Tag Archives: fake etymology

John on Goodreads

Having finished the glossary, I am looking forward to taking a well-deserved rest for a while. However, before I do that, I will publish a couple of articles I wrote in draft and never got around to editing.

Just recently I came across another clown who has posted in support of Daniel Cassidy’s tosh on Goodreads. Some people think that the best way to deal with this kind of guff is simply to leave these people to their own devices and ignore them. They may have a point, but personally I quite like calling a moron a moron, so here goes!

The reviewer, who goes by the name of John, starts off with a very revealing comment:

Great book and Cassidy obviously angered some of the snooty academics he criticized in the book.

Here we see the motivation of much of this nonsense on line. The snooty academics are trying to silence the little man who is telling an unpopular truth. They’re all in it together. They don’t like any narrative that threatens their cosy little consensus. John presumably thinks that the smart people are looking down on people like him and Cassidy, because he’s a poorly educated person with a chip on his shoulder. In reality, of course, the people who are most angered by this book aren’t academics. I’m not an academic and neither are most of Cassidy’s critics. I am also not particularly ‘snooty’. I do look down on people who are intellectually lazy and arrogant but I’m not a snob in any social sense and I see no evidence that the majority of Cassidy’s critics are privileged in any way.

The big criticism of the book is that modern native Irish speakers don’t approve of his interpretations of the language into American (New York) English of Irish terms.

This is an odd and clumsy way of phrasing it. It’s obvious from the remainder of the post that this isn’t what John means. It’s not a case of his interpreting Irish terms into American English. This is the reverse of what Cassidy did. He took American English terms (many of which had very clear derivations) and simply invented phrases in ‘Irish’ that make no sense to any Irish speaker. However, then John says that it was OK for him to do this.

The problem with this of course is that the people who spoke this form of Irish came to New York in the aftermath of the Famine. Last count there were three modern dialects of Irish and though speakers of different dialects can understand each other, their use of local slang is precisely the thing which makes them all….different dialects.

Again, clumsy, badly-argued, lacking in any rigour. There is an attempt by John to pretend that he knows about Irish (the stuff about the three main dialects is true but only proves he has access to Wikipedia!) There is a certain overlap between slang and dialect but they are fundamentally different things. Look up their definitions in online dictionaries if you don’t believe me.

Please note that this person is not an expert on Irish. It is obvious to me that John isn’t Irish, doesn’t know any Irish himself and doesn’t know how different or similar or mutually comprehensible Irish dialects are from his personal experience. If he knew any Irish, he wouldn’t buy into any of Cassidy’s moronic nonsense.

So it’s very possible that words that had currency in early to mid 19th century Ireland, among peasants of the West, slowly fell into misuse after they had left Ireland but continued to be used in America. Pre-Famine Ireland was markedly different from Post-Famine Ireland especially in the accelerated decline of the language and the conscious turning away from all things Gaelic.

In other words, John thinks it’s irrelevant that almost every phrase used by Cassidy in How The Irish Invented Slang is unrecognisable in any dialect of Irish. You won’t find any of Cassidy’s ludicrous ‘Irish’ phrases used anywhere by any Irish speaker but that doesn’t matter, apparently, because they might have existed, even if there’s no proof. Anyone with a brain will realise that the chances of ALL the expressions mentioned by Cassidy disappearing from the Irish language in Ireland immediately and without leaving a trace but surviving in America are so tiny that it’s not even worth considering and even if they did, the burden of proof is on those who believe they existed, not on sceptics like me. They’re quite at liberty to believe in these fantasies but scholars don’t have to believe in things which are unsupported by evidence. That’s how it works.

After all many words and phrases from 19th century American English are either no longer used today or have evolved into different usage. Few people today speak like Abraham Lincoln, Wyatt Earp or Teddy Roosevelt.

Yes, languages change and Cassidy’s critics, myself included, know this and know a lot more about the history of Irish and the way it has changed since the 19th century than Cassidy, or Peter Quinn, or John. But the earliest of the three people mentioned, Abraham Lincoln, wrote the Gettysburg Address and the Gettysburg Address is known to many millions of Americans, who can understand it perfectly. The style is a little antiquated but it isn’t full of gobbledegook that no modern English speaker can understand. So why should Irish be so different, as this person is claiming?

It’s unrealistic to think that the loss of 1 million speakers of Irish didn’t somehow affect the language either at home or abroad. But leave it to the Irish to condemn anything they haven’t thought of themselves, let alone something written by a Yank.

Again, this is a straw man argument. Nobody said the Famine didn’t have an effect on the language and its use but we Irish are not being unreasonable by mocking the nonsense produced by Cassidy. He didn’t know any Irish, didn’t care enough to learn it, didn’t have a rational mind capable of separating puerile nonsense from fact. He is roundly condemned by linguists of all nationalities, including Irish people, because he was a pompous, dim-witted fake with no qualifications and no talent, not because he was a ‘Yank’.

Interestingly a modern historian has theorized that New York born gangster/cowboy Billy The Kid was a native Irish speaker who would have learned Irish growing up probably in the Five Points ghetto – recent evidence which supports Cassidys theory but which is conveniently ignored by his critics.

The information about Billy the Kid is true, or at least there are good grounds for thinking that it could be true. According to a cowboy who worked with Billy the Kid, Billy used to translate for a child, Mary Coghlan, who only spoke Irish.

Unfortunately, John does not enlighten us as to how he thinks this information supports Cassidy’s theory. It plainly does nothing to strengthen it or weaken it, let alone confirm or refute it. No critic of Cassidy has ever said or implied that there were no Irish speakers in the USA in the 19th or early 20th centuries. I had Irish-speaking relatives living within a short journey of Cassidy’s home in New York a hundred years ago. William Carty could easily have been one of the many Irish speakers in the USA but this provides no ammunition for Cassidy’s supporters. Whatever Irish William Carty and the many other speakers of the language in 19th century America had, it certainly didn’t consist of the bizarre phoney phrases made up by one crazy fake academic in California in the 2000s. This is a little like saying that the presence of Spanish speakers in an area confirms your opinion that the English expression to be out of pocket comes from the Spanish phrase estar fuera de bolsillo, and when people who speak Spanish tell you that isn’t a real Spanish expression, laughing smugly and saying that it may not exist in Spanish now but you can’t prove it didn’t exist in some long-dead and unrecorded version of the language. Which is really pretty infantile as an argument.

So if the phrases given as Irish in Cassidy’s book aren’t a lost American version of the language, what are they? Interestingly, John’s Goodreads page gives us an interesting example. John is a member of a Goodreads group called Clann na Chiarraí, which is dedicated to books about Kerry or written by people with Kerry connections. The phrase Clann na Chiarraí is trying to say ‘Children of Kerry’. In fact, the Irish name for Kerry never takes the definite article. The genitive of Kerry is Chiarraí, so children of Kerry would really be Clann Chiarraí. And in any case, any Irish speaker will tell you that séimhiú (lenition) never happens after the article na, which is used with plural nouns or feminine nouns in the genitive. This demonstrates something interesting. The fact is that any Irish speaker, whether two hundred years ago or last week, whether literate or illiterate, from the remotest parts of Kerry or a windswept hillside in Donegal or a posh suburb of Dublin or Cork would call the Kerry team foireann Chiarraí, not foireann na Chiarraí or even foireann na Ciarraí.

In other words, the version Clann na Chiarraí doesn’t represent some fascinating linguistic evolution in the USA among communities of Irish speakers cut off from the motherland. It represents an attempt by someone who doesn’t speak Irish to compose a term in that language, an attempt that failed because of a lack of knowledge of the real language and the way it is used. Which is also the reason why Cassidy’s ‘Irish’ phrases are almost entirely nonsense and can be discounted as the source of anything but a bit of unearned and undeserved cash for Daniel Cassidy and aggravation and unnecessary work for people like me who genuinely value the Irish language and dislike seeing it treated with such casual contempt.

Cassidese Glossary – Poultice Route

For some time now, some of my on-line friends have advised me to provide a version of CassidySlangScam without the invective aimed at Cassidy and his supporters. In response to that advice, I am working on providing a glossary of the terms in Cassidy’s ludicrous book How The Irish Invented Slang with a short, simple and business-like explanation of why Cassidy’s version is wrong.

Daniel Cassidy, in his etymological hoax, How The Irish Invented Slang, claimed that in hobo slang, The Poultice Route was a term for the land of milk and honey or the southern route. This is a typical Cassidy distortion. In reality, a poultice was an hobo slang term for a dish of bread and gravy and the Poultice Route was any rail line going through Utah, where the inhabitants “are generally hospitable, and where bread and gravy is always to be had even though, on account of poverty, meat may be scarce.”

Cassidy’s claim is that the poultice of the Poultice Route is really from the Irish ball deas, which he says means “a nice place, a pretty spot, a southern place”. In reality, ball deas would simply mean a nice spot, which is vague. It is also completely unlike poultice in pronunciation. The explanation given above (and ignored completely by Cassidy) is far more convincing.

Cassidese Glossary – Mutt

For some time now, some of my on-line friends have advised me to provide a version of CassidySlangScam without the invective aimed at Cassidy and his supporters. In response to that advice, I am working on providing a glossary of the terms in Cassidy’s ludicrous book How The Irish Invented Slang with a short, simple and business-like explanation of why Cassidy’s version is wrong.

The term muttonhead was used by the beginning of the 19th century to mean a stupid person. By the early twentieth century mutt and muttonhead were used in America of non-purebred dogs, probably because the rough and untidy coat would not be like the coat of a purebred.

Daniel Cassidy, in his etymological hoax, How The Irish Invented Slang, says that mutt comes from madadh or madra (mada in Dinneen) the Irish for dog (not mongrel.) These words begin with m but apart from that, they don’t sound much like mutt.

Cassidy’s definition of the word madra or madadh is typically dishonest. He says that it means ‘a dog, esp. an inferior breed, a cur, a mutt’. This definition emphasises the link with mutts and mongrels. In reality, madadh or madra is simply the Irish word for dog. It is not especially associated with mutts or mongrels or bad breeding. Indeed, a pure-bred dog in Irish is a madra folaíochta!

 

Cassidese Glossary – Lulu

For some time now, some of my on-line friends have advised me to provide a version of CassidySlangScam without the invective aimed at Cassidy and his supporters. In response to that advice, I am working on providing a glossary of the terms in Cassidy’s ludicrous book How The Irish Invented Slang with a short, simple and business-like explanation of why Cassidy’s version is wrong.

The late Daniel Cassidy’s bizarre claim in relation to this word is that lulu comes from the ‘Irish’ liú lúith. Liú is a word in Irish for a shout. It’s not the most common word in Irish for that concept. Scread or scréach would be far more common, but it does exist. As for lúith, it’s the genitive of lúth, which means vigour, agility, or tendon. It used to mean ‘joy’ in Irish as well but hasn’t for hundreds of years. Cassidy’s “a vigorous yell of joy” uses two separate meanings, one current and one obsolete. This is a little like saying that a fry can mean “a meal of young fish cooked in oil” or that play is “a dramatic game” because it can mean both play and a drama. This is bizarre and reveals a staggering stupidity and ignorance of how languages work on Cassidy’s part.

Anyway, according to Cassidy, in addition to meaning “a vigorous yell of joy”, it also figuratively means “a complete scream, a howler.” As it is a completely made-up expression, it doesn’t have any “figurative” meanings and there is no evidence of anyone ever using liú lúith for any purpose in Irish.

In reality, a lulu probably comes from the name of a certain Lulu Hurst:

https://www.etymonline.com/word/lulu

Cassidese Glossary – Jasm, Gism

For some time now, some of my on-line friends have advised me to provide a version of CassidySlangScam without the invective aimed at Cassidy and his supporters. In response to that advice, I am working on providing a glossary of the terms in Cassidy’s ludicrous book How The Irish Invented Slang with a short, simple and business-like explanation of why Cassidy’s version is wrong.

This is a slang term derived from jizz, which seems to have originally meant spirit or energy. It first occurs in 1842 with that meaning. Then it took the meaning of semen, apparently for similar reasons to the use of spunk for both courage and semen.

Its ultimate origins are unknown. What we do know for a fact is that it has no connection with Daniel Cassidy’s claim that jasm comes from the Irish ‘teas ioma’, which according to Cassidy, means ‘an abundance of heat, passion, excitement; fig. semen.’ Cassidy thinks the word iomaí (or ioma) is an ordinary adjective which can follow a noun. It isn’t and it can’t. Iomai is used in phrases like ‘Is iomaí oíche’ (it’s many’s the night). See: https://www.teanglann.ie/en/fgb/iomaí

In other words, this is not just a non-existent phrase in Irish, it could not exist. Even if it could, and teas ioma did mean excessive heat in Irish, why does Cassidy think that overheating and semen are the same thing in Irish, when they aren’t the same thing in any other European language?

H and I

So, I have now completed another two letters in the glossary in Daniel Cassidy’s absurd book, How The Irish Invented Slang, and as with A and B and C, D and E, and F and G, I have prepared a short account of my conclusions in relation to Cassidy’s efforts.

There are only 31 words in the H and I categories. Added to the 219 words dealt with above, that makes a total of 250 headwords from the glossary of Cassidy’s book. As in the previous letters, none of Cassidy’s explanations is in any way convincing, apart from one that has already been mentioned, the supposed link between the expression ‘big bug’ in English and the Irish boc mór. However, even in this case, Cassidy totally failed to conduct any real research.

The rest of Cassidy’s ‘research’ in relation to these letters is the usual utterly stupid made-up nonsense that breaks the grammatical rules of Irish and stretches credibility (and sanity) well beyond breaking point. There is a lot of material in relation to these two letters that demonstrates very clearly how little Irish Cassidy had. And while it has often been claimed that Cassidy had native Irish speakers available to help him and to vet the material he was coming out with, it is quite clear that these claims are also nonsense. What competent Irish speaker would endorse árd-iachtach-tach as a piece of genuine Irish? Who would give the thumbs-up to a phrase like ag céimnigh? Almost all the Irish in this book is pure invention and bears no relation to the real language, which Cassidy, a loud-mouth, a fool and a narcissist, had never even bothered to learn before setting himself up as an expert.

This man was a disgrace. This book, which so many Irish-Americans and even Irish people have been fooled into thinking was a valid contribution to the history of Irish America, was a collection of utter nonsense. People can believe what they like about Cassidy. They can ignore this blog and all other evidence and claim that he was a genuine radical, someone who actually cared about the poor and oppressed. (While claiming to have degrees from Ivy League colleges to take a job he wasn’t entitled to have.) They can ignore the evidence that claims he made about other aspects of his life were also dodgy. (For example, that he was in the newsroom of the New York Times when Kennedy was assassinated, or that he sold a script to Francis Ford Coppola – though he actually mentions two different scripts as the one he sold to Coppola.) And they can stick their fingers in their ears and hum while they ignore the truth about Cassidy’s etymological hoax. But facts are facts. They remain facts, however many people choose to lie or disbelieve or pretend that they are untrue.

The facts are laid out clearly here. There is no hiding place for liars in these pages, which is why we never hear from the liars in California, New York and even in Ireland who continue to pretend that Cassidy was a scholar and an intellectual. They don’t bother challenging the facts because they have no facts of their own to offer. In the past, some people have claimed that Cassidy was controversial. The truth is that there never was a controversy. Cassidy’s theories were always obvious and indefensible nonsense.

Cassidese Glossary – Holy Cow

For some time now, some of my on-line friends have advised me to provide a version of CassidySlangScam without the invective aimed at Cassidy and his supporters. In response to that advice, I am working on providing a glossary of the terms in Cassidy’s ludicrous book How The Irish Invented Slang with a short, simple and business-like explanation of why Cassidy’s version is wrong.

Holy Cow is a ‘minced oath’, a way of avoiding a blasphemous or offensive expression by using a similar word, or a word beginning with the same sound. This is thought to be a version of ‘Holy Christ’, but was probably influenced by the sacredness of cows in the Hindu tradition.

To Cassidy, it represents a mixed Irish and English oath, Holy Cathú. (Originally, he had claimed that the Holy represents the Irish oille meaning greatness but he had dropped this claim by the time the book was published.) Cathú usually means temptation in modern Irish, though it has other meanings like rebellion, grief, fighting. I presume the meaning of temptation came about through the idea of rebellion against God, as the root of the word is cath, meaning battle.

Cathú is pronounced kahoo. It is not used as an exclamation in Irish. People do not say ‘Cathú Naofa’ in the Irish language. Cassidy once again demonstrates his lack of Irish by miscopying the phrase ‘Mo chathú é’ from Dinneen’s dictionary as ‘Mo cathú é’. This phrase seems to exist but is only found in one source from 1909, so it is hardly a common expression.

Cassidese Glossary – Hoax, Hocus

For some time now, some of my on-line friends have advised me to provide a version of CassidySlangScam without the invective aimed at Cassidy and his supporters. In response to that advice, I am working on providing a glossary of the terms in Cassidy’s ludicrous book How The Irish Invented Slang with a short, simple and business-like explanation of why Cassidy’s version is wrong.

The word hoax has a well-established origin in English. Hoax derives from an earlier word hocus, which meant to confuse, befuddle, drug or trick someone. Hocus almost certainly derives from hocus pocus, a garbled version of Latin hoc est corpus. Hocus has been around for hundreds of years, while hoax is more recent.

Cassidy doesn’t accept this. He prefers a derivation from the Irish olcas, which is pronounced olkass. (Not holkas) It doesn’t sound much like hoax. And does it mean the same thing as a hoax? No, it means badness or wickedness. Hoaxes are sometimes evil and wicked. Sometimes they are just playful. But they always involve the notion of dishonesty, of tricking people. In Irish, the words bob (as in bob a bhualadh ar dhuine, to play a practical joke on someone) or cleas (as in cleas a imirt ar dhuine, to play a trick on someone) would be the usual words for hoax. Not olcas. I should also point out that olcas is an abstract noun, not an adjective as Cassidy states.

Cassidese Glossary – Hack, Hackie and Hackney

For some time now, some of my on-line friends have advised me to provide a version of CassidySlangScam without the invective aimed at Cassidy and his supporters. In response to that advice, I am working on providing a glossary of the terms in Cassidy’s ludicrous book How The Irish Invented Slang with a short, simple and business-like explanation of why Cassidy’s version is wrong.

These three words are clearly closely related, which is why I have chosen to put them together. Cassidy treats them as three separate words, with separate origins in the Gaelic languages.

Before I look at Cassidy’s claims, let’s just look at these three words and their genuine origins. The original word is hackney. This is almost certainly from the place outside London. It is first found in English around the year 1300. It was used to refer to an ordinary horse, in other words, a horse that was not a military horse or a carthorse and then a hired horse, and later, it came to refer to a type of carriage and then to a cab or taxi. Its etymology is discussed here: https://www.etymonline.com/word/hackney and here: https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/hackney

You can find information on its use in Middle English here: https://quod.lib.umich.edu/m/middle-english-dictionary/dictionary/MED19807/track?counter=1&search_id=1312830

Hack came hundreds of years later and is a contraction of hackney, with exactly the same basic meanings. From the meaning of ordinary, hired-out horse, hack came to mean both a prostitute and a jobbing writer churning out writing of a low standard as well as the meaning of carriage or taxi found with hackney as well. You can find more information about its etymology here:

https://www.etymonline.com/word/hack

Hackie seems to be the word hack (in the sense of cab) with an occupational ending -ie, as in chippie for a joiner. It is a recent US term which first surfaces in the 1950s.

Cassidy’s claim is that these three terms, hackney, hack and hackie, all come from three different Gaelic terms. According to Cassidy, hackney comes from each ceannaich, hack comes from each and hackie comes from eachaí.

This is nonsense. Each ceannaich is given in Dwelly’s dictionary of the Scottish Gaelic language as a phrase meaning a post-horse or hire horse. This term can therefore be traced back in Scottish Gaelic (it isn’t Irish) as far as the 19th century. There is no evidence that it existed any further back than that, and I doubt that there was any transport infrastructure in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland where horses were hired out in the 17th or 16th centuries, let alone earlier, so there would have been no need for the term. Remember that hackney in English dates back to the year 1300, so Cassidy would have needed to prove that each ceannaich is older than that to make a convincing case for a Gaelic origin.

Cassidy claimed that each is an Irish word for horse. It is, but it was replaced in spoken Irish by other terms hundreds of years ago. The usual term in Irish for a horse is capall, while in Ulster Irish we say beithíoch – literally a beast. There is no reason to suppose that hack and hackney are anything to do with any variety of Gaelic. The fact is that the range of meanings of hackney and hack in English is so close that there is little room for doubt that hack is a shortened form of hackney.

Then, as usual, there is the question of pronunciation. As usual, the ‘phonetic’ transcription of the Irish is a dog’s breakfast of old Irish orthography (ċ), Irish phonology (c′) and ad hoc nonsense from Cassidy’s imagination. Cassidy’s pretend version of each as h-a′ċ is both weird and completely wrong. Irish and Scottish Gaelic words that begin with a vowel are not pronounced with a h. And Cassidy obviously doesn’t understand the significance of the ′, which is used to indicate a palatal consonant in Irish phonology. As a is not a consonant, putting this marker on it means nothing. You can’t have a palatal vowel. Also, if you listen to the sound files given here for the word amach, you will realise that the ch sound is not the same as the hard ck of of hack, even in the Munster dialect where it is most strongly pronounced: https://www.focloir.ie/en/dictionary/ei/out

In fact, the word each sounds like the first part of Spanish ajo (without the o) and doesn’t really sound like hack unless you pronounce it like someone from New York who doesn’t speak any Irish at all.

Cassidese Glossary – Graft, Grafter

For some time now, some of my on-line friends have advised me to provide a version of CassidySlangScam without the invective aimed at Cassidy and his supporters. In response to that advice, I am working on providing a glossary of the terms in Cassidy’s ludicrous book How The Irish Invented Slang with a short, simple and business-like explanation of why Cassidy’s version is wrong.

This is one of Cassidy’s claims that I found completely incomprehensible at first. Cassidy claims that the terms graft (as in corruption) and grafter (corrupt politician) come from the Irish words grafadh and grafadóir.

He claims that grafadh (which is pronounced graffa or graffoo) means “grubbing, scrounging; hoeing” and that grafadóir means “a grubber; a scrounger, a moocher; fig. a professional politician.”

In reality, grafadh means to hoe or dig or grub, while a grafadóir is a grubber or a hoer, someone who uses a hoe or a mattock to break up the top surface of a garden or a field.

So where does all the stuff about scrounging and professional politicians come from? Well, the only explanation I can think of is that because in English the term grub has connotations of scrounging and corruption, then the fact that the terms grafadh and grafadóir are linked to the English word grubbing (only in the sense of digging), then Cassidy felt it was justified to attach all the meanings of grub in English to these Irish words, even though it is quite clear that they refer only to digging gardens and fields. Applying this to other words, capall is the Irish for horse and must also mean heroin or any kind of opiate because the English word horse can mean heroin. Giota is the Irish for piece, but it must also mean gun because the English word piece means gun. Of course, this is nonsense. Capall doesn’t mean heroin, giota doesn’t mean gun, grafadóir doesn’t mean a money-grubbing politician.

Back in the real world, graft is probably linked to the British English graft meaning work, which is probably of Dutch origin.