Tag Archives: bad linguistics

An Tuairisceoir

There has been a lot of activity on the site since Eoin published his excellent article on Cassidy on the blog An Tuairisceoir. Dozens of visitors and hundreds of hits. Over on An Tuairisceoir, there have been a few comments in relation to this. At the risk of sounding like a bit of a misery, I was a little annoyed at the response of Ciarán Dunbar (who I gather is An Tuairisceoir himself). While he agrees with Eoin’s (and my) sentiments, he tries to have it both ways and to make light of the damage Cassidy has done. Here is part of his comment:

Mar fhocal freagartha ar seo agus aontaím féin leis dála an scéil.
Sa chéad dul síos, cha raibh ann ach píosa spraoi sa leabhar seo agus is trua gur glacadh dáiríre é – tarlaíonn sé sin go minic sa saol acadúil.
Ach is minic a chuala mé Daniel Cassidy ag caint ar an leabhar agus bhí sé ionraic faoi dar liom – ní raibh aon Ghaeilge aige agus ní dhearna sé ach an foclóir a léamh agus rudaí a chumadh.
Chuirfinn féin an chuid is mó den locht ar an fhoilsitheoir.
Ach seans go ndearna sé maitheas éigin – seans go raibh níos mó tionchair ag an Ghaeilge ar Bhéarla Mheiriceá ná mar a cheapadh go dtí seo – tá ar an lucht acadúil leabhar Cassidy a bhréagadh anois agus seans go bhfaighfear fírinne éigin ann más ann de thimpiste é fiú.

(As an answer to this and I myself agree with it, by the way. Firstly, this book was only a bit of fun and it’s a pity that it was taken seriously – that often happens in the academic world. But I often heard Daniel Cassidy talking about the book and he was honest, I think – he didn’t have any Irish and all he did was read the dictionary and make things up. I would put most of the blame on the publisher.

But perhaps he did some good – perhaps Irish had more influence on the English of America than was thought until now – the academics have to refute Cassidy’s book now and perhaps some truth will be found in it even if it’s by accident.)

With respect, this is neither accurate nor fair. All of the issues raised by Ciarán Dunbar have been discussed again and again in this blog but I will go through them again briefly here. If the book was taken seriously, this was because Cassidy presented it not as a bit of fun, but as a serious work of scholarship. This man attacked real scholars in the most vitriolic terms for daring to question the insane nonsense he published in this book. Did it occur to you, Ciarán, that Cassidy was honest in front of a room full of Irish people because he didn’t have a choice but to try to plead ignorance and rely on charm in those circumstances? And when he did have a choice, when he was addressing American people who didn’t speak the language either, he could afford to change his story and pretend to be an expert! Ciarán Dunbar’s reference to ‘this happens in the academic world’ is quite bizarre. Can you give us another example of tongue-in-cheek works of scholarship being misinterpreted as real? And blaming the publisher is hardly fair. There isn’t much evidence that CounterPunch did anything other than arrange for it to be printed. The book is very, very amateurish and doesn’t look as if it’s been edited at all.

And as for the idea that he did some good! Yeah, tell it to all the poor bastards who bought this book in good faith thinking it to be real. Tell it to the academics and others who were friendly towards him and who incorporated Cassidy’s insane ideas into articles, books and even TV programmes, rendering them permanently flawed. Tell it to the people who have been accused of not doing their jobs because Cassidy told the world they had lied to play down the Irish contribution to Americana.

The truth is, of course, that Cassidy would not have changed academic attitudes because he had no facts to offer, and if he had, then the correct avenue would have been to publish a couple of papers, not to write a bestseller full of nonsense and let other people sift a handful of gems out of the slurry tank.

The factitious Irish in this book is an insult to every Irish speaker. The internet is awash with fake Irish, and that is directly down to Cassidy and his army of cronies. Nobody should be making light of what Cassidy did. Anger is the correct, the only response.

Finally, while the site is enjoying a brief spike in popularity, I will repeat an appeal I have made several times before. Cassidy’s book still has a high rating on Amazon. If you have an Amazon account and you accept that Cassidy’s book should be burned rather than praised, log on and give it the poor review it really deserves.

How Daniel Cassidy invented Etymology (léirmheas)

An-jab déanta agat anseo, a Eoin! Tá sé athbhlagáilte agam anseo thíos. Tá mé fíorbhuíoch díot as an chuidiú!

Tuairisceoir an Dúin

Tháinig abhaile an lá cheana gur aimsigh mé leabhar toirtiúil romham. Bronntanas a bhí ann. Cé go raibh trácht cloiste agam air ní fhéadfainn a rá go raibh mé sásta leis mar bhronntanas. How the Irish Invented Slang le Daniel Cassidy a bhí ann. Is éard a chuireann Cassidy roimhe sa leabhar seo ná gur ón nGaeilge a thagann stráicí móra fada de bhéarlagair Béarla Mheiriceá, agus an domhain ar fad da bhrí sin. Dar leis go raibh uisce faoi thalamh ann ag lucht an Bhéarla a chuir an t-eolas seo faoi chois.

Cuirfidh seo iontas ar go leor againn ó ní cheaptar go bhfuil mórán níos mó ná ‘smithereens’ agus ‘banshee’ tugtha don Bhéarla againn. Don té a bhfuil leathspéis aige i sanas focal tiocfaidh amhras air go mear an bhfuil aon bhunús le tuairimí Cassidy. Éinne le smeareolas faoi shanas tuigfidh siad gur gá bheith in amhras i gcónaí…

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Murchadh na dTvuíteann’

I am not very keen on new technology. I don’t like telephones, mobile or immobile, and I have never tweeted in my life. However, I notice that a certain Murchadh Mór, who tweets in Irish, has recommended cassidyslangscam on his twitter account with the words “An-bhlag faoin mbobarún Cassidy”.

I am grateful to him for this – every little helps! But the wording of his tweet got me thinking. That word bobarún is a nice one. It means a fool, a twat, a booby. Although I don’t speak the same dialect as Murchadh, bobarún is perfectly clear to me. If Cassidy were right, why don’t New York taxi drivers shout ‘bobberoon!” at each other out of their cab windows? Or ‘playkyah!’ or ‘ommadawn!’, or ‘lah jeea!’ Irish is a perfectly expressive language and there are plenty of genuine Irish expressions which could so easily have been borrowed.

However, for whatever reason, almost no Irish expressions were borrowed, least of all the made-up, clumsy expressions which nobody ever used and which nobody would understand given by Cassidy in this book. That’s why this blog is so full of contempt for Cassidy, and that’s why Murchadh Mór calls Cassidy a bobarún. Because Irish speakers can immediately recognise that Cassidy’s claims about Irish are childish bullshit.

Cassidy’s Cronies

Anyone who has been following this blog will be well aware of my attitude towards Daniel Cassidy, a fraudster who invented a large number of fake Irish expressions and claimed that these were the origin of common English words and phrases, even when these English words and phrases already had well-established etymologies. As part of his strategy to convince the weak-minded and gullible, this seasoned con-man invented a bizarre scenario in which a cabal of professional linguists and dictionary-makers conspired to hide the ‘fact’ that large numbers of words derived from Irish, thus simultaneously pandering to a sense of victimhood among Irish Americans and neatly explaining why there was no evidence to corroborate his ridiculous claims.

Of course, this cabal doesn’t exist. However, it is very interesting to look at the slime trails left by Cassidy’s supporters online. It is quite clear that the vast number of people who supported Cassidy are linked both to him and to each other in an unhealthy network of cronies. I have already mentioned some of these, but let’s just have a look at some of them again.

The principal crony seems to be Peter Quinn, an Irish-American writer. He is linked to many of the other names which keep cropping up again and again. For example, there are pictures online of Peter Quinn and Eamon Loingsigh together, the Eamon Loingsigh who published a badly-written and laughable article about Cassidy’s nonsense on his blog. Peter Quinn was one of the founders of the Irish American Writers and Artists, along with Cassidy himself, TJ English and Maureen Dezell. Maureen Dezell is quoted on the jacket of Cassidy’s book. In 2008, Cassidy appeared with Peter Quinn and others at an event sponsored by Glucksman Ireland House NYU (which boasts Peter Quinn and Pete Hamill on its board) Then there is David Meltzer, whom Cassidy described as his ‘reb’, who is on the Board of the Before Columbus Foundation which awarded Cassidy’s worthless tripe an award. Then all you have to do is look at the Crossroads Irish Festival, founded and run by Cassidy. In 2002 alone, we find William Kennedy, whose name is often linked to Cassidy, Peter Quinn who described Cassidy as “my best friend”, Maureen Dezell who gave him a nice quote for his book jacket, Michael Patrick MacDonald who has posted in support of Cassidy, Marion Casey who was gullible enough to quote him in an academic paper and who is linked to Joe Lee who also made a fool of himself by backing Cassidy, and Eamonn Wall who has just been appointed to the board of the Irish American Writers Association which Cassidy jointly founded.

Jesus! Will someone open a feckin’ window and let in some fresh air! Surely, there must be a handful of other writers and artists in the Irish-American community who don’t have a Bacon Number of one in relation to Cassidy?

The fact is, Cassidy’s book is obviously and clearly a pack of lies. Yet these people and many more have helped, wittingly or unwittingly, to sell this damaging, dishonest and nasty little book to gullible people. They have lent whatever status and kudos they can provide to a con-man whose lack of intelligence and disrespect for the Irish language is manifest on every page. None of them seems to be prepared to break ranks, repudiate this charlatan and apologise for their role in the Cassidy Scandal.

This is where the real cabal and conspiracy is. Among a crowd of people who would rather do anything than admit the truth that Cassidy was wrong and that they were wrong to support him.

Origin Unknown?

It is amazing how many people online have rushed to repeat Cassidy’s claim that most or many of the words in Cassidy’s book are given as ‘origin unknown’ or ‘origin uncertain’ in the dictionaries, without checking the facts for themselves. For example, here’s a quote from Joe ‘The Prof’ Lee:

Daniel Cassidy flings down the gauntlet to all those compilers of dictionaries who fled to the safe haven of ‘origin unknown’ when confronted with the challenge of American slang. 

And here’s another one from the infantile Educational Cyber Playground:

The Dictionary has printed that most of Cassidy’s English words are listed “origin unknown,” and when you think about the huge diaspora, it’s a certainty that the Irish would have contributed words to English.

The Dictionary? Where can I buy THE Dictionary? And did anyone ever really claim that the majority of words in Cassidy’s crapfest are ‘origin unknown’,  even Cassidy himself? He certainly played down the amount of information available about many of the words he proposed daft origins for, but I don’t think the majority of his entries contain the phrases ‘origin unknown’ or ‘origin uncertain’. 

In a number of posts on this blog, I have already pointed out that Cassidy played fast-and-loose with the dictionaries and claimed that a lot of expressions were origin unknown when their origins were very well-known (grumble, for example). 

I therefore decided to go through  Cassidy’s book and compare Cassidy’s version to the reality. However, I am not a masochist and the thought of reading every page of Cassidy’s sad testament to human ignorance was just too much for me, so instead of that, I checked the first hundred headwords in the glossary part of it and researched them. Some words like blowen (ever heard that one? Me neither!), or beak (magistrate) or boogie are certainly origin unknown. But many others were misrepresented by Cassidy. Being generous (and assuming that my sample is representative of the document as a whole), no more than 10% of the words are really lacking a reasonable explanation. For example, Cassidy says that bullyrag is ‘origin unknown’. Yet a quick glance online shows that rag can mean ‘to scold, torment or tease’. So bullyragged might just mean ‘browbeaten by a bully’, which is pretty much what it means anyway. And an aggressive shill being called a capper makes perfect sense to me. A person makes an offer, the shill caps that offer and pushes the bid up, so they are a capper.

I should also point out that in most of the cases where the word is ‘origin unknown’, Cassidy’s supposed ‘Irish’ origins are nonsense and could not possibly be correct. 

The idea that Cassidy found vast numbers of words labelled ‘origin unknown’ with clear origins in Irish which the Anglophile linguists had deliberately ignored is another red herring, created by this evil con-man to deceive the fans of his book who he treated with the same easy comtempt as he treated the Irish language, the world of academia and the people who were foolish enough to regard him as a friend.

 

Hall of Shame 2

If I included everyone who has given support to this insane and worthless book, Daniel Cassidy’s How The Irish Invented Slang, the list would be very long indeed. However, in this second instalment of the Hall of Shame, I will give another handful of people who stuck their necks out and inserted it into the noose of lies provided by Daniel Cassidy.

John Rickford is a respectable academic, well-known for his work on Black American English. He is quoted on Amazon as saying: “Cassidy’s book (How the Irish Invented Slang: The Secret Language of the Crossroads)… is wonderful! Congrats to him on winning an American Book Award.” Unless there is something missing which is less complimentary, such as ‘Cassidy’s book is so terrible it makes me feel incredibly intellectually superior which is wonderful!’, I can’t really understand why a real academic with real qualifications and real peer-reviewed publications would support this drivel. Perhaps the man himself would like to send us a comment and let us know why?

Peter Linebaugh, a Marxist historian, who tends to divide opinion. Personally, I don’t have a knee-jerk hatred of Marxism and I think that Marxist academics have made valuable contributions to the world of scholarship but his review on Counterpunch is totally absurd. Do none of these people know how to use a dictionary, or even Google? Or do they consider it beneath them? And it’ll keep you in stitches, going helter-skelter, in a generalized hilarity of the giggle from the proletarian quarters. I’m talking the shack or the shanty, the slum in other words. To get out of trouble you can skip, or scram, scoot, or skidoo. As for style, for something swank or swell, you’ll find it here. The slob and the slacker won’t find the knack, but maybe a gimmick, for finding the jack or the moolah. Yeah, it’s an absolute riot. I laughed till I stopped. Slob is about the only genuine Irish term in the above passage, and even that is ultimately not of Celtic origin.  

Esther ‘Hetty’ O’Hara apparently taught Irish with Cassidy in his New College programme. She is quoted in some sources as a person who helped him to confirm or check his hunches about the Irish language. If this is the case, she either doesn’t speak Irish or he didn’t share most of his work with her, because there is no way that a competent Irish speaker would accept phrases like aingíocht tarraingteach or buan-díchiall as real Irish. Or perhaps she had to work with him and knew that he would just shout and rant and start chewing the curtains if she said ‘no’ to him. Who knows? But if she genuinely speaks Irish, she should not have endorsed this book.   

The American Book Awards, which gave Cassidy’s book an award in 2007. This seems to be a peculiar accolade. If you look at the lists of people who have won it, there are some big and entirely justifiable names on it, names like Dom de Lillo, Isabel Allende, Dave Eggers. And then there are lots of names I’ve never heard of, plus Daniel Cassidy, king of the crap-talkers.

Bob Scally is also a real academic. He has a PhD and has written several books.  In the 1980s he undertook research on the Irish migrations of the nineteenth century. His critically acclaimed book, The End of Hidden Ireland: Famine, Rebellion and Emigration, 1832-1848 was published by (the dictionary dudes’) Oxford University Press in 1995. He was appointed the inaugural Director of Glucksman Ireland House in 1993, an institution where the Great Fraud Cassidy was always welcome.  Scally retired in 2006. So, a man of considerable reputation. Why he chose to endorse this terrible piece of shit is hard to understand. I smell cronyism …

Puncher

The phrase ‘puncher’ was an alternative term for a cowboy. It derives from a term of French origin which has been in common use in English for six hundred years, which means to strike or to prod or to poke, including the use of those activities to drive cattle.

The liar and charlatan, Daniel Cassidy, in his atrocious book How The Irish Invented Slang, mysteriously omits these facts from his discussion of the word. He chooses instead to trace the word to the Irish paintéar, which he says means ‘a tying cord or rope, a noose, a lasso, a snare for catching animals …’ He cites Dinneen’s Irish dictionary as a source. Mysteriously, he omits some pretty important information from this dictionary too. Dinneen’s entry for paintéar begins thus: ‘a painter or panter, a snare, noose, gin or trap, a binding cable …’

In other words, this is an Irish word, certainly, but it is an Irish word of English origin. It is derived from the word painter, which is a nautical term for a rope used to tie up a boat. This is also of French origin (i.e. the English borrowed it from French) but unrelated to the French term which is really the origin of puncher.

To drive the point home, you obviously don’t get to be that incompetent by accident. Cassidy deliberately missed out the important information relating to the real origins of puncher and the real origins of paintéar in order to magic a fake connection into existence. What a con-man!

Mick

One of the dafter claims in Daniel Cassidy’s daft book, How The Irish Invented Slang, is the claim that the word ‘Mick’, which is used in various English-speaking countries as a racist insult against the Irish, comes from the Irish word mic, the plural of mac meaning son. Cassidy doesn’t explain why this should be the case, why racists would use a word meaning son (which is usually a mark of affection), in the language of the people they were denigrating, or why a plural word would be used as a singular. Mic sounds like Mick, so it must be the origin of the word, right? Never mind that everybody in Ireland knows full well that certain common names among the Catholic Irish have become slang terms for a Catholic Irish person – Taig (Tadhg), Tim (used in Scotland), Paddy and Mick. Never mind that all of the (genuine) dictionaries are in agreement about this.

In fact, in exactly the same way, our Irish ancestors used terms like Bhullaí (=Wully or Willy) for the Ulster Planters from Scotland. For example, Art Mac Cumhaigh  wrote “Bhullaidh is Jane ag glacadh léagsaidhe Ar dhúithchíbh Éireann” (Wully and Jane taking out leases On the territories of Ireland.) And one version of Úirchill an Chreagáin has the lines: Nach mb’fhearr duit ins na liosa agus mise le do thaobh gach neoin, Ó, ná saighde clann Bhullaí bheith ag polladh faoi do chliath go deo? (Wouldn’t you be better off in fairy mansions with me by your side every afternoon, Oh, than the arrows of the foreign settlers forever piercing your side?) And seoinín (=Little John, later anglicised as shoneen and jackeen) was used for people who aped English ways.

So, the likelihood is that Mick is like Paddy, Taig and Tim, a common name among Irish Catholics which was then used as an ethnic slang term, just like taffy (from Dafydd), jock (a lowland Scots form of Jack) or dago (from Diego). As usual, Cassidy’s claim is self-deluding, childish nonsense which simply ignores real and obvious derivations in favour of meaningless phonetic similarities.

However there is one other theory (apart from Cassidy’s). I didn’t mention it before because you would need to be a complete and total moron to believe it. This is the idea that Mick came about because the Catholic Irish had distinctively Catholic Irish names beginning with Mac or Mc. Anyone of normal intelligence who thinks about this for five minutes will realise that it’s crap. Out of the hundred most common Irish surnames, only thirteen of them are Mac/Mc surnames. In Scotland, the figure for Mac/Mc surnames is about the same, and you only have to look at the lists of UVF and UDA men on Wikipedia (Sam McClelland, John McKeague, Jackie McDonald, Billy McCaughey, John McMichael, Stephen McKeag etc.etc.) to realise that Mac/Mc names are just as common in the Loyalist and Protestant community as they are among Catholics, so how could Mac/Mc surnames ever have become associated solely with Irish people or with the Catholic community? This claim is so stupid, to believe it you would need to be a total airhead who’s just floated down the Lagan in a bubble!

 

Lollygag

Sometimes, you can tell which language a word comes from by the sound of it. If you heard or saw a word like as-saqiyah or pozhalujsta or mokele-mbembe, you would probably be able to hazard a guess about the language. What do you think? The first, of course, is Arabic, the second Russian and the third is from an African language called Lingala. When I hear a word like lollygag, it sounds very English to me. It sounds like mollycoddle or hornswoggle or guttersnipe. It doesn’t sound like Irish, however much that Irish might have been changed in transition between languages.

Lollygag, meaning idling or necking,  first makes its appearance in the USA in the 1860s. Most experts regard it as coming from the English word loll, as in ‘lolling about’. This seems reasonable, as lolling is very similar to the core meaning of lollygagging. Daniel Cassidy, in his absurd apology for a book, How The Irish Invented Slang, disagrees. He claims that the word ‘lollygag’, comes from the Irish leath-luighe géag, which he claims means ‘a reclining, leaning, lolling youth.’ Anyone who speaks any Irish at all will immediately realise that there are a number of problems with this.

Admittedly leath-luighe (leathluí in modern spelling) does mean reclining or lying on your side (as does loll in English, of course), but the primary meaning of géag is limb, or arm, or arm of the sea, or a branch of a family. One obscure and poetic meaning is ‘a youth’ or ‘young person’, but this is not the meaning that an Irish speaker would usually take from the word in the absence of other contextual clues. And the version given by Cassidy makes no sense at all in terms of Irish grammar. Leath-luí is not an adjective, and anyway adjectives need to come after the noun in Irish. So leath-luí géag could never mean ‘reclining youth,’ even if you ignore the unsuitability of the word géag for a young person in ordinary conversation.

You would also have to account for why Irish immigrants didn’t use one of the many words which are similar in meaning to lollygag, words like learaireacht, scraisteacht, leadaíocht.

Like almost all of the phrases given by Cassidy in this trashy con-trick of a book, this is not real Irish. It doesn’t look or sound like real Irish and the only person who has ever claimed that it is Irish was the American con-man who made it up, a liar and charlatan who didn’t know any Irish at all.  

Freak

Another idiotic claim from Daniel Cassidy’s moronic waste of paper, How The Irish Invented Slang, is that the word ‘freak’ comes from the Irish fraoch. Freak is first recorded in English in the 1560s, when it meant ‘a sudden turn of mind’ or ‘a capricious notion’. It only started to get its current meaning of ‘a weird person’ in the 18th century, when it was used for ‘a freak of nature’.  Nobody knows where it comes from, though one suggestion is that it is linked to an Old English word frecian, meaning ‘to dance’.

Cassidy claims that the word freak comes from the Irish fraoch, which means heather and also fury. Some Irish scholars have suggested that the two senses are connected (i.e. because heather is something thorny and vicious), though nobody knows for sure. The problem is that there is no evidence at all for a connection between fraoch and freak. The word fraoch is pronounced freeh or freekh (kh as in the ch of Scottish loch) or frookh in some parts of Ulster. It doesn’t have any connection with capriciousness or changeability. It means fury, not uncertainty.

Cassidy characteristically tries to blether his way round this problem and the result is characteristically crappy. Having spelled the poet Edmund Spenser’s name wrong twice, he gushes that:

The “fickle freakes of fortune” saw the noble fraoch (pron. fraec, fury) of the tempest ehumerized into the grotesque freak in a carnival sideshow. 

Incidentally, if you are wondering about the word ehumerized, it doesn’t exist. It is really euhemerized, a term derived from the name of the Greek philosopher Euhemerus who claimed that the gods were merely exaggerated accounts of real heroes of the past. So even if it were spelled correctly, I don’t think it would be the right word here anyway. It is also worth noting that if freak does derive from Irish fraoch then Irish speakers must have forgotten the fact when they borrowed the word into Irish as praeic, as in the phrase Chaith mé an lá ar mo phraeic, I spent the day just as I pleased.