Tag Archives: dogies

Hall of Shame Christmas Special – America’s Secret Slang

Less than two weeks ago, I said that I was going to give up posting on Cassidyslangscam and do something better with my time, though I did also say that if the occasion demanded I would do some more blogging. I really didn’t think I would be back on this blog before Christmas but I simply couldn’t ignore this one. It turns out that The History Channel has produced a series of programmes called America’s Secret Slang, presented by someone called Zach Selwyn. Episode 5 of this truly dire programme repeats many of Cassidy’s idiotic claims as if they were fact. For example, it says that baloney comes from the Irish béal ónna, meaning ‘stupid mouth.’ Followers of this blog will realise that there is no such phrase as béal ónna, that ónna isn’t even given in the most important modern dictionary of Irish and that there is no evidence that anyone before Cassidy ever put the two words together. And of course, ónna means simple, not stupid. They also repeat the daft idea that ‘say uncle’ comes from the Irish anacal, a word which primarily means protect and defend. In other words, it’s more appropriate for someone asking a third party for help rather than someone asking mercy from the person who has them in a head lock, unless they are appealing to whichever of the bully’s multiple personalities is nurturing and in touch with its feminine side. However, in this crap programme, anacal becomes ‘Gaelic for mercy’. It also repeats the ridiculous claim that dothóigthe is the Irish for ‘a sick calf’. In fact, dothóigthe (modern dothógtha) is an adjective meaning hard to fatten and has no specific connection with calves. While the programme mentions that Cassidy’s book is controversial, unfortunately it doesn’t actually point out that it’s crap or question any of Cassidy’s absurd and childish claims.

At first, I was shocked that something called The History Channel would produce such rubbish, but then I looked at their schedules. It is obvious that history is history on the History Channel. These days, they mostly do programmes about rednecks and the aliens who probe them, so it isn’t entirely surprising that they have bought into this cobblers.

However, I have another reason for posting again so soon. I got to thinking, perhaps Cassidy and his supporters are right. Not about Irish and slang, of course. I would need to bang my head off a lot of walls very hard before I would be stupid enough to believe the shit in How The Irish Invented Slang. No, perhaps – and this is a serious question of philosophy – if someone states an attractive theory with enough confidence and it is then touched by the gilded hand of the media and believed by the masses, surely this virtual fact can then become as real as reality? In Medialand, perhaps fake is the new real?

Then I had a brainwave. What if we could test this experimentally? I think this is a really interesting idea. What if we got all the sloppy journalists who have flogged this dead horse of Cassidy’s, all of his despicable cronies who have plugged this trash, all of the commissioning editors of the History Channel, the people at Counterpunch, Brendan Patrick Keane and Peter Quinn and all the rest of them and we persuaded them to state, confidently and with total belief, that gravity is a myth which has been promulgated by the upper classes to prevent the poor from realising their dreams of rising above the mundane. Then we get them all to go up to the top of a very, very, very tall building and … I think you can probably guess where I’m going with this …

Ah well, what’s the point? The lunatics have obviously taken over the asylum. At least it’s Christmas and my little Irish house is an oasis of sanity! Well … some of the time, anyway.

Nollaig Shona daoibh agus go n-éirí go geal libh san athbhliain!


I came across an interesting little nugget of Cassidese nonsense on what purports to be an educational website (http://www.edu-cyberpg.com/Linguistics/Whoopie-Ti-Yi-Yo-Git-Along.html) the other day. In the article, Cassidy was thinking aloud (I use the term thinking advisedly) about the origins of a cowboy song about little dogies. This is a cowboy term which apparently originally meant an orphan calf and now is applied to cattle of all kinds. Here is one line from the song with Cassidy’s ‘translation’ into Irish.

Whoopie Ti Yi Yo, git along, little doggies
Uimhir dí-áireamh, céadlongadh ládáil do-thóigthe

Countless number breakfast, hard-to-feed cargo

When I had stopped laughing and picked myself up off the floor, I decided to write this post. Cassidy’s Irish ‘translation’ is pure nonsense and makes much less sense even than the English version. I mean, whoopie is pronounced … well, whoopee, as in Makin’ Whoopee or Whoopi Goldberg and uimhir is pronounced ivvir, a bit like liver with the l taken off the front. Uimhir, whoopie. Uimhir, whoopie. No, sorry. It sounds a bit more similar than fish and bicycle but not a lot.

Then there’s the fact that uimhir wouldn’t be used in this sense anyway because in English, you can use number to mean a few, some, as in There were a number of people there. You can’t say bhí uimhir daoine ann in Irish. It is meaningless. In circumstances like this, you use another word, líon. As Ó Dónaill’s Foclóir Gaeilge-Béarla says under the heading líon – “An líon daoine atá san áit, the number of people in the place; the population of the place”. Dí-áireamh is strange but just on the improbable side of impossible: dí-áirimh is given by Ó Dónaill as a variant of the much more common do-áirithe. I strongly suspect that git along is the English get along and is telling the dogies to move quickly. Just a hunch. It certainly seems unlikely that it is a reference to breakfast, however badly the dogies need fattening. Ládáil is a loan-word, related to English lading (as in Bill of Lading) and refers to putting a cargo on a ship. So … they’re taking the cows … on a ship? After breakfast? Let’s hope the water isn’t too choppy. I will discuss the word dogie below.  Oh, and then there is the problem that it would really be ládáil dho-thóigthe (ládáil dhothógtha in modern spelling) according to the rules of Irish grammar, which is pronounced as something like go-hoe-ga rather than do-hoe-ga.   

As so often happened, Cassidy had fallen out of love with this crazy, back-of-an-envelope brainwave by the time the book was published but he still gave do-thóigthe (Dinneen’s spelling: the modern spelling is dothógtha) as the origin of doggie (instead of the traditional explanation that it is a contraction of English dough-guts). Cassidy lied shamelessly in his treatment of this word. He gave a longish definition, half of which was real and taken from Dinneen’s dictionary, but the second half was his own invention.

Here is Cassidy’s definition, as given on page 35 of How Cassidy Invented Crap:


Do-thóigthe, (pron. dohóg’ǝ], hard to rear, hard to fatten (as a calf); a sickly hard-to-feed calf; fig. an orphan calf or child, without a mother to nurse them. (Dineen, 1927;)

The first half (the real bit) says that dothóigthe is an adjective meaning that an animal is hard to fatten or rear (Do-thóigthe, hard to rear, hard to fatten (as a calf) etc.).  The second (fake) bit (a sickly hard-to-feed calf; fig. an orphan calf or child, without a mother to nurse them) implies that dothóigthe can be used as a noun meaning an orphan calf, which it can’t. The whole quotation is ascribed to Dinneen, so the poor reader would have no way of knowing that the convincing half of it in terms of Cassidy’s argument is completely fake.

Cassidy did this on many occasions. He often put the letters fig. into a definition when he was inserting his own fictional take on the meaning. This usually stands for ‘figuratively’ in contexts like this but in Cassidy’s work, it really stands for ‘figment’ (of Cassidy’s imagination).