Tag Archives: fraud

More On Peter Quinn

I have been looking at the people whom I have criticised over the years, and I have decided to post again about Peter Quinn, who 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.

Peter Quinn is 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.  

 

More on Professor Joseph Lee

 

Among the numerous cronies who have boosted the reputation of the charlatan Daniel Cassidy and his absurd book, How The Irish Invented Slang, one of the worst is Joe Lee, a respectable academic historian and scholar who is connected with New York University.

Lee provided a gushing and ridiculously positive review for the back of Cassidy’s book.

“In this courageous, crusading manifesto, Daniel Cassidy flings down the gauntlet to all those compilers of dictionaries who fled to the safe haven of ‘origin unknown’ when confronted with the challenge of American slang …The originality and importance of the argument makes this an exciting contribution to both American and Irish Studies. This is a landmark book, at once learned and lively, and quite enthralling as to how American English acquired so vibrant a popular vocabulary.”

I have read some of Lee’s work. In spite of his idiotic support for Cassidy, he deserves to be respected as an historian. Interestingly, he is critical of the traditional nationalist narratives. For example, he is critical of the claims that there was enough food in Ireland to feed the population during the Famine years. Why he chose to take the reputation which he has acquired through decades of hard work and study and flush it down the pan by supporting a joke like Cassidy remains a mystery. There is no doubt that he knew Daniel Cassidy and many of Cassidy’s friends. Does this explain it? Was it simple nepotism?

Or was it pity? Did he choose to support Cassidy because Cassidy had no health insurance after the collapse of New College and was relying on the sales of the book? If so, this was a shitty thing to do. The Irish people are not responsible for Daniel Cassidy and we are certainly not responsible for one of the richest nations on earth choosing to have a cruelly inadequate health care system. If he wanted to help Cassidy, Lee could have remortgaged his house to pay the insurance bills, not sold out our language and culture.

Or was it a more selfish motive? Was Lee trying to stay on the right side of a parcel of cronies, men like Peter Quinn and Pete Hamill, who would do anything to avoid admitting that Daniel Cassidy was a fraud?

Of course, I suppose there is a possibility that Lee genuinely believed the praise he lavished on the book. However, I find this impossible to believe, because Lee is not an idiot. How could anyone who speaks Irish believe that more than a handful of the ‘Irish’ phrases in this book are genuine? (Of course, he’s not a linguist, but even so!) And we have to remember that Lee is an academic. He must have seen dozens, if not hundreds of theses and dissertations. He knows full well that any thesis or dissertation with standards of scholarship as poor as Cassidy’s would not be acceptable in any university, anywhere.

There is also another bit of evidence, posted by someone using the username ap-aelfwine on this forum: http://gaeilge.livejournal.com/175737.html

The bit of Cassidy’s work I’ve seen struck me as dubious,* although I recently heard a faculty member–a clueful historian who has good Munster Irish–at the programme I just graduated from say he thought C. was pointing in some directions that deserved exploration. It was in the midst of a reception–I didn’t get a chance to ask him more about it, unfortunately.

The clueful historian is obviously Lee. It doesn’t surprise me that he was still making broadly positive comments about Cassidy in 2010, because he had been stupid enough to put his endorsement on the book a couple of years earlier. But ‘pointing in some directions that deserve exploration’ (a view which is also foolish, in my opinion, and there’s plenty of evidence of that in this blog) is a far cry from ‘landmark book’, ‘courageous and crusading manifesto’, or ‘learned and lively’, never mind ‘an exciting contribution to both American and Irish Studies’. Yet Lee’s review still stands on the back of every copy of this ludicrous turd of a book. No doubt many people have been conned into believing that Cassidy’s work is a genuine piece of scholarship because of Lee’s endorsement and his continued refusal to set the record straight.

Or could it just be that Lee is a victim of that old enemy of rationality, the arrogance and hubris that so frequently goes with titles like Professor and Senator, the feeling that who you are makes you above the ordinary decencies that lesser folk have to live with?

Who knows? Who cares? Integrity is a precious commodity. Life is far too short to waste on people who are prepared to squander their reputation on a putz like Cassidy, whatever bizarre motive they had for doing so.

Daniel Cassidy and the Irish Papers

We have recently discovered that ‘Professor’ Daniel Cassidy, self-proclaimed discoverer of hundreds of concealed Irish expressions in American slang, didn’t have a degree. In terms of the framework for qualifications we use in this country, Cassidy was a Level 3 (equivalent to Ardteistiméireacht in the 26 Counties, Scottish Highers, A-Levels here, in England or in Wales or USA High School Diploma). To be a professor, you would normally be expected to have a Level 8 (Doctorate), though you might just get there with a Level 7 (Master’s Degree) in special circumstances. In other words, the man was a total fraud.

However, like many fantasists and con-men, he also had a brass neck. After his crazy book was published in 2007, he went on tour to pitch his ludicrous ideas to Irish America and to the Irish themselves. A lot of articles appeared in the press in Ireland.

We have already discussed the shameful complicity of the Irish-language newspaper Lá in the Cassidy Scandal. As we have said before, one of Lá’s journalists got a trip (presumably free) to Cassidy’s Irish Crossroads Festival in California, so this junket probably explains why they felt obliged to support this nonsense (if rather unenthusiastically) rather than strapping on a pair and telling the truth about Cassidy’s complete lack of ability.

Another offender was the Irish News, which adopted a completely uncritical and laudatory tone in an article by Margaret Canning, who obviously knows as much about the Irish language as Cassidy himself.

However, the worst offender was the Irish Times, which used to be a sensible and intelligent paper. Pól Ó Muirí reviewed the book in glowing terms in the Irish language section, though it seems to me that his article is slightly tongue in cheek. Even if it is, the mockery is so subtle that it might as well not be there. Then Kate Holmquist reviewed it on 28 July 2007, again repeating all kinds of stupidities, such as jism coming from teas ioma, which Cassidy says means an abundance of heat and passion; figuratively semen. This is, of course, complete nonsense.

However, the prize for chief sucker of the Irish nation goes to Frank McNally in An Irishman’s Diary, a regular column in the Irish Times. McWally gave it a glowing review on August 2, 2007:  “It’s not every dictionary you can describe as a thrilling read. But when I picked up Daniel Cassidy’s How the Irish Invented Slang: The Secret Language of the Crossroads the other day, I soon found myself reluctant to put it down. Compared with the OED, certainly, this is a page-turner….” Yes, Frank. That’s because the OED has lots of FACTS. Cassidy’s book is full of fascinating CRAP.

But McWally couldn’t leave it alone. On Friday 13 March 2009 he was plugging Cassidy again, trying to present a ‘balanced’ argument. He talks about linguists looking for written sources while ‘lack of written sources … was central to Cassidy’s argument.’ He also rang Cassidy, apparently, but was unaware of the time difference so the conversation was unproductive. What he didn’t do was phone an academic, a linguist or an Irish speaker in the same time-zone and ask them why this book is mindless shite, which is what he should have done.

McNally was obviously impressed by Cassidy (or perhaps he finds it hard to think of new material). On Sat June 4, 2011, he wrote another article lending support to Cassidy’s specious nonsense. This is one of the worst articles I have ever read. It completely misses the point, drags in H.L. Mencken, the stringency of linguistic methodology and the garrulous nature of the Irish. However, we have to remember here that the book is stuffed full of nonsense. A person with access to Google (and you would hope a so-called journalist would have access to Google) would be able to look up the real derivations for Cassidy’s words and find that the material presented in the book doesn’t actually reflect what the dictionaries say. And of course, anyone looking at an Irish dictionary would realise pretty quickly that Cassidy’s Irish ‘sources’ are hooky as well. Why didn’t McNally do this? Why indeed!

Then on 9 May 2013, McNally discussed the origins of the term phoney, claiming that Cassidy was the first to make the connection between phoney, the obsolete slang term fawney and Irish fáinne. A quick look on Google (try it Frank, it’s really good!) will show that Eric Partridge had already published this claim  in 1990 and I would guess that he probably wasn’t the first to make that connection.

Finally, on 16 Oct 2013, there is another massive plug for Cassidy, again with no attempt to find out what genuine experts think – or more importantly, know. Five plugs for the Great Fraud and not one valid or intelligent criticism of any of Cassidy’s bogus claims – not even the one about Gunga O’Din, Dia idir sinn agus an drochrud!

However, it’s not all doom and gloom. Ed Power, writing in the Belfast Telegraph and the Irish Independent in December 2007, did what a real journalist would do. He lifted the phone and got a couple of comments from Professor Terence Dolan, who dismissed Cassidy’s book as almost entirely wishful thinking.

What lessons can we learn from this? Well, don’t read Frank McNally’s column is fairly high on the list. In praising this book, Frank McNally, in addition to revealing that he’s a bit of a pillock and that the Irish Times isn’t what it was, has become one of the few people to support this ridiculous book without (apparently) having any kind of personal connection with Cassidy. It’s kind of understandable that Eamonn McCann would say how great the book is, because he knew Cassidy. As did Peter Quinn, and Joe Lee, and John Rickford, and Alexander Cockburn, to name but a few. What’s Frank’s excuse, apart from laziness and stupidity?

Another lesson is the fact that most people don’t know anything about linguistics. Mathematicians complain that people are happy to admit their innumeracy and that it doesn’t carry the same stigma as illiteracy. Personally, I don’t accept their argument. I think maths is fascinating and I wish I were better at it but it doesn’t bother me because I don’t use it in my everyday life. However, everyone uses language – all the time – and yet the facts of linguistics are a mystery to people who regard themselves as educated. Many people regard knowledge of a few irrational, normative rules of grammar like not splitting infinitives as linguistics, whereas in fact true linguists have a very different agenda.

However, the biggest and most important lesson is probably how enormous our inferiority complex as a nation is (and was, even before the Celtic Tiger was put to sleep). All it takes is for an arrogant, ignorant little gobshite like Cassidy to turn up with a Noo Yoik accent and a monomaniacal sense of entitlement, pretending to be a supporter of the Irish language and a genuine academic and a friend of Francis Ford Coppola, and people instantly lose all their common sense and start tugging the spiritual forelock which the Irish developed a couple of hundred years ago for the purpose of kowtowing to the local Anglo-Irish landlord.

Pathetic!

Did Daniel Cassidy Have a University Degree?

Wow! For several years now, I have been posting regularly here, trying to convince people that Daniel Cassidy’s insane theories about the Irish origins of American slang have no basis in fact. In the process, I have often questioned Cassidy’s qualifications. According to Wikipedia, he had a degree from Cornell. He seems to have had no other qualifications. No Master’s degree, no doctorate. Not even a diploma. However, I never doubted that he had a primary degree.

This rainy and miserable evening, I logged on to the computer to start writing a post about the subject of the word ballyhoo and the claims made by Loretto Todd and Daniel Cassidy about its origin from the Irish word bailiú. However, when I logged on, I was amazed to receive a message from Cassidy’s sister Susan Cassidy Connors:

Danny was always an FOS person–he was older than he claimed, was a liar and a thief, and tore the family apart.

BTW, he did attend Cornell, but flunked out!

So, it looks as if the Cassidy scandal might be an even bigger scandal than I thought. We knew that Cassidy was guilty of egoism and misinformation and deception but if this is correct, then Cassidy was guilty of far more. Claiming to have an academic qualification to obtain employment is a serious criminal offence, and surely nobody would have employed him as an academic knowing that he had no academic qualifications at all! Several sources also mention Columbia, with one of them claiming that he graduated from that university, but as this is only one source, it seems unlikely.

As it stands, of course, I cannot prove this claim one way or the other. I have contacted the Registrar’s Office at Cornell to inform them and I hope that they will investigate and issue a statement on this if appropriate. I suggest that the Registrar’s Office at San Francisco State should also investigate if Cassidy worked with them and what proof he offered of his academic qualifications. (According to a discussion on Wikipedia on the origins of the word jazz, Cassidy worked on the faculty of SFS before taking up his chair at NCC, which was in 1995.)

To those who have followed cassidyslangscam with interest, watch this space. Things are starting to get very interesting!

Some Loose Ends

Over the past ten months, I have done my best in these posts to demolish the theories of a charlatan called Daniel Cassidy, who wrote a ridiculous book in which he claims that thousands of English words derive from Irish. He claims this on the basis of slight phonetic similarities but takes no account of the usage of Irish words or of the known history of the English words he discusses. I have decided to move on and do something more creative with my time. However, before doing that, I would like to give a brief thumbnail account of some of the words I haven’t had time to deal with in detail and explain why Cassidy’s derivations are ridiculous in these cases as well.

Hip – This is a term first used in American slang in the early twentieth century. To be hip to something originally meant to be informed about it. Cassidy claims that it comes from the Irish aibí, meaning mature, ripe or sensible. This doesn’t sound much like hip (it is pronounced something like abbey or appy) and being ‘mature to the trip’ doesn’t really work, does it?

Cracker – This is a term meaning a white person. There are various theories about its origin. Cassidy selectively quotes sources to ‘prove’ that it comes from the Irish word craicire, meaning a boastful person. (This word is not given at all in Ó Dónaill, though it is given in Dinneen.) Craicire, like craic, is an obvious borrowing from dialect English or Lowland Scots. In fact, the term cracker is used by Shakespeare in the sense of boastful person, and in spite of some other crazy people’s claims, Shakespeare was not Irish.

Bummer – Cassidy claims that this comes from the Irish bumaire. In fact, the origins of this word are very complex and there are certainly a number of different meanings and derivations involved. There is the English word bum meaning backside, which is an ancient Germanic word. Then there is bum-bailiff (borrowed into Irish as bum-báille) which apparently comes from bum meaning backside (because he comes up behind people and catches them). Then there is the word bum meaning to boast or brag, which is still very common in Irish English. (He’s always bumming and blowing about that new motor!) The word bumaire is an obvious borrowing from this dialect word. And lastly, there is a word for a tramp or hobo in American slang, which comes from German. It is this that gives rise to expressions like ‘a bum steer’ or ‘it’s a bummer’.

Boiler room. In slang, this is the nerve centre or HQ of a racket like illegal gambling. It is perfectly understandable as a metaphor. Like water in a central heating system, all the money comes in and goes out of this central point, which is a hotbed of activity. According to Cassidy, it comes from bailitheoir, meaning collector. Yeah, that’ll be right! How could anyone be taken in by this rubbish?

Racket – Cassidy derives racket from raic ard, a high noise. In fact, racket is an English expression, a version of an earlier term rattick. The word raic in Irish is probably a borrowing from some related English word or perhaps from (w)rack, a dialect version of wreck (as in the ‘rackers’ who used to break into people’s houses and smash them up during agrarian disturbances in Ireland), or perhaps it’s just coincidence?

Racketeer – Again, this claim involves a complex set of words. The truth is probably quite simple. At some stage, racket as in to make a sound became linked to words like rack (to put someone on the rack) and rack-renting (to extort rent from someone) and thus a racket came to mean a criminal enterprise. This then gave rise to racketeer. Cassidy ransacks dictionaries looking for obscure Irish and Gaelic terms like reicire, which means a seller and in one obscure dialect also meant an ‘extortioner’, according to Dinneen (the alternative form reacadóir isn’t given with this sense, in spite of what Cassidy says). There is also a Scottish Gaelic term ragair, which apparently means an extortioner or bully, but how many Hebridean gangsters were there in 19th century New York, I ask myself?

Sketch – A sketch is a term for a humorous skit, so there is really no mystery about the use of phrases like ‘he’s an absolute sketch!’ However, Daniel Cassidy decided that this had to be Irish too, so according to him it comes from scairt, meaning a scream. If people ever said Is scairt é of a funny person, or if sketch didn’t mean something funny in English, this might be half-believable. They don’t and it isn’t.

Then there are the many examples where Cassidy is essentially right or may be right about an Irish or Gaelic derivation but he was not the first one to make such a claim.

Slew – Nothing new here. This word is from Irish slua. This is accepted by the ‘dictionary dudes’ and is completely uncontroversial.

Whiskey – Who’d have thought it? Whiskey comes from Irish uisce (beatha). There’s a surprise, mar dhea!

Twig – This is the slang term for understand, not branch. Twig in this sense is probably from Irish tuig and many different sources give this, including Brewer’s. This just goes to show that where there is a genuine similarity, other people can see it apart from Cassidy. Only Cassidy saw the similarity between hoodoo and uath dubh because before Cassidy, the phrase uath dubh didn’t exist!

Dig – Cassidy claimed that dig also comes from tuig, or more specifically from phrases like An dtuigeann tú? (Do you understand?) This is possible, but it didn’t originate with Cassidy. It is already given as a source in the Dictionary of American Slang.

Cock-eyed. Cassidy claimed that this comes from caoch-eyed, blind-eyed. This is not a ridiculous suggestion, though the other explanations to do with cocking a gun or the general notion of something being skew-whiff when it is cocked (to cock your hat) need to be investigated too. The fact is, even if Cassidy is right about this, all he did was copy other sources like Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, which mention Irish or Gaelic as a possible origin.

Snaking the Deck

Apparently, snaking the deck is a slang term for marking a deck of cards in gambling. Anyone with any sense or intelligence would regard this as an English term based on the legendary untrustworthiness of snakes. By snaking the deck, you make it dishonest.

Daniel Cassidy, author of the ludicrous book, How The Irish Invented Slang, didn’t have any sense or intelligence. He chose to attribute the origins of this phrase to the verb snoíochán, which he defines as: “marking, clipping, cutting, meddling with (a deck of cards).

Now, when you look on page 1076 of Dinneen’s dictionary (as per Cassidy’s reference), you find that the word referred to by Cassidy is spelled snoidheachán and is defined as ‘act of carving, whittling or planing.’ There is no reference to marking or clipping, nothing about decks of cards. I wonder how far you would get in Las Vegas if you tried to mark the cards by ‘carving, whittling or planing’?

As usual with this insane catalogue of nonsense, Cassidy’s definition of snaking the deck is all my asp and a load of old cobras.

Carrying The Banner

Another utterly ridiculous claim in this absurd book, How The Irish Invented Slang, is that the slang term ‘carrying the banner’ comes from the Irish comhshaoránach bonnaire, which supposedly means ‘fellow-citizen foot-man or walker’. If you speak any Irish at all, which Cassidy didn’t, you will realise how crazy this claim is.

For one thing, the word saoránach originally meant a freeman. It only acquired its current meaning of citizen when the Irish state was struggling to develop a modern vocabulary after the language had been sidelined for centuries by the British. It first occurs in this sense in the 1922 constitution. And bonnaire is an unusual word for a walker or a footman. The whole phrase (which would be pronounced koh-heerannah bonnarra if it really existed) is ridiculously contrived. It is not real Irish. It was invented to order by an ignorant fantasist in order to sound like an English slang expression.

Then there is the little matter that carrying the banner, a slang term for walking the streets all night, is very easy to understand. If you carry the banner in a parade, you keep walking the streets. You don’t bring the banner into a bar or a house. You walk with it. So this is a jocular way of saying that you have nowhere to stay and you walk the streets all night. It’s not rocket science. How anyone could be stupid enough to believe Cassidy’s version is a mystery to me.