Tag Archives: New York

Cassidese Glossary – Shindig

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, in his etymological hoax, How The Irish Invented Slang, the slang term shindig comes from the Irish expression seinnt-theach, meaning a house of music. Seinnt is a common variant of seinm, which means to play a musical instrument, and teach does mean house but the expression seinnt-teach is complete fabrication. It is not attested in Irish and there are a lot of familiar phrases for a house where music is played and people gather for entertainment, such as teach céilí, teach airneáil, teach airneáin. Teach ceoil (house of music) would also sound reasonable and any Irish speaker would know what you meant. But seinnt-teach (you wouldn’t aspirate the teach, as Cassidy does, so his version of seinnt-theach is a misspelling anyway) is not a real word and it sounds very odd, as if the house is an instrument and someone is blowing into it or hitting it. If you know Spanish, the phrase casa de tocar would give you some indication of why it is odd and improbable.

Interestingly, Loretto Todd, in her 2000 book Green English, suggests that shindig might derive from sínteach, a Scottish Gaelic term for generous. This is also highly improbable.

Cassidese Glossary – Growler

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.

A growler was a bucket of beer in the slums of New York. People were sent out to fill the bucket with beer and they carried it home covered with a tin lid. Because the fizzy beer gave off gas, the lid rattled continually and this was the growling.

Daniel Cassidy ignored this reasonable explanation. According to him, growler represents gearr-ól úr, meaning ‘a fresh, short drink’. This is incredibly contrived and totally improbable, especially as the real, English etymology is well-known.

Cassidese Glossary – Brat

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 quotes the Oxford English Dictionary in relation to this word, though most of the time he claims that the OED and other professional lexicographers and linguists are wrong. The word brat means a badly-behaved child. It is believed to have developed from a word meaning a rag or makeshift garment (compare English toe-rag), which is probably derived from Irish or some other Celtic language. In Irish, the word brat means a cloth or covering. A brat urláir is a floor covering or carpet, if there is a snowfall the land is faoi bhrat sneachta (under a covering of snow), and the traditional Irish mantle called a brat was once a major export of the country.

Cassidese Glossary – Block

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 Cassidy, the word ‘block’, in the sense of a city block, derives from the Irish bealach, meaning road or way. Bealach is usually pronounced with the final ch either silent or like a breathy h, though you could choose to pronounce it more strongly, as in the ch sound of the word loch. However, it would never be pronounced ballack, let alone block, so it is unlikely as an origin for block and in any case, it refers to the road, not to the space between roads.

Another point to remember is that block is a perfectly sensible and long-established word in English to describe the parcels or areas of land in cities which were created along with the grid system in the New World. Just as a person looking at a stone wall will see the blocks of stone laid out in a pattern, the mapmaker will see blocks of buildings with roads between. The word block in the sense of a lump of stone or wood is an ancient one in English, dating back at least to the 13th century. Here’s a brief account of the word’s origins from the excellent etymonline: (https://www.etymonline.com/word/block)

“solid piece,” early 14c., blok, blokke, “large solid piece of wood,” usually with one or more plane faces, from Old French bloc “log, block” of wood (13c.), which is from a Germanic source such as Middle Dutch bloc “trunk of a tree,” Old High German bloh, from PIE *bhlugo-, from *bhelg- “a thick plank, beam” (see balk (n.)).

Generalized by late 15c. to any solid piece. Meaning “solid mass of wood, the upper surface of which is used for some purpose” is from late 15c., originally the executioner’s block where the condemned were beheaded…

The meaning in city block is 1796, from the notion of a “compact mass” of buildings.

Incidentally, bloc is also a fairly common and long-established loanword in Irish, where Bloc na Nollag (the Christmas Block) was the traditional Yule Log, used before Christmas trees were brought in from Germany.

The grid system was first laid out in Cassidy’s home city of New York by the 1811 Commissioners’ Plan for New York. Let’s hear from the Commissioners themselves:

‘The northerly side of number one begins at the southern end of Avenue B and terminates in the Bower lane; number one hundred and fifty-five runs from Bussing’s Point to Hudson river, and is the most northern of those which is was thought at all needful to lay out as part of the city of New York, excepting the Tenth avenue, which is continued to Harlem river and strikes it near Kingsbridge. These streets are all sixty feet wide except fifteen, which are one hundred feet wide, viz.: Numbers fourteen, twenty-three, thirty-four, forty-two, fifty-seven, seventy-two, seventy-nine, eighty-six, ninety-six, one hundred and six, one hundred and sixteen, one hundred and twenty-five, one hundred and thirty-five, one hundred and forty-five, and one hundred and fifty-five–the block or space between them being in general about two hundred feet’.

Amadán na Míosa – Lúnasa 2018

Bhí mé ag amharc ar na daoine a cháin mé thar na blianta, agus rith sé liom gur chóir dom níos mó a rá faoi Peter Quinn, duine atá cáinte agam go mór agus go minic anseo as an tacaíocht a thug sé don chaimiléir agus bréagadóir Daniel Cassidy, údar an leabhair How The Irish Invented Slang.

Is scríbhneoir ó Nua-Eabhrac é Peter Quinn, duine nár chaill deis riamh lena chara Cassidy a mholadh go poiblí. Tá an locht ar Quinn agus a leithéidí gur shíl daoine aineolacha go raibh cuid den cheart ag an Chaisideach agus go raibh croí fíor taobh istigh de na bréaga go léir.

Ach an té a luíonn le madaí, éiríonn sé le dreancaidí. Agus daoine mar Quinn, a mholann caimiléirí agus bréagadóirí go hard na spéire cionn is gur cairde dá gcuid iad, ní fiú sop féir iad.

Amadán na Míosa, Meitheamh 2018 – Joe Lee

Cúpla seachtain ó shin, ar an 22 Bealtaine, 2018, bhí siompóisiam ann in ómós do Joe Lee ag Glucksman Ireland House i Nua-Eabhrac. J.J. Lee and Irish History: Scholar, Colleague, Mentor an teideal a bhí ar an tsiompóisiam.

Mar a scríobh mé roimhe seo, tá obair mhaith déanta ag Lee. Is fíorstaraí é Lee, a bhfuil a lán leabhar agus alt den scoth scríofa aige. Ach, mar a dúirt mé fosta, bhí Joe Lee mór le cuid mhór daoine a bhí mór le Daniel Cassidy, agus sin an fáth ar scríobh sé an léirmheas dearfach seo thíos don leabhar How The Irish Invented Slang:

“In this courageous, crusading manifesto, Daniel Cassidy flings down the gauntlet to all those compilers of dictionaries who fled to the safe haven of ‘origin unknown’ when confronted with the challenge of American slang …The originality and importance of the argument makes this an exciting contribution to both American and Irish Studies. This is a landmark book, at once learned and lively, and quite enthralling as to how American English acquired so vibrant a popular vocabulary.”

Is raiméis an léirmheas seo, ar ndóigh, mar is raiméis leabhar Cassidy. Níl a fhios agam cad chuige ar roghnaigh sé tacú le píosa bréagscoláireachta mar How The Irish Invented Slang.

Is mór an díol spéise é go raibh beirt chairde le Cassidy ag labhairt le Lee ag an tsiompóisiam: 12.30 pm: Reflections of Directors of Glucksman Ireland House: Prof. Bob Scally & Prof. Joe Lee in Conversation with Dr. Terry Golway. Bhí Golway mór le Cassidy, agus scríobh Bob Scally léirmheas a bhí lán chomh moltach le ceann Lee ar chúl leabhar Cassidy:

Irish Americans especially will be delighted to know they have been speaking Irish all along in their slang and American English, while believing and bemoaning that they had lost their native tongue many years ago. With imagination and scholarship, Cassidy has restored this hidden treasure to us in a book that is filled with revelations, wit and humour.

Mar a dúirt mé, níl a fhios agam cad chuige ar roghnaigh Joe Lee agus a chairde neamhaird a dhéanamh den fhianaise agus muintir na hÉireann a mhaslú ar an dóigh seo. Is deacair é a thuiscint, go háirithe i gcás Lee, duine a bhfuil go leor Gaeilge aige lena aithint láithreach nach Gaeilge iad leithéidí béal ónna agus béalú h-ard agus pá lae sámh.

Rud amháin atá cinnte: cosúil le gach duine eile a bhí mór le Cassidy, is lú é mar scoláire, mar mhúinteoir agus mar dhuine de dheasca an chairdis sin. Níl a fhios agam an caimiléir agus bréagadóir é Lee, ach is cinnte gur thacaigh sé le leabhar mí-ionraic Cassidy, agus is teimheal ollmhór sin ar a chlú.

Sin an fáth a bhfuil mé sásta an teideal Amadán na Míosa, Meitheamh 2018 a bhronnadh ar Joe Lee, a chuidigh le caimiléir drochleabhar a dhíol agus nach ndearna turn láimhe ina dhiaidh sin le rudaí a chur ina gceart.

An fód a sheasamh ar son an chomhionannais – Standing up for equality

Bhí rud éigin ar IrishCentral ar na mallaibh faoi Mhórshiúl clúiteach na Féile Pádraig i Nua-Eabhrac. Faoi dheireadh thiar thall, ligfear do dhream LADT (Leispiach, Aerach, Déghnéasach agus Trasinscneach, nó LGBT i mBéarla) bheith páirteach sa mhórshiúl. Ba mhaith liom comhghairdeas a dhéanamh leo anseo. Tá súil agam, ní hamháin go ligfear dóibh bheith páirteach, ach go gcuirfear fáilte fhial fhairsing Ghaelach rompu. Is Gaeil iad, agus tá an ceart acu bheith ansin.

Luaitear Peter Quinn, cara mór le Cassidy, san alt chéanna. De réir cosúlachta, bhí seisean páirteach san fheachtas le stop a chur leis an éagóir a bhí á déanamh ar Ghaeil LADT na cathrach. Tréaslaím a shaothar leis, agus tréaslaím a saothar leis na daoine eile atá luaite san alt, Loretta Brennan-Glucksman agus Malachy McCourt ina measc. Sa chás seo, tá an rud ceart déanta ag Peter Quinn agus ag na daoine eile.

An gciallaíonn sin go bhfuil mé sásta maithiúnas a thabhairt do Quinn as tacú leis an ghealt uafásach sin Cassidy? Is dócha go bhfuil freagra na ceiste sin ar eolas agaibh cheana féin. Tá mé sásta a fheiceáil go bhfuil Quinn ar thaobh na n-aingeal sa chás seo. Ach an ndéanann dea-ghníomh cúiteamh as drochghníomh? Níl mé róchinnte.  Is é rud é, gur thug Quinn tacaíocht do Cassidy. Dhiúltaigh sé an fhírinne a insint agus dhiúltaigh sé a admháil nach raibh sé ceart ná cóir an tacaíocht sin a thabhairt don chaimiléir agus don bhréagadóir is mó i stair na nGael i Meiriceá.

Tá Peter Quinn agus a chairde le moladh as tacaíocht a thabhairt don chomhionannas agus do chearta daonna maidir leis an mhórshiúl. Ach tá a fhios againn gur ghlac Cassidy leis an phost mar Ollamh in New College, in ainneoin nach raibh céim ar bith aige, in ainneoin nach raibh sé cáilithe, in ainneoin nach raibh foilseacháin acadúla ar bith foilsithe aige agus in ainneoin nach raibh Gaeilge ar bith aige. Bímis ionraic faoi. Ghoid Cassidy an post sin. An amhlaidh nach raibh duine aerach ar bith ann a raibh céim nó céimeanna aige nó aici i litríocht na hÉireann san am sin? An amhlaidh nach raibh duine de bhunús Afracach nó Easpáinneach a raibh céim aici nó aige sa Léann Éireannach sna Stáit in 1995?  Níl a fhios againn cén sórt daoine a bhí ann, réidh leis an phost sin a dhéanamh agus a dhéanamh go maith, cionn is nach bhfuair siad an deis. Ghoid Cassidy an post agus an t-airgead a bhí ag gabháil leis. Agus daoine cumasacha a raibh cáilíochtaí acu, fágadh amuigh san fhuacht iad ionas go dtiocfadh leis an liúdramán seo ligean air gur ollamh léannta a bhí ann os comhair an tsaoil.

Maith sibh as balla gloine amháin a bhriseadh agus ligean do dhaoine a gcearta a bheith acu. Ach ná déan dearmad ar an chara s’agatsa, a Peter, a dhruid an doras ar dhuine éigin anaithnid d’fhonn tuarastal agus stádas nach raibh tuillte aige a choinneáil chuige féin.

Nach bhfuil sé in am duit cuimhneamh ar an éagóir a rinneadh ar an duine anaithnid sin, agus an rud ceart a dhéanamh sa deireadh thiar thall?



There was something on IrishCentral recently about the famous St. Patrick’s Day Parade in New York. At long last, an LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) group will be allowed to take part in the parade. I would like to congratulate them here. I hope that not only will they be allowed to take part, but they will receive a generous Irish welcome. They are Irish people, and they have a right to be there.

In the same article, Peter Quinn, a big friend of Cassidy’s, is mentioned. Apparently, he was involved in the campaign to put a stop to the injustice to which the LGBT Irish people of the city were being subjected. I applaud his efforts, and I applaud the efforts of the other people who were mentioned in the article, Loretta Brennan-Glucksman and Malachy McCourt. In this case, Peter Quinn and those other people have done the right thing.

Does that mean I’m happy to forgive Quinn for supporting that horrible nut-job Cassidy? You probably know the answer to that question already. I am glad to see that Quinn is on the side of the angels in this case. But does a good deed make up for a bad deed? I’m not so sure. The thing is, Quinn supported Cassidy. He refused to tell the truth and he refused to admit that it was neither right nor proper to support one of the biggest fraudsters and liars in the history of Irish America.

Peter Quinn and his friends are to be praised for supporting equality and human rights in relation to the parade. But we know that Cassidy accepted the job as Professor in New College, in spite of the fact that he had no degree, in spite of the fact that he wasn’t qualified, in spite of the fact that he had no academic publications to his name, in spite of the fact that he had no Irish. Let’s be honest here. Cassidy stole that job. Were there no gay people who had a degree or degrees in Irish literature at that time? Were there no people of African or Hispanic origin with a degree in Irish Studies in the States in 1995? We don’t know what sort of people there were, ready to do the job and do it well, because they didn’t get the chance. Cassidy stole the job and the money that went with it. And talented people who had qualifications were left out in the cold so that this moron could pretend to the world that he was a learned professor.

Well done for breaking one glass wall and allowing people to have their rights. But don’t forget, Peter, that your friend closed the door on some unknown person in order to keep a salary and a status which he hadn’t deserved for himself.

Isn’t it time you remembered the injustice that was done to that unknown person and finally did the right thing?


Light of the Diddicoy

I have already mentioned Eamon Loingsigh several times here. Loingsigh wrote a blog post praising the work of Cassidy. This blog post is still there misleading the public about Cassidy and making obviously incorrect and easily disprovable claims. As far as I am concerned, Cassidy and his supporters are enemies of the Irish language, even if they think they are the language’s greatest champions, so, I am not well disposed towards Loingsigh and I would like to make that clear right from the start. My intention here is to provide a review of his recent book Light of the Diddicoy and I am certainly not an impartial reviewer, though I will try to be as fair as I can.

This book has garnered good reviews from a lot of people on Amazon, many of them suspiciously posted by people who have not posted anything else. The one objective review I found online, on the site of the Historical Novel Society, was mixed and after praising some aspects of the book, singled out certain issues as problematic:

“Unfortunately, I felt the story was undermined by inconsistencies in the author’s tone and somewhat shallow characterizations.

An original and poetic coming-of-age story, Light of the Diddicoy touches on some fascinating material, but might prove difficult for those looking for truly captivating, character-driven fiction.”

I was able to pick up a copy of the book very easily on Amazon. It was a second-hand copy and only cost me a couple of pounds. I was surprised to find that it was signed by the author. I set about reading it. Like the author of the review above, I didn’t particularly like it but I didn’t hate it. There were good things about it. As a story, as a succession of images telling what happened to the central character, it was gripping enough. He seems to know a lot about the docks in NY in the early 20th century and the interplay between criminals, employers and labour organisations. So far, so good.

For me, there were two main problems with this book. Firstly, the language more often stood between the reader and the image rather than evoking the image clearly. Some of the lines are very odd indeed. Some sentences appear not to make any sense at all. For example:

Only luck can make it across the sea lanes with the sea wolves dug in for war, where the Lusitania was sent to the dregs just north of Queenstown in Kinsale, just south of five months early upon.

Even leaving aside the fact that Kinsale is south-west of Queenstown (Cóbh), what does this mean? Answers on a postcard please …

His grasp of Irish dialect is shaky. The dialogue is more Far and Away than Ulysses. At times, I found it hard to work out what dialect the characters were supposed to be using. To give just one example, he frequently drops the h in words like he (‘e), which to me looks like some kind of English dialect. To the best of my knowledge, no dialect of Irish English drops the h. And expressions like ‘you look about twelve years long’ don’t ring true to me. Perhaps there is some obscure dialect in Munster where people use long for old but I’ve certainly never heard it. All too often, dialect is used to create two-dimensional characters.

Another problem is the purple passages. Manuals for aspiring writers always tell people to avoid these like the plague. It is still good advice to go through your writing with a red pen cutting out anything that sounds preachy or self-conscious or overwritten.

“Unpainted, sooted wood-framed tenements creak in the breeze like an old coffin ship carrying dead famine families in its [sic] hulls. Sunken in time along with so many of their untold stories. Memories forgotten, remembered only in the blood like a feeling is remembered, but not articulated, memories known only in the blood-feeling of so many Americans in the coming generations. Whisperings of great struggles, terrible sacrifices pitting family versus [sic] survival. Struggles and sacrifices that make life worth living for the happier children of much later days. Of all those Americans what proudly claim Irish blood.” 

There are parts of the book (particularly in the middle) where the writing is going well and he forgets to posture and lets the story tell itself, and these are the most successful and enjoyable parts.

Apart from language, the other problem is research. I will assume that he does have a good understanding of the American scene in the early 20th century. But some of his comments relating to Ireland seem anachronistic or inaccurate.  Somebody is described as being led away like an informer led away by two trench-coated rebels. OK, this is being described by someone years afterwards, but it relates to events before the Easter Rising. Trench-coated rebels killing informers was not a common image until the War of Independence in 1919-21.  The word psychopath did exist back then, but did it exist in ordinary Irish or Irish-American speech? I doubt it. And when Garrity describes his education, he talks about avoiding the schools dominated by the Catholic Church where they taught a rhyme about being ‘an English child’. This wasn’t the Catholic schools, it was the National school system. There was a Catholic system alongside it.  And there weren’t any hedge schools in the 1900s. And at a crucial moment in the story, it is revealed that his father and mother and aunts were all killed in the Easter Rising. All of them? Were many families completely wiped out in the Easter Rising? Not that I know of, especially not families from Co. Clare.

There is an embarrassingly Oirish bit about shanachies and pookas on page 37 which any self-respecting editor would have cut. One of the strangest things, to me, is the title. Diddicoy is Romany, and there are few Romanies in Ireland. Most travellers in Ireland are what are called Pavees or Tinkers (not a politically correct expression these days) who use a jargon based on Irish called Shelta. I have never heard diddicoy used in Ireland, and it has an odd sound here because of the obscene meanings of diddy in Irish dialect.

However, the worst piece of nonsense in the book is where a matriarch cuts the vein of a dead person, fills a cup, drinks some of the blood and passes it round to the rest of the family. There are sporadic references to blood-drinking in ancient Irish texts, usually in the context of madness. In addition, there is a claim in a work by Spenser (no friend to the Irish) that he witnessed a grieving relative drinking the blood of the deceased in the 16th century. The jury is still out on whether this was ever a real funerary custom which was widely followed. After all, Spenser had a vested interest in depicting the Irish as savages. Even if it once existed, the idea of a person drinking the blood of a corpse in the early 20th century is ridiculously fanciful. It is part of Loingsigh’s tendency to romanticise the Irish out of all recognition. They are gypsies obsessed with honour out of a Lorca poem, firebrand rebels, gangsters and rogues, half-pagan cannibals. None of them is a real, three-dimensional, believable individual.

In short, I would give this book 3 out of 5 (I said I was trying to be fair) but there are major problems with it. He is not without talent but If I were Eamon Loingsigh, I would sit down and write another book without any reference to Ireland at all in it, featuring people who speak the American dialects that he hears every day around him, and ask a friend at the end to make it fifty pages shorter by cutting out anything which sounds too literary or preachy with a red pen. If he follows that advice, we might just hear more of him. If not, I’m fairly certain we won’t.

The Madness of Sweeney

I have received a message from someone calling themselves Sean Sweeney, who has contributed a number of rather rabid and not very intelligent posts in support of Daniel Cassidy’s crazy theories on different websites. I don’t know if this person is genuinely just a fan of Cassidy’s or if he is a sockpuppet for one of Cassidy’s Cronies.

Now, I am a great believer in democracy. Debate is a fine thing. However, I have gone to a lot of trouble to produce an intelligent and trustworthy blog (far more trouble than Cassidy ever went to!) and I don’t want this to become some kind of Democracy Wall for every saucer-eyed crazy and deluded idiot to deface with their stupidities. For that reason, I will publish this message along with an appropriate answer here.

This is what Sweeney says:

So, a people as garrulous, vibrant, influential, street-wise and abundant as the the Irish contributed a mere handful of words to the language, whilst other groups have contributed hundreds? Get real.

Some of Cassidy’s derivations may be nonsense, but nowhere as nonsensical as what you claim.

And here is my reply.

Personally, Sweeney, I think you have some nerve telling me to get real, when you are trying to tell people that Daniel Cassidy’s book is worth reading! With all due respect (and that’s no respect at all), you claim that the Irish language must have contributed hundreds of words to American vernacular because the Irish talk a lot. Talk about a non-sequitur! Nor is it bringing anything new to the debate. It is the same weak and childish argument used by Cassidy when he said that he knew Irish people who could talk the paint off walls, so how come they made no contribution to American vernacular? (His answer was, of course, that a sinister cabal of Anglophile dictionary-makers had conspired to hide the fact that they did! What were you saying about me getting real?)

Why MUST the Irish have contributed hundreds of words to American vernacular? (Apart from the fact that you say so, of course!) Language contact is a complex sociolinguistic situation and there are lots of factors at play. How many of the Irish immigrants were already bilingual when they arrived? What was the language of choice among young Irish immigrants? What was their attitude towards Irish – did they think of it as something good or as the language of the old lad in the corner? (Douglas Hyde was told by an Irish American in Boston that there were two kinds of cranks they didn’t like – cranks who are against alcohol and cranks who are in favour of the Irish language!) Was there already a fully developed urban slang in English when they arrived? And is it really true that other languages gave hundreds of terms to American vernacular? Yiddish certainly gave more than Irish but I don’t think there are that many common Yiddish expressions in vernacular American English (i.e. slang terms like putz and shmuck) – probably no more than a couple of dozen. For German it’s even fewer, and there were probably as many German as Irish immigrants and almost none of them were bilingual!

In other words, Sweeney or whoever you are, this isn’t a rational argument based on facts. It’s just a sweeping generalisation unsupported by any evidence.

And that brings me to the most important part. In this blog, I have analysed a large number of Cassidy’s fake derivations and given the truth about them. I have also stated that apart from obviously Irish words like machree, whiskey and shebeen and the handful of other words which are already given as Irish or Shelta in mainstream dictionaries such as sourpuss, slob and moniker, there are only a couple of words in Cassidy’s book which might be considered to be possible, such as snas for snazzy and deifir for jiffy. And that doesn’t make them right, just worthy of further consideration. For the rest, the derivations given in this book are as stupid and improbable as béal ónna for baloney or gus óil for guzzle. They are complete nonsense.

In spite of all the evidence presented here you apparently STILL believe that the Irish gave hundreds of words to American vernacular. Fine! Do you believe that I have got it wrong about some of these words on the blog? Tell me which words and why I’m wrong! Do you believe that some of the words I haven’t dealt with in Cassidy’s book are good candidates? Then tell us what those words are and tell us why they are good candidates. And I’ll do my best to argue against them using logic and facts. (Or in the unlikely event that I agree with you, I’ll say that too.)

Debates like this need to be based on facts. If you’re prepared to offer some facts and debate rationally, then bring it on! If all you want is to repeat baseless irrational opinions over and over again, then go and waste someone else’s time.


This is another fairly silly suggestion of Cassidy’s. According to Cassidy, his Irish grandfather was nicknamed Boliver and when he started to look for Irish derivations for words, he suddenly realised that his grandfather had been called Boliver because this was Irish, and represented the words bailbhe [boliva] or balbhán [balawaan], which come from balbh meaning ‘dumb’ or ‘unable to speak’. This was because, according to Cassidy, his grandfather was notoriously quiet.  

 Now, it is clear that Cassidy was never told by anyone in his family that his grandfather had been called Boliver because it’s the Irish for quiet. If he had, he would have made more of it. He ‘worked it out’ after his great revelation about the influence of Irish on English. And of course, we have no evidence that Cassidy’s grandfather was particularly quiet. After all, Cassidy was a fantasist and he could easily have made this up after seeing what bailbhe meant!

 So, why don’t I believe that it comes from balbhán or bailbhe? Firstly, there are kinder words for silent or laconic. Grusach, ciúin, beagfhoclach, béaldruidte. Then balbhán (a dumb person, a person unable to speak) doesn’t sound a lot like Boliver, so I think it’s out. And bailbhe is an abstract noun meaning dumbness. Irish nicknames are simply not formed out of abstract nouns. I can think of absolutely no examples of nicknames formed this way. Mostly they are formed from adjectives.  When they are formed from nouns, they are in the genitive (Seán an Díomais, for example). So it’s quite unlikely that a noun like bailbhe would be used as a nickname.

 There is also a question about what else Boliver might mean. After all, Simón Bolívar was the revolutionary saviour of Latin America and throughout the twentieth century, his image was on advertising posters and cigar boxes all over the States. Could it be that Cassidy’s grandfather looked like Bolívar, that he had the same moustache and sideburns, or that he was fond of cigars? Isn’t this a more likely explanation? Or does it come from Oliver?


Chance of Cassidy being correct: not very likely, in my opinion!