Tag Archives: Gaelic

Cassidese Glossary – Jerk

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.

Jerk, a slang term for “tedious and ineffectual person,” first appears in American carnival slang in 1935. Its origin is uncertain, but it possibly derives from jerkwater “petty, inferior, insignificant”. This term goes back to the days of steam trains, when the water for the steam engine needed to be replenished regularly. In small towns, they needed to form a human chain and “jerk” the water (i.e. lift it on a rope) to fill the engine. Thus a small, hick town was known as a jerkwater town. (Some experts say that jerking water refers to a system whereby water was lifted while the train was in motion, but this doesn’t change the basic argument, that jerkwater is a railroad term for an insignificant town). This may have also been influenced by the phrase jerk off, referring (for obvious reasons) to masturbation.

These are the facts. Daniel Cassidy, in his book How The Irish Invented Slang, claimed that this word derives from déirceach. Déirc is the Irish for alms and a déirceach can be either a beggar or a person who gives out alms, and Cassidy makes much of the fact that both beggars and charity-givers (many of whom offered starving people food in return for a nominal religious conversion in Ireland) were both regarded as jerks by the Irish. If this were the genuine etymology, this speculation might be of interest, but déirceach is not a common word and especially not in the sense of beggar, which is usually bacach in spoken Irish. There is absolutely no reason to suppose that déirceach is the origin of the American English jerk or has any connection with it.

 

Cassidese Glossary – Jazzy

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.

Cassidy claims that while jazz derives from teas, jazzy derives from the adjectival version teasaí. It seems obvious to me (and to any other sensible human being) that jazzy is simply an English adjectival form derived from jazz, just as a day of rain is a rainy day or a stew with lots of meat is described as meaty. Cassidy frequently did things like this. For example, look at his claims in relation to the supposed link between croak and Irish croch.

Teach Yourself Pomposity

Recently, I have criticised Michael Patrick MacDonald, an Irish-American writer, who supported Daniel Cassidy and his crazy theories and attacked real scholars and lexicographers (“racist OED lapdogs”) for disagreeing with him and his friends. I have nothing to say about MacDonald’s activism or indeed about his books. He may be a great man and a great writer. He may be as big a fraud as Cassidy himself. I don’t know and I can’t be bothered finding out. All that interests me here is his support for the liar Daniel Cassidy (who was apparently a close friend of his). 

The other day, I noticed another comment on Twitter from MacDonald which irritated me almost as much as his “racist lapdogs.” 

Can I say this? University is stupid. Kill your memorized “radical” language and walk free, connect. 

And below that:

A month in belfast, Jo-burg, east NY, and one will learn the history of the world & post colonial theory for plane fare. 

Now, there are several reasons why this is stupid and objectionable. For one thing, this man doesn’t seem to have any university degrees. He works in a university as a writer in residence, but that’s not the same as having a background in academia. Of course, there are criticisms to be made of academia, but they sound better coming from people who’ve actually proven themselves within that system. They certainly sound ridiculous coming from someone who mistook Daniel Cassidy for a serious scholar. As has been pointed out many times before, autodidacts (people who teach themselves in an informal and unstructured way) tend to be massively confident. And in many cases, as in the case of Cassidy, this is not because they have weighed up all the facts and can confidently identify which are correct or incorrect: rather, it is because they are simply ignorant of anyone else’s viewpoint apart from their own, so it seems OBVIOUS to them that their own opinion must be right. 

As I said above, it’s possible to criticise academia for a lot of reasons. It probably does serve to sharpen class divisions, and in recent years it has become very managerial and money-driven. However, it is also, like democracy, the worst system apart from all the others. The methods of academia are about establishing the facts, anchoring speculation in observable truth, not allowing bigotry and groupthink to undermine the international community of scholars and the work they produce.

The alternative is the malicious dross you can find in any bookshop, shit about ancient aliens building Newgrange and how the Sumerians discovered America and how various royal families of Europe are descended from Jesus’s girlfriend, and how the cadences of modern American speech descend from the crude bilingual patois of Irish speakers. In other words, there is a choice between building human knowledge throughout the generations by checking facts and eliminating error, or just believing any old shite that suits your world-view, from White Supremacism to 9/11 ‘Truth’, from Nazis living on the moon to the extreme numptiness of Young Earth Creationism. 

The search for and the accumulation of knowledge is important. It’s not a class thing. It’s not a national or racial thing. It’s a human thing. It’s one of the most important parts of what we are as humans, and anyone who dismisses it as casually as MacDonald is a fool.

Here, MacDonald shows us again that he doesn’t give a toss about academia or the search for knowledge. However, there is another stupidity in the tweets above. (Amazing how much crap some people manage to squeeze into 140 characters …) So a trip to Belfast will automatically broaden your mind and teach you about history and colonialism? What about all those people who’ve never spent much time out of Belfast and they still get exercised about their little fleg protests? I’m sure there are plenty of bigots in Jo’berg as well. Travel doesn’t automatically broaden the mind, and some people would probably be better staying at home and reading a good book by a genuine academic rather than going abroad to confirm their prejudices. When I read the nonsense in MacDonald’s tweet, I immediately thought of that lovely old Irish poem about pilgrimage written in the margin of a 9th century text:

Teicht do Róim:
mór saído, becc torbai!
in rí chon·daigi hi foss,
mani·m-bera latt, ní·fogbai.

Here’s a rough translation:

Going to Rome: great the pain,
and all for very little gain.
The King you were looking for at home,
if you don’t bring Him with you, you won’t find in Rome.

 

The Tyranny of Narrative

One of the most noticeable aspects of Cassidy’s work (and indeed of much pseudoscience and pseudohistory) is that it is driven far more by narrative than by facts. The story takes over and if it doesn’t fit the evidence, it’s the evidence that is sidelined and ignored.

And of course, it’s easy to regard Cassidy’s book as a story (or a myth, if you prefer). All great stories begin with some revelation: a bottle with a message in it; a door to another dimension; a letter delivered by an owl. In this case, it was a book willed to Cassidy by a dying friend, an Irish dictionary.

The book was nearly thrown into the bin. For a second, the whole future of American linguistics teetered on the brink! But – phew! – Cassidy decided to keep the dictionary and read a word a night (maybe something with pictures would have been more appropriate?) Anyway, Cassidy, the loner, the maverick, the little man from the slums of Brooklyn, had an epiphany and realized that English is full of Irish. He took on the villains (academic linguists and Anglophiles) using his magic powers of street smarts and self-belief. After all, academic linguists and lexicographers don’t know street words (they sing madrigals and attend hunt balls with people called Lucretia and Sebastian in their spare time – they NEVER watch DVDs of The Wire or Goodfellas) and this is their weakness, their Achilles’ heel.

Eventually, our hero defeats his enemies with these magic powers (along with his flying monkeys like Peter Quinn and Joe Lee). He demonstrates his worth with the sheer volume of his examples and his sales and ‘proves’ that Irish America did not lose its language. No, rather the Irish language BECAME American English. So hurrah, the language and culture were not lost, merely misplaced until they were rediscovered by one plucky little motor-mouth from the Big Apple. Admittedly, it’s a great story, even if it is the purest of horseshit.

I was thinking of this recently when I received another comment from Cassidy’s sister, Susan Cassidy Connors, an old friend of Cassidyslangscam. Among several interesting points she raised was that she had never quite believed Cassidy’s story about how How The Irish Invented Slang came to be written.

As his sister says, everything Cassidy claimed is suspect. He was a liar and dishonesty was his default position. However, there are more substantial reasons to doubt Cassidy’s story about the origins of How The Irish Invented Slang.

For one thing, there are two versions of the story. In one of them, Cassidy was bequeathed a box of books by someone called Kevin O’Dowd in 2000. “He left me a box of Irish books in his will. One of the books was a pocket Irish dictionary, a focloir poca. I was in Ireland making a film at the time and thought ‘I’m too old to learn Irish, it’s too hard.’ But I told my wife, Clare, ‘I can’t throw that away. It was a sacred gift from Kevin.’”

Here’s the other version. In the book, it says that Cassidy was about to bin the book when his wife said “You can’t throw that book out, Danny. It’s a gift from Kevin. Why don’t you put it on your nightstand and look up a word a night?”

OK, memory is fickle but which of these two versions is correct? (If either of them is!)

Another bit I’m a little suspicious of is that according to the first account, Cassidy was in Ireland making a film in the year 2000. What film was this? Did it ever get finished? We know he produced a couple of documentaries in the mid 1990s. But what was this film in 2000?

Then there are the numerous examples he gives in various sources of the words which started to make him think that Irish had had such a major effect on English. Some of them are believable enough. You might well think that slug comes from Irish slogadh, to swallow. And I personally think it’s possible that snazzy comes from Irish snas meaning polish. Also, these are both basic words and would be in a learner’s dictionary. However, though I don’t have a copy of the Foclóir Póca that Cassidy had, I’m quite sure there is no word camag meaning a trick in it (camag is Scottish Gaelic, not Irish). I would also doubt that rare words like dorc and duirb are in a pocket dictionary. Perhaps if anyone does have a copy of the Foclóir Póca, they could check it and let us know. It seems to me that Cassidy is talking about words he found later, when he started looking at larger dictionaries. These are not the words he initially noticed in his pocket dictionary.

In short, it seems to me that Susan Cassidy Connors is right. This little story about the origins of Cassidy’s theory is not an accurate description of what really happened. Like everything Cassidy wrote and said, it has been doctored and manipulated carefully to produce the desired effect – parting suckers from their money.

A Renegade History of the United States

I recently came across another good example of a person who has been hornswoggled and thoroughly conned by the Great Fraud Daniel Cassidy. It is in a book called A Renegade History of the United States by Thaddeus Russell, a book which has enjoyed some popularity since its publication in 2011 because it takes a radical new slant on American history. Apparently, the orthodox Pilgrim Father culture of WASP America had little importance in the development of American culture and everything original and creative in America came from the immigrant non-WASP proletariat, along with the slaves and the Indians.

His work has been controversial and has been criticised by many for claiming that many freed slaves actually missed the good old days of slavery. Yes, seriously … Whether he is right about any of this is not a question I can discuss here because I haven’t read the book and I’m not likely to either. From Googlebooks I know that pages 148-9 of this book contain an awful lot of garbage copied out of Cassidy’s book:

No matter who you are, you may very well owe much of your vocabulary to the filthy, primitive, uncivilised Irish Americans of the 19th century. If you ever use or enjoy the terms “babe”, “ballyhoo”, “bee’s knees”, “bicker”, “biddy”, “big shot”, “billy club”, “blowhard”, “boondoggle”, “booze”, “boss” etc. etc.

Russell quotes more than a hundred of the words from Cassidy’s book. In a footnote, he says that “A few critics have contested some of the broader claims made by Daniel Cassidy in his book How The Irish Invented Slang: The Secret Language of the Crossroads (Petrolia, CA: Counterpunch, 2007), from which this list was taken, but the sheer volume of the evidence strongly suggests that, at the very least, working-class Irish Americans greatly shaped American vernacular language.’

In other words, Russell thinks that the sheer volume of Cassidy’s claims means that some of them must be correct. This is complete nonsense, of course, which Russell could easily have discovered if he had bothered his arse looking up the origin of words like stutter, giggle or throng on Google. He could have done so easily and found out that stutter is a very old term in English cognate with German stossen, or that giggle is related to German gickeln or that throng is a Germanic term and that Irish drong is a borrowing from Germanic.  I reckon that a real historian with a spare hour and access to the internet could easily disprove the majority of the claims on this list.

So why did Russell go ahead and copy out all of this Cassidese bullshit in 2011, years after scholars had demonstrated that Cassidy was a fraud?

Who knows? Stupidity? Incompetence? Or just an obsession with narrative, with the importance of story over history and to hell with the facts if they get in the way?

Two Plus Two Still Equals Four

In Orwell’s 1984, there is a famous piece where the interrogator, O’Brien, tries to get the central character, Winston Smith, to deny that two and two make four.

“How can I help seeing what is in front of my eyes? Two and two are four.”

“Sometimes, Winston. Sometimes they are five. Sometimes they are three. Sometimes they are all of them at once. You must try harder. It is not easy to become sane.”

The unitary nature of truth and the multiplicity of lies is a commonplace of world literature and it is built into the very fabric of language itself. We talk about duplicity for dishonesty in English, we say that people are two-faced, or in Irish that someone is Tadhg an Dá Thaobh (Tadhg of the Two Sides, Tim Turn-coat). The English poet Spenser, who has been mentioned several times here, who lived in County Cork, decided to give his true and virtuous fairy queen the name Una, while the deceitful opponent was called Duessa. And we could also mention Tolstoy’s comment: “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”

In other words, the ideal, the perfect, the correct is always unitary, while the possible incorrect versions are inexhaustible. In the case of 2 + 2 = 4 (assuming that this is in base ten), four is the only correct answer. The incorrect answers are as numerous as the integers available, and that is an infinite set.

Cassidy’s supporters are continually trying to get people like me to accept that two and two equals something other than four. When people like me point out that the Irish phrases given by Cassidy aren’t genuine Irish phrases, that nobody has ever said (or at least that nobody can be proven to have ever said) the phrase béal ónna in Irish, their answer tends to be that in the teeming ghettoes of North America, the rules of Irish usage fell away and people produced a new version of Irish. Maybe this happened and probably it didn’t. But if it did happen, the range of possible corrupt versions of Irish is almost as inexhaustible as the integers, so the idea that Cassidy’s fake versions will map accurately onto the versions that supposedly existed in Irish slums in America in the 19th century is absurd (even when we take into account that Cassidy made these phrases up to resemble English expressions phonetically). After all, Cassidy himself regularly changed his Irish expressions when he noticed one that he liked better (as in the case of dingbat, variously from duine bocht or duine bod according to the Great Fraud).

Why does baloney have to come from béal ónna just because these were the words Cassidy chose? What about béal omhna, tree-trunk mouth, because of the clumsy nonsense stuck in it? Or béal abhna (a variant of abhann), meaning river-mouth, because the person has a mouth as big as the mouth of the Liffey or the Lagan? Or béal uainín, a little lamb’s mouth, because of the innocence of the stupidities coming from it? Or béal Eoghnaí, from someone called Eoghan who was notoriously thick? Or béal eorna where eorna (barley) stands ‘figuratively’ for whiskey? Or béal eamhnaithe, doubled or twinned mouth, because the person is deceitful? Or hundreds of other possible but not probable explanations?

And then, of course, there’s the two plus two equals four explanation. That baloney is the name of a cheap type of sausage originating in Bologna in Italy and that it came to be used as a euphemism for balls, bollocks or bullshit in American English, just as people say ‘sugar’ as a mild oath instead of ‘shit’.

An Bhfuil Gaeilge Agat?

One of the most startling aspects of the Cassidy Scandal is the number of people who have argued in favour of Cassidy while pretending to a knowledge of the Irish language. As we have said, a few Irish speakers who genuinely do speak Irish have supported Cassidy. In the majority of cases (Joe Lee, Máirtín Ó Muilleoir) there seems to be a social link between these people and Cassidy, so they cannot be regarded as impartial.

However, in many other cases, there is a tendency for Cassidy’s supporters to exaggerate the amount of Irish that they or others speak in order to further their ridiculous claims.

We have already looked at Cassidy himself. Cassidy, on his own admission, had absolutely no Irish at all until he was in his late fifties, when he inherited a pocket Irish dictionary and started leafing through it. Over the next few years, he plainly failed to acquire even the most basic knowledge of Irish grammar and pronunciation. His attempts to produce Irish phrases are embarrassingly bad.

Then we have others whom Cassidy claimed as fluent Irish speakers. For example, using his sockpuppet of Medbh, he claimed that Alexander Cockburn was a fluent Irish speaker. Cockburn was raised in the Cork town of Youghal, and no doubt some of his education would have had an Irish component. But he then went to an English public school and spent most of his adult life in America. If he was fluent in Irish, none of the obituaries mention the fact.

But the main group of people claiming a knowledge of Irish are those in reviews who claim that they speak the language and can therefore judge the merits of Cassidy’s ‘research’. Let’s take one example. On Goodreads, for example, we find comments like this:

I know Irish. I speak Irish. It’s always bothered me how so many Irish words sound like English words that are similar in sound. AND those English words have NOTHING to do with a similar English word like “Raspberries.” Now I can sleep at night. (The book makes so much more sense if you can speak “as Gaeilge.”

This is very badly written, (well, they would sound like English words that are similar in sound, wouldn’t they?) and is plainly nonsense as there is no Irish phrase which sounds like raspberries. Cassidy’s claim is pure invention and I don’t believe that this individual invented Cassidy’s absurd candidate (roiseadh búirthí) independently before reading the book. This also comes from someone who gives a list of their other books on Goodreads, which include things like Buntús Cainte, Book 1 (an elementary text for someone learning the language). Of course, this person may be a genius who acquired a fantastic knowledge of the language in the year and a half between reviewing Buntús Cainte and reviewing Cassidy’s book, though the fact that he seems to take Cassidy’s ideas seriously suggests to me that his knowledge of Irish is much more limited than he claims.

Others say in their reviews that they have been learning Irish for a year, or that they are students of the Irish language, and so are in a position to confirm Cassidy’s claims. The fact is, Irish is a very difficult language. It takes people years of study to become properly fluent in the language. After a year, and possessing a few dictionaries, people might be in a position to confirm that, for example, uath exists and dubh exists and roiseadh exists and búirtheach exists. It’s a long way from that to being able to make a reasoned judgement about whether phrases like uath dubh or roiseadh búirthí are likely to make sense to a genuine Irish speaker.

Don’t get me wrong. I think Irish is wonderful and I like the fact that people are keen to learn it. However, having studied a bit of Buntús Cainte really doesn’t qualify anybody as an expert in Gaelic linguistics. This addresses one of the fundamental problems of the whole Cassidy Scandal, the idea that there is no special skill involved in linguistics and that amateurs like Cassidy who don’t speak Irish or know the grammar or know how to pronounce the language have an equal right to pronounce on word origins with genuine experts who have genuine qualifications. Just occasionally, people who are amateurs manage to make major contributions to scholarship (people like Susan Hendrickson or Grote Reber). It’s not unheard of. The difference is that these people work with and through the consensus developed in their field to make a new contribution and they work very hard to do it. The other big difference is that these people are generally respected by established experts in their field.

That’s because genuinely gifted amateur scholars like this engage in discourse with experts and provide genuine evidence of their talents, unlike Cassidy who couldn’t even be bothered learning the basics of the Irish language before rushing into print with this ridiculous travesty of a book.

Hall of Shame Christmas Special – America’s Secret Slang

Less than two weeks ago, I said that I was going to give up posting on Cassidyslangscam and do something better with my time, though I did also say that if the occasion demanded I would do some more blogging. I really didn’t think I would be back on this blog before Christmas but I simply couldn’t ignore this one. It turns out that The History Channel has produced a series of programmes called America’s Secret Slang, presented by someone called Zach Selwyn. Episode 5 of this truly dire programme repeats many of Cassidy’s idiotic claims as if they were fact. For example, it says that baloney comes from the Irish béal ónna, meaning ‘stupid mouth.’ Followers of this blog will realise that there is no such phrase as béal ónna, that ónna isn’t even given in the most important modern dictionary of Irish and that there is no evidence that anyone before Cassidy ever put the two words together. And of course, ónna means simple, not stupid. They also repeat the daft idea that ‘say uncle’ comes from the Irish anacal, a word which primarily means protect and defend. In other words, it’s more appropriate for someone asking a third party for help rather than someone asking mercy from the person who has them in a head lock, unless they are appealing to whichever of the bully’s multiple personalities is nurturing and in touch with its feminine side. However, in this crap programme, anacal becomes ‘Gaelic for mercy’. It also repeats the ridiculous claim that dothóigthe is the Irish for ‘a sick calf’. In fact, dothóigthe (modern dothógtha) is an adjective meaning hard to fatten and has no specific connection with calves. While the programme mentions that Cassidy’s book is controversial, unfortunately it doesn’t actually point out that it’s crap or question any of Cassidy’s absurd and childish claims.

At first, I was shocked that something called The History Channel would produce such rubbish, but then I looked at their schedules. It is obvious that history is history on the History Channel. These days, they mostly do programmes about rednecks and the aliens who probe them, so it isn’t entirely surprising that they have bought into this cobblers.

However, I have another reason for posting again so soon. I got to thinking, perhaps Cassidy and his supporters are right. Not about Irish and slang, of course. I would need to bang my head off a lot of walls very hard before I would be stupid enough to believe the shit in How The Irish Invented Slang. No, perhaps – and this is a serious question of philosophy – if someone states an attractive theory with enough confidence and it is then touched by the gilded hand of the media and believed by the masses, surely this virtual fact can then become as real as reality? In Medialand, perhaps fake is the new real?

Then I had a brainwave. What if we could test this experimentally? I think this is a really interesting idea. What if we got all the sloppy journalists who have flogged this dead horse of Cassidy’s, all of his despicable cronies who have plugged this trash, all of the commissioning editors of the History Channel, the people at Counterpunch, Brendan Patrick Keane and Peter Quinn and all the rest of them and we persuaded them to state, confidently and with total belief, that gravity is a myth which has been promulgated by the upper classes to prevent the poor from realising their dreams of rising above the mundane. Then we get them all to go up to the top of a very, very, very tall building and … I think you can probably guess where I’m going with this …

Ah well, what’s the point? The lunatics have obviously taken over the asylum. At least it’s Christmas and my little Irish house is an oasis of sanity! Well … some of the time, anyway.

Nollaig Shona daoibh agus go n-éirí go geal libh san athbhliain!

Cassidy and Cronyism

I have already discussed Cassidy’s claim that crony and by extension cronyism come from the Irish language. Cassidy was lying about this, because the word he claimed meant a comrade or companion, comhrogha (plural comhroghna or comhroghanna) does not exist. The word is used as an obscure term for an alternative or a rival, but never in the sense of friend.

However, in a sense, Cassidy was right to associate cronyism with Irish culture. According to Wikipedia, cronyism is ‘partiality to long-standing friends, especially by appointing them to positions of authority, regardless of their qualifications. Hence, cronyism is contrary in practice and principle to meritocracy.’

There is no doubt that cronyism is part of our national sickness. You only have to look at the way that corrupt bankers and politicians led our country to the brink of disaster to see that we are far too prone to this kind of old boys’ network.

Perhaps, depressingly, this is the greatest legacy of the Irish to American culture, that we have helped them to create a society where loyalty to your friends is often considered far more important than loyalty to your principles or loyalty to the public good.  

In the categories of this blog, I refer to the Cassidy affair as The Cassidy Scandal. Perhaps this is a little melodramatic but to me, it is a scandal. It is a scandal that anyone could write and publish such an amateurish, ignorant, worthless collection of nonsense and have it recommended by some of the most important Irish-American writers, intellectuals and academics, as well as a scattering of people in Ireland who should have had far more sense. It is quite clear from the internet that many of these people were friends of Cassidy’s. The whole Cassidy Scandal reeks of cronyism.

There is nothing  radical or left-wing about cronyism. Cronyism is contrary in practice and principle to meritocracy

To those people who are victims of this scam and who bought this book in good faith thinking it to be a serious work of scholarship, especially those who still thought that after reading it, I can only say that you are lucky to have been ripped off over something relatively trivial. You have spent a few dollars on something which in terms of its intellectual content isn’t worth a plug nickel. It could be a lot worse.

You could be feeding poison to your children in a South American jungle because the authorities are closing in on your Messiah. You could be facing penury because you invested your life-savings in a mine somewhere that doesn’t exist. You could be flying a plane full of innocent people into a building because you believe that this is the way to Paradise.  

So take this as a lesson. Learn to be more critical and less trusting. Because unfortunately there are lots of horrible people like Cassidy out there who think lying to you is fun.

Shanty

This is one of the few words in Cassidy’s crazy book which has the ring of truth about it, the idea that shanty derives from Irish seanteach or seantigh, which mean ‘old house’. Unsurprisingly, some of the dictionaries themselves mention the possibility of a connection with seanteach and it is widely believed in Ireland that shanty and seanteach are the same. This tells us something quite important – where there is a genuine similarity, people picked up on it and wrote about it long before Cassidy had his brainwave. In the vast majority of the entries in Cassidy’s drossary, the supposed ‘original’ phrase doesn’t exist (béal ónna, sách úr, éamh call, seinnt-theach) and only lunatics like Cassidy make a connection between a real phrase in one language and a made-up phrase in another.

So, on the face of it, seanteach looks like a pretty strong candidate. But is it?  

Firstly, there is another good candidate, the Canadian French chantier, meaning a log cabin used by lumberjacks. Chantier is pronounced shantee-eh.   

There is also the problem that Irish has a number of words for hut. I think most native speakers would use words like cró or bothán instead of seanteach. There is a word seantán, defined as ‘shanty, shack’ in the dictionary (Ó Dónaill) but this is probably of modern origin and based on shanty, as it is a diminutive and there seems to be no word seant in the Irish language which could be its origin.

However, the most compelling reason for rejecting seanteach is that a shanty is by nature not an old house. A shanty is temporary, new and thrown-together.

In other words, this is not a stupid claim. It looks believable. However, it is very, very unlikely that it is correct.