Tag Archives: New College of California

The Glossary Is Finished

With the entry on Yellow, I have finally completed the Cassidese Glossary. This means that every single word in the glossary which constitutes the bulk of Cassidy’s book has been covered. The T, U, W and Y section contained only 21 entries. Added to the previous total of 465, we now have 486 entries in the Glossary.

The principal claim made by Daniel Cassidy was that Anglophile scholars who hate Irish had decided to exclude Gaelic derivations from the dictionaries out of sheer bigotry. There were, according to Cassidy, hundreds if not thousands of words and phrases of Irish origin in English that these so-called scholars had missed because of their intolerance and bias.

In assessing Cassidy’s claims, we need to establish clear criteria. Firstly, the claims made need to be correct. In other words, the Irish candidate words or phrases need to be close to the English in terms of sound and meaning, and that similarity has to be because they were borrowed from Irish into English, not because they were borrowed from English into Irish or from some third language into both. Secondly, they have to be derivations that appear FIRST in Cassidy’s work.

In some cases, Cassidy claimed that individual Irish words resemble English words in sound and meaning. In most cases, these English words sound little like Cassidy’s Irish candidates, as in the case of swank deriving from somhaoineach or swell deriving from sóúil. In both of these cases, and in many others, the real origins are well-known and have nothing to do with Irish. Cassidy also fails to explain how words could have been transmitted from generation to generation orally in such a mangled form and indeed, this is not what we find in genuine cases. Banshee sounds like bean sí, clabber sounds like clábar, shebeen sounds like sibín.

Of course, there are a small number of genuine Irish or Scottish Gaelic terms in Cassidy’s book, literary phrases like avoorneen and machree, slang terms like puss in sourpuss or slew as in a slew of claims. In total, there are about thirty Irish words, two Scottish Gaelic ones, and two from the Irish traveller language known as Gammon or Shelta in the glossary. All of these words are included in mainstream dictionaries and their Gaelic etymologies are accepted by those dictionaries.

However, as you can see from the posts on the Cassidese Glossary, most of Cassidy’s claims are not individual words in Irish that sound anything like individual words in English. Many of them, and probably the majority, are made-up phrases. For example, according to Cassidy, a top banana is a baothán nathánach (an aphoristic simpleton, no less!) Gibberish is from geab ar ais, gab back. Baloney, says Cassidy, is from béal ónna meaning simple mouth or nonsense. A sucker is from the phrase sách úr, supposedly meaning a fresh well-fed person and thus a sucker. Wanker supposedly comes from uath-anchor, meaning spontaneous abuse. The book is peppered with invented, fantasy nonsense like this, for which there is absolutely no evidence at all.

It should come as no surprise to anyone that Cassidy produced a work of such colossal dishonesty, as dishonesty was his default position. This was a man who flunked his degree at Cornell in 1965, yet thirty years later he suddenly cropped up teaching in a university in California claiming to be a graduate of Cornell and Columbia. Just think about that for a minute. There are already plenty of people better qualified than Daniel Cassidy working as baristas and shop assistants and clerks, both here in Europe and in the USA. In the wake of the current Covid-19 crisis, there will be many more. Cassidy claimed to be a socialist and a radical but he put his own interests ahead of his principles time and time again. This worthless piece of trash belonged in a prison, not a college, and though it may be too late to make him pay for his criminal behaviour, we can certainly name and shame the people and institutions who continue to lie in his defence.

Some people will continue to use the ‘real criminals’ argument, saying that there are more important targets than Cassidy and that we should attack them instead. However, as I have said in the past, this is not a two-way choice. Other people can go after the White Slavery Meme, or Creationism, or Ancient Aliens – and good luck to them! I have gone after Cassidy because I have a particular love for the Irish language and a general interest in linguistics.

However, I also have a strong conviction that stupidity should be challenged and attacked wherever we find it. If someone chooses to ignore the facts and believe that a sinister cabal of etymologists is trying to deny that hundreds of Irish expressions made their way into English out of pure Anglophile racism, that person is an idiot. If someone claims that Daniel Cassidy was a genuine etymologist and teacher, they are either a liar or a fool or a bit of both.

Our local Chinese takeaway (on restricted opening because of C19) was recently forced to close because of the abusive calls from morons who believe that the Chinese deliberately released Covid-19 to further their own economic interests. A phone mast near here was attacked by some dim-witted fruitloop who believed that Covid-19 isn’t a virus but a product of waves emanating from the 5G network. People who haven’t learned how to think rationally or distinguish between nonsense and facts are a menace. They need to be challenged at every turn by sensible and reasonable people, whether the subject is the Gaelic etymology of wanker or the prophetic powers of Dean Koontz.

Cassidese Glossary – Slogan

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.

It is well-known and admitted by all dictionaries that slogan is of Gaelic origin, though most sources rightly trace it to Scottish Gaelic. The phrase sluagh-ghairm or slua-ghairm (NOT sluagh ghairm – it is a compound word and therefore needs to be written with a hyphen) means call to a host and was the traditional practice of summoning warriors to form an army in the Scottish highlands. There is nothing controversial about this etymology.

Cassidy is wrong in claiming that this is an Irish expression rather than Scottish Gaelic, though the term makes sense in both languages. However, to the best of my knowledge, there is no evidence of the use of slua-ghairm in Irish. There is a word slógadh, which also derives from a variant of slua, which means roughly the same thing – it is used now as the equivalent of the English mobilisation.

Some sources claim that the word slogan derives from an Irish term sluaghán. This is given as a historical term (Hist.) by the lexicographer de Bhaldraithe, whose dictionary was published in 1959. However, there does not seem to be any source for this word. I cannot find any reference to it in Irish before de Bhaldraithe and I would presume that de Bhaldraithe probably realised that there was a link between slogan and slua(gh), so he invented sluaghán as a probable source, not realising that it really derives from Scottish Gaelic slua-ghairm through various manglings in English such as sloghorne. If anyone has any information that contradicts this, I would be interested to hear it.

Since de Bhaldraithe first used it, its spelling has been modernised to sluán in Irish, and it is found in modern dictionaries like focloir.ie as a translation for slogan alongside words like mana and rosc catha. If my theory about de Bhaldraithe is correct, this is what linguists call a ghost word, a word deriving from a mistake or misunderstanding, like the word cigire in Irish or gravy in English. (Look it up if you don’t believe me!)

Cassidese Glossary – Racketeer

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.

(See the articles on Racket above.) The development of this term seems to be that racket as in to make a sound (especially used as a distraction for criminal activity) became linked to words like rack (to put someone on the rack) and rack-renting (to extort rent from someone) and thus a racket came to mean a criminal enterprise. This then gave rise to racketeer as a word for people who run rackets. Cassidy ransacks dictionaries looking for obscure Irish and Gaelic terms like reacaire which means a seller and ragaire which in one obscure reference (primarily to Scottish Gaelic) also meant an ‘extortioner’, according to Dinneen. The word reacadóir (an alternative form of reacaire which sounds a little like racketeer) does not mean ‘extortioner’, in spite of what Cassidy says.

 

Cassidese Glossary – Racket (Criminal)

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.

The truth is probably quite simple. At some stage, racket as in to make a sound (especially used as a distraction for criminal activity) became linked to words like rack (to put someone on the rack) and rack-renting (to extort rent from someone) and thus a racket came to mean a criminal enterprise.

Cassidy claims that this is of Irish or Scottish Gaelic origin but gives a number of different terms in both languages with his chaotic and disorganised ‘system’ of referencing, where he gives all the references in a jumble at the end, so it is impossible to say with any certainty which of these terms Cassidy is claiming as the origin of racket or what evidence he has for this claim. For what it’s worth, here is Cassidy’s take on it:

Ragaireachd (pron. ragerǝċd), n., (Gaelic) violence; extortion, oppression, roguery Racaireacht (pron. rakerǝċt), n., dealing, selling. Ragair, n., an extortioner, a violent man, villain, rogue, deceiver; cf. reacaire, reacadóir, n., a seller, a dealer; an extortioner (Ó Dónaill, 988; Dineen [sic], 872 882; Dwelly 744.)

Of course, ragaireachd is Scottish Gaelic, not Irish, and it would be pronounced ragurrakhk, with a k sound at the end, not a d. There was very little if any Scottish Gaelic spoken in urban areas of the USA in the 19th century, so it and Ragair are probably not relevant, even if they do mean what Cassidy said. (Extortioner does seem to be one of the meanings of ragaire in Gaelic.) Even if these were relevant, they don’t sound much like racket or racketeer.

Racaireacht doesn’t exist. Reacaireacht means selling, reciting or gossiping, none of which are appropriate, and reacaire means seller, reciter or gossip. Ragaire is given in Dinneen as meaning an extortioner but the reference is to the 17th/18th century Kirk/Ó Broin Glossary (Egerton 158) which is a glossary of Scottish Gaelic terms.

Cassidese Glossary – Racket (Noise)

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 etymological hoax, How The Irish Invented Slang, derives racket from raic ard, a high noise. As we have said many times here, phrases are only ever borrowed between languages when they are clichés or stock phrases, things like bête noire or je ne sais quoi. Raic ard is not a familiar stock phrase, and it doesn’t sound much like racket (it is pronounced rack ard).

In fact, racket is an English expression, a version of an earlier term rattick. The word raic in Irish is probably a borrowing from some related English word or perhaps from (w)rack, a dialect version of wreck (as in the ‘rackers’ who used to break into people’s houses and smash them up during agrarian disturbances in Ireland), or the similarity could just be coincidental.

Cassidese Glossary – Plunge

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.

Plunge is apparently a hobo slang term for a hobo’s stash of money (according to Cassidy) and he also says that to make a plunge means to make a pittance through begging. I can’t find any confirmation of the first meaning, though I did find the phrase ‘a gut plunge’ which apparently meant to beg meat off a butcher for your Mulligan stew. In other words, plunge may not have the meaning that Cassidy ascribed to it at all.

However, it happened, I think it’s a fair bet that plunge is an extension of the English word plunge, which comes from Old French plongier meaning to thrust down. According to Cassidy, this is not correct and plunge represents the ‘Irish’ bail ainnis. This is not a real Irish expression, of course, and it makes little sense. Bail means condition, state, or prosperity, but it isn’t used for someone’s personal fortune or stash. That would be a word like taisce. Even if this phrase did exist, it would be a phrase of three syllables, while plunge is a word of one syllable. Cassidy’s claim is basically just a piece of unintelligent, random guesswork and is certainly incorrect.

Cassidese Glossary – Pill

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.

According to Daniel Cassidy’s etymological hoax How The Irish Invented Slang, the expression pill for a ball (especially a golf ball), comes from the Irish word peil, which means a ball. Of course, a golf ball resembles a pill, and indeed the word pill comes from Latin pilula, which means a little ball. There is no clear etymology for the Irish word peil, but it probably comes ultimately from the Latin pellicius (a thing made of skins). Note that no native Irish words start with the letter p. All words beginning with a p are borrowings apart from pus, which was originally spelled bus.

Cassidese Glossary – Nan

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.

Cassidy claims that nan comes from the Irish word nain or naing for grandmother. In fact this is an English expression for “children’s nurse,” 1795, from the widespread child’s word for “female adult other than mother” (compare Greek nanna “aunt”), perhaps also influenced by a pet-name for Anne. As Cassidy says, there are words like nain and naing given by Dinneen in his dictionary, but they are not defined as “grandmother”. Dinneen says that it means a fostermother, while naing mhór means a grandmother (O’N.); he also adds the note “cf. Nanny and Nain, used for grandmother.”

The reference to O’N means the manuscript dictionary of Tadhg Ó Neachtain, which was written in the year 1739. In other words, this is earlier by several generations than the earliest reference to nanny meaning a nurse or grandmother in English.

In other words, this is interesting and worth investigating. However, it is also worth noting that Cassidy didn’t carry out any meaningful research on this word. He merely noted that there is a word nain meaning a foster-mother or a grandmother in Irish and asserted that this was the origin of the English term but without making any attempt to identify where this word came from or whether there were other candidates. And while the Ó Neachtain reference is early and interesting, there is not much other evidence for the word in Irish. It’s not in the Electronic Dictionary of the Irish Language. Furthermore, it occurs in other languages. For example, in Welsh, nain is the usual north Wales version of the word for grandmother, and it dates back to the 14th century.

Personally, I doubt whether the Irish term is the origin of the English expression but it is certainly worth looking at in greater depth.

Cassidese Glossary – Mash

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.

Masher is a slang term for a young man of fashion who frequented 19th century theatres because of his devotion to the leading ladies, while the verb mash is defined as an infatuation or act of flirtation.

There is a discussion of its origins here in an excellent blog post from Anatoly Liberman: http://blog.oup.com/2011/01/masher/.

And here’s another from World Wide Words: http://www.worldwidewords.org/qa/qa-mas1.html

Both of these sources are inclined to regard masher and mash as being extensions of the English word mash meaning to crush and both of them point to the similarity between the uses of mash and the uses of the word crush.

Cassidy’s claim was that it derives from the Irish maiseach, an obscure adjective meaning beautiful or elegant (according to Ó Dónaill’s dictionary, maisiúil is the usual adjective formed from maise. I wouldn’t use maisiúil or maiseach, though I use maise all the time in idioms like Ba d(h)eas an mhaise dó é, it was a nice thing for him to do). How an adjective meaning beautiful in Irish gave rise to a noun meaning lady’s man and a verb meaning to have a crush in English is not explained, but then very few of the claims made in Cassidy’s book stand up to any scrutiny at all

Cassidese Glossary – Masher

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.

Masher is a slang term for a young man of fashion who frequented 19th century theatres because of his devotion to the leading ladies.

There is a discussion of its origins here in an excellent blog post from Anatoly Liberman: http://blog.oup.com/2011/01/masher/.

And here’s another from World Wide Words: http://www.worldwidewords.org/qa/qa-mas1.html

Both of these sources are inclined to regard masher and mash as being extensions of the English word mash meaning to crush and both of them point to the similarity between the uses of mash and the uses of the word crush.

Cassidy’s claim was that it derives from the Irish maiseach, an obscure adjective meaning beautiful or elegant (according to Ó Dónaill’s dictionary, maisiúil is the usual adjective formed from maise. I wouldn’t use maisiúil or maiseach, though I use maise all the time in idioms like Ba d(h)eas an mhaise dó é, it was a nice thing for him to do). How an adjective meaning beautiful in Irish gave rise to a noun meaning lady’s man and a verb meaning to have a crush in English is not explained, but then very few of the claims made in Cassidy’s book stand up to any scrutiny at all.