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).

 

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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.