Tag Archives: roiseadh búirthí

Cassidese Glossary – Razz

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.

In the article on the term Raspberry, I explained that Cassidy claimed that raspberry (as in to blow a raspberry, to make a farting noise) comes from the Irish roiseadh búirthí, which he says means a burst of enthusiasm. It doesn’t. Razz is a similar term, meaning to blow a raspberry or by extension to verbally abuse someone. The usual explanation for this term is that it is simply a shortening of raspberry.

Daniel Cassidy, in his work of etymological fantasy, How The Irish Invented Slang, claimed that raspberry comes from roiseadh búirthí but razz comes from a different but related word, rois, which means a volley, a blast or a burst. Rois (pronounced roughly as rush) sounds nothing like razz either, of course, though it does have the considerable advantage of being a genuine Irish word rather than a made-up phrase.

An Bhfuil Gaeilge Agat?

One of the most startling aspects of the Cassidy Scandal is the number of people who have argued in favour of Cassidy while pretending to a knowledge of the Irish language. As we have said, a few Irish speakers who genuinely do speak Irish have supported Cassidy. In the majority of cases (Joe Lee, Máirtín Ó Muilleoir) there seems to be a social link between these people and Cassidy, so they cannot be regarded as impartial.

However, in many other cases, there is a tendency for Cassidy’s supporters to exaggerate the amount of Irish that they or others speak in order to further their ridiculous claims.

We have already looked at Cassidy himself. Cassidy, on his own admission, had absolutely no Irish at all until he was in his late fifties, when he inherited a pocket Irish dictionary and started leafing through it. Over the next few years, he plainly failed to acquire even the most basic knowledge of Irish grammar and pronunciation. His attempts to produce Irish phrases are embarrassingly bad.

Then we have others whom Cassidy claimed as fluent Irish speakers. For example, using his sockpuppet of Medbh, he claimed that Alexander Cockburn was a fluent Irish speaker. Cockburn was raised in the Cork town of Youghal, and no doubt some of his education would have had an Irish component. But he then went to an English public school and spent most of his adult life in America. If he was fluent in Irish, none of the obituaries mention the fact.

But the main group of people claiming a knowledge of Irish are those in reviews who claim that they speak the language and can therefore judge the merits of Cassidy’s ‘research’. Let’s take one example. On Goodreads, for example, we find comments like this:

I know Irish. I speak Irish. It’s always bothered me how so many Irish words sound like English words that are similar in sound. AND those English words have NOTHING to do with a similar English word like “Raspberries.” Now I can sleep at night. (The book makes so much more sense if you can speak “as Gaeilge.”

This is very badly written, (well, they would sound like English words that are similar in sound, wouldn’t they?) and is plainly nonsense as there is no Irish phrase which sounds like raspberries. Cassidy’s claim is pure invention and I don’t believe that this individual invented Cassidy’s absurd candidate (roiseadh búirthí) independently before reading the book. This also comes from someone who gives a list of their other books on Goodreads, which include things like Buntús Cainte, Book 1 (an elementary text for someone learning the language). Of course, this person may be a genius who acquired a fantastic knowledge of the language in the year and a half between reviewing Buntús Cainte and reviewing Cassidy’s book, though the fact that he seems to take Cassidy’s ideas seriously suggests to me that his knowledge of Irish is much more limited than he claims.

Others say in their reviews that they have been learning Irish for a year, or that they are students of the Irish language, and so are in a position to confirm Cassidy’s claims. The fact is, Irish is a very difficult language. It takes people years of study to become properly fluent in the language. After a year, and possessing a few dictionaries, people might be in a position to confirm that, for example, uath exists and dubh exists and roiseadh exists and búirtheach exists. It’s a long way from that to being able to make a reasoned judgement about whether phrases like uath dubh or roiseadh búirthí are likely to make sense to a genuine Irish speaker.

Don’t get me wrong. I think Irish is wonderful and I like the fact that people are keen to learn it. However, having studied a bit of Buntús Cainte really doesn’t qualify anybody as an expert in Gaelic linguistics. This addresses one of the fundamental problems of the whole Cassidy Scandal, the idea that there is no special skill involved in linguistics and that amateurs like Cassidy who don’t speak Irish or know the grammar or know how to pronounce the language have an equal right to pronounce on word origins with genuine experts who have genuine qualifications. Just occasionally, people who are amateurs manage to make major contributions to scholarship (people like Susan Hendrickson or Grote Reber). It’s not unheard of. The difference is that these people work with and through the consensus developed in their field to make a new contribution and they work very hard to do it. The other big difference is that these people are generally respected by established experts in their field.

That’s because genuinely gifted amateur scholars like this engage in discourse with experts and provide genuine evidence of their talents, unlike Cassidy who couldn’t even be bothered learning the basics of the Irish language before rushing into print with this ridiculous travesty of a book.


The experts tell us that raspberry (as in ‘to blow a raspberry’) is rhyming slang and comes from ‘raspberry tart’ = fart. This seemed quite logical to me but then I realised that Daniel Cassidy had really nailed it with his Irish interpretation. The truth is given by Cassidy on page 235 of his magnum dopus, that raspberry comes from the words roiseadh búirthí, which translates as a volley of bellowings. Yes, an Irish speaker wouldn’t do anything as obvious as using the word broim (fart) in their version of raspberry. They would use roiseadh búirthí, a phrase which, I am led to believe, is often used in the Irish of Corcabottle in the Monster Gaeltacht to describe the farting noise produced by the propulsion system of flying pigs, as well as the noise horses make when you pull their feathers out …

(NB The above post is ironic! Yes, I know there is no such thing as Monster Irish. The Gaeltacht of Corcabottle does not exist, and Irish, while it is a beautiful and highly expressive tongue, does not boast any term for the propulsion system of a flying pig or the noise horses make when you pull their feathers out. I was merely mocking the ridiculous opinions of Daniel Cassidy concerning the Irish language and the slang of America. I thought that would have been quite obvious but someone sent me a comment telling me that I don’t know anything about Irish because I can’t spell Munster! I forgot that people can ‘parachute’ in to any page without understanding the context of the blog properly and so it’s better to avoid irony. I have learned my lesson.)

And just to make it clear that I do speak Irish, here’s that paragraph in our language:

Íoróin a bhí i gceist sa phostáil thuas. Tá a fhios agam go rímhaith nach bhfuil a leithéid de rud ann agus Monster Irish, nach bhfuil aon Ghaeltacht ann darb ainm Corca Buidéil agus cé gur teanga bhreá thromchiallach í an teanga s’againne, is oth liom a admháil nach bhfuil aon téarma aici ar an chóras tiomána a bheadh ag muc eitlitheach ná ar an fhuaim a dhéanann capaill nuair a phioctar na cleití díobh. Ní raibh mé ach ag magadh faoi bharúlacha áiféiseacha Daniel Cassidy maidir leis an Ghaeilge agus béarlagair an Oileáin Úir anseo. Shíl mé go mbeadh an méid sin soiléir go leor ach scríobh duine éigin chugam lena rá liom nach bhfuil Gaeilge ar bith agam cionn is nach dtig liom Munster a litriú! Rinne mé dearmad go dtig le daoine ‘paraisiútáil’ isteach ar leathanach ar bith gan comhthéacs an bhlaig a thuiscint mar is ceart agus is fearr an íoróin a sheachaint, mar sin. Tá ceacht foghlamtha agam.