Tag Archives: Michael Patrick Brady

Eight Reasons Why Daniel Cassidy Was An Obvious Fraud

Over the last few weeks we have established that Daniel Cassidy did not have a degree from Cornell University and that he was probably without any academic qualifications at all. This will come as no surprise to those who have a background in Irish or linguistics, because there are so many things in this book which would arouse the suspicion of any intelligent and enquiring person. As Michael Patrick Brady so rightly commented on Popmatters back in 2007, “Cassidy is the co-founder of the Irish Studies program at the New College of California, a tiny liberal arts school, and though his bona fides seem in order, the book has a strange, casual tone that makes it hard to approach.” Yes, Cassidy’s bona fides seemed in order back then. We now know that his claim to be a genuine academic was a total crock. However, it is perhaps worth looking through some of the many reasons why Cassidy’s ‘research’ was obviously rubbish, even before the bombshell revelation that Cassidy had no qualifications.

  1. The book contains certain claims which are not just improbable but completely nuts, such as the claim that Gunga Din comes from Irish!
  2. The vast majority of Cassidy’s Irish candidates for the origin of English words and phrases are pure fantasy which are not found in Irish at all and which sound completely absurd to anyone who really speaks the language.
  3. Any real academic would have learned the language before writing a book about it. Cassidy didn’t feel that was necessary and many of his made-up phrases are laughable because he had no idea of grammar or usage.
  4. When Cassidy did take words from the Irish dictionaries, he took words out of context and used the most obscure meanings. For example, the word ceap has many meanings. Cassidy found the obscure poetic meaning of protector and claimed it as the origin of cop. This is like saying that because you can say ‘pillar of the community’ it’s also OK to say things like ‘I was talking to a pillar at the reception’.
  5. Cassidy rarely checked other sources for words. When he did mention the dictionary origins, it was merely to rubbish them without presenting the full facts.
  6. Cassidy invented a peculiar fake version of phonetic transcription which bears no relation to the real thing. For example, in phonetics, a j represents the sound usually represented with a y in English. This is Phonetics 101, yet Cassidy knew nothing about it!
  7. Cassidy did not use any kind of referencing system. He tended to cobble together a fake definition, some of which came from the dictionaries and some of which was his own invention, and then give three or four references to different books afterwards!
  8. Cassidy’s ‘evidence’ consisted not of proof for the existence of his Irish candidate phrases in Irish, but of the target phrases in the work of Irish-American writers, as if that proves anything!

I could go on but why bother? Anyone with an open mind and a titter of wit knows that Cassidy was a fraud.

Everyone’s a critic …

Here are a handful of links to pages which criticise Cassidy’s ridiculous book, How The Irish Invented Slang. Here is a good article from Language Hat:

http://www.languagehat.com/archives/002935.php

Here is a review from the Irish Independent (the Indo). Cassidy made much of the fact that the papers had given him good reviews in Ireland. This is true. Most of the Irish papers uncritically supported him, largely because this is a man-bites-dog story and therefore newsworthy, however wrong it might be. However, the Independent seems to have published a couple of articles, one in August, which was positive (and therefore completely wrong) and this one by Ed Power, which quotes from an Irish academic, Professor Terry Dolan, who criticises the book kindly but firmly. Terry Dolan is a real professor, of course, and clearly qualified to discuss these issues:

http://www.independent.ie/entertainment/books-arts/how-we-gave-the-yanks-the-gift-of-our-gab-26442655.html

Here is an interesting review from the blog Sesquiotica:

http://sesquiotic.wordpress.com/2011/03/18/blarney-baloney-and-etymology/

And here is Michael Patrick Brady’s comment. What do you think of the comment at the end from Cassidy’s sister? Sounds like there must have been a family falling-out there!

http://www.michaelpatrickbrady.com/blog/complete-blarney-daniel-cassidys-how-the-irish-invented-slang/

This is from John Madziarczyk in Seattle, which does a very good job of attacking Cassidy’s intellectual pretensions and uses examples from Hungarian to do it:

http://www.losthighwaytimes.com/2007/08/as-promised-side-by-side-comparison-of.html

Also, don’t miss this hilarious piece on the Grammarphobia Blog by Patricia T O’Conner and Stewart Kellarman.

http://www.grammarphobia.com/blog/2013/04/on-the-lam.html

And let’s not forget this excellent piece by Arnold Zwicky:

http://itre.cis.upenn.edu/~myl/languagelog/archives/005098.html

There are lots of good critiques of Cassidy’s work out there. I have made my own small contribution to the campaign here and elsewhere. Slowly but surely, the balance is shifting from those who support Cassidy to those who believe in telling it like it is. In future, anybody encountering Cassidy’s ridiculous theories will be able to enter his name on Google and find the truth immediately. Let’s hope it puts a stop to this nonsense forever.