Tag Archives: Irish Slang

August Twits of the Month – The North American Journal of Celtic Studies

There was fierce competition for the Twit of the Month this month. Firstly, I was tempted to bestow this honour on Kevin My-arse (Myers), a professional controversialist who landed himself in hot water with some anti-Semitic comments. I despise Myers. I would love to believe that his contrition is genuine and that his career is as dead as he says it is. However, it’s happened so many times before and he’s always bounced back. Besides, giving the oxygen of publicity to bastards like Myers only encourages them.

Then there was an article by Una Mullally in the Irish Times Magazine last weekend which was so badly-researched it made me furious. It was about words which are important in Ireland or which derive from Irish. It would take me too long to go through all the dross and nonsense in this article. She says that gowl (a slang term for vagina) possibly comes from Gall, the word for a foreigner in Irish, or from gabhal which means a fork or a crotch. Obviously it comes from the latter. She also claims that gee (another slang term for a vagina) comes from Sheela-na-Gig, an obscure term for obscene carvings found in Irish churches. This may be claimed in lots of places on the internet but it is ludicrous. Both of these claims (along with several others) were lifted more or less verbatim from another badly-researched internet article which you can find here: http://www.dailyedge.ie/irish-slang-origins-1468945-May2014/. She claims that seamróg (the Irish original of shamrock) means ‘young clover’. It’s true that óg is the word for young in Irish, but the diminutive suffix –óg means small, not young, (it was anciently known as the siúr dísbeagaidh or sister diminutive) and it has no connection (to the best of my knowledge) with the adjective óg. She also claims that mot, a Dublin slang word for a woman, comes from the Irish phrase ‘maith an cailín’ (good girl, used to address a girl who has done something praiseworthy.) I was immediately suspicious of this and within five minutes I found that Diarmuid Ó Muirithe and Eric Partridge both derive it from a Dutch word for a prostitute (a mothuys was apparently a brothel). Apparently it was also common in England in the 18th and 19th centuries, so there is nothing Irish about it. She also takes Cassidy’s idiotic claim about the Irish origins of poker seriously. Depressing, especially as the Irish Times has already done more than enough to spread Cassidy’s insane bullshit.

However, bad though Mullally’s article was, I have decided not to give her the Twit of the Month. She is, after all, a journalist. I have come to expect nothing good from journalists and I have rarely been pleasantly surprised. No, the August Twit of the Month Award goes to the North American Journal of Celtic Studies, who published a link on their Twitter feed to the awful article on New York Slang by Brendan Patrick Keane on IrishCentral on July 15. It beggars belief that anyone with an academic background in Celtic would recommend this feeble-minded crap. Fortunately, several other critics had commented on Twitter before I found this.

One of them, Wilson McLeod, rightly commented “Sorry, but no Celtic academic (group or individual) should be promoting Cassidy’s baseless & discredited work.”

Another, the redoubtable Murchadh Mór (Eoin Ó Murchú), commented “That is based on totally debunked rubbish. Please remove.”

So, let’s not beat around the bush. Whoever was responsible for this link either didn’t read the article before posting it, or worse still, they read it and didn’t realise it was shite. Whichever it is, the editor of North American Journal of Celtic Studies or whoever it was who posted the link on Twitter should be scarlet with shame. What a fucking disgrace!

Comhar

In a tweet in December 2014, Michael Patrick MacDonald was once again demonstrating his naivety by commenting in relation to the word comhar, which apparently he learned from Cassidy. In reply to someone who gave the real meanings of the Irish word, he said: “Besides whatever dictionary meaning. It’s a long standing ideal of cooperative society.”

In another article on the band the Dropkick Murphys, dated 2012, he also quotes his friend Cassidy about this word:

“Comhar (pron., co’r), n., co-operation; alliance, reciprocity, mutuality; companionship, a cooperative society; cómhar na gcómharsan (pron. co’r na go’ r-arsan), system of reciprocal labor among neighbors, companions, friends, etc.; cómhar na saoithe (pron.co’r na seeh’e), the companionship and society of artists and scholars.”

In fact, Cassidy (and MacDonald) grossly overstated the importance of this word and its centrality to Irish culture. It is mostly used in phrases like ‘ag obair i gcomhar lena chéile’ (working in partnership with each other) or “dhíol mé an comhar leis” (I paid him back for the favour). While it is sometimes used on its own (it is famously the name of an Irish-language magazine) these uses are quite rare. If it really had such a central importance in Irish culture, why has no Irish anthropologist or sociologist (to my knowledge) ever written an essay or an article on it? Where did Cassidy get the idea that it was so important?

The answer is, of course, that Cassidy looked in the dictionaries and found entries describing comhar as mutual work, partnership and cooperation, and the rest came from his imagination. You see, Cassidy claimed to be a socialist (not that his behaviour gave any hint of genuine socialist principles), and so he romanticised Irish by pretending that a kind of peasant communism was built into the very fabric of the language. Of course, there was some degree of collectivism and mutual self-help in Ireland, just as there was in every peasant society but the idea that Irish people lived by the (proto-communist) principle of comhar just as Sicilians followed the code of omertá is just nonsense.

The tweet from Michael Patrick MacDonald is really quite funny. An American who doesn’t speak any Irish is pontificating about the importance in Irish culture of the word comhar, and saying to someone else that it’s quite OK to ignore the dictionary definitions produced by real Irish scholars (Besides whatever dictionary meaning. It’s a long standing ideal of cooperative society). The person who told him about its importance was another American, Daniel Cassidy, who didn’t speak any Irish or know anything at all about the language either! What a joke!

The claim is a pure fake, like everything else derived from the late Daniel Patrick Cassidy and spread like a plague of ignorance by his cronies.

Dick

Yes, Cassidy was a dick, but that is not the subject of this post.

According to Cassidy in his insane homage to Baron Munchhausen, How The Irish Invented Slang, the word dick, an obsolete slang term for a detective, derives from the Irish word dearc, meaning an eye. This is how the Great Fraud explains it:

“The Pinkerton’s world-famous logo was the giant ‘All-Seeing Eye.’ The Pinkerton private ‘eye’ and labor union spy was christened a dick (dearc, an eye) by the Irish-speaking subjects of its gaze: Molly Maguires, Fenians, Knights of Labor, and Wobblies.”

Whatever! I don’t know where the term comes from, though I would probably be most inclined to regard it as a corruption and shortening of ‘detective’. However, there are various ideas on the table and Grant Barrett goes through some of them in his treatment of Cassidy’s ‘research’: http://grantbarrett.com/humdinger-of-a-bad-irish-scholar

From my perspective, it is important that people realise that dearc is not a reasonable suggestion for the origin of this word. Firstly, dearc is pronounced jarrick in northern dialects and something like darrick in southern Irish. It is not the usual word for eye in Modern Irish, which is súil. I doubt if most Irish speakers would even know the word.

Cassidy’s claim is just the usual boring, self-indulgent nonsense from a delusional halfwit.

An Unqualified Failure

Revelations have come thick and fast over the past week. Firstly, Susan (Daniel Cassidy’s sister), tipped us off that Cassidy never received his degree from Cornell. I contacted Cassie Dembosky, Registrar at Cornell, who has responded very quickly. This is what she had to say:

Thank you for this information. I’m writing to confirm that Daniel Patrick Cassidy, Jr. did not graduate from Cornell University. He was withdrawn from the university on June 8, 1965.

In other words, the claim made on his Wikipedia entry that he was a Cornell graduate is as phoney as the claims made about Irish in his absurd book. Cassidy did not have a degree.

I have contacted the registrar at San Francisco State, because this raises a lot of questions. How did Cassidy end up with a Professorship at New College of California when the majority of the population in some developed countries is better qualified than he was? What qualifications did he claim to have when he found work lecturing in San Francisco State?

So much for all Cassidy’s blather and lies about equality and the rights of the underdog! I am really looking forward to hearing from the Registrar at SFS. Watch this space!

… And a Slice of Cold Turkey

In his insane collection of fake etymology, How The Irish Invented Slang, Daniel Cassidy made many ridiculous claims. None is more ridiculous than his claim about the origins of the expression ‘cold turkey’, a slang term for the awful fever and craving which an addict goes through when giving up drugs (especially heroin). Cassidy would have known a thing or two about this, as he spent 23 months in rehab at Phoenix House, where he managed to kick his narcotics habit. (Please note, I am not sneering at Cassidy here. I have nothing but respect for people who manage to overcome addictions. My beef with Cassidy is to do with his arrogance, his nastiness and his incompetence, not his history of drug-abuse).

The term ‘cold turkey’ makes its appearance quite late on, in the early 50s. There are various theories about its origin. The most convincing is quite simply that it is descriptive of the cold clammy flesh and goosebumps associated with withdrawal.

Cassidy, of course, had a different view. According to him, this is the Irish word coillteoireacht, which he claims means ‘cutting off, expurgation, castration’. Back in the real world, coillteoireacht is an abstract noun from coillteoir, which has two separate meanings and two separate etymologies. One is from the noun coill, meaning a wood. In this case, coillteoir means a woodcutter or forester. The other is from the verb coill, meaning to geld or to spoil. So coillteoir means someone who castrates or despoils. So coillteoireacht can mean ‘the actions or behaviour of one who is engaged in forestry work’ or ‘the actions or behaviour of one who castrates or despoils.’ Well, that’s such a close correspondence to the meanings of cold turkey, it’s truly amazing nobody ever made the connection before, especially when you consider that coillteoireacht almost sounds a little bit like cold turkey!

Of course, this is complete nonsense. It isn’t a fit in terms of meaning, or sound, or the date of its appearance, and an Irish speaker back then would probably call it haras na ndrugaí (from English horrors), or rámhaille na ndrugaí, or something like that. Coillteoireacht? Not a chance!

Incidentally, this reminds me of a well-known story about an Irish country and western band back in the 60s and 70s who called themselves Big Tom and the Mainliners, unaware that mainliner had the slang meaning of heroin-user in the States. When Big Tom went to America, loads of druggie types turned up to the concerts only to find that Big Tom was more Jim Reeves than Lou Reed.

 

Swoon

In his ridiculous book, How The Irish Invented Slang, Daniel Cassidy made hundreds of stupid and easily disprovable claims. One of the most stupid of these claims is the one about swoon (to faint), which he claims comes from the Irish suan, an old-fashioned word for sleep. Confusingly, he states that the English word swoon is of unknown etymology, then below that he says:

Many Anglo-American dictionaries derive swoon “from Old English geswōgan in a faint … past participle of swōgan, as in āswōgan, to choke, of uncertain origin.”

In other words, according to the mainstream dictionaries, the etymology of the word swoon is known back to the Old English period more than a thousand years ago and by the Middle English period (according to the Michigan Middle English Dictionary) it was swounen, defined as “To become unconscious, faint, swoon; collapse in a swoon.”

Just because suan happens to resemble swoon doesn’t automatically mean it’s the origin of the word. After all, the Irish for to faint isn’t anything to do with suan. It’s titim i laige or titim i bhfanntais.

A Post About Shit

In this post, I will conclusively demonstrate that Daniel Cassidy didn’t know about shit. With this turn of phrase, I am not trying to be ‘down with the kids’. I am not like Cassidy himself, who, according to a sickeningly pseudo-intellectual and sycophantic review by Jonathan Scott in the Journal of the Research Group on Socialism and Democracy online, presented his research in an easy-going style ‘as if he’s delivering all his humdingers in a spiel at some local joint while lollygagging with a few hep kids from the block.’ Oh dear God! How uncool is that?

No, what I mean is that Cassidy had no idea about the Irish word for shit, cac. In his mind-numbingly stupid book, How The Irish Invented Slang, Cassidy claimed that the word caca (used as a childish euphemism for shit in English) derives from the Irish word cac, meaning shit. This sounds reasonable enough, but the fact is that variants of the word cac are found in many Indo-European languages, including English. The Spanish swear by saying things like Me cago en la mar salada! (I shit in the salty sea), the Irish have cac, cack is used in English dialects in phrases like cack-handed and in the childish expression above, a cacophony is literally a shitty sound in Greek, and even in Hindi the word khaki means dust-coloured or shit-coloured. So no, ca-ca is not a borrowing from Irish. It is a word which is found all over Europe and Asia in slightly different forms. Linguists know these things, because they study them closely, look for evidence, weigh it up and analyse it, all activities which Cassidy couldn’t be arsed doing.

Cassidy also says that the Irish cac is a borrowing from the Latin caco. It isn’t, of course. The Irish knew how to shit before the advent of Christianity and the Latin book-learning of monks and they had a word for it too.

So, Cassidy didn’t know shit about shit or indeed about anything else. However, according to the reviewer mentioned above, this lack of any methodology is in fact a radical departure from traditional ways of working in the academic world and should be welcomed. At least, I think that’s what he’s saying – it’s badly-written as well as pretentious.

‘This is so precisely because the cross-disciplinary method’s concrete principle – to discover in every culture’s development and change an immanent logic – is anathema to the fusing together of discrete disciplines. Instead of integrating or de-localizing highly specialized academic disciplines, the cross-disciplinary method sees in every existing field of knowledge a wealth of particular information essential for the further enrichment of theory itself, of a general theory of historical development and change. To put it another way, whereas the interdisciplinary tendency is counter to historical materialism –- it favors radical heteronomy over the logic of immanence – the cross-cultural approach is entirely consistent with it.’

Luckily, I have a pretty good idea what shit is, which is why I wouldn’t give Daniel Cassidy a good review and also why I wouldn’t come out with crud about favouring radical heteronomy over the logic of immanence. Tí Dia a chiall … (God love his wit!)