Tag Archives: junk etymology

A Challenge To Hugh Curran


I have had a comment from Hugh Curran. Remember him?

Why the negative talk using terms like “scumbag” etc. Did I say anything at that merits this kind of comment? I admitted that I was not proficient in Gaeilge even though as a young boy I spoke it at home with my parents who were native speakers. The fact that we immigrated to Canada when I was young reduced my chance to continue as a native speaker even as all my cousins in Ireland are native speakers. The writer of the above article is vehement in his denunciation for reasons I am unable to comprehend unless he feels that any positive comments about Cassidy’s book are totally erroneous. There are at least some words in Cassidy’s book that merit consideration . I would hope the writer of the article withdraws the article or apologies for his remarks.

He claims to find my hostility inexplicable, though I’ve explained it at great length in two languages. I’ve made it absolutely clear that yes, any positive comments about Cassidy’s book are totally erroneous and yes, there are effectively no words in Cassidy’s book that merit consideration. Cassidy’s theories and his book are an immoral and disgusting hoax and Cassidy was a criminal liar who worked for twelve years as an academic without any qualifications at all. He didn’t speak any Irish at all and his knowledge of Irish history and linguistics was entirely inadequate – like the man himself. In short, Cassidy’s book is malicious dross.

And as this is the case, I believe that the term scumbag is entirely justified. Myself and a number of other critics of Cassidy are trying to prevent people being ripped off and lied to and misinformed. And you are trying to spread the lies and misinformation and support the liar. What a scumbag!

However, I’m a reasonable man. You claim that this book is not a malicious hoax. So, you want me to remove the articles about you? Fine, I’ll do that – if you can justify your position with evidence.

So, here’s my challenge to you. Find 10 words or phrases in Cassidy’s book where there is sufficient evidence for Cassidy’s derivation that a reasonable and impartial person would accept that Cassidy got it right. Oh, and they have to be Cassidy’s claims, not claims that were already in the public domain which Cassidy plagiarised, so you can’t use words like pet and cross and snazzy and galore and slew.

Of course, there are hundreds of words and phrases in Cassidy’s book, so if it’s the mine of undiscovered gems you claim, rather than a dark malodorous empty cave containing only the echoes of Cassidy’s insanity, it shouldn’t be that hard to find ten words or phrases that fit the bill. Should it?

If you can do that, I’ll apologise and withdraw the posts about you. (Let me tell you now, you won’t be able to – Cassidy’s book is that big a pile of shite!) And if you can’t, then I will also take down the posts about you, on condition that you apologise for supporting this nonsense in the face of all the evidence and recommend that other people avoid it, which is what a decent person would have done in the first place.



Cassidy claimed that ragtime (a style of music which was in many ways the forerunner of jazz) derived its name from the Irish language. Of course, there was no evidence for this apart from the fact that there is a word in Irish which slightly resembles rag, the word ráig. (Of course, English also has the word rag but Cassidy didn’t believe that any English slang terms derive from English – they were all secretly Irish!)

His post on ragtime is typical Cassidese rubbish. Cassidy says that ráig means ‘a rush, gadding about, an impulse, impulsiveness, a fit of madness, frivolity, happiness, lightheartedness, acting the fool, revelry, noise;. Ráig-time (rush-time) is joyous music, characterized by its impulsive, driving syncopation and rapid shifts of tempo and melody.’

Of course, this is How The Irish Invented Slang, so this is not a real entry from a real dictionary. Here’s what the principal modern Irish dictionary, Ó Dónaill, says:

ráig, f. (gs. ~e, pl. ~eanna). Sudden rush; sudden outbreak; fit, bout, attack. ~ a thabhairt amach, to dash out, to sally forth. ~ reatha, sudden spurt. ~ ruathair, mad rush. ~ feirge, fit of anger. Tháinig ~ air, he flew into a rage. ~ thinnis, bout of illness. ~ bhruitíní, outbreak of measles. ~ bháistí, ~ de mhúr, sudden shower. De ~, suddenly, hurriedly, with a rush. (Var: raig)

So … where’s the frivolity and happiness here? Where’s the noise and revelry?

Dinneen’s dictionary tends to be more inclusive and mixes up different eras and different dialects with abandon. Dinneen says that ráig is ‘A hurried journey, visit or attack; a fit of sickness, madness or anger; a sudden shower, bout or battle; frivolity, “rage”, pursuit, conflict, noise; …’ In other words, in both Irish dictionaries, the negativity of the word is emphasised. Cassidy implies that ráig is something nice, while the genuine sources tell us that ráig is primarily a fit of anger or madness or a spell of bad weather.

Is this really a good match for any possible meaning of ragtime? Call me an old cynic, but I don’t think so.

Most experts regard ragtime as black music rather than Irish and they think that the syncopation makes it ragged or raggy, which they believe is the origin. There are other theories. But Cassidy’s ráig is not a good match and Cassidy knew it, which is why he invented the fake definition he gave rather than copying a real one out of a dictionary.

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.

The Linguist’s List

I recently stumbled upon an interesting source, at linguist.list.org. It is a list of the exchanges between the late Daniel Cassidy, phoney scholar, and members of the American Dialect Society in 2003 and 2004. There are a number of interesting things about this. One of the most amazing things is the level of politeness and deference shown by the members of the ADS towards a man who was obviously crazy, though I would have to say that his credentials look more impressive than they really were and they would have had no way of knowing that he didn’t know any Irish at all.

In his posts, Cassidy did exactly what he did in the book. He simply ignored anything which didn’t suit him, refused to give any evidence which related to the actual words (rather than the social context of the time, the number of Irish speakers in the community etc.) and kept up an endless stream of word-play which I suppose he must have thought was funny but just ends up being irritating and gives his comments a protective camouflage of jokiness.

However, the thing which really stands out in these exchanges is the number of words which are given completely different Irish derivations on this forum and in the book which was published three years later.

For example, in this list, he claims that he has solved the mystery of samollions (a slang term for lots of money, apparently). He says that it comes from suim oll i n’eineach. I imagine this is probably meant to be suim oll in éineacht, as he glosses it a huge amount (sum) all at once. In the book, this is given as suim oll amháin, which he claims means one big sum. (In reality, oll is a prefix in modern Irish so you would have to say ollsuim, not suim oll, so the claim is obvious rubbish anyway, whatever random element Cassidy chose to put at the end.)

Then there are the many expressions which are minced oaths in English and which begin with Holy (Holy Cow, Holy Mackerel). In this forum, Cassidy claimed that these are really the word oille (a nominal form of the adjective oll). I have never heard the word oille in use and I suspect that most Irish speakers would say the same, though it is certainly in the dictionary. Cassidy also claimed that this was pronounced something like holly, as he believed that Irish words that begin with a vowel are pronounced with a h-, which of course is completely untrue. This claim had been dropped in the book, so these oaths were half-English and half-Irish in that version. Cassidy claimed in the book that the Mackerel of Holy Mackerel is Mac Ríúil, Kingly Son. In this list, it is Mac Ríogh-fhuil, Son of King-blood, or as the Great Fraud put it, Great Royal-Blooded Son.

Then there’s growler, a pot used for getting a ‘carry-out’ of beer in the tenements of New York. In the book, this was given the unlikely Irish origin of gearr-ól úr (‘a fresh short-drink’). In this forum, it is given the even more unlikely derivation of gearradh ól leor, which Cassidy defines as ‘plenty of fast drink’. Apparently the gearradh (a word meaning cutting) is supposed to mean quick and Cassidy obviously didn’t know how the word leor is used in Irish.

There is another spate of comments on this list after the publication of Cassidy’s book. By that stage, none of the experts involved were in any doubt that Cassidy was a fraud and they said so clearly and repeatedly. One particular comment caught my eye, from a medievalist called Amy West:

“Having seen Cassidy’s signature block at the end of his archived posting on “big onion,” I’m wondering if there’s a much larger criticism of Cassidy’s work other than, as Grant said, the work being “unreliable and not to be trusted.” With his position as a professor of Irish Studies, should we be holding him to an even *higher* standard even though this is not an academic work? If so, would this be an instance of not academic fraud but *malpractice*? That is, we know what academics can and should do: look for tangible evidence, present points against, think and read critically, attempt to be objective and rational. He not only fails to do this, but engages in superficial thinking using superficial connections /resemblances, a lack of concrete evidence, with an agenda and not only a lack of recognition of counterarguments and other positions but derisive dismissal of them: things I expect more from my freshmen than a professional academic. And those are things I would not tolerate from my freshmen.”

Obviously she didn’t realise what we now know to be the case, that Cassidy was completely unqualified to be a professor of anything, but her comments are exactly right. Cassidy failed to follow even the most basic principles of genuine academic research. He was a fraud and it is bizarre that years later, I am still having to argue with deluded people who insist that Cassidy was some kind of linguistic guru.



A Grunt From Under The Bridge

Over the last few days, a number of trolling messages from some idiot in New York appeared on the comments section of this blog. Now, a while ago, in answer to another dumbass in America, I stated that I would simply delete any further stupidities sent to this account without bothering to answer them. I was tempted to do so with these messages, but I have decided to answer the unknown troll in this post, not because I think that liars and fantasists have a right to an answer when they repeat the same nonsense over and over again and refuse to engage in rational debate about the facts, but because it gives me a chance to reiterate some of the many criticisms I have made of Cassidy and of his cretinous supporters in the past.

The troll, who calls himself Sean, states that Cassidy has considerable fame in America, as if I would disagree with this. No, I wouldn’t disagree. Cassidy has achieved considerable fame and his books have sold well. I have said as much in many places on this blog. I have also stated the fact that any fame and money which Cassidy has achieved from this book is undeserved, because he was an idiot who knew nothing about the Irish language or linguistics in general.

The troll also says that for anyone living in America for any period of time, and knowing its culture, the connections of the words are clear. It is hard to see what point the idiot is making here, apart from saying that I as a mere Irish person am unqualified to comment on Irish-American culture and should shut up. But what is clear is very subjective. You see, in the area where I live, there used to be a lady who wore fluorescent pink spectacles, pushed an old pram around and wore an overcoat covered with sheets of paper with strange and cryptic messages on them. The content of the overcoat was garbled but the upshot was that the extermination of European Jewry in the Second World War was not primarily the work of Hitler and Goebbels. Apparently this genocide was masterminded by the Everly Brothers. To this lady, this was presumably crystal clear. One person’s clear and obvious is frequently another person’s totally nuts.

Why am I comparing you to a mad bag-lady, my trolling friend? Well, let’s just take your comment about those familiar with the American context and analyse them from the perspective of an intelligent person (me) rather than an idiot (you). How exactly is the American context relevant? Nobody is saying that American politicians didn’t call their sidekicks ward heelers, or that an ikey heyman wasn’t a name for a handle used to fix wheels of fortune in fairgrounds, or that a policeman in America wasn’t called a crusher. These are facts. What smart people like me are saying is this: that there is no way that ward heeler derives from the Irish éilitheoir, or that ikey heyman derives from ag céimnigh, or that crusher comes from cuir siar ar. I know that these claims and virtually every claim in this trashy book are bullshit. I know that because, unlike you and unlike Cassidy, I actually speak Irish. Apparently, actually daring to know some Irish makes me a pedant.

This lazy, stupid troll also states that the majority of Cassidy’s words were given as origin unknown. I have dealt with this question in a post appropriately labelled Origin Unknown? The majority of the words given fake Irish derivations in Cassidy’s book are not given as origin unknown in mainstream dictionaries. This is a total lie on the troll’s part, easily demonstrable by checking the words in Cassidy’s book against the dictionaries. He also claims that those who attack Cassidy are Angophiles. Amazing how many of these Anglophiles speak Irish!

The troll also talks about my ‘mania’ about Cassidy. In fact, my mania is and always has been the Irish language and languages in general. I love Irish and I find the crap in Cassidy’s book a deep insult to all Irish speakers. The posts here are a minor hobby of mine. Even when I was posting regularly, I probably didn’t spend more than two hours a week on this. But they are two hours well spent, if it offends lunatics like Sean the Troll and makes sure that people have access to the truth. Nor am I jealous of Cassidy’s success as the troll claims, because Cassidy wasn’t successful. This book is a monumental failure, however many copies are sold to the ignorant and gullible.

The last of these three grunts from under the bridge states that I never print anything which contradicts my opinions. No, that’s right. Because there is no evidence contradicting my opinions and with respect, troll, I think Cassidy was great and you’re just an Anglophile Irish speaker who hates Irish Americans really aren’t intelligent (or even sane) arguments.

And with that, I am going to mark the troll as spam. Not only will I not publish any future correspondence from this idiot, I won’t even bother reading it!

Yup, I’m bad!

An Tuairisceoir

There has been a lot of activity on the site since Eoin published his excellent article on Cassidy on the blog An Tuairisceoir. Dozens of visitors and hundreds of hits. Over on An Tuairisceoir, there have been a few comments in relation to this. At the risk of sounding like a bit of a misery, I was a little annoyed at the response of Ciarán Dunbar (who I gather is An Tuairisceoir himself). While he agrees with Eoin’s (and my) sentiments, he tries to have it both ways and to make light of the damage Cassidy has done. Here is part of his comment:

Mar fhocal freagartha ar seo agus aontaím féin leis dála an scéil.
Sa chéad dul síos, cha raibh ann ach píosa spraoi sa leabhar seo agus is trua gur glacadh dáiríre é – tarlaíonn sé sin go minic sa saol acadúil.
Ach is minic a chuala mé Daniel Cassidy ag caint ar an leabhar agus bhí sé ionraic faoi dar liom – ní raibh aon Ghaeilge aige agus ní dhearna sé ach an foclóir a léamh agus rudaí a chumadh.
Chuirfinn féin an chuid is mó den locht ar an fhoilsitheoir.
Ach seans go ndearna sé maitheas éigin – seans go raibh níos mó tionchair ag an Ghaeilge ar Bhéarla Mheiriceá ná mar a cheapadh go dtí seo – tá ar an lucht acadúil leabhar Cassidy a bhréagadh anois agus seans go bhfaighfear fírinne éigin ann más ann de thimpiste é fiú.

(As an answer to this and I myself agree with it, by the way. Firstly, this book was only a bit of fun and it’s a pity that it was taken seriously – that often happens in the academic world. But I often heard Daniel Cassidy talking about the book and he was honest, I think – he didn’t have any Irish and all he did was read the dictionary and make things up. I would put most of the blame on the publisher.

But perhaps he did some good – perhaps Irish had more influence on the English of America than was thought until now – the academics have to refute Cassidy’s book now and perhaps some truth will be found in it even if it’s by accident.)

With respect, this is neither accurate nor fair. All of the issues raised by Ciarán Dunbar have been discussed again and again in this blog but I will go through them again briefly here. If the book was taken seriously, this was because Cassidy presented it not as a bit of fun, but as a serious work of scholarship. This man attacked real scholars in the most vitriolic terms for daring to question the insane nonsense he published in this book. Did it occur to you, Ciarán, that Cassidy was honest in front of a room full of Irish people because he didn’t have a choice but to try to plead ignorance and rely on charm in those circumstances? And when he did have a choice, when he was addressing American people who didn’t speak the language either, he could afford to change his story and pretend to be an expert! Ciarán Dunbar’s reference to ‘this happens in the academic world’ is quite bizarre. Can you give us another example of tongue-in-cheek works of scholarship being misinterpreted as real? And blaming the publisher is hardly fair. There isn’t much evidence that CounterPunch did anything other than arrange for it to be printed. The book is very, very amateurish and doesn’t look as if it’s been edited at all.

And as for the idea that he did some good! Yeah, tell it to all the poor bastards who bought this book in good faith thinking it to be real. Tell it to the academics and others who were friendly towards him and who incorporated Cassidy’s insane ideas into articles, books and even TV programmes, rendering them permanently flawed. Tell it to the people who have been accused of not doing their jobs because Cassidy told the world they had lied to play down the Irish contribution to Americana.

The truth is, of course, that Cassidy would not have changed academic attitudes because he had no facts to offer, and if he had, then the correct avenue would have been to publish a couple of papers, not to write a bestseller full of nonsense and let other people sift a handful of gems out of the slurry tank.

The factitious Irish in this book is an insult to every Irish speaker. The internet is awash with fake Irish, and that is directly down to Cassidy and his army of cronies. Nobody should be making light of what Cassidy did. Anger is the correct, the only response.

Finally, while the site is enjoying a brief spike in popularity, I will repeat an appeal I have made several times before. Cassidy’s book still has a high rating on Amazon. If you have an Amazon account and you accept that Cassidy’s book should be burned rather than praised, log on and give it the poor review it really deserves.

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?