Tag Archives: Irish origins of slang

Minding your As and Bs

Over the last few weeks, I have been working on a Cassidese Glossary, taking the words in the dictionary section of Cassidy’s book one by one, with less of the invective I have heaped on Cassidy and his cronies in the past.

I have now completed the As and Bs and I will continue to work on this over the next year or two until I have finished the alphabet. However, there are already lessons to be learned from the words and phrases beginning with A and B, so I will return to a little of the invective for one post and analyse what we know from these two sections.

Firstly, the A and B sections of Cassidy’s dictionary contain 75 entries. A handful of these are genuine Irish but before any of Cassidy’s supporters gets too excited, there was never any doubt that these words and phrases were Irish. There are eight of these: acushla, agrah, alanna, An Gorta Mór (which is purely Irish and was never borrowed into English), aroon, Arrah na Pogue (a play title), astore, avourneen. There are also words that have been claimed for Irish in the past, such as ballyhoo and bard and buddy, though it is highly unlikely that these really do come from Irish. 

There is a small number of phrases and words that are genuine Irish but there is no evidence that they are the origin of the terms claimed by Cassidy. In many cases, Cassidy altered the meaning and provided faked definitions for these words. For example, ainfheoil doesn’t mean a sexually transmitted disease. Aonóg doesn’t mean rough-house play. Ball doesn’t mean a dance or party in Irish. Beachtaí does not ‘figuratively’ mean a judge. Báinín does not mean ‘any type of overcoat’.

A great many of the words mentioned have such ancient roots in English that there is no chance they could ever derive from the Irish roots that Cassidy claims for them. For example, bicker, blow and booze have well-attested histories that leave no room for a supposed Irish origin.

Another major category is the set of made-up phrases or compound words, phrases that do not (and in most cases could not) exist in the Irish language. For example, báille vicus, béal ónna, baothán nathánach, b’aifirt, béas núíosach, béalú h-ard, búbaí háit, bogadh luath, buan-díchiall, boc aniar, bocaí rua, bodaire an aicme áin, beart t-aon, buanchumadh, beathuis. These often violate basic rules of grammar and sound ridiculously clunky and contrived to anyone who has actually learned some Irish – something that Cassidy couldn’t be bothered to do.

In short, Cassidy’s work is simply fraudulent, incompetent nonsense. Out of 75 entries under A and B, the only slightly possible claim is that boc mór is the origin of big bug. However, even with this claim, there are problems. For one thing, big bug makes perfect sense in English. Also, big bug is not found in Ireland and you would expect the phrase big buck to be found at least as commonly as big bug if boc mór were the origin. In other words, it is a possible influence but no more than that.

If the pattern found with the As and Bs is repeated with the rest of the letters, it is unlikely that there will even be one new credible word of Irish origin out of the hundreds given by Cassidy in his book. In other words, if there is anything of value in Cassidy’s book (if), it will pale into insignificance in comparison with the fakery and nonsense that this worthless lying creep and his dim-witted cronies have spread among the Irish-American community.

 

Cassidese Glossary – Buccaneer

For some time now, some of my on-line friends have advised me to provide a version of CassidySlangScam without the invective aimed at Cassidy and his supporters. In response to that advice, I am working on providing a glossary of the terms in Cassidy’s ludicrous book How The Irish Invented Slang with a short, simple and business-like explanation of why Cassidy’s version is wrong.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cassidese Glossary – Acushla

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 book How The Irish Invented Slang with a short, simple and business-like explanation of why Cassidy’s version is wrong.

Cassidy’s version is that acushla is from the Irish a chúisle, a vocative expression, or cúisle mo croí (pronounced ċushla macree), where cúisle means vein or pulse while mo croí supposedly means of my heart.

This is close to the truth but not correct or well-researched. The word for pulse or vein is cuisle, not cúisle, which would be pronounced kooshla, not kushla. The term of endearment is a chuisle, not a chúisle, and a chuisle mo chroí would be correct for ‘oh vein of my heart’, not cúisle mo croí. The ċ is a device formerly used in Irish orthography to show séimhiú (insertion of a h in modern Irish spelling), which is inappropriate in a phonetic description and in any case, it would be inappropriate here where the word does not begin with ch (according to Cassidy).

It is also quite clear that this is not an English word. If, as Cassidy claimed, there were hundreds or thousands of Irish words and phrases in English, you would expect common endearments like this to be top of the list, yet New Yorkers do not address one another as ‘acushla’. Such expressions are only found in English in the context of sentimental Irish melodramas or ballads, and their origin from Irish Gaelic has never been disputed.

Ballum Rancum

In 2003, a crony of the late fake professor Daniel Cassidy called Terry Golway, who at the time was writing a column for the New York Observer, allowed Cassidy to take over his column as a guest. Cassidy did what Cassidy always did – abused the kindness of the victims who fondly imagined themselves to be his friends to promote his insane theories. It is to be noted that the New York Observer no longer exists as a paper. Perhaps the fact that someone in a position of trust at the paper was stupid enough to allow Cassidy to publish fantasy garbage like this in it goes some way to explaining its demise.

In Cassidy’s guest article, he discussed a number of supposed 19th century criminal slang terms given by Joseph Matsell in his criminal slang dictionary and associated with the film Gangs of New York. Being an adept con-man as well as a nut, Cassidy realised that finding an angle to do with the film would enable him to promote his fake nonsense about Irish to an uncritical and naïve public and that this would help to spread his ideas virally. Thus, this was the first outing for Cassidy’s stupid claim that the obscure Irish word ráibéad (meaning a whopper or big item in the Irish of one parish in Connemara) was the origin of the Dead Rabbits gang, not a story about a dead rabbit being thrown on the ground in a fight.

Anyway, while it is not worth going through the other claims made by Cassidy in this article, there is one interesting phrase which shows very clearly how Cassidy rolled, the phrase ballum rancum. Firstly, while ballum rancum is quoted as a criminal slang phrase by Matsell, it’s highly unlikely that it was ever used by New York criminals. Matsell borrowed from lots of English flash and cant dictionaries. Its original meaning was an orgy, a naked dance.This phrase, along with the phrase rank ball and related terms like buttock ball and bare ball are found in lots of 17th century English plays, such as Dryden’s Limberham: “fresh Wenches, and Ballum Rankum every night”. The phrase seems to have originally been ‘rank ball’ (rank often had a sexual meaning in 17th century English) and it was then turned into ‘beggar’s Latin’ as ballum rancum.

In this article, Cassidy ignores the fact that it long predates the massive Irish immigration to New York. He tries to pretend that this is Irish and that it comes from the ‘Irish’ phrase ball iomrá na gcumainn. Of course, this is not a real Irish phrase. Ball in Irish means member, spot, place, iomrá means mention and na gcumann (not na gcumainn) means ‘of the loves/ friendships/ companies/ societies’. So, if it existed, it would mean something like ‘the spot of mention of the companies’. Of course, you don’t talk about ‘a mentioning spot’ in Irish. You might say “an áit a bhfuil gach duine ag labhairt uirthi” or “an áit sin atá i mbéal an phobail”. So, where did Cassidy get ball iomrá na gcumainn from? He simply made it up, as usual. Cassidy was a stupid, lazy, half-mad, deceitful little bastard and any of his cronies who has defended or enabled this pompous fake-Irish scumbag should be totally scarlet with shame.

 

Puncher

The word ‘puncher’ meant a cowboy. The word punch means to strike or to prod or to poke. It derives from French and has been in common use in English for six hundred years.

Daniel Cassidy, in his atrocious book How The Irish Invented Slang, doesn’t mention these facts in his discussion of the word. He chooses instead to trace the word to the Irish paintéar, which he says means ‘a tying cord or rope, a noose, a lasso, a snare for catching animals …’ He cites Dinneen’s Irish dictionary as a source. Strangely, this isn’t what Dinneen’s dictionary says. Dinneen’s entry for paintéar begins thus: ‘a painter or panter, a snare, noose, gin or trap, a binding cable …’

In other words, this is an Irish word, certainly, but it was borrowed from the English word painter, which is a nautical term for a rope used to tie up a boat. This is also of French origin (i.e. the English borrowed it from French) but unrelated to the French term which is really the origin of punch.

In other words, you obviously don’t get to be that incompetent by accident. Cassidy deliberately missed out the important information relating to the real origins of puncher and the English origins of paintéar in order to make a fake case for an Irish origin. What a con-man!

 

 

Is focal eile ar bhuachaill bo é ‘puncher’. Ciallaíonn an focal punch bualadh nó broideadh nó sá. Tagann sé ón Fhraincis agus tá sé in úsáid go coitianta sa Bhéarla le sé chéad bliana anuas.

Ina leabhar amaideach How The Irish Invented Slang, ní luann Daniel Cassidy na fíricí seo ar chor ar bith.  Ina áit sin, maíonn sé gur tháinig puncher ón Ghaeilge paintéar. Deir sé go gciallaíonn paintéar ‘a tying cord or rope, a noose, a lasso, a snare for catching animals …’ Luann sé foclóir an Duinnínigh mar fhoinse. Ach ní hé sin an sainmhíniú a bhí ag an Duinníneach. Tosaíonn cur síos Uí Dhuinnín ar an fhocal paintéar mar seo: ‘a painter or panter, a snare, noose, gin or trap, a binding cable …’

Lena rá ar dhóigh eile, is focal Gaeilge é paintéar, cinnte, ach iasacht atá ann ón fhocal Béarla painter, focal bádóireachta a chiallaíonn rópa a úsáidtear le bád a cheangal. Tháinig an focal seo ón Fhraincis fosta (fuair lucht an Bhéarla ón Fhraincis é) ach níl baint ar bith aige leis an téarma Fraincise a thug an focal punch don Bhéarla.

Lena rá ar dhóigh eile, ní de thaisme a tharlaíonn bréaga mar seo. Is d’aon turas a theip ar Cassidy an fhaisnéis thábhachtach a bhaineann le fíorstair an fhocail puncher agus bunús Béarla paintéar a lua ionas go dtiocfadh leis cás bréige a dhéanamh gur Gaeilge a bhí ann. A leithéid de chaimiléir gan náire!

 

Stool Pigeon

There are hundreds of stupid and dishonest claims in Daniel Cassidy’s book, How The Irish Invented Slang. None is more stupid or dishonest than Cassidy’s theories about the phrase stool pigeon.

The facts are well-known. A stool pigeon was originally a decoy, a pigeon attached to a stool or some other wooden structure used to lure other pigeons. There is some doubt about the real meaning of the stool element. Some people regard it as a corruption of a word stall which originally meant a decoy.

Its earliest occurrence is in this context, in a work of 1812 called History of Animals: Designed for the Instruction and Amusement of Persons of Both Sexes by Noah Webster:

In this manner, the decoy or stool pigeon is made to flutter, and a flock of pigeons may be called in their flight from a great distance.

It was not long before it acquired the meaning of spy or informer.

Cassidy decided, for no particular reason, that it really came from Irish, so he got a dictionary and set about trying to make up a ‘well-known phrase’ that would fool a few suckers. His first attempt, as published in the Linguistlist on July 24 2003, was stuail beidean, ‘a storer of lies and calumny’, along with stoolie coming from stuailai, a ‘storer of slander’. The word béideán is a dialectal variant of béadán, which means gossip or slander. Cassidy used the alternative version because it sounds more like pigeon. Béadán is pronounced ‘bay-dahn’. Stuáil is a gaelicisation of the English verb to stow. Its main meaning is to pad, to pack or to stow.

By the time the book was published, he’d invented another ‘Irish’ phrase, using the verb steall, which means spout. It can have the meaning tattle, but there is no evidence that anyone, anywhere, has ever used phrases like steall béideán in Irish to mean anything, let alone a police informer.

Ina leabhar amaideach How The Irish Invented Slang, maíonn sé na céadta rud nach bhfuil ciall ar bith leo ach níl ceann ar bith acu chomh bómánta le teoiricí Cassidy faoin fhrása stool pigeon.

Ní deacair teacht ar na fíricí. Is é a bhí I gceist le stool pigeon ná éan cluana, colúr a bhí ceangailte de stól nó de chreatlach adhmaid de chineál éigin, le héanlaith eile a mhealladh. Tá amhras éigin faoin fhocal stool. Measann saineolaithe áirithe gur stall a bhí ann, seanfhocal Béarla ar éan cluana nó decoy.

Tá an téarma seo le fail den chéad uair sa bhliain 1812, I leabhar darbh ainm History of Animals: Designed for the Instruction and Amusement of Persons of Both Sexes le Noah Webster:

In this manner, the decoy or stool pigeon is made to flutter, and a flock of pigeons may be called in their flight from a great distance.

Níorbh fhada go bhfuair sé an chiall bhreise de spiaire nó brathadóir de chuid na bpóilíní.

Shocraigh Cassidy, ar chúis éigin nach eol do dhuine ar bith ach é féin, gurbh ón Ghaeilge a tháinig sé, agus mar sin de, thóg sé foclóir agus thosaigh sé ar ‘chor cainte’ a chumadh a chuirfeadh dallamullóg ar roinnt glasóg gan chiall. An chéad iarracht a rinne sé, foilsíodh ar an Linguistlist é ar an 24 Iúil 2003. Séard a bhí ann ná stuail beidean, ‘a storer of lies and calumny’, (recte stuáil béadán) maraon le stoolie, a tháinig, dar le Cassidy, ó stuailai, a ‘storer of slander’ (recte stuálaí). Is leagan malartach canúnach é béideán den fhocal béadán, a chiallaíonn cúlchaint nó feannadh. Bhain Cassidy úsáid as an leagan sin cionn is go bhfuil sé níos cosúla le pigeon. Is leagan Gaelaithe stuáil den bhriathar Béarla to stow. Ciallaíonn sé pacáil nó líonadh.

Faoin am ar foilsíodh an leabhar, bhí frása eile ‘Gaeilge’ cumtha aige, steall béideán. Ciallaíonn steall an rud céanna le sceitheadh. Tá an chiall cúlchaint ag baint leis, ach níl fianaise ar bith ann gur bhain duine ar bith, áit ar bith, úsáid as frásaí mar ‘steall béideán’ i nGaeilge le ciall ar bith a chur in iúl, gan trácht ar an chiall ‘brathadóir de chuid na bpóilíní’.

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.

So long to the Irish origin of ‘so long’

One of the language myths that have been brought to light by the Rubber Bandits’ recent tweet on Cassidy’s eymology is the claim that the English colloquial ‘so long’ is really a corrupted form of Irish slán, a parting salutation.

There are several claims for the origin of this term. Some derive it from Arabic salaam, or from Hebrew shalom. Neither of these seems very convincing. The etymology websites (along with Cassidy’s book – unusually, he admits that he didn’t come up with the slán derivation) say that it first appears in 1860 in the works of Walt Whitman.

Most of them agree that it probably comes from the German expression Adieu so lange (something like ‘farewell until we meet again’) or from related Scandinavian phrases Norwegian Adjø så lenge, Farvel så lenge, Mor’n så lenge, literally “bye so long, farewell so long, morning so long;” and Swedish Hej så länge “good-bye for now,” with så länge “for now” attested since 1850 according to Swedish sources. The German expression Adieu so lange dates back to at least 1791.

In a recent OED blog post, Anatoly Liberman quotes a Mr Paul Nance who has found an earlier reference to so long from 1835.

However, I think I can do better than that. I Googled the phrase the other day and I have come across an earlier example of it. It’s in a book of humorous material called Salmagundi written in magazine form by Paulding in New York. The book is available on Google Books. It is dated 1835 but the internal headings show that the particular magazine containing the entry was first published in 1819.

The article takes the form of a humorous letter from a lady of means, who signs herself off at the end with the salutation: Adieu, so long, Aurelia.

Personally, I think that’s a smoking gun and gives a clear bridge between the German and the English expressions. But even if you choose to say that it’s just a coincidence that the earliest known use of so long in English has Adieu stuck in front of it, there are other reasons for dismissing the Irish origin. Why is this expression always written as two words? Why does it never occur as slawn, or slong? And why does it never have any other words attached? Why don’t we find it sometimes as so long go foyle (slán go fóill), or so long lath (slán leat) or so long a wallah (slán abhaile)? These are common expressions in Irish. And then again, why don’t we find it commonly in stage-Irish idiom? Begorrah, sor, it’s so long and farewell to yous

So, let’s just forget the idea that the expression so long comes from Irish. There’s no evidence for it and there’s something so needy and desperate about these attempts to trace words to Irish. It’s as if our language and culture have no reality or value outside their relations with the English-speaking world. Anyone who thinks that should learn some real Irish – NOW!

Miller

I am rapidly reaching the point where I find it hard to find new stupidities in Cassidy’s book that I haven’t already debunked. However, there are odd exceptions here and there. One unplucked piece of low-hanging fruit is the claim that ‘miller’, an old cant term for a fighter or boxer, is from Irish.

Firstly, the most parsimonious explanation is quite simply that this expression is an extension of the word miller, someone who keeps or works in a mill. Millers have always had the reputation as strong, rough men, even back as far as Chaucer. And of course, milling can mean grinding, breaking, destroying. In other words, you don’t need to look any further than English ‘miller’ for the origins of the English slang expression ‘miller’. Unless you’re a flake like Daniel Cassidy, of course.

Cassidy’s explanation, as usual, lacks any evidence.

Miller, n., a boxer, a murderer. “Miller, a Killer …” (B.E.’s Dictionary of the Canting Crew, 1699.)

Míle (pron. m’íl’ə), n., a warrior, a soldier; a champion, a hero. Mill, v., to break, to injure; to damage, to destroy. (Dineen [sic], 742; Ó Dónaill, 859, 860.)

One person’s killer is another person’s miller (míle, pron. m’íl’ə, hero, warrior, soldier; champion; destroyer.)”

The problem with this is that míle is not a particularly good match in terms of sound (it’s pronounced meelya or meela – note that Cassidy’s phonetic transcription was as fake as everything else in his miserable ‘skill set’) and it’s not a particularly common word. There are dozens of other words which suit the meaning of boxer or soldier or warrior far better, words like dornálaí (boxer), or saighdiúir (soldier). Míle is actually a fairly obscure borrowing of the Latin word mīles, the root of military and militia.

And it has no etymological connection with the word mill, meaning to destroy in Irish. (MacBain’s dictionary: destroy, Irish, Old Irish millim: *mel-ni-, root mele, fail, miss; Lithuanian mìlyti, fail; Greek @Gméleos, useless, wretched …) The word destroyer added to the list of meanings of míle above is yet another example of the kind of casual random dishonesty that makes Cassidy’s book so totally worthless. And in any case, only an irrational, brain-burned nut-job like Cassidy would think that giving two totally different words with different etymologies as the origin of one English expression would help his case!

Another Cassidy Sock Puppet?

In a post a while ago, I pointed out that there are a number of fake reviews on line of Cassidy’s book which seem to use variants of the name of Cassidy’s wife – eclaremc, ellen, ellen mcintyre. Whether they were posted by his wife or not is unclear, as the style is pure Cassidy. These fake reviews claim that the book is wonderful, that academics have it in for Cassidy, that the author of the review is a student of Irish. Most of them were posted around the time the book came out, around November 2007 to January 2008.

I think I have found another on the Barnes and Noble website. It is anonymous – the poster is just called Guest. It is titled One Snazzy Book and was posted on the 22nd of December 2007:

This book is amazing! Cassidy makes a strong case that slang words like scam, slum, moolah, knicknack, mind your own ‘beeswax,’ Say ‘Uncle,’ snazzy, swell, rookie, fluke, nincumpoop, and even poker and jazz may be derived from the Irish language! The stories in the book are as good as the etymologies and definitions. As a student of the Irish language, it has been a revelation to me to read How the Irish Invented Slang. I recommend it to all people interested in language and slang and the secret history of the Irish in America.

Compare this to a comment left by Ellen McIntyre on 23rd of November 2007:

I have read Daniel Cassidy’s How the Irish Invented Slang and found it to be an incredibly interesting read! It has essays and a dictionary that lay out his thesis that the irish language (like the languages of every other major immigrant group to N. America) did have an influence on American vernacular and popular speech… I study the Irish language in college. I heartily recommend Cassdy’s book. It is funny and eye-opening at the same time. Refreshingly he doersn’t take himself too seriously like many self-styled language scholars. Slán, Ellen

My guess would be that if the people at Barnes and Noble looked at the email account linked to that comment, it would contain something like Ellen, Eclaremc, Cassidy or Camog and that it is really a fraudulent review written by the author of this ridiculous, trashy book and/or his wife.