Tag Archives: fake etymology

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.


Cassidese Glossary – Glom, Glommer

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.

Glom is one of the words that Cassidy’s supporters hold up triumphantly as a clear-cut example of Irish influence on American English, which is very strange, because a few minutes of research online is enough to prove that glom has little to do with Irish, though it certainly comes ultimately from Scottish Gaelic.

According to The Random House Mavens’ Word of the Day, this word was first used with the sense of ‘to steal’ in 1897, in a book by Jack London, who was not raised in any cabin Irish ghetto. This shows that by the end of the 19th century, this was a common word in English. It was used all over the States by English speakers of all ethnic backgrounds.

In the form glaum, this word has been a Scots dialect word for centuries with the meanings ‘to grope, especially in the dark’ or ‘to grab at something’. This in turn derives from the Scots Gaelic word glàm, meaning to grab. The mainstream dictionaries are quite happy to accept this derivation in spite of their supposed anti-Gaelic bias.

It is true that glàm has a cognate in Irish with the word glám. (As a point of information, glám is not that common and most Irish speakers I know would use sciob instead.) What is absolutely clear is that the fact that Cassidy was nicknamed Glom when he was a child has nothing whatever to do with his Irish family’s roots. Glom was a part of the English which was spoken by everyone around him when he was growing up regardless of their ethnic background. It had become a part of English in Scotland and was an intrinsic part of mainstream American English. Cassidy’s claim (if it means anything at all) has to be about people retaining elements of Irish in their speech from generation to generation and these exotic elements surfacing in the language used by Irish Americans, which is obviously not the case here.

Cassidese Glossary – Buccaneer

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 book How The Irish Invented Slang, claimed that the word buccaneer comes from the supposed ‘Irish’ phrase boc aniar, meaning ‘a buck from the west’. There is no evidence for an Irish origin for buccaneer and the phrase boc aniar was invented by Cassidy.

Cassidy pretends that the origins of buccaneer are uncertain in order to make his claim a little more credible.

“All Anglo-American dictionaries derive the word buccaneer from an obscure French word boucanie [sic] meaning “one who hunts wild oxen” and cooks their meat on a boucan, or a barbecue, said to be from an unidentified Caribbean Native American word.  (E.B. Taylor, Early History of Man, 261; OED.)

Buccaneer as buckaneer is first found in the canting dictionaries of the 1690s. “Buckaneers, West-Indian Pirates … also the Rude Rabble in Jamaica.” (B.E.’s The Canting Crew Dictionary, London, 1690.)

In reality, boucan is first recorded in French in the year 1578 in the book Histoire d’un Voyage fait en la terre du Bresil, autrement dite Ammerique, where it is described as a “gril sur lequel les Indiens d’Amérique fumaient la viande” (grill on which the American Indians smoked meat).

The term boucanier is first used in French in the year 1654, where its meaning is described as “aventurier qui chassait les bœufs sauvages aux Antilles” (an adventurer who hunted wild oxen in the Antilles). From the start, there is plentiful evidence that people in the Caribbean believed that there was a link between boucanier and boucan (or bucanero and bucan in Spanish). There is no evidence of an Irish link and certainly no evidence that anyone was ever described as a boc aniar.

Moolah Isn’t Irish

I have just noticed a tweet put out by Shamrock Clubwis (Wisconsin Shamrock Club) on January the 12th.

Today’s slang word from the Irish language is “Moolah.”

Moolah comes from the Irish phrase, “Moll Oir,” meaning “a pile of gold.”

Thanks to Daniel Cassidy’s “How The Irish Invented Slang,” from 2007.

It’s unfortunate how this garbage just keeps on circulating, disappearing and then surfacing again like a dead rat in a blocked drain. No, there is no evidence that moolah has any connection with Irish. While Cassidy’s suggestion of moll óir is much better than his usual standard (at least the phrase could exist and doesn’t infringe any grammatical rules) there is precious little evidence of anyone, anywhere using this phrase. On Google, the one example I found was in relation to a taped interview with a native Irish speaker from Donegal. In a description of the contents of the audio, it talks about someone finding a pile of gold (moll óir) under a flagstone. However, listening to the actual audio, the phrase isn’t mentioned.

There are numerous theories about the origins of the word moolah, which first appears in America in the 1930s. The strongest suggestion, as far as I’m concerned, is the Spanish phrase (especially associated with Venezuela) bajáte de la mula, which literally means ‘get down off the mule’ and figuratively means ‘give me the money!’ Mula sounds exactly like moolah. (However, there are problems with this. See the comment from David Gold below.)

Moll óir, on the other hand, sounds like ‘moll oar’. In other words, it sounds absolutely nothing like moolah.


Tá mé díreach i ndiaidh tvuít a fheiceáil a chuir Shamrock Clubwis (Wisconsin Shamrock Club) suas ar Twitter ar an 12ú lá de mhí Eanáir.

Today’s slang word from the Irish language is “Moolah.”

Moolah comes from the Irish phrase, “Moll Oir,” meaning “a pile of gold.”

Thanks to Daniel Cassidy’s “How The Irish Invented Slang,” from 2007.

Ní thagann. Más féidir leat an Ghaeilge seo a léamh, beidh a fhios agat nach frása coitianta é “moll óir”. Agus níl an frása sin ar dhóigh ar bith cosúil le moolah, agus cé go bhfuil a lán teoiricí ann faoi bhunús an fhocail moolah, an ceann is fearr, is dócha, ná an frása Spáinnise (atá le cloisteáil go coitianta sa Veiniséala, de réir cosúlachta) “bajáte de la mula”, a chiallaíonn “tuirling den mhiúil” ach a bhfuil brí fháthchiallach leis, mar atá, “tabhair dom an t-airgead!”  Tá an focal mula go díreach cosúil le moolah, ní hionann agus moll óir. (Agus sin ráite, tá fadhbanna ag baint leis an tsanasaíocht seo fosta – féach na tuairimí thíos.)


It’s a terrible disgrace that there are a lot of people in the world of the Irish language who supported the con-artist Daniel Cassidy, author of the idiotic book How The Irish Invented Slang. For example, Máirtín Ó Muilleoir was prepared to support him and described him as ‘our friend’. Joe Lee speaks Irish too. It seems that he supported this weak-minded book because of his friendship with friends of Cassidy’s. In the case of Liam Ó Cuinneagáin, it seems that he was responsible for providing teachers for the Gaeltacht Weekends in San Francisco. If he had criticised Cassidy, he would probably have lost whatever money and status is associated with that, because Cassidy’s supporters have the upper hand in the world of ‘Irish Studies’ in California.

Pól Ó Muirí is a journalist with the Irish Times. In an article which is still available here  (www.beo.ie/alt-leabharmheas-7.aspx), he praises Cassidy’s dim-witted efforts, though, apparently, he didn’t know Cassidy, unlike the people mentioned above. It is hard to understand why he would be prepared to praise rubbish like this. He says, for example, that there is sense to the theory proposed by Cassidy that buckaroo comes from the Irish phrase ‘bocaí rua’. Of course, bocaí rua makes no sense in Irish. Were the cowboys all ginger? And as everybody knows, buckaroo comes from the word vaquero, which means ‘cowboy’ in Spanish!  

He also says that John Wayne speaks the word clábar (Irish for mud or curdled milk) when referring to women being thick in the film True Grit. That much is true and the word clabber is a word of Gaelic origin, without doubt. What he doesn’t say (he probably hadn’t done any fact-checking at all) is that bonny-clabber and clabber came into the English language from Irish bainne clábair and clábar early in the 17th century. They were in common use in the English of England, America and the West Indies for hundreds of years when John Wayne used the term in True Grit. 

There is an interesting article on Wikipedia about the word Clabber:



A Christmas Warning/Rabhadh Nollag

You can still buy a copy of Cassidy’s puerile, silly book on Amazon for a couple of dollars. If there were any justice, this trashy, awful book would never have been published in the first place. However, it’s Christmas, the world is full of suckers, so we can expect a few copies to be sold to the naïve and credulous.

I have said it before and I’ll say it again – if you give this book as a present, you are giving out a clear message about yourself. At least some of the recipients will find this blog or other negative reviews of this book. If they have any sense at all, they will realise that you are a total idiot, just like its author.

So, this Christmas, if you can’t think of anything to give people, don’t give this rubbish. Give a global gift from Trócaire or Oxfam or whatever the equivalent is where you live, or make a contribution to a charity on their behalf and put the receipt in a card. Give hope and help to people who need it, and say something positive about yourself.

Don’t give the gift of ignorance and lies this Christmas.


Is féidir leat cóip de leabhar páistiúil, amaideach Daniel Cassidy, How The Irish Invented Slang, ar chúpla dollar ar Amazon. Dá mbeadh an saol mar ba chóir dó a bheith, ní fhoilseofaí an leabhar bómánta seo riamh. Ach an Nollaig atá ann, tá an saol lán glasóg, agus is dócha go ndíolfar roinnt cóipeanna de le daoine saonta somheallta.

Tá sé ráite agam roimhe seo agus is fiú é a rá arís – má thugann tú an leabhar seo mar bhronntanas, is ionann sin agus teachtaireacht shoiléir a thabhairt faoin chineál duine atá ionat. Cuid de na daoine a fhaigheann an leabhar seo mar bhronntanas, tiocfaidh siad ar an bhlag seo nó ar léirmheasanna diúltacha eile ar an leabhar seo. Má tá ciall ar bith leo, tuigfidh siad nach bhfuil ionat ach bómán, go díreach cosúil le húdar an leabhair.

Mar sin de, an Nollaig seo, mura dtig leat smaoineamh ar rud ar bith le tabhairt mar bhronntanas, ná bac leis an raiméis seo. Tabhair bronntanas domhanda ó Trócaire nó Oxfam nó cibé rud den chineál atá ann san áit a bhfuil tusa i do chónaí, nó tabhair airgead do charthanas ar a son agus cuir an admháil i gcárta. Tabhair dóchas agus cuidiú do dhaoine a bhfuil dóchas agus cuidiú de dhíth orthu, agus abair rud éigin dearfach fút féin.

Ná bí ag bronnadh caimiléireachta agus aineolais ar do chairde agus do ghaolta an Nollaig seo.


Out of the hundreds of silly claims in Daniel Cassidy’s ludicrous book, How The Irish Invented Slang, few are sillier than his theory about the origins of the word rollicking. This is a word that makes its appearance in English for the first time in 1811. Cassidy says that the dictionaries say it is ‘of obscure origin’ but there seems to be a consensus that it is linked in some way to frolicking, which is of Dutch origin.

As usual with Cassidy’s work, all he has to offer is a vague similarity of sound. He says that this word comes from Irish rámhailleach, which is either an adjective or a verbal noun deriving from rámhaille, which means raving or ranting. The word rámhailleach is pronounced something like row-will-yah, so it really sounds nothing like rollicking. Also, the meaning is completely different. People have a rollicking good time all the time in English, but nobody every had ‘am maith rámhailleach’ (a raving good time). Rámhaille in Irish means that someone is mentally or physically ill. Rollicking is the very opposite.

As na céadta bómántacht a chum Daniel Cassidy agus a d’fhoilsigh sé ina leabhar amaideach How The Irish Invented Slang, is beag ceann acu atá chomh bómánta leis an méid a bhí le rá aige maidir le bunús an fhocail rollicking. Is focal Béarla é rollicking a taifeadadh den chéad uair sa bhliain 1811. Deir Cassidy go ndeir na foclóirí go bhfuil a bhunús doiléir, ach bíonn an chuid is mó de na scoláirí ar aon intinn go bhfuil nasc idir rollicking agus an focal frolicking, a fuair an Béarla ón Ísiltíris.

Mar is gnách le teoiricí Cassidy, níl fianaise le tairiscint aige ach go bhfuil focal sa Ghaeilge a mheasann sé a bheith cosúil leis an fhocal Béarla ó thaobh fuaime de. Deir Cassidy gur tháinig an focal seo ó rámhailleach na Gaeilge, a chiallaíonn caint gan chiall a dhéanamh agus tú tinn, ar meisce, as do mheabhair srl. Ar ndóigh, níl fuaim an fhocail rámhailleach ar dhóigh ar bith cosúil le rollicking, agus tá an chiall iomlán difriúil fosta. Is féidir ‘a rollicking good time’ a bheith agat i mBéarla. Ní féidir am maith rámhailleach a bheith agat i nGaeilge! Ciallaíonn rámhaille go bhfuil duine tinn nó as a mheabhair. Ciallaíonn rollicking a mhalairt ar fad.