Tag Archives: Daniel Cassidy

More on the Irish origins of kybosh

I have posted before about the supposed Irish origins of the phrase ‘to put the kybosh on something’. In a post called Putting The Kybosh On Cassidy (May 2016) I pointed out that kybosh has often been claimed (long before Cassidy’s idiotic book was published) to be of Irish origin, a corruption of caip bháis or caidhp bháis, meaning death cap. The usual explanation for this is that it refers to the black cap donned by a judge when passing the death sentence.

You can find an interesting discussion of the term kybosh by Anatoly Liberman on the OUP blog:

https://blog.oup.com/2013/08/three-recent-theories-of-kibosh-word-origin-etymology/

In my discussion of the supposed Irish origin of kybosh, I mentioned that the earliest discussion of this I had found came from the Cornell Daily Sun in December 1936, where there is an account of a lecture by a man called Conboy about the Irish origin of English words.

“Kibosh,” Conboy said today, “comes from ‘caip,’ which means cap, and bais [sic],’ which means death. “It originated in Ireland about the time of Judge Norbury, who was called the ‘hanging judge.’

The other day, I was doing some unrelated research on the Irish News Archives, an excellent searchable archive of old Irish newspapers. Just before closing the computer and going to bed, I decided to look up kibosh/kybosh and see what I turned up.

The discussion below is based on the results of that search.

In the Kerry Champion of September 6th 1930, we find a letter from a person calling himself Oisín i ndiaidh na Féinne (Oisín after the Fianna) talking about the Irish College at Dingle in Kerry:

I asked him all about the Colaisde. “The Colaiste is it?” said he. “The koybosh (caip bhais) is put on it altogether for the past few years, and this year beat them all.”

At first, when I saw this, it seemed to me a strong indication that koybosh is really a native Irish expression. However, having read the rest of the articles, I am less sure.

On the 21st of April, 1933, in the Irish Press, Seosamh S. Ua Ceallaigh of Richmond in Surrey says that it refers to the black cap the judge puts on and that it comes from caip báis. However, a man called Rice in Leitrim in the Irish Press four days later (25th April 1934) says that it means ‘that portion of the cowl which is pulled down over the face of the dead immediately before interment’.  The claim about the judge’s cap is also made by ‘Ballyduag’ in the Irish Independent of Feb 10th 1943, but below his letter is a letter from John Grogan of Dublin, who states that the caip bais [sic] refers to the pitch cap used by the British in the late 18th century as a torture/punishment. There is no evidence or reference to any published or manuscript source in any of these letters.

However, someone called “Periscope”, writing in the Irish Examiner of January 18th, 1927, says that “putting the kybosh on it” derived from “cabais”, to prate or speak nonsensically or stupidly about a subject. When anyone talks that way he puts the “kybosh” on any further argument. This seems a weak and irrelevant claim, as there is no such word as cabais. There are vaguely similar words like cabaireacht, but nothing I know of closely resembling cabais.

A letter from Canon Maguire, P.P. in the Irish Independent of January 26th 1943, says that the word kybosh has no connection with bosh (rubbish) but that it instead comes from caoi bais [sic], meaning “way of death”. He seems to be alone in this opinion and the phrase is not found in any other source or text.

However, trawling through the different references, I found the earliest were in 1909. They were also by far the most interesting. In an article called An American Professor on England published on November 29th 1909, an anonymous staff author of the Freeman’s Journal wrote:

Many expressions familiar in American-English are clearly translations or adaptations from the Gaelic: not a little slang was good idiomatic Gaelic, and such an extraordinary word as kybosh – “to put the kybosh on a man or a scheme” – takes a very curious interest when, as Mr J.H. Lloyd tells in one of his invaluable vocabularies to Irish poems or stories – it is traced to the extinct phrase “the cap of death” – i.e. the black cap of the hanging judge.

J.H. Lloyd, or Seosamh Laoide, was an Irish language expert. However, Lloyd himself then replied to this on December the 2nd in the Freeman’s Journal, complaining that his views had been misrepresented:

Dear Sir – In your issue of 29th November, one of your leader writers, towards the end of the article “An American Professor on England”, quotes me in connection with the word “kybosh”, to put the kybosh on a man or a scheme. So far, he is correct. When, however, he adds the explanation “the cap of death,” apparently attributing this to me, he is very much astray. 

In the vocabulary to Mac Mic Iasgaire Bhuidhe Luimnigh, published by the Gaelic League, I set down that caidhp bathais, to my surmise an expression of the lost Leinster dialect of Irish, was the probable etymon of “kybosh”.

He goes on to say that caidhp bathais would mean the cap or coif of the crown of the head. He says that kybosh could not come from caidhp báis because the o of kybosh is a short vowel. He states clearly that he has never actually found an example of this phrase in use (“though I have failed to find the word in use in an Irish dress”). He goes on to say that he is quite adamant that there is also a Yiddish/Hebrew expression, with the meaning of 18 pence or something worthless. So according to Lloyd, kybosh has two distinct origins, but he states that the construction “to put the kybosh on something” is typical of Irish syntax and this is a strong indicator of Irish origin. (I have discussed a similar expression from Cork on this blog, namely the phrase “to put the cawheke on something”.)

Where does all this leave us? I am more inclined now to accept the possibility of an Irish origin for this phrase, if the evidence comes to light. However, the mere fact of kybosh using an Irish-like construction is not enough. After all, aren’t there plenty of non-Irish expressions like this? (For example, that put the damper on it). And while there are plentiful uses of kybosh, coybosh and even caidhp bháis in the Irish papers from the second decade of the 20th century until the last few years, there are absolutely no traces of caidhp bháis, caip bháis, caidhp bhathais or caip bhathais (or any of the versions without the séimhiú which modern Irish grammar would require) anywhere before the 1909 references. This is 75 years after kybosh’s first appearance in England. And we need to note that many expressions like spraoi and craic have made their homes in the Irish language and been accepted as intrinsic and ancient parts of that language by its speakers, even though they aren’t.

Also, the association of kybosh with caps of death (whatever explanation you have for that phrase), seems to be completely bogus. It is apparently traceable to a misreading or misremembering of Lloyd’s comment in the vocabulary of an obscure book published in 1909. If so, it is a very early example of the way that fake memes are spread and promoted virally because the factoids sound right and are easy to remember.

 

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Amadán na Míosa, Meitheamh 2018 – Joe Lee

Cúpla seachtain ó shin, ar an 22 Bealtaine, 2018, bhí siompóisiam ann in ómós do Joe Lee ag Glucksman Ireland House i Nua-Eabhrac. J.J. Lee and Irish History: Scholar, Colleague, Mentor an teideal a bhí ar an tsiompóisiam.

Mar a scríobh mé roimhe seo, tá obair mhaith déanta ag Lee. Is fíorstaraí é Lee, a bhfuil a lán leabhar agus alt den scoth scríofa aige. Ach, mar a dúirt mé fosta, bhí Joe Lee mór le cuid mhór daoine a bhí mór le Daniel Cassidy, agus sin an fáth ar scríobh sé an léirmheas dearfach seo thíos don leabhar How The Irish Invented Slang:

“In this courageous, crusading manifesto, 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 …The originality and importance of the argument makes this an exciting contribution to both American and Irish Studies. This is a landmark book, at once learned and lively, and quite enthralling as to how American English acquired so vibrant a popular vocabulary.”

Is raiméis an léirmheas seo, ar ndóigh, mar is raiméis leabhar Cassidy. Níl a fhios agam cad chuige ar roghnaigh sé tacú le píosa bréagscoláireachta mar How The Irish Invented Slang.

Is mór an díol spéise é go raibh beirt chairde le Cassidy ag labhairt le Lee ag an tsiompóisiam: 12.30 pm: Reflections of Directors of Glucksman Ireland House: Prof. Bob Scally & Prof. Joe Lee in Conversation with Dr. Terry Golway. Bhí Golway mór le Cassidy, agus scríobh Bob Scally léirmheas a bhí lán chomh moltach le ceann Lee ar chúl leabhar Cassidy:

Irish Americans especially will be delighted to know they have been speaking Irish all along in their slang and American English, while believing and bemoaning that they had lost their native tongue many years ago. With imagination and scholarship, Cassidy has restored this hidden treasure to us in a book that is filled with revelations, wit and humour.

Mar a dúirt mé, níl a fhios agam cad chuige ar roghnaigh Joe Lee agus a chairde neamhaird a dhéanamh den fhianaise agus muintir na hÉireann a mhaslú ar an dóigh seo. Is deacair é a thuiscint, go háirithe i gcás Lee, duine a bhfuil go leor Gaeilge aige lena aithint láithreach nach Gaeilge iad leithéidí béal ónna agus béalú h-ard agus pá lae sámh.

Rud amháin atá cinnte: cosúil le gach duine eile a bhí mór le Cassidy, is lú é mar scoláire, mar mhúinteoir agus mar dhuine de dheasca an chairdis sin. Níl a fhios agam an caimiléir agus bréagadóir é Lee, ach is cinnte gur thacaigh sé le leabhar mí-ionraic Cassidy, agus is teimheal ollmhór sin ar a chlú.

Sin an fáth a bhfuil mé sásta an teideal Amadán na Míosa, Meitheamh 2018 a bhronnadh ar Joe Lee, a chuidigh le caimiléir drochleabhar a dhíol agus nach ndearna turn láimhe ina dhiaidh sin le rudaí a chur ina gceart.

June’s Twit of the Month – Joe Lee

A couple of weeks ago, on the 22 May 2018, there was a symposium in honour of Joe Lee at Glucksman Ireland House in New York. The symposium was called J.J. Lee and Irish History: Scholar, Colleague, Mentor.

As I have written before, Lee has done some good work. Lee is a genuine historian, who has written a lot of excellent books and articles. However, as I have also said, Joe Lee was friendly with many friends of Daniel Cassidy, and that is probably the reason why he wrote this positive review for the book How The Irish Invented Slang:

“In this courageous, crusading manifesto, 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 …The originality and importance of the argument makes this an exciting contribution to both American and Irish Studies. This is a landmark book, at once learned and lively, and quite enthralling as to how American English acquired so vibrant a popular vocabulary.”

This review is rubbish, of course, because Cassidy’s book is rubbish. I have no idea why Lee chose to support a piece of fake scholarship like How The Irish Invented Slang.

It is very interesting that two of Cassidy’s friends were in conversation with Lee at the Symposium: 12.30 pm: Reflections of Directors of Glucksman Ireland House: Prof. Bob Scally & Prof. Joe Lee in Conversation with Dr. Terry Golway. Golway was a crony of Cassidy’s, and Bob Scally wrote a review which was as positive as Lee’s on the back of Cassidy’s book:

Irish Americans especially will be delighted to know they have been speaking Irish all along in their slang and American English, while believing and bemoaning that they had lost their native tongue many years ago. With imagination and scholarship, Cassidy has restored this hidden treasure to us in a book that is filled with revelations, wit and humour.

As I said, I don’t know why Joe Lee and his friends chose to ignore the evidence and insult the Irish people like this. It’s hard to understand it, especially in the case of Lee, a man who has enough Irish to recognise immediately that the likes of béal ónna and béalú h-ard and pá lae sámh are not Irish.

One thing is sure: like everyone who was friendly with Cassidy, Lee has been diminished as a scholar, as a teacher and as a human being because of that friendship. I don’t know if Lee is a fraudster and a liar, but he certainly supported Cassidy’s dishonest book, and that is a huge stain on his reputation.

That is why I am pleased to bestow the title of Twit of the Month for June 2018 on Joe Lee, who helped a con-man to sell a bad book and didn’t do a hand’s turn subsequently to rectify the situation.

Puncher

The word ‘puncher’ meant a cowboy. The word punch means to strike or to prod or to poke. It derives from French and has been in common use in English for six hundred years.

Daniel Cassidy, in his atrocious book How The Irish Invented Slang, doesn’t mention these facts in 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. Strangely, this isn’t what Dinneen’s dictionary says. 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 was borrowed from the English 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 punch.

In other words, 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 English origins of paintéar in order to make a fake case for an Irish origin. What a con-man!

 

 

Is focal eile ar bhuachaill bo é ‘puncher’. Ciallaíonn an focal punch bualadh nó broideadh nó sá. Tagann sé ón Fhraincis agus tá sé in úsáid go coitianta sa Bhéarla le sé chéad bliana anuas.

Ina leabhar amaideach How The Irish Invented Slang, ní luann Daniel Cassidy na fíricí seo ar chor ar bith.  Ina áit sin, maíonn sé gur tháinig puncher ón Ghaeilge paintéar. Deir sé go gciallaíonn paintéar ‘a tying cord or rope, a noose, a lasso, a snare for catching animals …’ Luann sé foclóir an Duinnínigh mar fhoinse. Ach ní hé sin an sainmhíniú a bhí ag an Duinníneach. Tosaíonn cur síos Uí Dhuinnín ar an fhocal paintéar mar seo: ‘a painter or panter, a snare, noose, gin or trap, a binding cable …’

Lena rá ar dhóigh eile, is focal Gaeilge é paintéar, cinnte, ach iasacht atá ann ón fhocal Béarla painter, focal bádóireachta a chiallaíonn rópa a úsáidtear le bád a cheangal. Tháinig an focal seo ón Fhraincis fosta (fuair lucht an Bhéarla ón Fhraincis é) ach níl baint ar bith aige leis an téarma Fraincise a thug an focal punch don Bhéarla.

Lena rá ar dhóigh eile, ní de thaisme a tharlaíonn bréaga mar seo. Is d’aon turas a theip ar Cassidy an fhaisnéis thábhachtach a bhaineann le fíorstair an fhocail puncher agus bunús Béarla paintéar a lua ionas go dtiocfadh leis cás bréige a dhéanamh gur Gaeilge a bhí ann. A leithéid de chaimiléir gan náire!

 

Gaff

In Daniel Cassidy’s insane and inane book, How The Irish Invented Slang, Cassidy tried to prove that hundreds of words in English derive from Irish.

His methodology was simple: he hunted through Irish dictionaries to find a word which resembled the target word in English. When he couldn’t find anything suitable (which was usually the case), he took two or three Irish words and combined them into a ‘well-known phrase’ which had never been used in Irish, and for which Cassidy was happy to provide a fake definition.

Occasionally, Cassidy found words which seemed a good fit (at least for some of the meanings) but made no attempt to establish whether they were loanwords into Irish or loanwords from Irish to English.

Cassidy claimed that the word gaff meaning a boat-hook comes from the Irish gaf or geaf. However, gaf or geaf really comes from English and English got the word from Provencal  gaf via French.  The word gaffe meaning a blunder, is the same word. A quick search on the free and fully-searchable Electronic Dictionary of the Irish Language will confirm that gaf/geaf is not an ancient word in Irish. It is plainly, obviously and clearly a loanword.

Incidentally, the unrelated word gaff meaning a home or a place is from Romani gav.

 

I leabhar amaideach, craiceáilte Daniel Cassidy, How The Irish Invented Slang, rinne Cassidy iarracht a chruthú gur tháinigh na céadta focal i mBéarla ón Ghaeilge.

Bhí a chuid modhanna simplí: chuaigh sé a chuardach i bhfoclóiri Gaeilge le focal a aimsiú a bhí cosúil leis an sprioc i mBéarla. Nuair nach bhfuair sé a dhath (rud a tharla níos minice ná a mhalairt), fuair sé dhá fhocal nó trí fhocal i nGaeilge agus chuir sé le chéile iad le ‘frása coitianta’ a chruthú nach raibh riamh ann i nGaeilge, agus bhí Cassidy sásta sainmhíniú bréige a chur ar fáil fosta.

Ó am go ham, thagadh Cassidy ar fhocail a bhí fóirsteanach i gcosúlacht (maidir le cuid de na ciallanna, ar a laghad) ach ní dhearna sé iarracht ar bith a fháil amach an iasachtaí  a fuair an Ghaeilge ó theanga eile a bhí iontu, nó iasachtaí ón Ghaeilge sa Bhéarla.

Mar shampla, rinne Cassidy iarracht a mhaíomh go bhfuarthas an focal Béarla gaff, a chiallaíonn crúca báid, ón Ghaeilge gafgeaf. Is é fírinne an scéil, áfach, go bhfuair an Ghaeilge na focail gafgeaf ón Bhéarla, agus go bhfuair an Béarla an focal ón Phroibhinsis gaf tríd an Fhraincis.  Is ionann é agus an focal Béarla gaffe, a chiallaíonn botún. Má dhéanann tú cuardach are DIL, foclóir Gaeilge atá saor in aisce agus atá go hiomlán inchuardaithe, beidh tú ábalta a dhearbhú nach focal seanbhunaithe sa Ghaeilge é gaf/geaf. Is léir agus is ríléir gur iasacht atá ann.

Dála an scéil, níl baint ar bith ag an fhocal seo leis an fhocal gaff a chiallaíonn baile nó áit. Is ón Romainis gav a tháinig an ceann sin.

Much kerfuffle about nothing/Cíor thuathail faoi kerfuffle

In many places on line it is claimed that the word kerfuffle is derived from the Irish phrase cíor thuathail. For example, the Oxford English Dictionary says that it is perh. from Scots curfuffle (prob. from Sc. Gaelic car ‘twist, bend’ + imitative Scots fuffle ‘to disorder’), or rel. to Ir. cior thual ‘confusion, disorder’.

This ‘Irish’ phrase is not correct. The real Irish phrase is Cíor thuathail, confusion, bewilderment. For example, you could say ‘Tá an seomra folctha ina chíor thuathail aige’, – he has made a total mess of the bathroom. Cíor thuathail is pronounced keer hoo-il. The first element seems to be cíor, which means a comb or the crest of a bird. Tuathal means left-handed or anticlockwise.

In reality, the derivation of kerfuffle from Scots makes perfect sense. There are lots of related words for disorder like curfuggle and curfuddle, as well as words like curslap and curwallop which contain the same first element. You can find more information about this at the Dictionary of the Scots Language: http://www.dsl.ac.uk/entry/snd/cur

So, kerfuffle almost certainly doesn’t derive from Irish. However, looking at this reminded me of a question I have had for a long time and which nobody has been able to answer satisfactorily. Where does the Irish expression cíor thuathail come from?

If we take cíor to mean comb or crest in Irish, as it usually does, this makes little sense. What is a left-handed comb, or a left-handed crest? However, in researching this, I did find one possible origin. According to an old Irish dictionary published in 1768 (Focaloir Gaoidhilge-Sax-Bhearla Or an Irish-English Dictionary by John O’Brien), there is a literary term Cíor-ghal, where the gal means courage and the cíor is an old word for hand given by Ó Cléirigh in his Foclóir no Sanasan Nua in 1643, a borrowing from the Greek cheir.

This would make perfect sense. There are lots of expressions linking left-handedness to disorder or clumsiness in many languages. You only have to think of words like sinister or gauche in English, or ciotógach and tuathalach in Irish (both of which mean clumsy as well as left-handed).

Please note, however, that this is not a certainty. This is a possibility and needs to be confirmed by experts on the history of Irish. Scum like Daniel Cassidy were quite happy to jump to conclusions about language, rejecting sensible explanations on the flimsiest of grounds. Real scholars don’t behave the way Cassidy did. Real scholars care about the truth and act accordingly.

 

Is minic a mhaítear ar line gur tháinig an focal kerfuffle ón fhrása Gaeilge cíor thuathail. Mar shampla, deir an Oxford English Dictionary gur féidir gur ón Albanais curfuffle (is dócha ó Ghaidhlig na hAlban car ‘casadh, lúbadh’ + focal aithriseach Albanaise fuffle ‘cur in aimhréidh), nó gaolta le Gaeilge cior thual ‘corrabhuais, rírá’.

Ní Gaeilge an frása seo, ar ndóigh. Cíor thuathail an leagan ceart. Mar shampla, thiocfadh leat a rá: ‘Tá an seomra folctha ina chíor thuathail aige’. Ciallaíonn an focal cíor, rud a úsáidtear leis an ghruaig a réiteach, nó an círín ar chloigeann éin. Ciallaíonn tuathal ciotógach nó in éadan na gréine.

Ar ndóigh, tá an tsanasaíocht ón Albanais thar a bheith sochreidte. Tá a lán focal eile ar rírá ar nós curfuggle agus curfuddle, chomh maith le focail ar nós curslap agus curwallop a bhfuil an chéad chuid den fhocal mar an gcéanna. Is féidir níos mó a fhoghlaim faoin fhocal seo ag an Dictionary of the Scots Language: http://www.dsl.ac.uk/entry/snd/cur

Mar sin de, tá sé chóir a bheith cinnte nach focal Gaeilge é kerfuffle. Ach, agus mé ag amharc ar an cheist seo, chuir sé i gcuimhne dom go bhfuil ceist i mo chloigeann leis na blianta faoin fhrása seo, ceist nach bhfuair mé freagra sásúil uirthi riamh. Is é sin, cá has a bhfuarthas an cor cainte sin cíor thuathail?

Má ghlacaimid leis go bhfuil an ghnáthchiall cíor agus go gciallaíonn sé gléas le do chuid gruaige a chíoradh nó an círín ar chloigeann circe, níl mórán céille ag baint leis. Agus sin ráite, tháinig mé ar bhunús féideartha amháin agus mé ag déanamh taighde. De réir seanfhoclóir Gaeilge a foilsíodh in 1768 (Focaloir Gaoidhilge-Sax-Bhearla Or an Irish-English Dictionary le John O’Brien), tá seantéarma liteartha ann, Cíor-ghal. Ciallaíonn an gal misneach agus is seanfhocal ar lámh é cíor, focal a luann Ó Cléirigh ina Foclóir no Sanasan Nua in 1643, iasacht ón Ghréigis cheir.

Tá an méid seo le ciall. Tá a lán frásaí ann a nascann ciotógacht le hamscaíocht nó le haimhréidhe, ina lán teangacha. Ní gá ach focail ar nós sinister agus gauche a lua sa Bhéarla, nó ciotógach agus tuathalach i nGaeilge.

Agus sin ráite, ní féidir a bheith cinnte faoin tsanasaíocht seo. Níl ann ach féidearthacht agus ní mór do shaineolaithe ar stair na teanga é a dhearbhú. Sin an difear le gramaisc mar Cassidy. Bhi seisean i gcónaí sásta dóigh a dhéanamh dá bharúil féin agus diúltú do mhíniúcháin eile, míniúcháin níos fearr, ar na cúiseanna is laige amuigh. Ní dhéanann fíorscoláirí na rudaí a rinne Cassidy. Is maith le fíorscoláirí an fhírinne, agus bíonn siad ag gníomhú dá réir.

 

Twits of the Month – Internet Experts

This month’s twits are a broad category rather than an individual, though I will refer to individuals who belong to this class as well. The category is that of Internet experts. By this, I don’t mean people who are experts on the Internet or its use. I mean people who have appointed themselves as experts on topics like etymology and who go around ‘helpfully’ adding information and reviews about the subject on public forums and sites like Amazon and Goodreads. Here’s an example, a man called Brian McCarthy who gave Cassidy’s ridiculous book a glowing review and a four star rating on Goodreads. Whatever changed his mind, he then wrote the following as a comment:

Further to my review – the book has a lot of conjecture (as do dictionaries) so you can’t assume it’s all correct. Some say it’s enjoyable fiction or even 100% false. You can’t prove it one way or the other but if you have an open mind you can learn from it.

I need hardly point out that comparing the outright fantasies in Cassidy’s book to the (generally) intelligent speculations of lexicographers is stupid. However, the thing that most annoys me here is the idea that ‘you can’t prove it one way or the other’. Why can’t you prove it one way or the other? I’ll return to that question below.

There are lots of people like this, and they come from all walks of life. For example, on Quora, we find the following from a retired academic with a number of degrees, Dr Robert Jeantet (https://www.quora.com/Where-did-the-term-Holy-cow-originate-from):

When one thinks of expressions as “gee whiz”, “gee whillikers”, “darn”, or even “holy cow”, it is easy to trace them to New York slang of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Their origin, however, escapes the learned minds of most classically-trained linguists who do not know Irish Gaelic. Fortunately some fluent speakers of Gaelic have been able to explain the origin of these terms, including “holy cow”. I quote below from Daniel Cassidy’s book, “How the Irish Invented Slang”.

On the same thread, there is a comment from someone called Stephen Taylor, who styles himself an ‘amateur etymologist’, who also takes all Cassidy’s claims like Holy Cow from Holy Cathú and Gee whillikers from Dia Thoil(l)eachas and Gee Whiz from Dia Uas as genuine.

Now, I’m sure these are decent people and well-intentioned (though not all the people on line who support Daniel Cassidy’s dross are nice or well-intentioned people, by any means), but they do deserve to be criticised. Why? Well, there is enough bogus shite out there on the internet already. The idea that things cannot be proven so all you can do is decide what you want to believe is a cop-out. When you encounter claims from people like Daniel Cassidy or Graham Hancock or Erich von Daniken, you need to check all the facts carefully and make a decision accordingly.

Let’s just take the example of Holy Cow. You can easily find accounts of the genuine explanations here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holy_cow_(expression).  You can also look up Irish dictionaries here (https://www.focloir.ie/ga/dictionary/ei/Dia) where you will find that there is no evidence for the existence of the phrases Dia Thoil(l)eachas, Dia Uas, Holy Cathú or Holy Mac Ríúil. They are completely fake phrases, invented by Cassidy to sound like the English targets. The Irish for God’s will is Toil Dé, not Dia Thoil(l)eachas. Cathú means temptation, not grief (though grief is an obscure subsidiary meaning) and there is no evidence it’s ever been used in an exclamation. And the phrase Mac Ríúil doesn’t exist at all.

Of course, Cassidy claimed that these were real phrases. He offered no evidence. No explanation for why nobody else had ever made the connection between these phrases and the Irish equivalents. No explanation why the only references to these ‘Irish’ phrases on Google are to Cassidy and his book (unlike real Irish phrases like Dia ár sábháil).  And Cassidy had a proven record of inventing things, randomly grabbing terms like Ku Klux Klan, Gunga Din, Abracadabra and Bailiwick to claim them for Irish. (Though he had dropped three of these particular fantasies by the time he came to write the book.)

In other words, I think people like McCarthy and Jeantet and Taylor should just ask themselves this simple question. If there were a law against spreading bogus information, if you could end up fined or in jail for doing it, would you still enthusiastically click that button, or would you do five minutes of research before helping to increase the amount of fake nonsense in the world? If the answer is the latter, perhaps you should be doing that anyway.