Tag Archives: fake etymology

More On The Motherfoclóir Podcasts

In a recent post, I criticised the Motherfoclóir podcasts associated with Darach Ó Séaghdha’s book Motherfoclóir. I am broadly in favour of Motherfoclóir. I like the Twitter feed it came from and the book itself was generally good, even if its research was sometimes shoddy (especially around etymological issues.)

After listening to a handful of the podcasts, I am afraid they are not for me. This is not entirely because of Motherfoclóir itself. It has more to do with a general dislike of the medium. Podcasts tend to be a bit of light-hearted chit-chat about some topic, with an incredibly low ratio of facts to padding. Many of them (Motherfoclóir’s included) remind me of the worst language-learning courses, where a simple phrase like “My name is” somehow occupies a whole lesson, while we are also introduced to characters and a situation and a jingle etc.. I have been immersed in languages and Irish and linguistics for decades. While the chit-chat on the podcasts is sometimes interesting, it rarely discusses anything I haven’t heard before and as I said in the last post, the material is sometimes suspect and even completely wrong (as in the Abhartach piece).

I was listening recently to the podcast about claims of a link between Irish and the Lost Tribes of Israel. (An interesting guest but I think they could have made the thing a lot more informative by asking the right questions. As a linguist, Hebrew is not Indo-European. Irish is Indo-European. Therefore they are not closely related and any supposedly similar words are probably coincidental. QED)

However, towards the end of this post, Ó Séaghdha suddenly starts talking about those of us who are very convinced that certain words DO NOT come from Irish. He argues that people who are dismissive of a particular Irish derivation “because of the way the burden of proof works, they can often be even more extreme than people who say it does.”

I don’t really know what he’s trying to say here with ‘because of the way the burden of proof works”. You could take it to mean that linguists and other people who actually present proof for their claims are a bunch of nasty, mean-spirited pedants who won’t let people delight in the odd fake factoid at dinner parties, but to take it like that would probably be the action of a nasty, mean-spirited pedant. What he probably means is that the burden of proof tends to work in favour of the consensus or most accepted opinion. This is undoubtedly true. There is less written material from the Irish language in the 19th century than there is for English, so Irish is less likely to leave evidence. However, using that as an excuse to stop demanding evidence isn’t making things better. It results in poor research and facts that aren’t facts.

Bizarrely, he uses the example of people saying that crack (craic) definitely doesn’t come from Irish. The reason why this is so bizarre is that there is plenty of evidence that crack was originally a northern English and Scottish term for conversation and that this was then Gaelicised as craic. I personally have no objection to people spelling it craic or using it as an Irish word. It is an Irish word. It’s just not a word of Irish origin. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Craic

However, the thing that really got my goat was when he started talking again about the Irish origin of the English word mucker. I presume part of this was probably aimed at me, though he must have been referring to some other critic as well because I never mentioned the Second World War. I have already dealt with this word and shown that the derivation from Irish is nonsense. However, here, rather than accepting that he got it wrong, Darach Ó Séaghdha goes further by saying that there are two words here, both pronounced mucker and both meaning mate, but having two completely separate etymologies. So when people say mucker in Ireland, it comes from Irish, but there is also a totally unrelated word with the same sound and meaning in England but ‘they’re different words and they’re different entries in the dictionary.’ Really? Which dictionary is that? Wiktionary arbitrarily gives different definitions for the military and civilian uses but gives the same English etymology for both. (https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/mucker) The OED is quite clear that the military and civilian uses are the same and that they both (probably) derive from muck: https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/mucker

The truth of the matter is there is no evidence that mucker derives from Irish mo chara, however many people believe this to be the case. There is plenty of circumstantial evidence that mucker does not come from Irish:

• Mucker is not principally or exclusively found in Ireland or in Irish communities in other countries. It is found in various parts of England and is attested there first. (In the 1940s)
• Mucker is often used in Ireland (and in England as well) to address people (how’s it going, mucker?) but mo chara is never used in this way by real Irish speakers. It’s always ‘a chara’ if you are addressing someone.
• Mo chara, if pronounced correctly, rhymes with Sahara. This would not be anglicised as mucker.
• The OED says that this is likely to come from the idea of mucking in or mucking about and does not recognise any Irish derivation.
• If mucker really came from Irish, you would expect this to be a long-held claim in Ireland. In fact, the earliest reference on Google (on Urban Dictionary) only dates back to 2007. No book on Hiberno-English or slang mentions any Irish link.

He then goes on to discuss the term shamus for a gumshoe, which has been claimed for both Irish and Yiddish. This is an interesting question. I’m inclined to agree with the article here (https://forward.com/articles/5064/bogie-speaks-yiddish/), but I think a proper, considered examination would be useful. (And I think David Gold’s input would be welcome!)

My advice to Ó Séaghdha would be this:

• Do your research carefully so that you avoid falling into any holes.
• If you do fall into a hole, climb out. Don’t start digging.


The Motherfoclóir Podcast

Earlier this year, I wrote a post about the book called Motherfoclóir. In that post, I stated that while I generally approved of Darach Ó Séaghdha’s book about the Irish language, I felt it was marred by some extremely sloppy research.

Over the last week, I have listened to a couple of podcasts by Ó Séaghdha and the Motherfoclóir team. The first one was a Halloween-themed post called The Vampirish For. You can find it here: https://player.fm/series/motherfocloir/ep-62-62-the-vampirish-for

This podcast started well. It criticised the ludicrous claims made about the Irish origin of Dracula, which some fools have tried to link to an Irish phrase ‘Drochfhola’, supposedly meaning bad blood. He pours scorn on this claim and describes it as bullshit. Quite right too.

However, the podcast then shows the same lack of common sense and proper research which made the book so unsatisfactory. I have dealt here with the fake claims about Abhartach, supposedly a vampire chieftain who lived in a mountainous area of Derry. As I have stated here, the genuine story of Abhartach describes this evil chieftain returning from the dead. He is later killed with a yew-wood sword and buried upside-down with a huge rock over his body.

Starting about twenty years ago, a revisionist version of this story appeared, claiming that Abhartach demanded the blood of his subjects and that he was described as a neamh-mharbh and a dearg-diúlaí.

So, this piece about Abhartach on Ó Séaghdha’s podcast is basically a rerun of what was wrong with the etymological section of the book. There is one piece of bogus information denied, then a welter of ignorant nonsense lifted from untrustworthy sources without the least attempt to establish the truth. To be fair to Ó Séaghdha, it is a guest of his who recounts this story. They probably lifted much of this nonsense about Abhartach from Wikipedia, which has a longish article on the subject. It looks credible on first inspection but anyone with any common sense would quickly realise that it has huge holes in it.

For one thing, it claims that Bob Curran is a lecturer in Celtic History and Folklore at the University of Ulster. There is no department of Celtic History and Folklore at the UU. I believe Curran is a Child Psychologist by profession and I am told that he has never been a lecturer, though he may have taught evening classes. History Ireland is not a peer-reviewed journal. You only have to read Curran’s article in it to realise that.

Also, I’m willing to bet the PSNI never decided to dig up a listed ancient monument to solve a local murder, and according to Curran, a man got a cut hand when a chainsaw broke during an attempt to uproot the thorn bush. In this piece of fantasy, the man’s hand is cut clean off by the curse of Abhartach! Do me a favour!

Of course, I don’t believe that Abhartach was a real person. That’s not the point. The point is that folklore is interesting and is a legitimate field of study, with its own methodology. Embellishing and inventing to make the story ‘better’ is not part of that methodology. In Patrick Weston Joyce’s story, Abhartach died and came back and then had to be stopped by supernatural means. He wasn’t a vampire. About twenty years ago, Abhartach suddenly became a vampire because Peter Haining and Peter Tremayne and Bob Curran said so. But where did that claim come from? Where’s the reference, the evidence? Until I see something from a recorded folk-tale or a magazine or a book predating these authors, Abhartach is a revenant, not a vampire. That’s what the original story says.

And let’s face it, if he wasn’t a vampire, he really has fuck all to do with Dracula.

There were other bits that were even stupider. Apparently Stoker’s notes contained no books on Transylvania and no mention of Vlad Dracul. Nonsense! Stoker copied some information from William Wilkinson’s An Account of the Principalities of Wallachia and Moldavia about Vlad III. He also set the first part of the book in Transylvania and makes it quite clear that his Count isn’t Irish. And if it’s true that Stoker had a copy of PW Joyce’s History of Ireland in his library, that is completely irrelevant, because that book doesn’t contain any reference to Abhartach or to any supposed Irish vampires.

The second podcast was even worse. You can find it here: https://www.headstuff.org/motherfocloir/45-2-mailbag-2-furious/

The description said that it was a mailbag edition, in which Daniel Cassidy’s legacy would be discussed, so I was keen to hear it.

A few minutes into the podcast, an anonymous critic writes that he likes the book and the podcast of Motherfoclóir and has been trying to learn a little Irish over the last year. He says that he is a writer and musician from the Irish-American community and that he is from New York. His initials are TW. He says that he has a bone of contention, namely the way that Motherfoclóir dismissed Cassidy’s revolutionary theory about the Irish origins of slang. Plainly, from the details given, this is an Irish-American mediocrity called Terence Winch.

Winch is typical of the pompous dimwits who support Cassidy. “I am not sure all his examples would hold up to academic scrutiny but that does not mean to say that his overall theory is completely flawed.” In other words, Winch is insisting on ignoring all the evidence on this blog and elsewhere, because he believes that there are only a few bad apples in Cassidy’s barrel. The reality is that not only is there no baby in Cassidy’s bathwater, there isn’t even anything that looks like a rubber duck, floats like a rubber duck and might just vaguely, possibly be a rubber duck. I have examined most of Cassidy’s nonsense here and shown why his derivations are fake. Winch is welcome to take up the challenge I have issued to the rest of the tribe of Dan. Let’s see if you can offer ten words from Cassidy’s work where any reasonable person would regard Cassidy’s explanation as convincing (i.e. where the Irish origin really exists and there isn’t a better explanation from English or some other language). Good luck with that!

I was disappointed with Darach Ó Séaghdha’s response to Terence Winch, which was, to say the least, a bit weasel-wordy. In the original book, Ó Séaghdha had criticised Cassidy’s book (before going off into the realms of etymological fantasy himself). In his reply to Winch on the podcast, he states that Cassidy has been described as the Andrew Wakefield of linguistics. I don’t know who said that, but I agree with it 100%. (Except, perhaps, that Wakefield was a real doctor who was struck off. Cassidy never had any qualifications in the first place.)

Ó Séaghdha then goes on to say that Cassidy just got it a bit wrong but that’s fine and he finds the hostility against Cassidy hard to understand and it is false to say that Cassidy was a con-man or a trickster. I think it’s quite clear from this that Ó Séaghdha has never read much of this blog. I also suspect that Ó Séaghdha has never read Cassidy’s book either, because he insists that Cassidy thought the English word jazz came from Irish deas (nice). If he had read the book properly, he would know that Cassidy claimed it came from teas (heat) – though confusingly, Cassidy also thought teas was pronounced as deas in Ulster Irish, information supplied to him by his principal source of enlightenment, his own arse.

Ó Séaghdha couldn’t be more wrong about Cassidy’s dishonesty. Cassidy was obviously a criminal fake. He ‘worked’ for twelve years as a professor in a university on the strength of his ‘education’ at Cornell and Columbia. As his sister (and then the Cornell registrar) informed me, Cassidy failed his degree at Cornell and never went to Columbia. Even Cassidy’s friends and supporters have not tried to challenge these facts or offer any evidence to the contrary or excuses for his criminal behaviour.

However, the worst evidence of Cassidy’s dishonesty is in the book itself. ‘Irish’ definitions were imagined, rewritten, miscopied, and ‘figurative’ meanings invented. Hundreds of completely fake phrases were invented by Cassidy.

That is (one of the reasons) why Winch’s comment is so stupid. He seems to be implying that linguists are being obtuse and difficult (because, apparently, they are ‘threatened by’ Cassidy) because they refuse to accept Cassidy’s candidate Irish phrases on the grounds that there is no contemporary evidence of these phrases crossing between the Irish language and English slang. This is not the issue.

Linguists and etymologists reject the overwhelming majority of Cassidy’s ‘Irish’ phrases not because there’s no evidence of them crossing from Irish but because they never existed in Irish. Nobody ever said that béal ónna meant nonsense in Irish until Cassidy made it up, nobody ever used comhroghna to mean friend or companion, foluach doesn’t exist as a way of saying a rare reward, leathluí géag and liú lúith and gus óil and sách úr and píosa theas and hundreds of other pieces of nonsense in Cassidy’s book are simply fantasy. Cassidy never provided any evidence that any of this rubbish existed and linguists shouldn’t waste their time and energy on the fantasies of a dishonest lunatic. Terence Winch should have known this, because I wrote a blog post answering his post of 2007 and explaining that all the words he provided as examples from Cassidy’s work are fake. I suppose it’s possible he’s never Googled himself but … mneh … Plainly, he isn’t ready to stop this nonsense. You can read my post here: https://cassidyslangscam.wordpress.com/tag/terence-winch/

There is another thing which irritated me. In the same podcast where Winch’s nonsense was discussed, there was a discussion of people misspelling Irish names and leaving off the accents. This is something that irritates me too, but it seems a bit rich to complain about this as a matter of respect and identity, while simultaneously, on the same podcast, saying that it’s perfectly OK for some random Yank to invent hundreds of phrases in our language, a language he had never made any attempt to learn, and try to pass it off as fact. It isn’t. It’s an insult to our culture and language and identity, and fatheads like Terence Winch should be told in no uncertain terms that intellectual debate should be conducted on the basis of the evidence, not on the basis of how good a friend-of-a-friend Cassidy was or who happens to be on Winch’s Christmas-card list.

However, I hope my American friends (who are self-deprecating, intelligent and reasonable) will forgive me for saying that there is more to this. It seems to me that there is a poisonous strain of arrogance in modern American culture. I found an interesting article by Tom Nichols here which chimes with my theory: (https://www.marketwatch.com/story/the-real-reason-americans-cant-agree-on-unemployment-or-just-about-anything-else-2017-03-29):

This isn’t just human nature, but the result of a narcissism that took root in American society after the 1960s and has been growing ever since. Surrounded by affluence, enabled by the internet, and empowered by an educational system that prizes self-esteem over achievement, Americans have become more opinionated even as they have become less informed, and are now utterly intolerant of ever being told they’re wrong about almost anything.”

This, I feel, is what’s happening here. Admitting you got it wrong simply isn’t a valued part of modern American culture, and people like Winch have no interest in learning the truth if the truth means admitting they were duped.

Whether that is the case or not, one thing that both of these podcasts show very clearly is that once fake memes are released into the wild, it’s almost impossible to stop them from eclipsing the truth. That’s why the Rubberbandits behaved like total dicks in relation to the list of fake Irish derivations they spread on social media. Once the genie is out of the bottle, or Abhartach out of his tomb drinking blood, it’s impossible to put them back again. Falsehoods with a good story behind them always outstrip the truth. Motherfoclóir is well-placed to try and restrain some of those falsehoods. Instead, because of poor research and intellectual laziness and a fear of strapping on a pair and offending arrogant American fans of Cassidy like Terence Winch, they are helping to spread this worthless fakery rather than challenging it properly.

Caunfort Ladran

The late Daniel Cassidy, in his absurd book of fake etymology, ‘How The Irish Invented Slang’, claimed that there were hundreds of Irish expressions hidden in American slang. We have already seen that in the vast majority of these cases, the Irish expressions cited by Cassidy do not exist and were invented by Cassidy himself.

We do find occasional traces of the Irish language in American slang. This phrase, caunfort ladran, is one of the most interesting examples. Cassidy failed to spot it, either because he was too lazy to read all the slang dictionaries, or because he read this and failed to spot that it was Irish. (Cassidy didn’t speak any Irish at all.)

The phrase caunfort ladran is given in a criminal slang dictionary of 1908 called ‘Criminal Slang’ by a certain Joseph M. Sullivan, a lawyer at the Boston Bar. On page 5 of this book, we find:

Caunfort Ladran Master thief (Irish); same as head of a mob.

The (Irish) is a reference to language rather than location. Caunfort Ladran represents the Irish ceannfort ladrann, meaning commandant of thieves.

Was this a genuine expression used among Irish-speaking criminals? There is no way of knowing. There are a few Irish and Hiberno-English expressions in Sullivan’s book. Thus we find things like Souper, a fellow who works the churches to advance himself, – an insincere convert, or Sthreel, a slouchy woman (from Irish sraoill). Shebeen and shoneen are also mentioned.

However, the usual modern Irish term for thief is gadaí, not ladrann (a borrowing from Latin, resembling Spanish ladrón). In other words, I wonder whether Sullivan simply got a translated term for a leader of thieves from some Irish scholar in his community and pretended that it was current in the criminal underworld.

One thing is sure. The existence of this phrase does nothing to strengthen Cassidy’s case. For one thing, Cassidy actually missed it. Secondly, this is a genuine Irish phrase. It means what it is supposed to mean and it is labelled as Irish in the source text. It bears no relation to the rubbish given as Irish in Cassidy’s book.


Mhaígh Daniel Cassidy, nach maireann, ina leabhar áiféiseach den tsanasaíocht bréige, ‘How The Irish Invented Slang’, go raibh na céadta focal de bhunús Ghaeilge na hÉireann le fáil i mbéarlagair Bhéarla Mheiriceá. Mar a chonaic muid roimhe seo, sa chuid is mó de na cásanna seo, ní raibh na frásaí ‘Gaeilge’ a luaigh Cassidy ann ar chor ar bith. Ní raibh iontu ach raiméis a chum an Casaideach féin.

Níl i leabhar Cassidy ach amaidí. Ach bíonn corr-rian den Ghaeilge le fáil i mbéarlagair na Stát Aontaithe. Tá an frása atá i gceist anseo, caunfort ladran, ar cheann de na samplaí is suimiúla. Níor thug Cassidy faoi deara é. B’fhéidir go raibh sé rófhalsa na foclóirí béarlagair uilig a léamh, nó b’fhéidir gur léigh sé é agus nár aithin sé gur Gaeilge a bhí ann. (Ní raibh Gaeilge ar bith ag Cassidy, ar ndóigh.)

Tugadh an frása caunfort ladran i bhfoclóir den bhéarlagair coiriúil a foilsíodh sa bhliain 1908, ‘Criminal Slang’ le fear darbh ainm Joseph M. Sullivan, dlíodóir ag Barra Bhostúin. Ar leathanach 5 den leabhar sin, tá an méid seo scríofa:

Caunfort Ladran Master thief (Irish); same as head of a mob.

Tá an (Irish) sin ag tagairt don teanga, ní don tír. Is ionann caunfort ladran agus ceannfort ladrann, nó ceannaire na ngadaithe.

An fíor go raibh ceannfort ladrann in úsáid i measc gadaithe Gaelacha? Níl a fhios againn. Tá roinnt focal a tháinig ón Ghaeilge nó ó Bhéarla na hÉireann i leabhar Sullivan. Tá leithéidí Souper, a fellow who works the churches to advance himself, – an insincere convert, nó Sthreel, a slouchy woman ann (ó sraoill na Gaeilge). Tá shebeen agus shoneen luaite ann fosta.

Agus sin ráite, is é gadaí an focal is coitianta ar thief an Bhéarla, ní ladrann (focal a fuair an Ghaeilge ón Laidin, agus atá gaolta le ladrón na Spáinnise). Lena rá ar dhóigh eile, b’fhéidir nach bhfuil ann ach gur iarr Sullivan ar scoláire Gaeilge i mBostún téarma Gaeilge a chur ar fáil ar ‘master thief’ agus nach raibh sé riamh in úsáid i measc na gcoirpeach féin.

Rud amháin atá fíor. Ní neartaíonn sé cás Cassidy go bhfuil a leithéid de fhrása ann. Ar an chéad dul síos, chaill Cassidy é, in ainneoin an diantaighde a rinne sé don leabhar, dar leis féin. Ar an dara dul síos, is fíorphíosa Gaeilge é seo. Tá sé ag teacht leis an bhrí a luaitear leis sa téacs, agus tá sé lipéadaithe mar Ghaeilge sa bhuntéacs. Níl baint ar bith aige leis an amaidí a tugadh mar Ghaeilge i leabhar Cassidy.

The Brooklyn Boys

On August 16th 2004, Daniel Cassidy posted a message on the Linguist List about his latest crackpot theory. He had come across the term The Brooklyn Boys in the plays of Eugene O’Neill and decided to invent an Irish origin for the phrase.

In reality, Brooklyn Boys is a slang term for the DTs or for a hangover. The expression has been on record since 1883. Nobody is sure about its origin but one source mentions that there were many breweries and distilleries in Brooklyn, which sounds reasonable.

Cassidy really excelled himself in his version of the origin of this phrase. According to him, Brooklyn Boys represents the ‘Irish’ phrase Bru/cht [Sic – should be brúcht] lionn baithis. According to Cassidy, this phrase means ‘Booze and bile bursting out the top of the head’ and is pronounced brook-lyn-boice.

In reality, this phrase makes no sense at all. Brúcht lionn baithis is just a list of three words with no grammar to define their relationship, which sort of means something like “Belch bodily humour top of head.” Even if you accepted that it meant ‘booze and bile bursting out the top of the head’, is this a convincing description of the DTs? The usual term for the DTs is rámhaille an óil (the raving of drink). The image of sweat and other bodily fluids erupting out of the top of someone’s head like a volcano is ludicrous, disturbing and completely unconvincing.  And of course, it would be pronounced brookht-lin-ba-hish (with the kh as in Scottish loch or Spanish j), not brook-lyn-boice. This is another clear example of Cassidy’s dishonesty. Every fact was manipulated in the direction of Cassidy’s conclusions.

Of course, a supporter of Cassidy would probably point out that this never made it to the book and that this implies some kind of quality control. In fact, the vast majority of the phrases in the book are every bit as mad and silly as phrases like athbhreith céad athbhreith (=abracadabra, according to Cassidy) or brúcht lionn baithis, that never made it to the book. Cassidy’s mind was a junkyard of half-formed nonsense, and the book simply represents whatever garbage happened to be between Cassidy’s ears in the year before publication. They are no more believable or reasonable than the other stupid claims that were lost along the way.


Ar an 16 Lúnasa 2004, chuir Daniel Cassidy teachtaireacht suas ar an Linguist List faoi theoiric nua a bhí cumtha aige. Tháinig sé ar an téarma The Brooklyn Boys i ndrámaí Eugene O’Neill agus shocraigh sé ar bhunús ‘Gaeilge’ a chumadh leis an fhriotal seo a mhíniú.

Is é fírinne an scéil gur téarma béarlagair é The Brooklyn Boys ar rámhaille an óil (delirium tremens) nó ar phóit uafásach. Taifeadadh an téarma sin den chéad uair sa bhliain 1883. Níl a fhios ag duine ar bith faoi shanasaíocht an fhrása, ach deir foinse amháin go raibh a lán grúdlann agus drioglann in Brooklyn, agus tá sin cineál réasúnta mar mhíniú.

Tá caimiléireacht Cassidy maidir leis an chor cainte seo níos measa fiú ná an ghnáthraiméis a chumadh sé. Dar leisean, is ionann Brooklyn Boys agus an friotal ‘Gaeilge’ Bru/cht [=Brúcht] lionn baithis. Dar le Cassidy, ciallaíonn an bolgam seo ‘Biotáille agus domlas ag brúchtadh amach as barr an chinn’ agus deirtear é mar brúc-lion-bóis (brook-lyn-boice).

Ní gá dom a rá le duine ar bith a bhfuil Gaeilge aici nó aige gur raiméis é seo. Níl ann ach trí fhocal gan gramadach lena gceangal le chéile. Fiú dá nglacfadh duine leis an íomhá áiféiseach de lionn ag brúchtadh amach as barr an chinn mar a bheadh bolcán ann, cad é an bhaint atá aige sin le rámhaille an óil? Agus ar ndóigh, ní mar brúc-lion-bóis a déarfaí é. Is eiseamláir shoiléir eile seo de mhí-ionracas Cassidy. Lúbadh agus camadh gach fíric ionas go mbeadh sí ag teacht le torthaí réamhcheaptha Cassidy.

Ar ndóigh, déarfadh lucht leanúna Cassidy nár foilsíodh an ceann seo sa leabhar, agus gur fianaise seo go raibh rialú caighdeáin de chineál aige ag Cassidy. Is é fírinne an scéil go bhfuil tromlach na bhfrásaí sa leabhar chomh craiceáilte agus bómánta le ‘athbhreith céad athbhreith’ (=abracadabra, de réir Cassidy) nó ‘brúcht lionn baithis’, cinn nár bhain an leabhar amach riamh. Is é a bhí in intinn Cassidy ná clós mangarae lán le bruscar leathfhoirmithe, agus is é atá sa leabhar ná cibé truflais a bhí idir cluasa Cassidy sa bhliain sular foilsíodh an leabhar. Níl siad pioc níos inchreidte ná níos réasúnta ná na bómántachtaí eile a mhaígh Cassidy ar an idirlíon ach nár chuir sé isteach sa leabhar agus a cailleadh ar an bhealach.

September 2018’s Twits of the Month – The Vintage News

The September 2018 Twit of the Month is a site called The Vintage News. They have put up a short video called American slang words we never knew were invented by the Irish. In the video, a lot of ridiculous derivations made up by Cassidy are given, along with a couple which Cassidy borrowed from more trustworthy sources:

Snazzy =Snasah: (sic, Snasach is the right version). Cassidy didn’t make this one up. Although the connection between snazzy and snasach is believable enough, it is not likely to be correct. When the term snazzy was first used, it referred to a person called Snazelle – Snazzy was his nickname.

Spiel = Speal. A speal is a scythe, an instrument used to cut grass. It rhymes with the name Al. There is a similar word in Scots Gaelic and there is a subsidiary meaning in that language, namely, sharp words. In other words, that isn’t its meaning in the Irish language. And of course, spiel comes from German (apparently, it’s not from Yiddish – see comments below).

Baloney = Béal ónna. Of course, there is no such phrase as béal ónna. Daniel Cassidy made it up.

Bunkum = Buanchumadh. We have discussed this one before. It is a reference to Buncombe County, and a politician called Felix Walker. There is no such phrase as buanchumadh. It is simply nonsense made up by Daniel Cassidy.

Swell = Sóúil. Sóúil means luxurious (hardly a match to any meaning of the word swell) and it is pronounced so-ool, which doesn’t sound much like swell either. Also, the real origin of swell is well-known and explained here: https://www.etymonline.com/word/swell

Slugger = slacaire. Slacaire sounds like slackarra, so why would it have become slugger, not slacker? Also, there are lots of words in English which have meanings like beating, trudging, words like slug and slog and slag, as well as words like schlagen in German. You can find some notes on them here: https://www.etymonline.com/word/slug#etymonline_v_23704

Dork = dorc. According to this idiotic piece of non-information on Vintage News, the Irish dorc means dwarf. Really? News to me. And the word dork is widely believed to be a disguised form of ‘dick’.

Croney = comh-roghna. Again, this is an entirely fake phrase invented by Cassidy. Croney is believed to be Cambridge slang of the late 17th century and derived from Greek chronios, old.

Phoney = fáinne (ring). This is quite likely true (in my opinion) but predates Cassidy by decades. It possibly derives from fake gold rings used in scams, known as fawneys. However, the link is not universally accepted, and David L. Gold, who is a knowledgeable and intelligent etymologist, is one of the sceptics.

Dude = dúd. There is no evidence for a Gaelic origin of dude, a 19th century term for a dandy. Most scholars regard it as derived from the song Yankee Doodle Dandy, who stuck a feather in his cap and called it macaroni (macaroni was 18th century slang for a dandy).

Slum = ‘s lom (é). Is lom é is a made-up Cassidy phrase. Even if it did exist, anyone with any background in linguistics will realise that phrases like this are not usually borrowed. Also, slums are not usually bare, which is the meaning of lom. And of course, as it originally referred to bedrooms or flophouses, the word slum almost certainly comes from slumber.

Fluke = fo-luach. According to Cassidy, this phrase means a windfall or a rare reward. The phrase fo-luach does not exist and if it did, it would mean something like a ‘subsidiary value’. Pure nonsense.

Nincompoop = naioidhean. Actually, Cassidy’s original claim was that nincompoop comes from the ‘Irish’ naioidhean ar chuma búb, supposedly an insulting phrase meaning an infant in the shape of a booby. This is not a real phrase, of course. Nincompoop probably comes from the Latin phrase Non compos mentis.

Scam = ‘s cam é. Cassidy claims that scam comes from this phrase, which might just mean ‘it is crooked’. So, when you say, it’s a scam, you are apparently saying It’s an it is crooked. Yeah, right. In reality, there are a number of possible origins for scam. The front runner is probably the Spanish escamotear, which is a verb meaning to scam or to rob.

Boogaloo = bogadh luath. According to Cassidy, the phrase boogaloo comes from Irish. Boogaloo comes from bogadh luath, which means ‘early moving’ and is pronounced bogga looa or boggoo looa. Why? What connection does this have to the known uses of boogaloo? Your guess is as good as mine. Meanwhile, back on planet Earth, boogaloo is believed to have been coined in the 1960s, and derives from the onomatopoeic music style boogie-woogie.

Puss = pus. This is true but is accepted by all dictionaries and predates Cassidy by decades. Puss as in a dig in the puss or a sourpuss (not puss as in cat) comes from the Irish word pus, which means a pouting lip.

So, what have we got here? A couple of (perhaps) genuine derivations from Irish, along with a large collection of fantasy nonsense invented by the late Daniel Cassidy in his book How The Irish Invented Slang. The comments, which number nearly 2000, are interesting. Many people expressed scepticism about this nonsense, especially spiel, which is the most obviously wrong. Eoin Ó Murchú pointed out that this was all rubbish derived from Cassidy’s book. One person, Dilean Mac Searraigh, said “Most of these are ridiculous … there are Irish words in English … but these are totally inaccurate gibberish. Someone literally just made them up.”

The critics were then rebuked by a dimwit called Rhonda Pennington:

I can’t believe a fun post like this has generated such snarky remarks. It’s all in fun. Why does everything have to be an argument these days? Where is your sense of humour, people?

I’m sure others will be wondering the same as me. Where exactly is the fun? Where’s the humour? This is largely a collection of fantasy without any foundation in fact. Yet there is no indication that this is ironic or not meant to be true. What has promoting non-facts that aren’t true about other people’s languages and cultures to do with fun, especially languages which have been subject to discrimination for generations? If this were claiming to be a list of words and phrases from Gullah or Cherokee but it was mostly made-up, I’m inclined to think that it wouldn’t be regarded as fun. I think most people would regard it as cultural appropriation or (and this is the way I view it) as racism.

Pennington seems to be saying that when someone shovels shit on your head, you should thank them politely, perhaps ask for some more shit and take it all as a big joke. You are quite at liberty to do that, Rhonda (although it’s not your language and culture that are being targeted by these frauds). I choose to take this as a deliberate attempt to deceive, because the facts about Cassidy and his dishonesty have been out there for years. The people at Vintage News did no research. Vintage News is responsible for deliberately spreading nonsense as if it were fact, and neither they nor you are deserving of anyone’s respect or tolerance for being a liar, however funny you think these lies are.

Amadáin na Míosa, Meán Fómhair 2018 – The Vintage News

Is é Amadán na Míosa i Mi Mheán an Fhómhair 2018 ná suiomh a bhfuil The Vintage News air. Tá físeán beag acu darb ainm American slang words we never knew were invented by the Irish. San fhíseán, tugtar a lán sanasaíochtai aiféiseacha a chum Cassidy, maraon le dornán a fuair Cassidy  ó fhoinsí atá níos iontaofa:

Snazzy =Snasah: (ar ndóigh, Snasach an leagan ceart). Níor chum Cassidy an ceann seo. Cé go bhfuil an nasc idir snazzy agus snasach sochreidte go leor, ní dócha go bhfuil sé ceart. Nuair a baineadh úsáid as Snazzy den chéad uair, bhi sé ag tagairt do dhuine darbh ainm Snazelle – Snazzy an leasainm a bhí air.

Spiel = Speal. Ciallaíonn speal gléas a úsáidtear le féar a ghearradh. Rímeann sé leis an ainm Al. Tá focal cosúil leis i nGaidhlig na hAlban agus tá fochiall leis sa teanga sin, mar atá, focail ghéara. Ní Gaeilge sin, mar sin. Agus ar ndóigh, tagann spiel ón Ghearmáinis. (Nil baint ar bith aige leis an Ghiúdais, de réir cosúlachta.)

Baloney = Béal ónna. Ar ndóigh, níl a leithéid de fhrása ann agus béal ónna. Chum Daniel Cassidy é.

Bunkum = Buanchumadh. Tá an ceann seo pléite againn roimhe seo. Tagairt atá ann do Buncombe County, agus polaiteoir darbh ainm Felix Walker. Níl a leithéid de fhrása ann agus buanchumadh. Níl ann ach cumadóireacht eile de chuid Cassidy.

Swell = Sóúil. Ciallaionn an focal sóúil saibhir, sómasach, galánta (níl baint dhíreach idir ciall an fhocail seo agus ciall an fhocail swell) agus níl sé róchosuil leis an fhocal swell ó thaobh fuaime de. Ní hamháin sin, ach tá fíorbhunús swell aitheanta ag na saineolaithe. Tá an bunús sin mínithe anseo: https://www.etymonline.com/word/swell

Slugger = slacaire. Níl slugger iontach cosúil le slacaire ó thaobh fuaime de, ar ndóigh. Tá a lán focal i mBéarla a bhfuil ciallanna ar nós bualadh, siúl go trom srl. acu, focail ar nós slug agus slog agus slag, chomh maith le focail ar nós schlagen sa Ghearmáinis. Thig leat nótaí a fháil orthu ach an nasc seo a leanúint: https://www.etymonline.com/word/slug#etymonline_v_23704

Dork = dorc. De réir na raiméise seo ar Vintage News, ciallaíonn an focal dorc ‘abhac’ i nGaeilge. An gciallaíonn? Níor chuala mise sin riamh. Agus de réir na saineolaithe, is leagan truaillithe den fhocal Béarla ‘dick’ atá san fhocal sin dork.

Croney = comh-roghna. Creidtear gur béarlagair Ollscoil Cambridge atá ann, a cumadh sa 17ú haois agus a tháinig ó chronios, focal Gréigise a chiallaíonn ‘sean’.

Phoney = fáinne (ring). Tá an ceann seo fíor, is dócha, (dar liomsa, cibé) ach bhí sé ann i bhfad sular thosaigh Cassidy ar a fheachtas cumadóireachta. Tagann sé ó na fáinní (fawneys) a bhí in úsáid le daoine a robáil. Agus sin ráite, nil gach duine ar aon intinn faoin nasc idir fawney agus phoney, agus tá David L. Gold, sanasaí cumasach éirimiúil, ar dhuine de na sceiptigh.

Dude = dúd. Níl fianaise dá laghad ann gur Gaeilge é dude, téarma ar ghaige sa 19ú haois. An chuid is mó de na scoláirí, deir siad gur tháinig sé ón amhrán Yankee Doodle Dandy, a sháigh cleite ina chaipín agus a thug macaroni air (i mbéarlagair an 18ú haois, bhí an chiall gaige leis an fhocal macaroni fosta).

Slum = ‘s lom (é). Is frása de na frásaí a chum Cassidy é ‘Is lom é’. Agus fiú dá mbeadh an frása sin ann, thuigfeadh duine ar bith a bhfuil cúlra aige nó aici sa teangeolaíocht nach ndéantar frásai mar seo a fháil ar iasacht. Ní hamháin sin, ach ní bhíonn plódcheantair ‘lom’. Agus ar ndóigh, áit chodlata an chiall a bhí le slum agus mar sin de, is dócha go bhfuil baint ag an fhocal leis an Bhéarla ‘slumber’.

Fluke = fo-luach. De réir Cassidy, ciallaíonn fo-luach deonú Dé nó duais neamhchoitianta. Níl a leithéid de chor cainte ann sa Ghaeilge agus dá mbeadh, is é ‘subsidiary value’ nó rud éigin mar sin an chiall a bheadh aige. Raiméis agus amaidí!

Nincompoop = naioidhean. Lena rá mar is ceart, is é a mhaígh Cassidy’s ná gur tháinig nincompoop ón ‘Ghaeilge’ naioidhean ar chuma búb. Dar le Cassidy, is masla é seo a bhí coitianta sa Ghaeilge fadó. Ní fíorGhaeilge é sin, ar ndóigh. Is dócha go bhfuair an Béarla nincompoop ón fhrása Laidin non compos mentis.

Scam = ‘s cam é. Deir Cassidy gur tháinig scam ón fhrása seo, atá cineál aisteach (déarfá ‘tá sé cam’ de ghnáth). Mar sin de, nuair a deir tú ‘it’s a scam’, is é atá á rá agat i nGaeilge ná ‘Is is cam é é!’ Aidhe, is dócha go bhfuil an ceart agat. Is é fírinne an scéil go bhfuil a lán sanasaíochtaí féideartha ann. An ceann is minice a luaitear ná an briathar Spáinnise escamotear, a chiallaíonn duine a scamáil nó a robáil.

Boogaloo = bogadh luath. Dar le Cassidy, is ón Ghaeilge a tháinig an focal boogaloo, ón fhrása bogadh luath (?). Ar ndóigh, níl bogadh luath cosúil le boogaloo agus níl baint ar bith idir boogaloo agus bogadh luath ó thaobh céille de. Ach, le filleadh ar réadúlachta an phláinéid seo, creidtear gur cumadh boogaloo sna 1960í, agus gur leagan atá ann den stíl cheoil boogie-woogie, a bhfuil a ainm onamataipéach, is dócha.

Puss = pus. Tá an ceann seo fíor, ach glacann gach foclóir Béarla leis an tsanasaíocht seo agus bhí an ceann seo ann i bhfad sular scríobh Cassidy a leabhar. Tagann puss (sa chiall a dig in the puss nó sourpuss) ón fhocal Gaeilge pus.

Cad é atá againn anseo, mar sin? Cúpla fíorshanasaíocht ón Ghaeilge, agus a lán finscéalaíocht agus raiméis a chum Daniel Cassidy ina leabhar How The Irish Invented Slang. Na tráchtanna ar Facebook, is mór an díol spéise iad. Scríobh a lán daoine nach raibh an raiméis seo inchreidte, go háirithe an téarma spiel, ar léir gur ón Ghearmáinis nó ón Ghiúdáis a tháinig sé. Dúirt Eoin P. Ó Murchú (bullaí fir, a Eoin!) go neamhbhalbh gur raiméis a bhí ann a fuarthas ó leabhar Cassidy. Scríobh duine amháin, Dilean Mac Searraigh: ““Most of these are ridiculous … there are Irish words in English … but these are totally inaccurate gibberish. Someone literally just made them up.”

Ach is léir gur chuir sé isteach go mór ar óinseach darb ainm Rhonda Pennington go raibh daoine ag cosaint na fírinne in áit bréaga a scaipeadh go randamach:

I can’t believe a fun post like this has generated such snarky remarks. It’s all in fun. Why does everything have to be an argument these days? Where is your sense of humour, people?

Tá mé cinnte nach mise an t-aon duine leis an cheist seo a thógáil, ach cá háit a bhfuil an chraic? Cad é an greann? Is é atá sa stuif seo ná bailiúchán finscéalta nach bhfuil fréamhaithe san fhírinne ar chor ar bith. Ach níl rud ar bith ann a thugann le fios gur íoróin atá ann nó nach bhfuil sé in ainm a bheith fíor. Cad é go díreach an bhaint idir acmhainn grinn agus fíricí bréaga a chur chun tosaigh faoi theangacha agus faoi chultúir daoine eile, go háirithe teangacha a bhfuil leatrom á dhéanamh orthu leis na glúnta? Dá mbeadh siad ag maíomh gur liosta d’fhocail a tháinig ó Gullah nó Cherokee atá ann, ach nach raibh sa chuid ba mhó de ach deargchumadóireacht, ní dóigh liom go nglacfadh daoine leis nach raibh ann ach craic. Is dócha go sílfeadh an chuid ba mhó de na daoine nach raibh ann ach leithghabháil chultúrtha nó (an dearcadh atá agam féin) ciníochas lom.

De réir cosúlachta, tá Pennington ag rá linn anseo, nuair a chaitheann duine lán sluaiste de chac ar do chloigeann, ba chóir duit do bhuíochas a ghabháil leo go muinte, iarraidh orthu tuilleadh caca a chaitheamh anuas ort agus glacadh leis nach bhfuil ann ach píosa grinn. Cead agatsa sin a dhéanamh, a Rhonda (cé nach í an teanga s’agatsa atá faoi ionsaí, ar ndóigh). Is fearr liom féin amharc air seo mar iarracht dallamullóg a chur ar dhaoine d’aon turas, mar go bhfuil an fhírinne faoi Cassidy agus a mhí-ionracas amuigh ansin leis na blianta. Ní dhearna muintir Vintage News taighde ar bith. Tá Vintage News freagrach as raiméis a scaipeadh mar a bheadh fírinne ann, agus níl meas nó caonfhulaingt tuillte acusan nó agatsa ó dhuine ar bith as bréaga a insint, is cuma cé chomh greannmhar agus atá na bréaga céanna, dar leat féin.


Twit of the Month – August 2018

Who is the Twit of the Month this month? Well, I have been looking at the people whom I have criticised over the years, and it occurred to me that there is one notable person in Irish circles who has never been Twit of the Month, though he has been criticised greatly and often here for the support he has given to the fraud and liar Daniel Cassidy, author of the ludicrous book, How The Irish Invented Slang.

This person is Peter Quinn, a writer from New York who never missed a chance to praise his friend Cassidy in public. Quinn and people like Quinn are to blame for ignorant people thinking that Cassidy was right and that there was a grain of truth inside all of the lies.

However, the person who lies down with dogs gets up with fleas. And people like Quinn, who give resounding praise to fakes and liars because they happen to be friends of theirs, are worthless people.  

That’s why I’m happy to name Peter Quinn as the Twit of the Month in August 2018. It is well deserved.