Tag Archives: Irish Slang

Why The Rubber Bandits Were Conned

I have decided to write a brief post here just to explain to casual visitors why the Rubber Bandits were conned when they decided to publish a list of some of Daniel Cassidy’s fake derivations of American Slang from Irish on August 11th. Anyone who wants to know more can look at the older posts on this blog, where the material below is explained in greater detail.

Daniel Cassidy was born into a lower-middle class Irish-American family in NY in 1943. His father ran a bar and he was raised in the green pastures of Long Island (though he carefully cultivated the image of streetwise ghetto man-of-the-people). He was a bright child and went to NY Military Academy (alma mater of Donald Trump) on a music scholarship. From there, he went to Cornell University. While at Cornell, he wrote some poetry which was published but he then got into drugs and flunked out without a degree.

He worked for a little while in the NY Times, went to California, then ended up in rehab for two years. He learned to play guitar in rehab, cut an album (unsuccessful) and became a musician. For years, he disappears from the radar. Then he wrote some scripts. He claimed that he sold one of these scripts to Francis Ford Coppola but in different interviews, he mentions two different scripts as the one he sold. In the mid-90s, he produced a couple of pro-Sinn Féin video documentaries about the Six Counties, which aren’t even mentioned on IMDB.

He became a Professor of Irish Studies (!) in 1995 at a small radical college in SF called New College of California. How he became a professor when he didn’t have any qualifications is a mystery, but it seems clear that Cassidy himself claimed to have degrees he didn’t. According to one allegation from a person who contacted me, he was a serial sleaze who continually hit on female students. He used his position to cultivate ‘friendships’ with high-profile Irish-Americans and Irish people who could be useful to him. In 2007, he published a book called How The Irish Invented Slang, a nonsensical piece of crap which claims that lots of American slang comes from Irish. However, because Cassidy didn’t speak any Irish, he just made up lots of bizarre phrases which have never existed in Irish. Honky-tonk, apparently, comes from aingíocht tarraingteach, which means something like attractive peevishness. Baloney is from béal ónna, which Cassidy claimed meant nonsense (literally ‘naïve mouth’). Geezer comes from gaosmhar, which Cassidy claimed means wise person. It doesn’t. And in many cases, Cassidy simply ignored the fact that the words already had perfectly clear derivations. A longshoreman is a ‘man along the shore’, not an old-fashioned Irish word for a sailor. There are hundreds of these fake, made-up derivations. Almost none of these claims has any substance, and the handful that do were plagiarised by Cassidy from other people.

The book was criticised immediately and strongly by real scholars but Cassidy and/or his wife used sock puppet identities to attack anyone who told the truth about the book. Meanwhile, Cassidy’s friends and cronies were ever-present, boosting his reputation, providing good reviews, generally lying their arses off in support of the book. And because the book pretended to be a radical departure, a man-bites-dog story about how Anglophile scholars had systematically excluded the story of Irish’s influence on English, lots of people who think with their arses instead of their brains were quite prepared to make this arrant raiméis a viral phenomenon.

Cassidy fell sick shortly after the book was published and died of cancer in 2008. Unfortunately, the book and the ridiculous theories are still with us.

In short, if you ever look around and wonder why the world is such a shite place and why we have the leaders we have, look no further than the Cassidy Scandal. The same stupidity, pomposity, arrogance, narcissism, cronyism and manipulation that have allowed Cassidy’s nonsense to thrive are what fuels people like the Tea Party and Donald Trump and the supporters of the Irish Slavery Meme. Nobody should support this garbage, least of all people who believe in decent, liberal, democratic values.

And that’s why Murchadh Mór is right. The Rubber Bandits left their sense outside with the horse when they chose to support this shite.

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Gee and Sheela-na-gig

Gee (pronounced hard like Indian butter, not soft like half a horse) is a modern expression for a vagina used in the south of Ireland. Nobody knows where it originates. There is no Irish word resembling it, not in the dictionaries or indeed in Ó Luineacháin’s wonderful Ó Ghlíomáil go Giniúint. There is a word found in English dialects, gig, with the same meaning, and some people think its origin lies there.

Recently, some people have tried to suggest on line that gee comes from Sheela-na-gig:

Probably from the ancient Irish Síle na Gig, transliterated as sheela-na-gig: the carvings, often found in churches, of naked women grasping giant exaggerated versions of their naughty bits.

This seems to have appeared first in 2014 in an extremely dim and badly-researched article in the Daily Edge, from which the quotation above is taken: (http://www.dailyedge.ie/irish-slang-origins-1468945-May2014/)

It is hard to see where they got this idea from. It is completely implausible. My guess would be that someone logged on to one or two websites on the origins of the Sheela-na-gig (such as http://www.sheelanagig.org/wordpress/ or http://www.irelands-sheelanagigs.org/) and got the wrong end of the stick. The latter, in particular, is insistent on the link between the name of the Sheela-na-gig and the slang word gee. However, it is also quite clear that its author, Gabriel Cannon, is saying that Sheela-na-gig comes from gee and not the other way round.

Incidentally, since I last read anything about the Sheela-na-gig decades ago, Sheela-na-gig-ology has really come on leaps and bounds. There are lots of new theories and new bits of information, including that an 18th century RN ship was called Sheelanagig after ‘an Irish female sprite’ and that Sheelanagig or Shilling a gig was a popular tune in 18th century Ireland. Perhaps I’ll do some research and post on it, as it really is fascinating.

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.