Tag Archives: Irish origin of slang

Cassidese Glossary – Mucker

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.

Mucker is an English slang term for a person who works with muck or dirt. In parts of America, because the Irish often did the dirtiest jobs, it is used of Irish people. In England and Scotland and Ireland, it often means a friend.

Cassidy claims that this comes from the Irish word mucaire, which means a swineherd. There is no reason to believe this claim, as the word muck is of ancient origin in England and originally derives from a Norse word meaning dung. Muck is unrelated to the Irish word muc, meaning pig. The similarity is pure coincidence. And, of course, people who muck around together are friends, so the use of mucker for a pal is quite natural and easy to understand.

Another myth, which is not mentioned by Cassidy, is that mucker comes from the Irish mo chara, meaning ‘my friend’. Mucker is not found in Ireland first, mo chara does not sound like mucker and the claim that it is of Irish origin is very recent, making its appearance less than twenty years ago.

 

Cassidese Glossary – Muck

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 muck is a term from poker. The muck is used to refer to the discarded cards that are no longer in play and if someone mucks their cards, they fold.

There is nothing mysterious or hard to understand about the etymology of this term. Muck is an ancient English term for dirt, derived from a Scandinavian word for dung, so when cards are out of play and no longer worth anything, they become the muck.

Cassidy implausibly (and unnecessarily) claims that it derives from the Irish word múch, which means to extinguish or smother. This is pronounced mookh (with the kh like the ch of Irish or Scottish loch), so it really sounds nothing like muck.

Twits of the Month – The Organisers and Sponsors of the Irish-American Crossroads Festival

In a couple of days time, the Irish American Crossroads Festival will begin in San Francisco. This festival was founded by Daniel Cassidy and a number of his friends and enablers. That is why the festival’s organisers continue to lie about Cassidy.

The facts about Cassidy are well-known. Cassidy had no degrees, having flunked out of Cornell in a narcotic haze in 1965. He had no degree from Cornell and he never even attended Columbia. He had a life full of failures and then managed to bluff his way into a job as a professor at a diploma-mill called New College of California by lying about his lack of qualifications. After drawing a lecturer’s salary which he was not entitled to for twelve years, he published an absurd book called How The Irish Invented Slang, in which Cassidy, who didn’t speak any Irish at all, invented hundreds of fake Irish expressions such as béal ónna and gíog gheal and gearról úr and pá lae sámh so that he could pretend they were the origins of American slang expressions.

Cassidy was a pathological liar who invented all kinds of nonsense about his life and work – not just his fake degrees – and anyone who reads this blog carefully will quickly realise what a humungous liar the man was.

Unfortunately, the organisers of The Irish-American Crossroads have decided that the truth isn’t what they are about and that Cassidy should continue to be promoted as a role model and that his malicious hoax at the expense of the Irish language and Irish culture should continue to be treated as a valid piece of scholarship. This nonsense is still in the In Memoriam section of the festival’s website.

This is why I am happy to bestow the title of Twits of the Month on the organisers and sponsors of this festival. Anybody with any common sense or decency would avoid Cassidy and all his works like the plague.

Gosh Darn It, Danny

Another really stupid claim made in Daniel Cassidy’s book is that the expression ‘darn it’ comes from Irish.

Why is this stupid? Well, for one thing, there is no doubt about where darn it really comes from. It is first recorded (in America) in 1781. Early references include specific claims that darn is a euphemistic substitution for damn. The existence of expressions like ‘gosh darn it to heck!’ and ‘darnation’ leave us with little room for doubt that this is another minced oath, like Baloney! or Gee Whizz! or Holy Cow!

Cassidy ignores the logical explanation and claims that it comes from dothairne air. This word does exist but it is quite obscure. Ó Dónaill’s dictionary has this:

dothairne, f. (gs. ~). Affliction. Díth is ~ ort! Bad scran to you!

Dinneen has this:

dothairne g., id., f., evil, mischief; misfortune; do dhíth is do dhothairne ort, misery and misfortune attend thee.

Unusually, Cassidy’s definition is not too far from Dinneen’s and Ó Dónaill’s. In this case, Cassidy has resisted the temptation to add any ‘figurative’ meanings from his own imagination.

The problem is this. If we put “dothairne air” into Google, we get no hits at all. If we put “damnú air” into Google, we get (well, today I got) 1360 hits. So, dothairne is not as common in Irish as Cassidy would like us to believe and of course, Cassidy didn’t speak Irish and knew nothing about the language.

Incidentally, there is a variant of this which gets a handful of hits on Google, the fake word ‘daithairne’. This comes from a singularly dim-witted article by Brendan Patrick Keane on IrishCentral, where Keane was apparently too lazy to copy the word out from Cassidy’s book properly, and too stupid and ignorant of the Irish language to realise that daithairne violates a basic rule of Irish orthography, caol le caol is leathan le leathan. (It would take too long to explain this properly, but basically, consonants have two values depending on whether they are next to an i,e or an a,o,u. For example, in mise, pronounced misha, the s is slender because it has an i and an e next to it. In measa, pronounced massa, the s has an a before it and after it, so it’s broad. The –aithai- string is strange in Irish because it’s slender on one side and broad on the other.) Still, at least this is on IrishCentral where it will hardly be noticed. A little more rubbish there will be like mún dreoilín san fharraige (a wren pissing in the sea.)

Incidentally, dang it (which Cassidy’s razor-sharp intellect somehow missed) might just have an Irish connection. In Irish, damnú air (damn it) is sometimes disguised as daingniú air (strengthening on it). It is not impossible that this gave rise to dang it, as there is no word dang in English.

Noogie

I was thinking the other day that I have been neglecting the drossary side of things recently. Although it is important to comment on the Cassidy scandal and the morons who support this obvious fraud, I started this blog with the primary intention of providing the facts where Cassidy provided lies.

One of the most obviously fraudulent of Cassidy’s claims is the one about noogie. Noogie is an American term, first recorded in the 1960s. It refers to a kind of playground punishment, where a child grabs another in a head-lock and then rubs their victim’s scalp with the knuckles.

Cassidy’s claim is that the basic phrase is not noogie but ‘a noogie’, which is why he put it under A rather than N. There is no logical reason for this, apart from the fact that Cassidy’s Irish candidate for the origin of noogy starts with an a. It’s the word aonóg.

Firstly, aonóg would be pronounced eynohg or oonohg. This doesn’t sound much like ‘a noogie’, never mind noogie on its own. Secondly, it is an incredibly obscure word. The usual Irish term for a nip or pinch is liomóg. Aonóg is not given in Ó Dónaill’s dictionary, though it is given in Dinneen, where it says it is ‘a nip, a pinch’, and that it is a local term from County Monaghan.

Let’s just compare this to Cassidy’s version. He doesn’t mention County Monaghan. He says that aonóg is ‘a nip, a pinch, a little whack, fig. affectionate, rough-house play.’  It’s important to look closely at the differences here, as they demonstrate clearly what a dishonest scumbag Cassidy was. Most of this definition (‘a little whack, fig. affectionate, rough-house play.’) was invented by Cassidy. What gave this liar the right to make up a new definition and pass it off as the truth? Is a little whack the same as a nip? Is a nip ‘affectionate, rough-house play?’ Admittedly, nipping someone might be part of rough-house play but they aren’t the same thing, in English or in Irish.

Back in the real world, far away from Daniel Cassidy’s compulsive lying, there are several theories about the origins of noogie. The strongest contender is that it is a corruption of knuckle, on the analogy of words like wedgie. Others link it to the Yiddish נודזשען ‎(nudzhen, “to badger”). Whatever the real origin, aonóg is not a good candidate in terms of phonetics or meaning and it would never have been a common word among Irish speakers, otherwise it would have left a far stronger trace in the dictionaries and glossaries.

Festive Fun – The Roast of Daniel Cassidy

At this festive time of year, it’s customary to roast a turkey, so I thought it would be seasonal to roast a certain turkey of a book written by the late, not-so-great ‘Professor’ Daniel Cassidy, with all the trimmings. So, here is a selection of some of the criticisms made of Daniel Cassidy since his ridiculous book was first published. Many of them have already featured on this blog but many of them are new here. Enjoy!

“Etymologies from Cassidy’s How the Irish Invented Slang are widely duplicated across the internet. However, many of Cassidy’s definitions have been shown to be wishful thinking or completely made up. Cassidy was not able to speak Irish himself and was unfamiliar with the grammatical rules. He apparently found words in Irish dictionaries that he thought had a similar pronunciation to English words or phrases with a vaguely connected meaning. He then claimed these English words to have an Irish origin even when the English word already had a well-established etymology.” – Wikipedia

“… it’s a white washing of white America’s real status in the U.S. My opinion of the essays of Daniel Cassidy’s that have appeared on Counterpunch is that they’re pseudo-scientific amateur attempts to prove that gaelic was behind things like African American slang, something that should rightly go to African Americans themselves and not to the Irish. If they were convincing essays I wouldn’t say that, but they appear to be on the level of the guy who’s trying to prove that Magyar, the language of the Hungarians, was the language of Atlantis.

Amazingly, some dude accused me of being racist towards Irish people for criticizing Cassidy.” – Lost Highway Times, John Madziarczyk.

“Suppose you hold some crank theory for which there is no evidence but which is likely to appeal to some specific audience.  Suppose, for instance, that you believe that Jesus and all of his apostles were gay, an idea that might appeal to some gay people (not me, but tastes and opinions differ).  You then write a book of stories detailing the hot hot man-man sexual exploits of these men, keying each story to a biblical passage.  You manage to get it published.  Does the New York Times then write an enthusiastic feature story about you and your work?  Do you win an American Book Award  — “the purpose of the awards is to acknowledge the excellence and multicultural diversity of American writing” — for non-fiction? It sounds unlikely, doesn’t it?  But Daniel Cassidy has managed something similar with his book How the Irish Invented Slang (CounterPunch/AK Press, 2007), which maintains that great chunks of English slang came from Irish (an idea that is likely to appeal to some English-speaking people of Irish descent), supplying for each slang expression a (putative) Irish expression that resembles it in pronunciation or spelling.  And now the NYT has (gullibly) celebrated Cassidy and his preposterous book, and the book has (alas) gotten a 2007 American Book Award for non-fiction.” – Arnold Zwicky, Language Log

“Breandan a chara, I organised an event where Daniel spoke a good few years back but was shocked to learn that he had made no effort whatsoever to learn the Irish language prior to writing this book. He had no grasp of pronunciation as Gaeilge at all. It could be an interesting PhD topic for someone to study but the book itself lacks real evidence. When I met him, he looked at my name tag and said “I’m not even going to try and pronounce that name” which I thought odd for an academic involved with Irish/English language research.” – Elaine Ní Bhraonáin, Comment on IrishCentral

“Evidently, there’s one born every minute. Cassidy’s book was a work of pure fiction. Essentially, what he did was go through an Irish dictionary (containing words that, as one reader below has posted, he neither understood nor could even be bothered to learn how to pronounce), and when he saw something that looked like an English slang word, he decided that it was the root of that word. Most of the entries in his book divide into two categories: (i) those for which there is no evidence whatsoever, and (ii) those for which there is evidence, and the evidence proves Cassidy wrong.

What’s more worrying is that Irish Central is reprinting this article in 2014, years after Cassidy’s work was comprehensively demolished. To have believed Cassidy in the early days after his book was published would just have been naive and sloppy, but to still believe him now, years after he was exposed as a fraud, is pathetic. It makes this website look like a joke. I don’t think it IS a joke, most of the time, but articles like this just make it seem like Irish Central is run by a bunch of amateurs.”  – Jim Clarke, comment on IrishCentral

“I have to say that the reception this book has been given shocks me. Why do respectable academics put their reputations on the line to defend something which is so sloppy and poorly-researched? Other people react as if ethnic pride entitles you to ignore the truth. The level of some of the comments I have read on different websites reminds me of the Columbus Day episode of the Sopranos. To those who will take umbrage at what I’m saying and regard me as a WASP/revisionist/communist/fascist/self-hating Gael/eejit, I just have one suggestion. Why don’t you look up buanchumadh on Google. Then look up some of the real Irish expressions used by Irish speakers to mean nonsense – seafóid, raiméis, amaidí. You will notice that there are many entries for buanchumadh but all of them – ALL OF THEM – are related to Daniel Cassidy. This is not the case with seafóid, raiméis and amaidí – they get lots of hits from lots of sources. This proves that those words are used by Irish speakers, while buanchumadh was invented by Cassidy.” – Seán, comment on Amazon.com

 

“Cassidy wrote this car-crash of a book without doing any research.  He based his conclusions on hunches and whenever he found an Irish word or phrase that suited his theory, he crow-barred it into shape until it fit.

This was very shoddy work by Cassidy, and even shoddier work by Brendan Keane for being naive enough to swallow this sort of buinneach.” – BockTheRobber, comment on IrishCentral.

 

“It’s fairly obvious Cassidy has farmed the fertile fields of his own imagination for this book. I am disinclined to believe he has any knowledge of Irish, other than he may have seen a road sign outside of Dingle on a foggy day in November. His etymology is laughably inaccurate, his leaps of logic (if they can be dignified as such) are appalling. Irish-Americans will probably love this book, as it allows a certain amount of ego-stroke, but anyone who has ever picked up an actual Irish language introduction book- or pamphlet, or answer sheet- will find the best use of this book is as a table-leg prop, or possibly an excellent source of kindling in emergencies.” – Kyle Lerfald, comment on Amazon.com

“While the conceit may be flattering to those of us with Irish ancestry, in reality this book provides very little factual linguistic information. The author is not a trained linguist, and seems to base his assertions on the mere fact that some words sound similar. For instance, using the level of rigor Cassidy uses, one might say that we say “hi” on meeting because we are wishing the other person the blessings of heaven (“from on high”). That’s the kind of reasoning in this book, and it is, at best, a good source of laughter at the author’s expense.” – C. Vermeers, comment on Amazon.com

“Tá mórchuid na sanas sin gan aon bhunús, agus an tromlach acu sin mícheart go cinnte! Seafóid gan amhras, ce go bhfuil roinnt bheag acu inchreidte. (Most of the etymologies are unfounded, and the majority of those are certainly wrong. Undoubtedly nonsense, though a small proportion of them are believable)”  Eoin, comment on Beo.ie

“While I don’t dispute the other reviewers’ claims that this is an entertaining read, unfortunately the information in it is simply amateurish and almost entirely incorrect. The problem is that the author is not using academic standards of comparative linguistics and has merely shopped around hoping to find Irish words that sound similar (or are spelled similarly) to English slang that he can just sloppily declare as the origin, without any sort of actual historical proof. In fact, most of the words he has chosen to feature already have been traced linguistically to well-proven origins that simply cannot be disputed… and in fact the author does not even try, he just ignores them.” – D.Norder, comment on Amazon.

“The weakness of his research and in his methodology is apparent to anyone with two eyes and a minute to crack open the book. That’s what makes this surprisingly positive profile in The New York Times so frustrating. A minimal amount of effort would have revealed to the writer than Cassidy’s arguments are without merit, at best the result of sloppiness, at worst a con job.” – Michael Patrick Brady on his blog.

“I really am reading this, it’s just kind of slow going… Hahahah, who am I kidding: I am never going to finish this book. I am having a hard time buying the premise.” –  Sara, comment on Goodreads.

“Cassidy launched this book at Oideas Gael in Gleann Cholm Cille this summer. He’s fun to listen to, talks nineteen to the dozen like only a native New Yorker can, and how can you not like someone who can tell a five minute anecdote that goes from a job at the New York Times to draft-dodging in Canada to writing a screenplay for Francis Ford Coppola without drawing breath, but when he explained his theory he was met with polite smiles. The book is great crack, but should be filed under fiction. Cassidy is clueless about Irish pronunciation, but that doesn’t stop him violently shoehorning every unusual word in American English into his theory, even those with established origins – mostly words that have their roots firmly planted in Afro-American culture, and some that he blatantly nicked from the Italians. Cassidy spent most of the time in the pub when I met him being corrected on his Irish pronunciation, and insisting after the sounds had changed beyond recognition that they could still be mapped on to his English candidates. It didn’t help matters that the locals noticed that when he did get something right, his pronunciation had a notable Munster bias. By the end of the night, we were making up words to give him for the second edition. Good crack, but don’t take it seriously.” Anonymous, quoted by Grant Barrett on wordorigins.org.

A Comparison With Yiddish

As I have said before, many of Cassidy’s supporters outdo Cassidy himself in the lying stakes by claiming something that Cassidy himself didn’t (not in the book, anyway), that the Irish language was completely changed and mangled in the ghettoes of America. They do this in order to continue claiming that Cassidy’s ridiculous Irish candidates are the origin of English words in spite of the fact that they don’t exist in Irish and break all the rules of Irish grammar and usage. According to these clowns, the words and phrases do exist, though they were never recorded, because the shanty Irish in the ghettoes produced a completely new version of the language.

I got to thinking about this. Is there any way of testing the hypothesis? Of course, as it doesn’t depend on any evidence, it is hard to confirm or refute it. However, it occurred to me that it would be useful to compare some of the loan words found in English from another language, to see if the same pattern is found there. The language I chose was Yiddish, which has given a number of high-profile and well-known words to American (and world) English.

Here are five common Yiddish words which have made it into English.

The English word putz is from Yiddish puts or pots. It is found in an online Yiddish dictionary with the meaning of fool or penis.

The English word shmuck is from Yiddish shmok or shmuk. It is found in online Yiddish dictionary with the exact same meaning of fool or penis.

The English word glitch comes from Yiddish glitsh or glitshn, meaning a slip or to slip. It is find in online Yiddish dictionaries.

The English word schmooze is from Yiddish shmues, meaning, talk, chat or converse. It is in the online Yiddish dictionaries.

The English word maven is from the Yiddish meyven, meaning expert, connoisseur. It is found in an online Yiddish dictionary with the same meaning.

Now let’s look at five of Cassidy’s daft derivations, taken pretty much at random from the words which haven’t yet been dealt with on this blog.

The phrase to eighty-six something, according to Cassidy, is derived from eiteachas aíochta (a denial of hospitality). As usual, this is a very clunky and unnatural phrase which has never been recorded in Irish. Furthermore, there are various explanations for ‘eighty-sixing’ and there is a full discussion of the term on Wikipedia (which doesn’t include eiteachas aíochta as a possibility.)

According to Cassidy, the phrase drag racing comes from Irish de ráig, meaning suddenly or precipitately. Explanations involving the Englsh word drag range from a simple challenge (“Drag your car out of the garage and race me!”) to geographical locale (the “main drag” was a city’s main street, often the only one wide enough to accommodate two vehicles) to the mechanical (to “drag” the gears meant to hold the transmission in gear longer than normal). De ráig is a real phrase but is quite uncommon and is much less appropriate as an origin than the English word drag, which is obviously a lot closer in sound as well.

Cassidy claimed that scallywag or scalawag comes from Irish scolla + English wag. Cassidy couldn’t make this one work without randomly bringing in the English word wag. He claimed that the Irish word scolla is suitable for the first part, but not only is scolla not found in Ó Dónaill’s dictionary, (it is found in Dnneen) it is obviously a word of non-Irish origin, like almost all nouns in Irish which end in a consonant and the letter a.

Cassidy claimed that cheese it derives from Irish téigh as. Téigh is the imperative form of the verb ‘to go’, and as means ‘out of’. In other words, this could mean ‘go out of’. Apparently, the slang term cheese it means to shut up or to run away. There are two verbs to go in Irish. The appropriate one here is imigh, not téigh, because imigh means to go away. Cassidy’s claim that téigh as is figuratively used to mean ‘shut up’ is a typical Cassidy lie.

Cassidy claimed that Holy Mackerel derives from Irish Mac Ríúil (Kingly Son!) Of course, as in the case of scallywag, in order to get this the way he wanted, Cassidy had to leave half of it in English! The fact is that Holy Mackerel is a euphemism for Holy Mary or something similar. And there is no evidence that anyone has ever used Mac Ríúil in any context as a phrase in Irish.

Spot the difference? The Yiddish borrowings are nearly all simple words, recognisable to Yiddish speakers. Cassidy’s claims are implausible rubbish, unsupported by any evidence and completely meaningless to any Irish speaker.

Gazoonie

I had meant to write about this word ages ago but somehow was distracted and never got around to writing the post. The word gazoony was apparently originally a fairground or carny term for a young, inexperienced worker. A search on Google shows that in some circles it now means a young man in a gay relationship with an older man.

Cassidy claims that this derives from an Irish word, garsún, meaning a boy.

There is nothing inherently improbable about this. The word garsún does exist and it does mean boy. Any Cassidy supporter reading this will probably be tutting already. So there’s an Irish word which sounds similar and means boy, yet they’re still not happy! How much evidence do these people need?

Sorry, but I need a bit more evidence than this. For one thing, garsún may be an Irish word, but it’s not of Irish origin. Garsún derives, of course, from Norman French. Anyone who learned French at school will recognise the word garçon which means both boy and waiter. Cassidy actually mentions garçon and the Latin word garcio from which it derives, but only with cf., which means compare. He doesn’t state that the Irish word is a loanword.

It entered Irish in two forms, as garsún and as gasúr. The dialects of Connemara and of Ulster use gasúr (though the meaning is different in the two areas – gasúr is a boy in Ulster but a child of either gender in Connemara). In Munster they say garsún. It isn’t used in Irish outside Munster, to the best of my knowledge. In Hiberno-English, the word has also been borrowed as gossoon.

The problem with Cassidy’s claim is this. How can we be sure it didn’t come directly from French? There are plenty of French Canadians and there were plenty of French speakers in places like Maine and Louisiana. Cassidy doesn’t try to exclude the French origin from the equation. A real researcher would need to do this and they would also have to make sure that the word doesn’t have an equivalent in some other Romance language, such as Italian. (The official Italian for a boy is ragazzo, sometimes shortened to gazzo, but there are lots of dialects in Italy and carnival slang is known to contain a large Italian element through the jargon known as Polari.)

In other words, it’s possible that gazoonie comes from garsún or indeed from Hiberno-English gossoon. But it’s also highly likely that it might have come from French and it might well come from some related language. Cassidy decided that because of its appearance, it must come from Irish. But he failed to follow it up with any proper research and that’s why the lexicographers are entirely right to ignore Cassidy’s claim. He didn’t play by the rules and the rules are there to guarantee that books contain the truth (not to arbitrarily exclude Irish or any other language.)

Passionate Intensity

Some people might think that the following piece is in poor taste, dealing as it does with the funeral oration for Cassidy delivered by his crony Peter Quinn. However, I intend to carry on because I do not think the dead deserve any more respect than they deserved when they were alive and Quinn’s oration contains so much poisonous anti-intellectual bullshit that it is really asking for it. Here’s part of what Quinn had to say:

Musician, writer, activist, Danny was the single greatest scholar I ever met – the truest intellectual – putting to flight and to shame that monstrous regiment of impotent academic hacks and time-servers who, with all their Ivy League credentials and foundation grants and university chairs, failed to uncover what Danny did with a single, frayed, dog-eared dictionary that he’d inherited.

How the Irish Invented Slang is a monumental achievement!

It will endure, no matter the bluster and bull of the Dictionary Dudes.

Despite the huffing and puffing of all the king’s horses and all the king’s men (or the queen’s, for that matter), the paladins of the OED will never again put together an honest version of their tome until they acknowledge the work of Danny Cassidy.

The arrogance and the hypocrisy of this piece is staggering. If Cassidy was a great intellectual, then what is it that makes a great intellectual? Laziness? Megalomania? Incompetence? Running away with insane thoughts and refusing to provide any evidence for your mad conjectures? Quinn rails against the ‘monstrous regiment’ of academics with their Ivy League credentials and university chairs. Yet Cassidy went to Cornell University, which last time I heard was Ivy League. He was even a member of a fraternity with whatever naked mud-wrestling, groupthink and cronyism that entails. And while nobody has ever made public what grade of degree he got, my guess would be a fairly poor one. Yet somehow he was able to walk into a job as a professor and sit down in his comfortable university chair, without having to get a doctorate, or conduct valid research, or publish papers, unlike all of those whom Quinn arrogantly dismisses as time-serving academic hacks.

Quinn’s peroration continues. It’s like listening to a North Korean news item on the death of Kim Jong-Il. Apparently, Cassidy was vastly smarter than anyone else in the academic world and using a dog-eared pocket dictionary and his burning intelligence he completely revised the linguistic history of the USA. Of course, according to Quinn, the Dictionary Dudes won’t admit this because their work is dishonest while Cassidy’s work is the real thing.

The fact is that Cassidy was the most butt-naked emperor ever to flaunt his shriveled credentials to the general amusement of academia and the general admiration of fools. I have no objection to Quinn saying that Cassidy was a friend to social justice, or a great companion, a fine musician, brilliantly witty company, an excellent salsa dancer, or possessed of a curious talent for farting Annie Laurie through a keyhole. All these may or may not be true but I am in no position to argue about them. What I object to – very strenuously – is the ludicrous idea that he made any contribution of any value to the world of linguistics or Irish studies, because it is blindingly obvious that this is not the case.

The dictionary makers are real scholars who work hard. Anyone who doubts this should find a full copy of the Oxford English Dictionary in a library and see how much detailed work and scholarship is involved on every single page of that book. Then take a look at How The Irish Invented Slang and see what a shoddy and half-arsed job Cassidy made of his so-called ‘research’.

Finally, there is a very interesting line in Quinn’s piece which suggests to me that Quinn’s subconscious was more ambivalent about Cassidy than his conscious mind. In another obituary for Cassidy, Quinn began with a quotation from W.B. Yeats. In this oration, he talks about ancient Egyptian mythology and half-human, half-animal figures. He then uses a very distinctive phrase, that Cassidy was a deeply spiritual man of passionate intensity and resonant laughter.

One of the most famous poems in world literature is Yeats’s The Second Coming, a vision related to his theories about history running in two-thousand year cycles. The Christian cycle is running out and something new, antithetical to Christianity, represented in the poem by a sphinx-like figure, is ‘slouching towards Bethlehem to be born’.

And one of the signs of this is that ‘the best lack all conviction, while the worst, are full of passionate intensity.

According to Quinn, Daniel Cassidy was also full of passionate intensity. Could it be that Quinn’s subconscious was trying to send him a subtle warning that behind Cassidy’s passionate intensity, there was nothing but an arrogant, opinionated liar with no capacity for self-doubt and that by supporting Cassidy, he was making a king-size noodle of himself?

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?