Tag Archives: bad linguistics

Doggone it, Danny!

Another of the crazy and ridiculous derivations in Daniel Cassidy’s book How The Irish Invented Slang is his speculation about the origins of the word doggone. It is worth giving Cassidy’s entry on this subject in full, as it shows clearly how fraudulent and incompetent Daniel Cassidy was.

Doggone, excl., adj., adv., an exclamation of irritation, disappointment, someone or something nasty, crude, gross; darned. Not recorded in English till the 19th century. Origin unknown.

Dogairne, n., a gross crude person or thing. Dógan, n., a sort of oath or exclamation, (Ó Dónaill, 1977, 427; Dwelly, Gaelic-English Dictionary, 1901, 347.)

Let’s just examine Cassidy’s claim carefully. First of all, Cassidy says that the origin of ‘doggone’ is unknown. Is it?

Of course not! As usual, Cassidy was lying.

The dictionaries are agreed that dog-gone or doggone is a 19th century Americanism and that it is a minced oath, a disguised blasphemy. The Oxford English Dictionary says it is ‘generally taken as a deformation of the profane God damn.’ The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (4th ed.) says that ‘doggone’ is an ‘alteration of the Scots dagone,’ which is in turn an ‘alteration of goddamn.’ Merriam-Webster says that it is ‘a euphemism for God damn.’

Furthermore, God damn and doggone are used in exactly the same way. Sometimes they are an exclamation, God damn it! (Doggone it!) What have you done? and sometimes as an adjective, Just take the goddamn (doggone) money already!

It is an indication of how stupid and deluded Cassidy was that he seems to think giving two derivations strengthens his case. Of course, in reality, the fact that Cassidy provides two completely separate words in different languages just serves to show how easy it is to find a spurious Gaelic derivation.

Dogairne is a rare word derived from docair (more usually deacair in modern Irish), which means ‘hard, difficult’. Dogairne is a noun, and is defined as ‘A gross, crude, person or thing.’ Doggone, of course, is not used as a noun. You can’t say ‘My cousin is a total doggone.’

As for dògan, this is a Scottish Gaelic exclamation. The Scottish Gaelic dictionaries make it quite clear that this is a borrowing from doggone or from the Scots equivalent. Note also that Cassidy once again betrayed his total ignorance of the Gaelic languages, as he wrote it as dógan. Anyone who knew the slightest thing about Irish and Gaelic would know that Scottish Gaelic always uses grave accents (the ones that slope back) while Irish always uses acute accents (sloping forward).

 

My Arse, Cassidy!

As I have repeated over and over again in this blog, Daniel Cassidy’s claims about Irish are almost entirely rubbish. His methodology consisted of finding phrases in English, deciding that they came from Irish, and then hunting through Irish (and/or Scottish Gaelic) dictionaries to find Irish equivalents. However, as there was hardly ever a satisfactory equivalent in the dictionaries, Cassidy put words together in ridiculous and unrealistic ways. According to his supporters, this doesn’t matter, because the Irish in 19th century slums supposedly forgot all their grammar and apparently stuck words together in random and incomprehensible ways.

Here’s a clear example of what Cassidy did. Suppose I am Cassidy and I decide that the phrase ‘My arse’ as an expression of scepticism at someone else’s words doesn’t come from the English words ‘my’ and ‘arse’. So I go to an Irish dictionary. I don’t actually speak any Irish, of course, and I’m not really sure about the pronunciation, but what the Hell! I’m Daniel Cassidy! I’m a genius! So, I find the word maith which means good or well, and which is pronounced mah or moy. So far, so good! Then I look for something which might go with it. Ah, there’s a word arsa, which means ‘said’.

So, if I put maith and arsa together, I get the ironic ‘Irish’ phrase maith arsa, which means ‘well said!’

Of course, this isn’t a real phrase, and it only makes sense if you pluck definitions for the component words randomly out of dictionaries. In Irish, the word arsa is limited in its use. It only ever occurs sandwiched between reported speech and the name of the person speaking. Almost all of the phrases in Cassidy’s book are like this, childish fakes based on misunderstood out-of-context dictionary entries which bear no relation at all to the genuine Irish language, a language of which Cassidy was totally ignorant.

Dick

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.

Owen on Lollygagging

Oh dear! Here we go again! I’ve had another message from Owen.

Your argument that the word “leath-luighe géag” couldn’t mean “lollygag” is flawed because you’re basing it on the present day meaning of the Irish Gaelic words and not the language as it was used by poor Irish immigrants in the 1800’s. It stands to reason that semantic shifts and phonology could have produced the English word in question.

Man dear, it’s obvious that you are intent on defending Cassidy’s idiotic book go bun an angair but perhaps you should find some other pointless and Quixotic enterprise – restoring King Zog to the throne of Albania or saving the dodo from extinction spring to mind.

So the language as used in the 19th century was totally different from the modern language, was it? Like many Irish speakers, many of the books I read in Irish were written in the early years of the Revival, works like Mac Gabhann’s Rotha Mór an tSaoil, which I mentioned in a post recently. I have no difficulty in understanding Mac Gabhann’s Irish at all, yet he was born in 1865. Most of the people around him when he was growing up lived through the Famine. Languages change, but they don’t change that radically in 150 years.

As for how that language differed from modern Irish, I have some idea about that. Cassidy didn’t, because Cassidy didn’t speak any Irish at all. I suspect the same is true of you. You are talking about things you know nothing about.

There is no evidence that anyone has ever used leath-luighe géag in Irish. As I’ve explained, it doesn’t make sense and incidentally, it is a phrase, not a word. Phrases are rarely borrowed between languages, especially phrases which don’t actually exist in the source language. And as for semantic shifts, I suppose that means changing the meaning of words any way you want. And phonology means changing the sounds any way you want. So essentially, you’re saying that I’m being unreasonable if I don’t accept your right to take a made-up phrase in ‘Irish’, change the pronunciation and meaning of the constituent words any way that suits you and claim this as the origin of an English word.

The fact is, there is no evidence for any of this. And it might seem to you that these things ‘stand to reason’, but to people who are genuinely reasonable they don’t make sense at all. Have a very merry Christmas with Cassidy, Santy and the Tooth Fairy. And as for me, I’ll continue to put my trust in genuine, verifiable facts.

Swoon

In his ridiculous book, How The Irish Invented Slang, Daniel Cassidy made hundreds of stupid and easily disprovable claims. One of the most stupid of these claims is the one about swoon (to faint), which he claims comes from the Irish suan, an old-fashioned word for sleep. Confusingly, he states that the English word swoon is of unknown etymology, then below that he says:

Many Anglo-American dictionaries derive swoon “from Old English geswōgan in a faint … past participle of swōgan, as in āswōgan, to choke, of uncertain origin.”

In other words, according to the mainstream dictionaries, the etymology of the word swoon is known back to the Old English period more than a thousand years ago and by the Middle English period (according to the Michigan Middle English Dictionary) it was swounen, defined as “To become unconscious, faint, swoon; collapse in a swoon.”

Just because suan happens to resemble swoon doesn’t automatically mean it’s the origin of the word. After all, the Irish for to faint isn’t anything to do with suan. It’s titim i laige or titim i bhfanntais.

A Halloween Challenge

I found an interesting piece on an online forum called Irish Gaelic Translator, relating to the death of Daniel Cassidy. It talks about his awful book and one commentator, someone calling themselves Redwolf, says:

“This book was being discussed at the Deireadh Seachtaine Gaeltachta, and one of the teachers from Ireland noted that for a long time the Oxford dictionary refused to acknowledge the Irish origin of many words that are KNOWN to be Irish (such as “slew” and “whiskey,” listing them instead as “origin unknown”).”

Interesting. It is amazing what kind of a stew people get into when they refuse to base their arguments on real evidence. I am quite sure that these claims are nonsense. I don’t know when slew first made it into the OED, but I would suggest this was pretty recent, because it would have been regarded as an Americanism even a couple of decades ago. The Gaelic origin of slew seems to me pretty cast-iron and I think it would be very strange if the OED denied this. As for whiskey/whisky, they may have argued about which version of Gaelic it comes from, Scottish Gaelic or Irish, but the idea that any dictionary ever put ‘origin unknown’ beside the word whisky seems to me to be a pure fiction.

So, here’s a Hallowe’en challenge for the Cassidy Cronies out there. This is a matter of evidence. It’s either true that the OED said that slew and whiskey are ‘origin unknown’ or it’s untrue. I’m saying that, on the basis of what I know, this is not likely to be true. It’s likely to be another childish, half-baked, worthless piece of crapology from the Cassidy lobby.

But I suppose I could be wrong. So, why don’t you go out and find a good library, check a few old editions of the OED and find a clear reference? Quote me chapter and verse about which edition of the OED we’re talking about and I’ll post this information here. However, I won’t be holding my breath! So far, these people have refused to provide any evidence at all.

Bainigí sult as Oíche Shamhna, cibé!

 

A Comparison With Yiddish

As I have said before, many of Cassidy’s supporters outdo Cassidy himself in the lying stakes by claiming something that Cassidy himself didn’t (not in the book, anyway), that the Irish language was completely changed and mangled in the ghettoes of America. They do this in order to continue claiming that Cassidy’s ridiculous Irish candidates are the origin of English words in spite of the fact that they don’t exist in Irish and break all the rules of Irish grammar and usage. According to these clowns, the words and phrases do exist, though they were never recorded, because the shanty Irish in the ghettoes produced a completely new version of the language.

I got to thinking about this. Is there any way of testing the hypothesis? Of course, as it doesn’t depend on any evidence, it is hard to confirm or refute it. However, it occurred to me that it would be useful to compare some of the loan words found in English from another language, to see if the same pattern is found there. The language I chose was Yiddish, which has given a number of high-profile and well-known words to American (and world) English.

Here are five common Yiddish words which have made it into English.

The English word putz is from Yiddish puts or pots. It is found in an online Yiddish dictionary with the meaning of fool or penis.

The English word shmuck is from Yiddish shmok or shmuk. It is found in online Yiddish dictionary with the exact same meaning of fool or penis.

The English word glitch comes from Yiddish glitsh or glitshn, meaning a slip or to slip. It is find in online Yiddish dictionaries.

The English word schmooze is from Yiddish shmues, meaning, talk, chat or converse. It is in the online Yiddish dictionaries.

The English word maven is from the Yiddish meyven, meaning expert, connoisseur. It is found in an online Yiddish dictionary with the same meaning.

Now let’s look at five of Cassidy’s daft derivations, taken pretty much at random from the words which haven’t yet been dealt with on this blog.

The phrase to eighty-six something, according to Cassidy, is derived from eiteachas aíochta (a denial of hospitality). As usual, this is a very clunky and unnatural phrase which has never been recorded in Irish. Furthermore, there are various explanations for ‘eighty-sixing’ and there is a full discussion of the term on Wikipedia (which doesn’t include eiteachas aíochta as a possibility.)

According to Cassidy, the phrase drag racing comes from Irish de ráig, meaning suddenly or precipitately. Explanations involving the Englsh word drag range from a simple challenge (“Drag your car out of the garage and race me!”) to geographical locale (the “main drag” was a city’s main street, often the only one wide enough to accommodate two vehicles) to the mechanical (to “drag” the gears meant to hold the transmission in gear longer than normal). De ráig is a real phrase but is quite uncommon and is much less appropriate as an origin than the English word drag, which is obviously a lot closer in sound as well.

Cassidy claimed that scallywag or scalawag comes from Irish scolla + English wag. Cassidy couldn’t make this one work without randomly bringing in the English word wag. He claimed that the Irish word scolla is suitable for the first part, but not only is scolla not found in Ó Dónaill’s dictionary, (it is found in Dnneen) it is obviously a word of non-Irish origin, like almost all nouns in Irish which end in a consonant and the letter a.

Cassidy claimed that cheese it derives from Irish téigh as. Téigh is the imperative form of the verb ‘to go’, and as means ‘out of’. In other words, this could mean ‘go out of’. Apparently, the slang term cheese it means to shut up or to run away. There are two verbs to go in Irish. The appropriate one here is imigh, not téigh, because imigh means to go away. Cassidy’s claim that téigh as is figuratively used to mean ‘shut up’ is a typical Cassidy lie.

Cassidy claimed that Holy Mackerel derives from Irish Mac Ríúil (Kingly Son!) Of course, as in the case of scallywag, in order to get this the way he wanted, Cassidy had to leave half of it in English! The fact is that Holy Mackerel is a euphemism for Holy Mary or something similar. And there is no evidence that anyone has ever used Mac Ríúil in any context as a phrase in Irish.

Spot the difference? The Yiddish borrowings are nearly all simple words, recognisable to Yiddish speakers. Cassidy’s claims are implausible rubbish, unsupported by any evidence and completely meaningless to any Irish speaker.

A Grunt From Under The Bridge

Over the last few days, a number of trolling messages from some idiot in New York appeared on the comments section of this blog. Now, a while ago, in answer to another dumbass in America, I stated that I would simply delete any further stupidities sent to this account without bothering to answer them. I was tempted to do so with these messages, but I have decided to answer the unknown troll in this post, not because I think that liars and fantasists have a right to an answer when they repeat the same nonsense over and over again and refuse to engage in rational debate about the facts, but because it gives me a chance to reiterate some of the many criticisms I have made of Cassidy and of his cretinous supporters in the past.

The troll, who calls himself Sean, states that Cassidy has considerable fame in America, as if I would disagree with this. No, I wouldn’t disagree. Cassidy has achieved considerable fame and his books have sold well. I have said as much in many places on this blog. I have also stated the fact that any fame and money which Cassidy has achieved from this book is undeserved, because he was an idiot who knew nothing about the Irish language or linguistics in general.

The troll also says that for anyone living in America for any period of time, and knowing its culture, the connections of the words are clear. It is hard to see what point the idiot is making here, apart from saying that I as a mere Irish person am unqualified to comment on Irish-American culture and should shut up. But what is clear is very subjective. You see, in the area where I live, there used to be a lady who wore fluorescent pink spectacles, pushed an old pram around and wore an overcoat covered with sheets of paper with strange and cryptic messages on them. The content of the overcoat was garbled but the upshot was that the extermination of European Jewry in the Second World War was not primarily the work of Hitler and Goebbels. Apparently this genocide was masterminded by the Everly Brothers. To this lady, this was presumably crystal clear. One person’s clear and obvious is frequently another person’s totally nuts.

Why am I comparing you to a mad bag-lady, my trolling friend? Well, let’s just take your comment about those familiar with the American context and analyse them from the perspective of an intelligent person (me) rather than an idiot (you). How exactly is the American context relevant? Nobody is saying that American politicians didn’t call their sidekicks ward heelers, or that an ikey heyman wasn’t a name for a handle used to fix wheels of fortune in fairgrounds, or that a policeman in America wasn’t called a crusher. These are facts. What smart people like me are saying is this: that there is no way that ward heeler derives from the Irish éilitheoir, or that ikey heyman derives from ag céimnigh, or that crusher comes from cuir siar ar. I know that these claims and virtually every claim in this trashy book are bullshit. I know that because, unlike you and unlike Cassidy, I actually speak Irish. Apparently, actually daring to know some Irish makes me a pedant.

This lazy, stupid troll also states that the majority of Cassidy’s words were given as origin unknown. I have dealt with this question in a post appropriately labelled Origin Unknown? The majority of the words given fake Irish derivations in Cassidy’s book are not given as origin unknown in mainstream dictionaries. This is a total lie on the troll’s part, easily demonstrable by checking the words in Cassidy’s book against the dictionaries. He also claims that those who attack Cassidy are Angophiles. Amazing how many of these Anglophiles speak Irish!

The troll also talks about my ‘mania’ about Cassidy. In fact, my mania is and always has been the Irish language and languages in general. I love Irish and I find the crap in Cassidy’s book a deep insult to all Irish speakers. The posts here are a minor hobby of mine. Even when I was posting regularly, I probably didn’t spend more than two hours a week on this. But they are two hours well spent, if it offends lunatics like Sean the Troll and makes sure that people have access to the truth. Nor am I jealous of Cassidy’s success as the troll claims, because Cassidy wasn’t successful. This book is a monumental failure, however many copies are sold to the ignorant and gullible.

The last of these three grunts from under the bridge states that I never print anything which contradicts my opinions. No, that’s right. Because there is no evidence contradicting my opinions and with respect, troll, I think Cassidy was great and you’re just an Anglophile Irish speaker who hates Irish Americans really aren’t intelligent (or even sane) arguments.

And with that, I am going to mark the troll as spam. Not only will I not publish any future correspondence from this idiot, I won’t even bother reading it!

Yup, I’m bad!

The Blether Region

I recently found an interesting item on a Northern Irish-based blog called The Blether Region. I have tried to reblog it but for some reason it hasn’t worked, so here is a link: http://scots-anorak.blogspot.co.uk/2014_02_01_archive.html The author is attacking Brendan Patrick Keane’s idiotic article on IrishCentral about Cassidy’s ‘research.’ Check it out, but here is a little bit of the article!

“The article draws on the book How the Irish Invented Slang: The Secret Language of the Crossroads (Counterpunch) by Daniel Cassidy, which has been roundly condemned by serious linguists. Perhaps the most annoying aspect of such claims is the serial refusal to present etymologies plausible to an Irish-speaker (Mr. Cassidy evidently not being one himself). The variant “Gee whilikers” is glossed as deriving from Dia Thoileachas, or “God’s will”. But ask an Irish-speaker how to say “God’s will”, and the answer is likely to be something like Toil Dé.

Once again, how annoying that Irish Central has seen fit to publish such claptrap.”

Absolutely right! Anyone who supports this rubbish should hang their heads in shame.

How Daniel Cassidy Invented Etymology, Part Two

About a week ago, Eoin P. Ó Murchú published an interesting review of Cassidy’s work on an Irish-language site called An Tuairisceoir. Ó Murchú’s attitude to Cassidy’s book was very similar to mine. He thought that Cassidy was an appalling charlatan and he strongly recommended people to avoid Cassidy’s book. I reblogged Ó Murchú’s article a few days ago but for the benefit of those who don’t speak Irish, I have produced a rough translation here.

Interestingly, there have been a few comments about the review. Breandán Delap supported the views expressed by myself and Ó Murchú, while several others (Ciarán Dunbar and someone calling themselves Fear N Fearn) made some attempt to defend Cassidy’s book. However, it is worth pointing out that there is a big difference between the debate expressed in these comments and the debate as found among English speakers and especially among Irish-Americans. The debate as found in the Anglo world tends to be between people who believe that there was a kernel of truth in Cassidy’s work, which according to them was slightly ‘overreached’ but still contains a core of valid etymologies, and those of us who think that Cassidy was a pernicious, half-crazy liar. The Irish-language debate on An Tuairisceoir is between people who think that Cassidy’s work was a harmless bit of fun and that Cassidy was just joking and those who think he was a pernicious, half-crazy liar. In other words, the view from within the Irish language is that Cassidy didn’t discover anything and made no valid contribution to human knowledge. This is the view even among Irish speakers who are favourable to Cassidy and perhaps this should be a wake-up call to Irish-Americans who support this nut-job’s theories and take them at face value.

Anyway, here is a rough translation of Ó Murchú’s excellent review:

HOW DANIEL CASSIDY INVENTED ETYMOLOGY

I came home the other day to find a substantial book. It was a present. Although I had heard tell of it I couldn’t say that I derived much pleasure from it as a present. It was How The Irish Invented Slang by Daniel Cassidy. What Cassidy sets out to demonstrate in this book is that large swathes of American English slang, and consequently of the slang of the whole world, come from Irish. He believes that there was a conspiracy by English speakers to suppress this information.

This will surprise many of us, because it was thought that we had not given much more than ‘smithereens’ and ‘banshee’ to English. Anyone who has even a slight interest in word etymologies will suspect very quickly that there is no basis to Cassidy’s opinions. Anyone with a fleeting knowledge of etymology will realise that it is essential always to be sceptical about the little stories which people spread. For some strange reason, people have the habit of believing strange little stories in spite of the evidence which would prove them wrong. This book is questionable for a number of reasons.

The main thing which planted the seed of doubt in my mind was that Cassidy goes with very unlikely Irish explanations when it would be much easier to find an explanation within the English language. He thinks the term ‘crusher’(a term for a policeman) is the same as an expression which comes from ‘cuir siar ar‘ (sic) Now, isn’t it strange that an Irish saying without much meaning would stick to the police and isn’t it odd that there should be no connection between ‘crusher’ and the English word ‘crush’?

Cassidy says that ‘S lom é’ is the origin of the English ‘Slum’. Isn’t that a really strange expression to borrow. Can you really imagine that that expression would slip from the mouth of an Irish speaker into speech? Can it be found as a common saying to describe slums? No. Not only that, Cassidy gives definitions and pretends that they come from the Irish dictionaries when that is not true at all. He loves to slap fig. onto things, saying that this is an additional meaning but in reality it is simply his own invention. (’teas ioma’ – an abundance of heat and passion; figuratively semen) I cannot find any source which demonstrates this additional meaning of ‘teas ioma’(sic). It seems likely that Cassidy couldn’t either.

‘As if that wasn’t enough, he uses whatever version he likes of any word. Joint’ an Bhéarla? Well, there is díon in Irish. What’s the plural of that? Díonta, great, that’s more like it. He goes even further, imposing whatever sound he wants on words. ‘Jeenta’, perfect!

Irish left few words in the English of Ireland in reality, so how would this language of paupers, which it was, have such a great influence on the speech of the USA? Cassidy has no satisfactory explanation for this. How did these not develop in Ireland too, how come the Gaels decided not to give these words to us too? He has no explanation for this either. If bizarre words which a competent Irish speaker of the present day would not recognise form the basis for many expressions, why aren’t common Irish words to be found in American speech too? Yet again, poor Cassidy has no explanation for this.

The kind of method he uses is to take a phrase. ‘Daniel Cassidy’ for example, then he decides that it comes from Irish. Then off he goes on his little spree of creativity. Daniel -‘Dath- ‘n-aoil’ lime-faced, white-faced, fig. white supremacist. ‘Cassidy’. Cas-a-dí The turning of her drink, surname of a bartender, mixologist, figuratively mixer, nixer. So, Daniel Cassidy means ‘white supremecist cocktail maker? Well, it means that in his own universe of lies and fraud. (I made up the bit above, just in case of any misunderstanding).

Unfortunately, many people are still supporting Cassidy. Where’s the harm, some people say, it’s only a bit of fun. In reality the opposite is true, linguistics is a difficult thing and when idiots are allowed to tackle it as they will the whole thing becomes as clear as mud. Because of the influence of the internet Cassidy’s ‘etymologies’ are there forever, they will be believed (some of them at least) in perpetuity. We should show interest in the words which the Irish gave to English but not give in to a numbskull like this who distorts the truth completely.

Cassidy was a consummate liar. A 300 page book which is full from cover to cover with fake etymologies, nonsense and lies. There is no doubt that Cassidy understood that the vast majority of these etymologies are phoney. It seems that he sought out phrases in Irish dictionaries which looked like English expressions and then he set out to forge a link.

There is an excellent blog here which pulls Cassidy’s arguments apart. http://cassidyslangscam.wordpress.com/ Whoever wrote it was driven to distraction by Cassidy and they have done an unabashed, clinical dissection of Cassidy’s lies. Cassidy is dead now, and it is my fervent hope that these lies will disappear with him. Do not buy this book and do not support nonsense like this.