Tag Archives: fake scholarship

Hall of Shame Special – James R. Barrett

I recently came across another deserving target for my wrath, a book called The Irish Way: Becoming American In The Multiethnic City by Professor James R Barrett. It includes several pages of Cassidese nonsense like the following: 

“Corruptions of the Irish Gaelic language survived in the memories of old-timers and were refreshed by more recent immigrants. Irish words, phrases, accents and pronunciations seeped into the English of working-class neighbourhoods.”

Why am I angry about this?  Well, in some ways, I shouldn’t get worked up. There are things which are far more important in the world and I should watch my blood pressure and not allow idiocy like this to annoy me, but I just can’t help it. Here we have a career academic who quotes from Cassidy describing him as ‘linguist Daniel Cassidy’  Linguist? Cassidy was not a linguist in the sense of speaking many languages (judging by the book, he could barely speak English and didn’t know any Irish at all) and he certainly wasn’t trained in the theoretical study of language. Presumably this man Barrett read the book or at least looked at it. Didn’t he get suspicious at the lack of methodology, the lack of a bibliography, the fact that nothing is properly referenced? The claim that the name of a fictional character in an Indian poem by Kipling is really derived from Irish didn’t set any alarm bells ringing?

Apparently not, because James Barrett gives a list of words like slugger, dude, square, sucker, stool pigeon, squealer, swell, taro (I think he means faro, the card game, not taro the Japanese sweet potato), racketeer, scam and jazz. Of course, Cassidy claimed that all these words derive from Irish.  Readers of this blog will know that none of these words is really from Irish or Scottish Gaelic. And Barrett would know it too, if he had bothered looking these words up in dictionaries to see what real experts who know what they are talking about have said about them.

I mustn’t get angry … But, really! WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH THESE PEOPLE? This man is a highly qualified academic but apparently he is so lacking in scepticism and common sense that he just buys all of this tosh from Cassidy as if it’s real, without questioning it or investigating it or confirming it, even by surfing on Google for a quarter of an hour. And remember that this book came out in 2012 (and is about to be reprinted – it will be interesting to see if it still contains the same crap about slang). This is too early for cassidyslangscam, but not too early for a lot of other people who credibly and skilfully demonstrated that Cassidy’s book is simply nonsense written by an unqualified con-man. (Actually I should rephrase that: Cassidy was certainly a highly qualified con-man but he was unqualified to carry out any kind of academic work.)

Worse still, Barrett’s book has been reviewed in all kinds of publications and by all kinds of people. As far as I can see, not one of them has picked up on the claims that terms like square and jazz and block come from Irish and questioned their validity. Not one reviewer has taken issue with Barrett using Cassidy’s book as a source, in spite of the fact that it is like someone including theories about aliens building the pyramids in a serious book on Egyptology.  

Is this really what we’ve come to, a situation where the education system is so bad that even highly educated people are completely unable to recognise an insane load of cacamas for what it is?

Holler

Another daft claim in Daniel Cassidy’s ridiculous crapfest How The Irish Invented Slang is the one about the word ‘holler’. This is an American term found in places like the Appalachians. The dictionary experts regard it as a variant of a word ‘hollow’ (meaning to shout) which is attested in English from the 16th century. In the dialect of areas like the Appalachians, the word hollow as in small dale or depression is also pronounced holler.

Daniel Cassidy will have none of it. According to the Fraud, this word comes from the Irish ollbhúir. This word is very uncommon though it does exist (unlike most of Cassidy’s nonsense). It is found in Dinneen’s dictionary but not in the main modern dictionary by Niall Ó Dónaill. It is pronounced oll-woor or olloor. Cassidy thought that all Irish words beginning with a vowel have a h sound before them but this is not true.  

Personally, I am with the dictionary dudes. It seems to me quite logical that a word that is found in English and resembles an attested English word with the same meaning (hollow, to shout) probably comes from that attested English word. The Cassidese Liberation Front will no doubt disagree. They will argue that if there is a slightly similar word in Irish, then this must be the origin instead of English, because it’s too much of a coincidence that an obscure Irish word resembles holler. Of course, it’s also a remarkable coincidence that Spanish has haullar (to howl), French has hurler (to shout), German has heulen (to howl), Dutch has huilen (to howl) and that all of these words are far more common in their respective languages than ollbhúir is in Irish.

It’s remarkable, but it won’t make any difference to Cassidy’s supporters. They aren’t dealing in facts. Cassidy’s ‘research’ is about cosy, self-congratulatory Irish-American fantasies, not about discovering the truth.

Jack

Daniel Cassidy, in his atrocious book How The Irish Invented Slang, claimed that ‘jack’, a slang term for ‘money’ and the probable origin of ‘jackpot’, comes from the Irish tiach. Cassidy defines tiach as ‘a small purse, a wallet, a budget fig. money’. Now, there are two common words for a wallet in Irish: sparán (equivalent to the sporran of Highland dress) and vallait. Tiach is not a bag used for money, as far as I know. Furthermore, even if it did mean wallet rather than satchel, why would it figuratively mean money? Do people ask if someone has lots of wallet? They certainly don’t ask if they can borrow some sparán in Irish, never mind tiach!

Then there is the issue of pronunciation. Tiach is not pronounced like jack or jah. It is pronounced (roughly) chee-ah, with the ch of English cheese, or tee-ah in the south, so why would it become jack? (Cassidy didn’t understand Irish pronunciation at all.)

And then there is the fact that jack was a term for a coin in English by the 16th century. It is not completely impossible that an Irish term might have come into English this far back, but it is pretty unlikely.

All in all, Cassidy’s claim is as stupid and as worthless as the vast majority of the claims made in this book.

Hould Yer Whisht, Danny!

In Daniel Cassidy’s astonishingly stupid book, How The Irish Invented Slang, Cassidy claims that the word wisht, used to shush someone, derives from the Irish word éist, which means ‘listen’. If Daniel Cassidy had known any Irish, he would have known that a version of the word wisht or whisht exists in Irish as well, alongside the word éist. In Irish, it is spelled fuist (pronounced fwishch or fwisht). There is no doubt that this word is a borrowing from English rather than the other way round as it is found in English as early as the 14th century.