Tag Archives: pseudohistory

Why I hate Cassidy/An fáth ar fuath liom Cassidy


I have noticed a slight decrease in the number of hits on this site over the last week. This may just be coincidence, or it may be that the bilingual content is off-putting for some English speakers. In case this is the problem, I have decided to try putting the English version first in all cases, instead of my usual practice of putting the original language of composition first, whether English or Irish, and putting the translation below.

Over the years since I founded CSS, people have often asked why this stuff matters so much to me. Why do I get so angry and irritated about Cassidy and his behaviour and the nonsense emanating from his supporters?

There are lots of reasons. I don’t like people misusing the Irish language or Irish culture. I don’t like pseudo-scholarship of any kind. I don’t like fakes and phoneys like Cassidy and his friends. However, there is a little more to it than that.

Cassidy and his buddies often criticise the world of genuine etymology for its supposed pomposity and self-importance. By contrast, Cassidy is supposed to be a man of the people, who saw things the scholars didn’t because of his street smarts.

The self-appointed experts who dismiss this book are kidding themselves.” “I think the professional linguists have a lot of explaining to do as to how they missed this obvious and obviously fertile contributing source of the American language.” “No, I don’t need the scholars to tell me what is right, because they engage in as much guess work as we lay people do, only they cloak it in arcane language and references.

The truth is very different from the anti-intellectual know-nothing shite above. In reality, genuine etymologists and lexicographers work tirelessly to gather information and make judgements based on the known facts. Cassidy, in his book, his articles and his interviews, shows a level of pomposity, dishonesty, smugness and manipulation which is off the scale. He misses out important facts which would disprove the claim he is making. He sneers at the efforts of genuine scholars and misrepresents what they really say. He continually invites the ignorant and uneducated to join him in disparaging the smart people in their ivory towers and he massages their egos for having the simple common sense which enables them to recognise his version of the truth.

And many of those who support him are cut from the same cloth. They know absolutely nothing about linguistics or the Irish language, but they think they have a right to pontificate and mouth off in defence of Cassidy.

People like this make me angry – and with good reason. I don’t have a right to hold forth on subjects I know nothing about. That’s why I don’t do it. Why do these people think they’re so special that they have a right to do that without being challenged or criticised for it?


Thug mé faoi deara go raibh laghdú beag ar líon na gcuairteanna ar an tsuíomh seo le seachtain anuas. B’fhéidir nach bhfuil ann ach comhtharlú, nó b’fhéidir go bhfuil an t-ábhar dátheangach ag cur as do roinnt Béarlóirí. Ar eagla gur mar sin atá, tá socrú déanta agam triail a bhaint as an Bhéarla a chur chun tosaigh i gcónaí, in áit cloí leis an nós a bhí agam go dtí seo, i. an bhunteanga inár cumadh an t-alt a chur i dtús báire, bíodh sin i mBéarla nó i nGaeilge, agus an t-aistriúchán a chur thíos faoi.

Thar na blianta ó chuir mé CSS ar bun, is minic a cuireadh an cheist, cén fáth a bhfuil an t-ábhar seo chomh tábhachtach sin dom? Cén fáth a n-éirím chomh feargach crosta faoi Cassidy agus a chuid droch-iompair agus an raiméis a thagann óna lucht leanúna?

Tá a lán fáthanna leis. Ní maith liom daoine a bhaineann mí-úsáid as an Ghaeilge ná as cultúr na nGael. Ní maith liom bréag-léann de chineál ar bith. Ní maith liom caimiléirí ná daoine bréagacha ar nós Cassidy agus a chairde. Agus sin ráite, tá giota beag níos mó i gceist ná sin.

Is minic a bhíonn Cassidy agus a lucht leanúna ag cáineadh shaol na fíorshanasaíochta mar gheall ar an phoimpéiseacht agus féintábhacht a bhaineann leis, dar leo. Ní hionann agus Cassidy, dar leo, ar fear den phobal é, a chonaic rudaí nach bhfaca na scoláirí cionn is go raibh tuiscint aige ar shaol na sráideanna.

The self-appointed experts who dismiss this book are kidding themselves.” “I think the professional linguists have a lot of explaining to do as to how they missed this obvious and obviously fertile contributing source of the American language.” “No, I don’t need the scholars to tell me what is right, because they engage in as much guess work as we lay people do, only they cloak it in arcane language and references.

A mhalairt ar fad atá fíor agus níl fírinne ar bith ag baint leis an chacamas aineolach fhrithintleachtúil thuas, ar ndóigh. Is é fírinne an scéil, go mbíonn fíor-shaineolaithe teanga agus foclóirithe ag obair gan stad gan staonadh le heolas a bhailiú agus le breithiúnais a dhéanamh bunaithe ar na fíricí mar is eol iad. Cassidy, ina leabhar, ina chuid alt agus sna hagallaimh a thug sé, léiríonn sé leibhéal poimpéise, mí-ionracais, féinsástachta agus ionramhála atá dochreidte amach is amach. Fágann sé fíricí tábhachtacha ar lár, fíricí a bhréagnódh na rudaí atá á maíomh aige. Déanann sé a bheag d’obair na bhfíorscoláirí agus cuireann sé an méid atá le rá acu as a riocht ar fad. Is minic a mheallann sé daoine aineolacha neamhoilte le bheith ag magadh faoi na daoine cliste sna hollscoileanna ina chuideachta, agus déanann sé béal bán agus bladaireacht leo as an chiall choiteann shimplí a bheith acu a chuireann ar a gcumas a leagan féin den fhírinne a aithint.

Agus cuid mhór de na daoine a thugann tacaíocht dó, is den chineál chéanna iad. Níl eolas dá laghad acu ar an teangeolaíocht ná ar an Ghaeilge, ach síleann siad go bhfuil an ceart acu bheith ag pápaireacht agus ag spalpadh uathu ar son Cassidy agus a chuid raiméise.

Cuireann daoine dá leithéid fearg orm – agus ní gan chúis. Níl an ceart agamsa cur tharam faoi ábhair nach bhfuil aon chur amach agam orthu. Sin an fáth nach ndéanaim amhlaidh. Cén fáth a síleann na daoine seo go bhfuil siad chomh speisialta sin gur chóir ligean dóibh sin a dhéanamh gan dúshlán gan cháineadh?

How Words Get Borrowed

In this, my first post of 2017, I would like to examine an issue that I have touched on before but never really dealt with properly, the question of how words are passed from language to language.

Cassidy’s methodology was simple. He looked at words and phrases in English, especially slang expressions, and then hit the Irish dictionaries and cobbled together ludicrous phrases which he thought sounded like these English terms. Of course, Cassidy was badly educated and did not speak any Irish.

What really happens when words cross language boundaries in situations like this? (Of course, we need to remember that similar processes were involved in Ireland itself, where the issue was colonialism, not immigration.) Well, basically, a group of speakers of Irish (or any other language) turn up as immigrants. At first, they are unable to communicate with the society around them. Some of them never learn the new language. Others manage to pick up a basic knowledge. As they learn the majority language, they retain grammatical structures and certain words and phrases from their own language. Thus we might hear sentences like this:

“There is whiskey go leor in the jug there.”

“Sure I’m after seeing Lannigan out there, the old amadán!”

“Sure, I’m away to the síbín for a drink.”

Because lots of people in the initial generation of learners use these expressions, they are continually heard and learned and used by the younger generation. Before long, people who speak no Irish are using galore and ommadawn and shebeen in their English.

Note that nearly all of these borrowings are single words and nearly all of them are nouns. There’s a reason for this. It wasn’t enough for a phrase to be used once by one individual. These had to be expressions which were commonly used by that first generation of bilingual English and Irish speakers, by thousands of people in different contexts.

And of course, that’s not what we find in Cassidy’s moronic book. We find that according to Cassidy, Irish speakers supposedly stuck the word án onto lóinte to make something sounding like luncheon (even though the phrase lóinte ána was unknown in Irish until Cassidy invented it), or that sách was used as a noun meaning a well-fed person and that that word always had úr (fresh) stuck on to the end of it. Apparently nobody ever separated the two words. They never said that there was a good sách, or a handy sách, or a stupid sách, or a big sách. No, it was always a fresh sách, so that it would sound like sucker. Yeah, right. You’d need to be a real sucker (which comes from the English suck) to believe that.

Pretty much all of Cassidy’s ‘Irish’ candidates rule themselves out because they are absurd and improbable phrases. Things like n-each as the origin of nag are simply laughable, because nobody is going to pluck a random inflected phrase out of conversation and use it. (Plus the fact that each ceased to be the usual Irish word for a horse hundreds of years ago!)

The question of pronunciation is another tricky issue. People learn English and throw the odd word of Irish into their conversation. The next generation grow up hearing these words and use them themselves. They pronounce them the way the older generation did. There would be no reason for them to mispronounce uath-anchor as wanker or sciord ar dólámh as skedaddle or éamh call as heckle or gus óil as guzzle, because there’s an unbroken chain of transmission and there is no stage at which this kind of mangling could take place. (And please note that none of these Irish phrases exists anyway. They were all invented by Cassidy, along with nearly all of the Irish in How The Irish Invented Slang.)

The bizarre changes of meaning posited by Cassidy are also problematic. Why would shanty come from seanteach if a native Irish speaker would call their hut a bothán or a cró or a cábán? Why would loingseoir, a word meaning a sailor, become a word for a landlubber who works on the dock? Why would a native speaker of Irish say “Sure, I hate living here in dis is lom é?” if they wouldn’t say “Dhera, is fuath liom bheith I mo chónaí san is lom é seo?” The answer is, of course, they wouldn’t and they didn’t.

In other words, this isn’t the way that words cross from language to language. Cassidy’s ‘research’ was entirely fake, like the man who invented it. I don’t know why people like Michael Patrick MacDonald or Peter Quinn or Joe Lee still support this dishonest garbage. It seems a very high price to pay for friendship but then I suppose it’s a sad fact that some people really are that desperate for friends – desperate enough to betray everything they claim to believe in for the sake of a worthless fraud like Daniel Cassidy.

It’s Official: The Etruscans Were Irish!

[I would like to make it quite clear that THIS IS NOT A REAL THEORY. I AM TAKING THE PISS. Unfortunately, it is the nature of the Internet that people flit around reading little bits of things and then tweeting about them and republishing them in other ways, so it is no surprise that there is a thing called Poe’s Law, which states that unless the material is clearly labelled as ironic, somebody will always take your parodies and satires at face value. On this blog, I have already had people take seriously claims that the phrase Vichy Water is from Irish and that the Irish language has a word for the sound horses make when you pull their feathers out. Seriously! So, just to be clear, I’m being sarcastic – Etruscan is NOT an early form of Irish.]

The Irish Milesian Academy For Intellectual Arts (IrishMAFIA), founded five years ago to further the work of the late Daniel Cassidy, have come up with their biggest and boldest claim yet. According to Brendan Patrick Gurne, Head of Creative Etymology with IrishMAFIA:

“We were looking at Google and found a website about Etruscan, an ancient language of Italy, and its links to extra-terrestrials, the Illuminati and home-made anti-gravity machines. We then found a vocabulary of Etruscan and were amazed to find clear parallels between Irish and Etruscan. We are convinced that Etruscan is in fact an early form of Irish and that through the Etruscans, Irish was responsible for the Roman Empire and the whole history of Western Civilization.

Let’s look at some examples. For example, clan is Etruscan for son. This is just like clann in Irish, which means children. The Etruscan for jar is pruchum, which is like the Irish próca. Shuthi, meaning a vault or grave is very like the Irish or sidhe, meaning a fairy mound or grave mound. The Etruscan word for a state, tuθi (tuthi) is almost exactly the same as Irish tuath, meaning a petty kingdom. Cel, the word for earth, ground or soil, is very similar to cill, which means churchyard. The Etruscan for bull, thevru, is very like Irish tarbh. The Etruscan for I is mi, which is just like Irish . The Etruscan for a free person is zeri, which is just like the Irish word saor. And what about mech, meaning lady or queen? Surely this is the same word as Macha, the ancient goddess of war who gave her name to Armagh? There can be no doubt about it. The Etruscans were Irish.”

Reaction to the revelation from academic linguists has been universally skeptical and hostile, but it has been enthusiastically repeated by the Irish Times, the Irish News, IrishCentral , the Irish Echo, RTÉ, Michael Patrick MacDonald, Joseph Lee and Peter Linebaugh.

[WARNING: THIS IS SATIRE! The Etruscans were NOT Irish. The vast majority of Etruscan vocabulary bears no relation to any Celtic language. Próca isn’t originally an Irish word. Clann is an early Irish borrowing of Latin planta. Cill also comes from Latin and is related to English cell. The taurus/tarvos word for bull is found in many Indo-European languages and is probably Afro-Asiatic in origin. The others are just coincidental similarities, helped along by selective use of definitions. It just goes to show how easy it is to make random and completely worthless connections when you are dealing with a fairly large set of data.]

Stud Poker

I found an article dating from 2009 the other day in the online newsletter of a well-known republican band called the Wolfe Tones which repeats many of Cassidy’s ludicrous claims as ‘fun facts’, though without attributing them to the Great Fraud. Most of these ridiculous claims have been dealt with before, childish rubbish such as button coming from beart t-aon and wanker from uath-anchor. However, I did notice one claim which I have not examined before here, the claim that stud poker comes from the Irish stad, meaning to stop. Following Cassidy, the newsletter says: ‘In 1870 a new poker [ poca] game came into being called stud poker or in Irish stad stop where the dealer does not go from player to player but stops stad with the house.’

Is there any evidence for stad being the origin of stud in stud poker? No, obviously not. For one thing, if the concept of stopping is such a salient aspect of the game, why isn’t stopping mentioned in the Wiki article on stud poker? Secondly, the game was always known as ‘stud horse poker’ in early references, including the legislation banning it in Texas in 1885.

A newspaper letter from 1985 gives this account of its origins:

Having earned my living for more than a decade with a pack of cards, as a professional magician, your editorial (Aug. 5), “Poker Is Poker Is Poker,” caught my interest. I may be able to shed some light on the phrase “stud horse poker.”

The first game of stud poker is said to have been played in a backwoods saloon somewhere in Ohio, just after the Civil War. The game on this occasion started as draw poker. During the course of play came a pot that was opened by a player holding three kings. There was much raising before and after the draw. The dealer, the man who opened and one other man stayed.

Having bet all his money, the man who opened put his cards down, ran outside, and came back into the room leading a spirited stallion, which he tied to the back of his chair. Then he realized that during his absence the other players had probably seen his three kings. So he made a proposition:

“You fellows know damned well what I’m betting on and I’ve got all my money up on it. Now I propose that to make it fair all around each man turns three of his cards face up, discard two, and draws two more face down. I’ll gamble this here thoroughbred stud horse on my chances.”

In other words, stud poker is no more likely to come from Irish than any of the other words in this ridiculous book.