Catholic Church about a mile from Ballyhooly but on the southern side of the river Blackwater. It was built on the side of a hill on the road to Rathcormac.
In the year 1819 a lamentable scene was witnessed within its walls. A few of the parishioners were at enmity with some of their neighbours and even in their place of worship and heedless of the counsel of their priest, they could not restrain their angry feelings, but came to blows.”

Apparently at least one person was killed when the riot spilled out onto the roadway outside. By the 1830s, to ‘give someone Ballyhooly’ meant to give someone hell, as in an 1837 story set in the west of Ireland in Tait’s Edinburgh Magazine.

In other words, a shortening of Ballyhooly is a pretty good fit for the origin of ballyhoo – at least as good as bailiú, anyway.

It’s Official – Brassiere Is Irish Too!

Following on the revelations that mazel tov and vichy water are derived from Irish, the Irish Milesian Academy For Intellectual Arts (IrishMAFIA), which was set up to continue the etymological work of the late Daniel Cassidy, has announced that brassiere derives from Irish. Brendan Patrick Gurne, Professor of Creative Etymology at IrishMAFIA, shared his thoughts with our correspondent.

“If you look on the Anglophile etymology websites, they will tell you some implausible story about brassiere coming from the French word for arm as a military arm-protector, then a breast-plate and finally as the modern brassiere but of course, we don’t have to follow any of these university etymologies because orthodox scholarship is all part of an Anglophile conspiracy against the Irish. I guess Oxford scholars wouldn’t know this, but women don’t wear bras on their arms, guys! The origin of this word in Irish is obvious. It comes from breá meaning fine and saor meaning free, thus women who had been used to constrictive corsets called the new underwear breá saor [brah seer], fine and free! The French brassiere is completely unsupported!”

John Weeney of the SoLow Alliance agrees:

“Anyone who disagrees with the Irish origin of the word brassiere, or indeed with any of my opinions or any of the opinions of any of my friends is clearly a self-hating Irishman. I mean, why would anyone deny my right to rewrite the entire linguistic history of Ireland and the USA on the basis of my Christmas card list? No Irish need apply, that’s why! Brassiere is obviously an Irish word. Vive la … similarity, whatever that is in French.”

Peter Quint, Professional Irish-American, said: “What a shame that Danny isn’t here to see his work on the Irish origins of words vindicated!”

Outside of the circle of Cassidy’s friends, reaction to the revelation has been muted.

“I NEVER TUTCHED THOSE BRAS. THEY WOS BLOWN INTO MY BAG BY THE WIND” said a man with a tinfoil hat on the Internet.

Codswallop About Wallop

In his ridiculous book How The Irish Invented Slang, Daniel Cassidy claimed that the word wallop, meaning to beat or strike, is derived from the Irish bhuail leadhb.

The first thing that needs to be pointed out about this claim is that bhuail leadhb is not a proper Irish phrase. Bhuail is the past tense of buail meaning to beat. Leadhb, amongst other things, can refer to a blow or a stroke, but in this sense it is usually used with the word for give – thug sé leadhb dó, he gave him a blow, not bhuail sé leadhb (air?). (This is much the same as English – you don’t beat someone a blow, you beat someone or you give someone a blow.) And bhuail leadhb would never be heard together, because it needs a subject, (bhuail sé leadhb, bhuail Pádraig leadhb) and nobody would borrow a phrase unless they heard it being used, which they wouldn’t with bhuail leadhb. I should also point out that Cassidy claimed bhuail as the origin of wale as well. So the same word becomes wale in one case and wall in another, which is hardly likely.

Furthermore, wallop is an ancient word in English, though it originally meant to gallop. It apparently only acquired the new meaning of to beat or strike in the early 19th century, but this is probably a development of its earlier meaning, or perhaps just a re-use of a word which sounded right for a blow. Wherever it genuinely comes from, the fact is that it doesn’t come from bhuail leadhb, which was invented by a non-Irish-speaking lunatic in California circa 2005.