Tag Archives: fake etymology

Chicken

I have noticed that many of the early posts on this blog get relatively little traffic, so I have decided to start republishing some of them.

I have already said that Cassidy ignores perfectly good English explanations for words in favour of improbable or impossible made-up Irish derivations. This is a perfect example. Chicken means scared and a chicken is a coward. I think this comes from the English word chicken which is a nervous type of bird. In English, phrases like hen-hearted go back to the 14th century at least. As early as the 15th century, the churles chekyne was used as an expression for a coward. It is obvious, realistic, and it ticks all the boxes.

Cassidy and his supporters will have none of it. Chicken doesn’t come from chicken, apparently. It comes from teith ar cheann, which means – says Cassidy – to run away first. Does it? No, of course not. This is How The Irish Invented Slang we’re talking about here, not a serious work of scholarship! Teith ar cheann is unattested. If you look it up on Google, you will find a handful of references to Daniel Cassidy. In terms of Irish grammar, it doesn’t make sense, as it really means ‘flee at the head of’ rather than flee first. At the head of what? I hear you ask. Exactly. On its own, this phrase means nothing.

There are lots of expressions for a weakling or coward in Irish and any of them could have been used in slang, so it seems strange that people would use a grammatically meaningless and unfamiliar phrase in preference to these words. Of course, in reality, they didn’t. Chicken is English. A chicken is a chicken is a chicken. And Cassidy was a birdbrain.

 

Thug mé faoi deara nach bhfaigheann cuid de na postálacha is luaithe sa bhlag seo mórán cuairteanna agus mar sin de, ba mhaith liom iad a athfhoilsiú anseo.

Mar atá ráite agam go minic roimhe seo, bíonn Cassidy ag maíomh go dtig focail ó fhrásaí Gaeilge a chum sé féin, frásaí nach bhfuil ciall ar bith leo, cé go bhfuil an fhíorshanasaíocht Bhéarla soiléir sothuigthe i gcuid mhór cásanna. Seo sampla foirfe den amaidí sin. Ciallaíonn chicken go bhfuil duine scanraithe agus is ionann chicken agus cladhaire. Tagann sin ón fhocal Béarla chicken, dar liomsa, mar is éan cineál neirbhíseach í an chearc nó an sicín céanna. Sa Bhéarla, tá frásaí mar hen-hearted le fáil ón 14ú haois ar aghaidh. Chomh luath leis an 15ú haois, bhí an frása the churles chekyne in úsáid le tagairt do chladhaire nó meatachán. Tá an míniú sin soiléir, simplí agus tá sé ag teacht leis na fíricí.

Ach is cuma le lucht leanúna Cassidy faoi na fíricí. Ní hionann chicken (cladhaire) agus chicken (cearc), dar leosan. Is ón fhrása ‘Gaeilge’ ‘teith ar cheann’ a tháinig sé, de réir cosúlachta, frása a chiallaíonn, dar le Cassidy, ‘to run away first.’ Ní Gaeilge sin, ar ndóigh. Níl ann ach raiméis agus amaidí.

Tá a lán dóigheanna le bogachán nó meatachán nó cladhaire a rá i nGaeilge. Nach iontach an rud é gur roghnaigh na Gaeil i Meiriceá úsáid a bhaint as raiméis neamhghramadúil ar nós teith ar cheann in áit ceann de na focail sin? Ach, ar ndóigh, níor tháinig chicken ó ‘teith ar cheann’. Níl ciall ar bith leis sin. Is Béarla é an focal chicken, sa dá chiall, agus ní raibh sa Chasaideach ach bréagadóir gan náire.

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January’s Twit of the Month – Peter Linebaugh

For a couple of months now, I have been meaning to tackle the subject of Peter Linebaugh, a very indifferent Marxist historian who was a friend and crony of Daniel Cassidy and who unwisely lent his support to Cassidy’s ridiculous book and theories. As Linebaugh says in a review of Cassidy’s puerile trash on Counterpunch:

This now will change thanks to Daniel Cassidy’s amazing dictionary. The efflorescence of Irish-American cultural studies which has taught us (referring to a couple of other books) how the Irish saved civilization or how the Irish became white, has now explained How the Irish Invented Slang: The Secret Language of the Crossroads (2007). Cassidy’s entries are often little essays of social history expressed in caustic wit and erudition, similar to the work of those other people’s lexicographers of the San Francisco Bay, Iain Boal and Ambrose Bierce.

Elsewhere in the same article, he uses a large number of Cassidy’s idiotic fake Irish terms:

If it was an English speaker who said there’s no free lunch, surely it was an Irish one who gave us lunch. On the one hand the Irish distrusts extravagance or b.s. and is quick to spot a phoney or name a wanker or a twerp or a nincumpoop, a hick or a jerk. On the other hand it is capable of all the malarkey and baloney you’ll ever need. It supplies ‘fighting words,’ the pigeon, the sap, the punk, the mug, and the puss, and follow them with a wallop, a slug. And it’ll keep you in stitches, going helter-skelter, in a generalized hilarity of the giggle from the proletarian quarters.

These words have been comprehensively dealt with here, so nobody (including Peter Linebaugh) has any excuse for claiming that lunch, wanker, twerp, hick, helter-skelter, giggle, jerk or baloney have anything to do with Irish. (As we’ve seen before, phoney is almost certainly of Irish origin but predates Cassidy by years.)

Elsewhere (and in 2016, years after Cassidy was totally discredited) he writes: Danny Cassidy supplied … a lexicography from below showing how the Irish language, while severely diminished in Ireland, survived in America as slang!

But the rot goes deeper than this. The problem seems to be the shallow, Google-search style of history that Peter Linebaugh practices and it’s this lack of depth which makes him give credence to Cassidy’s derivations without checking their validity.

The work of Linebaugh’s that I have read (which is, in fairness, two books – it was enough for me) seems to cherry-pick and flit from place to place and era to era in pursuit of support for vague ideological arguments. I am not an expert on history, but it seems that the debate here (http://www.nybooks.com/articles/2001/09/20/the-many-headed-hydra-an-exchange/) between Linebaugh (and his co-author Rediker) and David Brion Davis shows the incompetence of their research – “The Many-Headed Hydra is riddled with … blatant errors from the start to the finish.”

John Madziarczyk also claims that Linebaugh is essentially drawing on other, more obscure sources (http://www.losthighwaytimes.com/2007/06/peter-linebaughpopularizer-of-ideas-not.html) like the book Pirate Utopias by Peter Lamborn Wilson and that his work is deeply derivative. I cannot vouch for the accuracy of these observations (and to be frank, I can’t be bothered doing the necessary research in an area so far outside my comfort zone), though I consider the criticisms entirely credible.

Linebaugh and Rediker also come in for criticism here for taking a newspaper account from 1738 of a Native American uprising against settlers in Nantucket as genuine: (http://historynewsnetwork.org/article/166955)

And at the end of the day, I’m of the left and socially very liberal. I am not bothered or offended by Linebaugh’s or Cassidy’s purported leftism. I am bothered by a tendency to make claims unsupported by evidence. This kind of fakery is repugnant, whether it’s coming from some Trump-loving redneck or from a gaggle of Californian liberals and their socialist intellectual friends. The truth is the truth. It has no left or right, no ethnicity or gender or sexual orientation or nationality. If something doesn’t correspond at all to the known and established facts, it isn’t true and nobody, regardless of their beliefs, should waste their time on it.

It is for this reason that I am happy to bestow my January 2018 CassidySlangScam Twit of the Month Award on Peter Linebaugh, lousy historian and crony of Daniel Cassidy.

December’s Twit of the Month – Michael Krasny

December’s Twit of the Month was originally intended to be Peter Linebaugh, an indifferent Marxist historian who has given his support to Cassidy’s crazy theories about the Irish origins of slang. However, a week ago, I happened on an interview given by Cassidy late in 2007, and broadcast on St Stephen’s Day (26th of December) in that year. You can find it here: https://ww2.kqed.org/forum/2007/12/26/daniel-cassidy/

The interview was conducted by a radio presenter and academic (a professor of English at San Francisco State) called Michael Krasny. Like all interviews with Daniel Cassidy, it is an embarrassing mixture of arrogance, stupidity, fake modesty and name-dropping. As with other interviews with Cassidy, Krasny makes no attempt at all to cut through all the bullshit and establish the truth.

Anyway, the nonsense in this KQED interview begins almost immediately. Michael Krasny reels off a list of some of the fake derivations given by Cassidy, words like scram, skedaddle and jazz. All of these have been dealt with here. Use the search box above to find out more.

The interview begins with Daniel Cassidy trying to pretend that he speaks some Irish by reciting a sentence he has learned by heart – badly. Unfortunately, Krasny interrupts him several times, so he has to repeat the first phrase three times. This phrase is supposed to be “Tá áthas orm” (I am happy) but what he actually says three times is “Tá amhas a’am” (I have a hooligan). The rest of it is not much better and demonstrates beyond doubt that Cassidy knew no Irish and probably didn’t have access to anyone who could speak good Irish either (for example, áit a bhí an Ghaeilge beo should be áit a raibh an Ghaeilge beo – anyone comfortable with Irish grammar would know this).

The rest of this tiresome interview is no better. It’s the same old shite. Cassidy says that glom, a word meaning to grab, comes from Irish. As we’ve already seen, it came into standard English from Scots glaum, and it probably originates in Scottish Gaelic. This is the explanation given by the mainstream dictionaries. It completely invalidates Cassidy’s claim. Why Krasny couldn’t look up a dictionary himself, or at least adopt the time-honoured motto that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, is unclear. I note that Krasny taught in San Francisco State university. So did Cassidy, before he became a lecturer at New College of California. Did they know each other?

It would take too long to go through every lie, every piece of incompetence, every wasted opportunity to bring out the truth in this appalling interview. Brag doesn’t come from Irish and the OED doesn’t say that it is from a word meaning trousers (that’s a similar French word which doesn’t enter English until long after brag was first used and is therefore not the origin of brag in English). Duking doesn’t come from Irish tuargain, which is not pronounced as duking anyway. Spiel, as Krasny says but doesn’t press for, comes from Yiddish and has no connection to a Scots Gaelic word speal (which isn’t pronounced spiel, as Cassidy pronounces it here) and which doesn’t mean a sharp hoe (it’s a scythe). All of Cassidy’s claims, about jazz and sucker and kike and cant are all crap. The man blithely lies and mispronounces and fakes meanings and fails to point out that his idiotic ‘Irish’ equivalents for baloney and nincompoop and bunkum were his own inventions, not real phrases in the Irish language.

Krasny doesn’t seem to care. He gives Cassidy an easy time of it, buys all his bullshit, gives him a platform to sell this arrogant trash to unsuspecting people and even attacks his fellow academics for their anti-Irish bias in not recognising Cassidy’s made-up rubbish as fact.

However, the worst of it is in the phone-in section of the programme. A couple of people are critical of Cassidy but Krasny doesn’t dig deeper. In fact, when one caller points out that he has got it wrong about the origins of the word tinker, and says ‘it goes to prove the point many people have called – you are reaching’, Krasny and Cassidy thank him quickly and move on.

Finally, I feel I should explain what I meant by Cassidy’s false modesty. Cassidy says several times that he isn’t sure of every word. On the surface, he sounds like a reasonable human being. Yet a little more than a month after this, using a fake identity, Cassidy answered critics on a forum about language like this:

“Barret the Parrot had better kiss the toin (buttocks) of his publishers at Oxford. With his books down around 270,000 and 600,000 on Amazon, whereas Cassidy’s book is in 5th reprint in 7 months and just won an American Book Award.

Is it a twerp (duirb, a worm)? Is it a dork (dorc, a dwarf)? Or is it Barrett the Parrot? No it’s “Superscam” (aka Barret the English Parrott) and his phoney made-up quotes.

Here are REAL QUOTES that haven’t been hahahahaha deleted hahahahahahaha.

Believe Barrett the Parrott (AKA Superscam) or Dr. Joe Lee, who is a native Irish speaker and the Director of Irish Studies at NYU? Professor Lee is one of the foremost scholars in the field of Irish Studies in the US and Ireland.”

(Lee, of course, was a friend of Cassidy’s.) In other words, while he was being treated the way he felt he had a right to be treated, as a genuine academic with a valid theory, Cassidy managed to pretend to be a sane and reasonable person. When anyone tried to confront him with the truth, he regressed to being an ignorant, infantile narcissist who was completely incapable of dealing with the least challenge to his fragile ego.

Krasny should have spotted the logical inconsistencies, smelt the bullshit and acted accordingly. Instead, he became one of this man’s many unwitting enablers and accomplices in his project of deceiving Irish America and lining his own pockets with the profits of his fraud. It is for that reason that I am happy (or should that be, I have a hooligan?) to award Michael Krasny December’s Twit of the Month Award.

Mayhem

I have noticed that many of the early posts on this blog get relatively little traffic, so I have decided to start republishing some of them.

According to Cassidy, this word, which means a disturbance or trouble, is derived from the Irish word maidhm, which means an outbreak. Sounds plausible enough when you first hear it but let’s examine the evidence carefully. First of all, what does the word maidhm mean?

Maidhm is pronounced  similarly to the English word mime. It is used of something which has been held in and suddenly breaks through. So a maidhm shneachta is a maidhm of snow, an avalanche. A landslide is a maidhm thalún, while a maidhm phortaigh is a distinctly Irish natural disaster, the bogslide.

So, can maidhm be used for riot or civil disturbance? Irish is very rich in words and phrases for disturbances or hubbub. Trioblóid, ciréib, cíor thuathail, cath, ruaille-buaille, rí-rá, fuirse má rabhdaileamMaidhm is not one that would normally be used.  If someone said “Bhí maidhmeanna i mBéal Feirste aréir”, an Irish speaker would take this to mean that there were landslides of some kind in Belfast, not that there were riots.

When maidhm is used about warfare, it has a very specific meaning, namely that your defensive line has broken and that your troops are running away. In other words, it means a rout or catastrophic defeat. This is not at all what the word mayhem means, of course.

And in any case, the word mayhem doesn’t sound much like maidhm and it has an unassailable history in English going back to the 13th century, before any Irish ghettoes appeared in the English-speaking world. It derives from Norman French and is a legal term.  Cassidy mentions the dictionary derivation but obviously prefers his own fantasy version to reality.

As we linguists say, etymology by sound is not sound etymology!

Crony

I have noticed that many of the early posts on this blog get relatively little traffic, so I have decided to start republishing some of them.

Another oft-quoted claim of Cassidy’s, which has absolutely no basis in fact, is the notion that crony can be traced back to an Irish phrase comh-roghna. Cassidy says that this word means “fellow chosen-ones, mutual-sweethearts, fellow favourites, close friends, mutual pals”.

This is typical of Cassidy’s fantasies. While comh– exists and rogha/roghanna (roghna is the older version of the plural, roghanna the modern spelling) exists there is no evidence in the Irish language of either roghanna or comhroghanna being used to mean friends or pals. Comhrogha and comhroghanna are not even in Ó Dónaill’s dictionary, though the word comhrogha has been used with the abstract senses of rival, alternative or choice. Rogha itself means a choice. There are plenty of words and phrases for the concept of friends or mates – cairde, compánaigh, comrádaithe. Comhroghanna and roghanna are not among them. The word comhroghanna does not occur in the dictionaries with these meanings and they are not used in speech in this sense.

While the other words for companion or comrade, comrádaí, compánach and cara occur many times in Corpas na Gaeilge (a database of Irish), comhrogha only occurs five times and always in the sense of choice or alternative, never to refer to friends. In any case, comhroghanna (koh-ray-anna) doesn’t sound much like croney and it is plural – loanwords tend to be borrowed in their most basic, singular form.

It is also widely believed to be Cambridge university slang, derived from Greek chronios, meaning old. It first occurs in English contexts, not Irish.

Baloney

I have noticed that many of the early posts on this blog get relatively little traffic, so I have decided to start republishing some of them.

Another oft-quoted piece of Cassidese is the phrase béal ónna. According to Cassidy, béal ónna is the origin of the American slang word baloney, meaning nonsense or rubbish.

Béal ónna (pron. bæl óna), silly loquacity, foolish talk; blather; blarney; stupid gossip.

There are two major points we need to be clear on here. First of all, the Irish phrase béal ónna is not an Irish phrase. It does not exist. It is composed of two words: béal, which is very common and means mouth, and ónna, which is so uncommon and obscure that it doesn’t even get a mention in Ó Dónaill’s 1300 page dictionary of Modern Irish. Before Cassidy, nobody had ever linked it to béal to make a phrase béal ónna. If you used the phrase among Irish speakers they would look at you in confusion and wonder what you were talking about. It is pure invention from a total fantasist.

Look it up on Google! You will find no references to the phrase on line apart from direct quotes from Cassidy. The only other example I came up with was on a forum, where it was used casually to mean nonsense by someone whose username was Dancas1 – obviously Daniel Cassidy the great fantasist himself!

Secondly, baloney is an example of an interesting linguistic phenomenon called the minced oath. This is quite common, and exists in many languages. A minced oath is simply where an obscene or blasphemous or unpleasant word is disguised by cutting bits off it, or by saying a word which sounds a bit like it.

Thus the French avoid saying Sacré Dieu (Holy God) by saying Sacré Bleu (Holy Blue). The Irish say dar fia (by deer) instead of dar Dia (by God) or daingniú air (strengthening on it) instead of damnú air (damnation on it). The English say things like Gee Whizz (Jesus) and Blimey (God Blind Me) or Sugar (shit).

It isn’t a difficult concept. It explains terms like Baloney, which is a minced oath for balls or bollocks. It also explains phrases like Holy Moly or Holy Mackerel and a number of other minced oaths for which Cassidy proposed ridiculously improbable Irish meanings.

There are many naïve and silly people out there who have looked at Cassidy’s claims and asked the question, how did scholars miss these obvious Irish derivations? If you stop to think about it, the answer is pretty clear. There have been lots of clever Irish people who spoke Irish and English and if these phrases were really so obvious, they would have been spotted and suggested before.

The reason why scholars didn’t spot them is simply because almost all of them were invented by Cassidy and don’t exist!

Put It Up On The Web, Limerick Traitors!

Hats off to Murchadh Mór. Not only has he written an excellent article on The Rubber Bandits’ foolish post about Cassidy’s fake etymology on Nós, and a post giving a number of genuine words which derive from Irish, he has also posted a pic of a document which gives the real origins of the words given by the Rubber Bandits in their list.

Unfortunately, the Rubber Bandits themselves seem unwilling to post the truth on this subject. When Murchadh Mór asked them to circulate the true list, this was their reply:

Stuff about Cassidy being dubious was shared under the original thread. We commented on it, too. It would have been seen.

It’s disappointing to see them refusing to do the right thing here. You see, what they’re failing to acknowledge here is that this isn’t a level playing field. In the world in general, and to an even greater extent on social media, nonsense has longer legs than sense, and lies are faster and better runners than the truth. The figures for shares and likes show that. The original (wrong) post got far more than Murchadh Mór’s corrections.

Why? Well, for a number of reasons. Because lies sparkle and shine, because they can be as glittery and bright and attractive as the human imagination can make them. All truths can be are what they are. Because lies are presented as simple certainties, while the truth is often messy and complex. Because the truth doesn’t have an agenda, while lies are often blended with xenophobia and hatred, which tastes like honey to many people. Because people’s memories are fickle and they selectively filter out anything that doesn’t make a good narrative, which is why the thousands of times homeopathy fails are ignored but the one time where it coincides with a sudden improvement is proof that homeopathy works (mar dhea). (And perhaps it also explains why the definition of the English word dude is given as the definition of the Irish word dúid in the original list of nonsense given by the Rubber Bandits. Or perhaps someone was just lying …)

Because of these facts, it makes me wonder what the real story is about the RB’s post on Cassidy. Who wrote it? Did the RBs themselves write it, or was the (mis)information supplied to them by somebody else? A friend, a relative, a fan? Someone they don’t want to offend by getting off the fence and telling it like it is?

William Blake wrote that ‘the road to Hell is paved with good intentions’. So just remember this. Cassidy wasn’t a nice man who got it a bit wrong. He was a malicious fraud and people who support him are choosing lies over truth. It’s that simple. And as I’ve said above, lies already have an inbuilt advantage over the truth, so for fuck’s sake, lads, let’s stop giving liars and their falsehoods a head start.

JUST COPY THE POST, YA GOWLS!!!