Tag Archives: an Ghaeilge

Cassidese Glossary – Oliver

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.

Daniel Cassidy informs us in his etymological hoax How The Irish Invented Slang, that the obsolete slang term for the moon, oliver, comes from the Irish oll ubh óir, a great golden egg. This is one way (a wrong way – it should be ollubh óir) of saying big golden egg in Irish, though certainly not the usual way (ubh mhór óir) but why óir? Why golden? Surely the moon is always regarded as silvery, in contrast to the golden quality of the sun? I don’t know the real origin of oliver though folklore apparently links it to Oliver Cromwell and his bald pate. But I don’t believe it comes from oll ubh óir, which makes no sense at all.


Cassidese Glossary – Mac, Mack

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.

In Daniel Cassidy’s etymological hoax, How The Irish Invented Slang, Cassidy claims that this expression, used as an address to strangers in America, comes directly from the Irish word mac, which means son. On the face of it, this looks fairly convincing.

However, we need to examine such claims closely and objectively. The first problem is quite simply, why is this only an American expression? If it really came from Irish, surely you would expect Irish people to use it commonly? This is not the case.

Secondly, the term mac(k) is used to address people. The Irish language has a special case, the vocative, which is used to address people or animals or objects. Thus someone called Seán will be addressed in Irish as a Sheáin (a hyine). Someone called Máire will be addressed as a Mháire (a wyra).

In fact (as is usual in our language) it’s a little bit more complicated than that. As I mentioned in relation to the expression a stór, the grammar books specify that if an expression is metaphorical, then the word simply changes at the start (if it can change). Thus if you address someone as your treasure, you say a stór. If for some reason you are addressing a real box of treasure, you will make the full vocative change and say a stóir. If you don’t speak any Irish, don’t worry too much about this. All you need to know is that there are two ways of using mac in the vocative, a mhac (a wack) or a mhic (a vick). The former is theoretically used of someone who could be your son but isn’t, while a mhic would be used to your son.

In other words, as Irish speakers don’t say mac when addressing people, why would this expression come from Irish?

Incidentally, I’ll just share a cautionary tale with you here about how easy it is to be fooled by phoney etymologies. A few years ago, someone suggested that there was a lot of Irish in the slang of Liverpool, which is one of the most Irish places in England. One example given was the parting salutation Tara, whack!, which means something like ‘Goodbye, mate!’ This was claimed to be from Tabhair aire, a mhac! (Take care, sonny!) At the time, I thought this sounded reasonably convincing. While researching Cassidy’s book, I looked again at questions like this and found that it is almost certainly not true. Expressions like tara and tata are found in lots of dialects of English, not just Liverpudlian, and it turns out that long before Liverpudlians were known as Scousers (from a regional dish called lobscouse), they were termed whackers, which is a local English expression and probably unconnected with Irish. It is first recorded in 1768 but is not recorded in the shortened form of whack until the 1960s. Just goes to show that in etymology, even things that look convincing are often completely false.

Cassidese Glossary – Juke

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.

A juke joint is an old word for an inn or drinking-house in North America. It is believed to derive from the American English dialect of African origin known as Gullah, where juke or joog apparently had the meaning of wicked or unruly. In other words, it’s a rowdy or disorderly house.

Daniel Cassidy, in his book of false etymologies How The Irish Invented Slang, claimed that this comes from the Irish word diúg, which means to drain, to drink or to suck. There is absolutely no evidence for this and nobody in Irish has ever talked about a pub or inn as a teach diúgtha or teach diúgaireachta, so why would a phrase that doesn’t exist in Irish have been borrowed from Irish? It’s simply nonsense.

Cassidese Glossary – Joint

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.


In his work of fanciful and fake etymologies, How The Irish Invented Slang, Daniel Cassidy claimed that the word joint, an old slang term for a house or bar or place in general, derives from Irish. The real experts are in agreement that the word seems to have originated in the English of Ireland, though not in the Irish language. As the Online Etymological Dictionary says:

Slang meaning of “place, building, establishment” (especially one where persons meet for shady activities) first recorded 1877, American English, from an earlier Anglo-Irish sense (1821), perhaps on the notion of a side-room, one “joined” to a main room.

For Cassidy, it has no connection with joining or adjoining. To him, it comes from the Irish word díonta, which according to Cassidy means:

Díon (pron. jinn), díonta, (pron. jínnta), n., a shelter, a roof, state of being wind and watertight; fig., a shelter of any kind, a house, shack, shanty, lean-to, “roof over your head”, tent. Díonta, (pron. jínnta), p.p. sheltered (from elements), protected. Díonta = Díon, n. (Ó Dónaill, 413)

This is not an accurate account of the meanings of díon/díonta. The word díon primarily means roof in Irish. It can also be used in a more general sense to mean protection. Thus uiscedhíonach means waterproof in Irish and tú féin a chur faoi dhíon duine means to place yourself under someone’s protection. However, it would not be used to mean a shelter or hide or hut, because there are better words for that, such as foscadh or scáthlán or dídeanDíonta is simply the plural of the noun díon and means rooves (or roofs if that is your preferred spelling). Díon is also a verb in Irish and díonta can be the past participle of that verb – i.e. roofed or protected. However, words do not cross easily in Irish between grammatical categories and díonta would not be used for a roofed place or sheltered place, as Cassidy implies, any more than you would say “I took shelter in a roofed” in English.

The word díonta is also pronounced jeenta, which doesn’t sound much like joint anyway.

Cora Casta an Dátheangachais

Mar is eol do dhuine ar bith a bhfuil CassidySlangScam léite aige nó aici, bhunaigh mé an blag seo tuairim is sé bliana ó shin leis an fhírinne a insint faoi Daniel Cassidy, nach maireann, agus a chuid tuairimí craiceáilte faoi bhunús Gaelach bhéarlagair an Bhéarla. Bhí ról lárnach ag an dá theanga (an Ghaeilge agus an Béarla) sa bhlag seo ón chéad lá riamh ach ar chúiseanna praiticiúla, is i mBéarla a bhí mórchuid na bpostálacha ar feadh fada go leor. Ar ndóigh, bhí caimiléireacht Cassidy dírithe ar Ghael-Mheiriceánaigh nach raibh Gaeilge ar bith acu, ní ar chainteoirí líofa Gaeilge in Éirinn (a d’aithneodh láithreach nach raibh i leabhar Cassidy ach raiméis) agus mar sin de, shíl mé gur chóir dom an chuid ba mhó den ábhar a chur ar fáil i mBéarla le freastal ar an phobal sin.

I dtús na bliana seo, rinne mé cinneadh Bliain na Gaeilge a chomóradh trí gach alt a chur suas sa dá theanga. Más alt gairid a bhí i gceist, chuir mé an dá leagan le chéile ar aon leathanach amháin. Leis na haltanna is faide, rinne mé dhá phostáil, ceann amháin i nGaeilge agus ceann eile i mBéarla. An cheist atá ann, áfach, ar chóir dom leanúint ar aghaidh leis an bheartas dhátheangach seo san athbhliain?

Cé go bhfuil an-dúil agam sa Ghaeilge agus cé go dtugaim tacaíocht don dátheangachas sa tír seo agus i dtíortha eile a bhfuil mionlach teanga ann, tá seans maith nach mbeidh mé ag leanúint ar aghaidh leis an bheartas seo in 2019. Beidh postálacha dátheangacha anseo, cinnte, ach ní chuirfidh mé dhá leagan de gach alt ar fáil.

Cén fáth? Bhal, ar an chéad dul síos, is dócha nach bhfuil na leaganacha Gaeilge de dhíth. Tuigeann gach Gaeilgeoir (bhal, gach Gaeilgeoir ciallmhar!) nach bhfuil i saothar Cassidy ach ramhaille geilte. Chuir mé an blag seo ar fáil go príomha leis an fhírinne a scaipeadh i measc leantóirí Cassidy i Meiriceá. Is beag duine a léann na leathanaigh Ghaeilge i gcomparáid leis na leaganacha Béarla.

Ar an dara dul síos, tá acmhainní ag comhlachtaí móra a gcuid doiciméad a aistriú go Gaeilge. Is duine aonair mise, atá ag iarraidh éagóir a cheartú agus an fhírinne a scaipeadh. De ghnáth, scríobhaim na píosaí s’agamsa i mBéarla ar dtús – cé gur scríobh mé dornán acu i nGaeilge agus d’aistrigh mé go Béarla iad. Ar ndóigh, is den chiall an leagan Béarla a dhéanamh ar dtús, mar go mbaineann an blag seo go príomha le leabhar a scríobhadh i mBéarla, le foinsí atá ar fail i mBéarla, agus le Gaeilge nach Gaeilge í ar chor ar bith. Ach ansin, i ndiaidh dom an bundréacht a chumadh (i nGaeilge nó i mBéarla), bíonn orm aistriúchán a chur ar fáil sa teanga eile. Ní gan dua a dhéantar sin, ar ndóigh. Agus in amanna, bíonn a thoradh sin le feiceáil i líon na meancóg agus na mílitrithe. Lena rá i mbeagán focal, cuireann sé dhá oiread níos mó brú ormsa agus is ísle caighdeán na scríbhneoireachta dá dheasca sin. Dá mbeadh a lán ama agam, ba chuma faoi sin. Ach níl. Is duine thar a bheith gnóthach mé.

Anois, beidh postálacha dátheangacha ar an bhlag seo sa bhliain 2019, gan amhras. Is maith an rud é cur leis an méid Gaeilge ar line, agus is den tábhacht a thaispeáint do lucht tacaíochta Cassidy gur fíortheanga í an Ghaeilge, teanga atá go fóill beo agus in úsáid ar bhonn laethúil agamsa, ag Ciara Ní É, ag Eoin P. Ó Murchú, ag Maitiú Ó Coimín agus ag a lán daoine eile atá ar an taobh cheart sa choimhlínt seo. Déanfaidh mé mo dhícheall cur leis an méid Gaeilge ar an tsuíomh seo. Ach ní bheidh mé ag cur gach postáil ar fáil sa dá theanga amach anseo. Tá barraíocht oibre i gceist agus níl go leor ama agam lena dhéanamh mar is ceart.

Craic Baby

Last Christmas, I received a copy of the book Motherfoclóir. As I explained in several posts here, I generally like the concept of the book, but I was less impressed with its author’s etymological skills. Recently, I happened to be in a bookshop and I saw a copy of the successor to Motherfoclóir, Craic Baby. I stood for a while and glanced through it. As with the previous book, most of it seems interesting enough. However, I did happen across a discussion of the words crack and craic. Again, I was very underwhelmed with his comments on this subject.

The facts about the origins of crack/craic are well-known and have been discussed here before. From a meaning of a loud noise in Middle English (also in Scots), it came to mean boastful talk and conversation. It’s found all over Scotland and Northern England. In more recent times, it has been Gaelicised as craic but there is no evidence that it is derived from Irish. There is also plenty of evidence that it doesn’t.

Ó Séaghdha said that there are several pieces of ‘evidence’ for the Irish origin of craic. One is the word craiceann, which means skin, but has a secondary meaning of sex, as in the phrase ag bualadh craicinn, literally beating skin. (Ó Séaghdha misspells this as ag bualaidh, which is an elementary mistake.) The link between craic and craiceann is obvious nonsense. I mean, does Béarla (the Irish word for English) constitute proof that béar (bear) is an ancient Irish word? Is there an intrinsic link between skillet and skill, or kit and kitten? Of course not. And the idea that craiceann has a subsidiary meaning of sex and sex is fun so craiceann means fun is pretty silly.

Even sillier is the second piece of ‘evidence’, namely the existence of the word craiceáilte, which means cracked or crazy. While there are some native words formed with -áil or -eáil, most words with these endings are words of foreign origin. Here are some common examples: cniotáil (to knit); traenáil (to train); pacáil (to pack). These can also generate nouns for people who do things: a scíálaí is a skier, a paraisiútálaí is a parachutist. They can also form adjectives: cócaráilte means cooked, fancyáilte is fancy (in speech – you wouldn’t usually write it), and craiceáilte is cracked. In other words, this is obviously a non-Irish word.

As I say, I haven’t read this book. If I receive a copy of Craic Baby for Christmas (and there’s every chance I will), I will read it and probably enjoy most of it. However, if there’s ever a number three in the series, I do hope he resists the temptation to make any etymological speculations because he really isn’t very good at it.


An Nollaig seo caite, fuair mé cóip den leabhar Motherfoclóir. Mar a mhínigh mé i roinnt postálacha anseo, is maith liom coincheap an leabhair, go ginearálta, ach is lú an dúil a bhí agam i scileanna sanasaíochta an údair. Seachtain ó shin, tharla dom bheith i siopa leabhar ag amharc ar chomharba Motherfoclóir, Craic Baby. D’fhan mé i mo sheasamh ansin ar feadh tamaill agus bhreathnaigh mé ar roinnt leathanach. Mar a bhí leis an leabhar roimhe, bhí an chuid ba mhó de measartha spéisiúil. Agus sin ráite, tháinig mé ar phlé ar an fhocal craic, nó crack. Agus arís eile, is beag an meas a bhí agam ar na rudaí a bhí le rá aige faoin ábhar seo.

Pléadh na fíricí faoi bhunús craic/crack anseo agus in áiteanna eile. Fuaim ard an chiall a bhí le crack sa MheánBhéarla (agus san Albainis fosta), agus ansin fuair sé ciall eile, mar atá, caint ghlórach mhórtasach. Tá an focal le fáil ar fud na hAlban agus Thuaisceart Shasana fosta. Le blianta beaga anuas, rinneadh Gaelú ar an fhocal mar chraic, ach nil aon fhianaise ann gur tháinig sé ón Ghaeilge. Agus tá a lán fianaise ann nár tháinig sé ón Ghaeilge, ar ndóigh.

Dúirt Ó Séaghdha go bhfuil cúpla píosa ‘fianaise’ ann le bunús Gaelach an fhocail craic. Ceann de na píosaí fianaise seo ná an focal craiceann, a bhfuil an chiall thánaisteach ‘gnéas’ leis, ar ndóigh, mar shampla, sa fhrása sin ‘ag bualadh craicinn’. (Mílitríonn Ó Séaghdha an focal seo mar bualaidh – is meancóg bhunúsach é sin.) Is léir gur raiméis é an nasc idir craic agus craiceann. Mar shampla, an gcruthaíonn an focal Béarla gur focal ársa Gaeilge é béar? An bhfuil baint idir camall agus scamall? Agus is amaidí fosta an tuairim a nochtann Ó Séaghdha go gciallaíonn craiceann gnéas agus is mór an spórt é gnéas agus mar sin de, is ionann craiceann agus craic!

Tá an dara píosa ‘fianaise’ níos amaidí fós, is é sin, go bhfuil an focal craiceáilte ann. Mar a thuigfidh Gaeilgeoir ar bith arbh fhiú an t-ainm, is comhartha é -eáilte gur focal gallda fréamh an fhocail m.sh. traenáilte agus postáilte agus péinteáilte. Lena rá ar dhóigh eile, cruthaíonn foirm an fhocail craiceáilte nach focal dúchasach é craic.

Mar a dúirt mé, níl an leabhar seo léite agam. Má fhaighim cóip de Craic Baby don Nollaig (agus tá gach seans ann go bhfaighidh), léifidh mé é agus is dócha go mbainfidh mé sult as an chuid is mó de. Agus sin ráite, má scríobhann Ó Séaghdha an tríú leabhar sa tsraith choíche, tá súil agam nach mbacfaidh sé le tuilleadh buillí faoi thuairim a thabhairt faoin tsanasaíocht, mar is cinnte nach bhfuil tuairim dá laghad aige faoi stair na bhfocal.

Cá huair nach troll é troll?

Sa bhliain 2013, thosaigh mé ar an bhlag seo a choinneáil mar fhreagra ar leabhar Daniel Cassidy, How The Irish Invented Slang. Bhí fuath agam don leabhar seo, agus ní gan chúis: tá dúil mhór agam sa Ghaeilge, agus bhí leabhar Cassidy lán den Ghaeilge bhréagach nach raibh baint dá laghad aici le fíorGhaeilge; bhí Cassidy iontach maith ag lí roimhe agus ina dhiaidh agus ag plámásaíocht le daoine a raibh cairde sa chúirt acu agus bhain sé úsáid as na naisc seo a bhí saothraithe aige chomh cúramach sin le cuma an léinn a chur ar shaothar nach bhfuil pioc níos léannta ná leabhair Erich von Daniken; chruthaigh Cassidy íomhá den radacacht, agus mar gheall air sin, rinneadh ionsaí ar aon iarracht an fhírinne a insint faoi Cassidy agus a chuid caimiléireachta agus maíodh nach raibh ann ach iarracht clíceanna mistéireacha Anglaifíleacha a chosaint i saol na teangeolaíochta. Agus mé ag déanamh taighde ar Cassidy, fuair mé amach (ó dheirfiúr Cassidy) gur theip air a chéim a fháil ó Cornell agus nach bhfuil míniú ar bith ar ghairm Cassidy mar ‘ollamh’ ag New College of California ach calaois lom neamhleithscéalach.

Ó thosaigh mé ag blagáil cúig bliana ó shin, is minic a cáineadh mé. Ar roinnt ócáidí, tugadh troll orm. An uair dheireanach dar tugadh troll orm, bhí sé roinnt míonna ó shin, nuair a thug deartháir Cassidy, Michael, an t-ainm maslach sin orm.

Mar sin de, tá mé ag machnamh ar na mallaibh faoi cad é go díreach a chiallaíonn an focal troll agus shíl mé go roinnfinn mo chuid smaointe le léitheoirí an bhlaig seo. I dtús báire, b’fhéidir gur chóir dúinn amharc ar shainmhíniú coitianta den téarma troll, cosúil leis an cheann seo ó Wikipedia:

In Internet slang, a troll is a person who starts quarrels or upsets people on the Internet to distract and sow discord by posting inflammatory and digressive, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community (such as a newsgroup, forum, chat room, or blog) with the intent of provoking readers into displaying emotional responses and normalizing tangential discussion, whether for the troll’s amusement or a specific gain.

An chéad rud a léim amach anseo ná an chuid sin faoi ‘in an online community’ (i bpobal ar líne’). Is blag é CassidySlangScam a bhunaigh mé leis an fhírinne a nochtadh faoi leabhar Daniel Cassidy, agus chomh maith leis sin, le faisnéis a chur ar fáil faoi rudaí iontaofa agus neamhiontaofa a chum daoine eile seachas Cassidy maidir le sanasaíocht na Gaeilge. Ar na hócáidí sin nuair a d’fhág mé teachtaireachtaí ar fhóraim níos poiblí, ní dhearna mé iarracht duine ar bith a ghortú ná olc a chur orthu. Is é an phríomhaidhm a bhí agam ná faisnéis a chur ar fáil agus na bréaga agus an raiméis a scaip Cassidy agus a chuid cairde a dhíchruthú.

An fhadhb atá ann, de réir cosúlachta, ná go bhfuil a lán daoine ann a shíleann gurb ionann troll agus duine nach n-aontaíonn leosan. Níl an ceart acu. Níl mise ag iarraidh olc a chur ar dhaoine, cé gur cuma liom dáiríre má chuirim olc ar dhaoine a bhfuil an cáineadh tuillte acu. Is é fírinne an scéil – agus is fírinne é, gan amhras – gur Daniel Cassidy agus an dream liútálaithe a lean é a thosaigh seo. Iadsan a scaip bréaga, iadsan a mhaslaigh scoláirí ionraice, iadsan a rinne ionsaí ar dhuine ar bith nár aontaigh le caimiléireacht lom fhollasach. Tá liosta fada frásaí gránna, míchumtha, mímhacánta i leabhar Cassidy, frásaí nach bhfuil baint ná páirt acu leis an Ghaeilge. Sa bhlag seo, thug mé dúshlán lucht cosanta Cassidy arís agus arís eile. D’iarr mé orthu fianaise a chur ar fáil le tacú le hamaidí Cassidy, fianaise ar féidir í a dhearbhú nó a bhréagnú go hoibiachtúil. Ní dhearna duine ar bith acu raiméis Cassidy a chosaint riamh. Síleann siad gur chóir do dhaoine a dtuairimí a ghlacadh i ndáiríre, fiú nuair nach bhfuil sna tuairimí sin ach deargchumadóireacht agus nuair nach bhfuil siad sásta iad a chosaint le cruthúnas.

Is maith leis na daoine seo ligean orthu gur fear ionraic a bhí i nDaniel Cassidy, duine a raibh dea-rún aige agus nach raibh ann ach go ndearna sé roinnt meancóg. Tá an méid sin ag teacht salach ar an fhianaise go léir. Tá a lán, lán samplaí ar an bhlag seo de mhímhacántacht, de phoimpéis, d’éirí in airde agus de dhroch-chroí an duine seo. Ní raibh meas dá laghad tuillte aige. Ní raibh oiread agus trua tuillte aige.

Más dóigh le duine ar bith gur chóir dom bheith níos cineálta faoi Cassidy (agus tá mé ag déanamh go bhfuil na daoine a thugann troll orm ag maíomh nach bhfuil bunús leis na hionsaithe a rinne mé ar Cassidy), tá sé thar am acu roinnt cruthúnais a thairiscint nach bréagadóir a bhí ann.  Níor thug duine ar bith fianaise ar bith nach naircisíoch agus caimiléir a bhí in Daniel Cassidy. Agus mura dtig leo sin a dhéanamh, leanfaidh mise de bheith ag insint na fírinne agus ag rá nach bhfuil in Cassidy agus sna daoine a dhéanann an cur i gcéill seo a chosaint ach bréagadóir gan náire.

Agus gach rud ráite, dá dtiocfadh leo an blag seo a bhréagnú agus fianaise a thabhairt go raibh an ceart ag Cassidy, nach neartódh sin an cás gur troll mise? Ach má shíleann siadsan gur chóir do gach duine glacadh lena gcuid tuairimí gan fianaise, agus go bhfuil an ceart acusan teacht anseo agus mise agus daoine eile a cháineann Cassidy a mhaslú gan argóint réasúnach a dhéanamh, nach cruthú é sin gurb iadsan na troill?