Tag Archives: San Francisco

April’s Twit of the Month – Phil Cousineau

I haven’t had a lot of time recently, so I am posting my April Twit of the Month a bit late.

April’s Twit of the Month is Phil Cousineau, an “award-winning writer and filmmaker, teacher and editor, lecturer and travel leader, storyteller and TV host” who is based in San Francisco’s Bay Area. He is the author of some thirty books on subjects as varied as ufology, synchronicity, the myth of the hero, how to be creative, travel as pilgrimage and etymology.

Why don’t I like Phil Cousineau? Well, the fact that he is a major cultural figure in the Bay Area would make me suspicious but isn’t enough on its own.

I don’t like the kind of junk spirituality that is his stock in trade, especially when it’s linked to products like books, TV shows and courses. For example, trite little epigrams like these make me physically sick: “the uncanny discovery that the seeker is the mystery which the seeker seeks to know”; “writing is easy; all you do is pick the scab crusted over your soul”; “if you don’t risk getting lost, you’ll never be found”; “Stories heal the wounds inflicted by the mercurous knife of stainless steel facts”. Yeugh …

There is an air of bullshit surrounding him and his works. To give you one example, he has a significant article on Wikipedia, which tells of his achievements and quotes some of his famous pearls of wisdom. However, when you look at the history, much of the article was written by someone called Wordpilgrim. I wonder who that was? Could it be Phil Cousineau himself, who has written books on words and pilgrimages?

However, even these wouldn’t justify a Twit of the Month Award on their own. The reason why I’m so hostile to Phil Cousineau is the two crappy books of pop etymology he has written as a logophile (lover of words): Wordcatcher (2010) and The Painted Word (2012).

These books focus on words that the author finds interesting. Much of this information is probably correct and, as it’s taken directly from well-researched sources like dictionaries, this is unsurprising. What is surprising is the sheer number of mistakes in these books. Cousineau attributes Play That Funky Music Right, Boy to Sly and the Family Stone. It’s really by Wild Cherry and of course, it’s really Play That Funky Music WHITE Boy. In an article on the word adumbrate, he talks about a film studies course where he learned the importance of shadow in Hitchcock’s work. He refers to an article by a critic called Letich (really Leitch) who was writing about Hitchcock’s film Odd Man Out. Except Odd Man Out was by Carol Reed, not Hitchcock. There are so many clumsy errors in this book. Slanguage was written by Bernard Share, not Bernard Shaw. The word glaum in Scots has no connection with a device for castrating animals. And of course, How The Irish Invented Slang was by Daniel Cassidy, not David Cassidy of the Partridge Family.

These two books by Cousineau, Wordcatcher and The Painted Word, contain a large number of references to Cassidy and his ludicrous book, though the mistake with the name indicates that there was probably no close relationship between these two crap etymologists.

Wordcatcher (2010) is particularly full of Cassidese nonsense, treated with abject laziness and a total lack of scepticism. He takes Cassidy’s ridiculous made-up phrase comhúdar (misspelling it comh-udar) seriously as the origin of cahoots. He says that Cassidy claimed Irish tuig as the origin of dig (to understand) in Black American English but fails to mention that the Irish association with twig goes back at least a hundred years, while Eric P. Hamp published an article called “On the Celtic origin of English slang dig/twig (‘understand’) in 1981. He takes Cassidy’s dúd origin of dude seriously, though scholars make the eminently reasonable connection with Yankee Doodle. He claims that Cassidy links the word fun to the Irish fonn, though this doesn’t seem to be in the book. (It’s ludicrous anyway!) He recounts Cassidy’s imbecilic theories about the origins of jazz from teas without question. He gives Cassidy the credit for identifying the Irish origins of phoney, when Eric Partridge had already done that a half century ago.

While there is less Cassidese bullcrap in The Painted Word, it is just as bad. His piece on ‘lulu’ from that book is worth quoting in full.


A remarkable person, thing or event. Tracked down by word detective Daniel Cassidy in Irish-American Slang, this two-syllable dandy derives from the Irish word liu luigh, “a howl, a scream, a vigorous scream of joy,” and more, “A lulu can be spectacular or awful, but it’s always a scream.” More surprisingly still, Cassidy’s sleuthing tracked down its earliest recorded mention, in the New Orleans Lantern, on November 10, 1886, where it was used to describe the shenanigans in a local baseball game: “Farrell’s two baser was a lu-lu.” The citation would have delighted the late, great Ernie Hartwell, Hall of Fame broadcaster and baseball historian, who was married to a Lulu of a wife for over sixty years.”

Where do I begin? Well, I don’t really give a toss whether people misrepresent Daniel Cassidy, because Cassidy doesn’t deserve any better, but Cassidy’s book wasn’t called Irish-American Slang. Anyway, let’s move on. Apparently lulu comes from the Irish word liu luigh. However, liu luigh is not a word in English, it’s a phrase. (You’d think a logophile would know that, wouldn’t you?) It’s a completely nonsensical phrase, of course, but remarkably, it’s not even the nonsensical and stupid phrase that Cassidy claimed was the origin of lulu. Cassidy’s equally daft suggestion was that lulu comes from the ‘Irish’ liú lúith. Liú is a word in Irish for a shout. It’s not the most common word in Irish for that concept. Scread or scréach would be far more common, but it does exist. As for lúith, it’s the genitive of lúth, which means vigour, agility, or tendon. It used to mean ‘joy’ in Irish as well but hasn’t for hundreds of years. Cassidy’s “a vigorous yell of joy” actually uses both meanings, but Cassidy also says that it is figuratively “a complete scream, a howler.” Of course, Cassidy made the expression “liú lúith” up. It is a complete fabrication, unknown in the Irish language, and phrases which don’t exist don’t have figurative meanings. However, the Cousineau version (liu luigh) is even less meaningful than Cassidy’s. Liu doesn’t mean anything without the accent and luigh is the past tense or imperative form of the verb meaning to lie or recline.

Cousineau is doing at least three reprehensible things here. Firstly, he is short-changing his own readership by giving them poorly-researched nonsense instead of real scholarship. Secondly, he is helping to spread the made-up nonsense and fake Irish invented by Daniel Cassidy. Thirdly, he is helping to pretend that Cassidy, a pathological liar who became a ‘professor’ without any genuine qualifications at all, was a real etymologist and university lecturer.

It is for these reasons that I am proud to bestow my April CassidySlangScam Twit of the Month Award on Phil Cousineau of San Francisco.






This is one of the silliest claims in a very silly book. I mean, how stupid would you need to be to believe that the word ditch (as in ‘she ditched him’) comes from the supposed Irish phrase de áit? The phrase de áit isn’t in use in Irish and never has been.

The two words exist independently, of course. De means from or ‘off of’, ‘from the surface of’ (bhain siad an pictiúr den bhalla – they took the picture off of the wall), while áit means place. And occasionally they occur together in phrases like an phrochlais sin de áit (that dump of a place) or taobh amuigh de áit (outside of a place) but in the standard language, this would usually become d’áit and it isn’t anything to do with displacing or dislodging or dumping in these cases. If you want to say that someone displaced something or put it out of its place you would use as áit, not de áit: cuireadh na brící as áit nuair a thit an scafall orthu (the bricks were dislodged when the scaffolding fell on them). So, de áit is pretty much impossible as the origin of ditch.

The English ditch, on the other hand, is a very likely source. A ditch, meaning a kind of trench at the side of the road (or sometimes the bank beside the trench in Ireland), comes from the Old English word dic. And in the old days, when you had some rubbish you dumped it in the ditch, or ditched it. In time, this became a general term for discarding or dumping.

This isn’t rocket science. I do have academic degrees but you don’t need a degree (or even the high-school certificate that Cassidy had instead of a degree) to work out that Cassidy’s claim is nonsense. All you need is reasonable literacy skills, access to the internet and an open and sensible mind. Which is why I find it really strange that so many people are prepared to support a book that contains so many transparent stupidities like this.

Seo ceann de na rudaí is bómánta dá maíonn Cassidy sa leabhar amaideach seo. Bheadh ort bheith millteanach ramhar sa réasún lena chreidiúint gur ón fhrása ‘Gaeilge’ de áit a thagann an focal Béarla ditch (mar shampla, sa fhrása ‘she ditched him’.  Níl na focail de áit le fáil sa Ghaeilge agus ní raibh riamh.

Tá an dá fhocal ann leo féin, ar ndóigh. Ciallaíonn de ó ó dhromchla ruda  (bhain siad an pictiúr den bhalla), agus is ionann áit agus ionad. Agus bíonn an dá fhocal ag teacht le chéile corruair i bhfrásaí mar an phrochlais sin de áit nó  taobh amuigh de áit ach sa Chaighdeán, dhéanfaí d’áit de sin, agus ní bhaineann sé le rudaí a dhíláithriú sna cásanna seo.  Bhainfeá úsáid as as áit, ní de áit le sin a rá – cuireadh na brící as áit nuair a thit an scafall orthu, mar shampla. Mar sin de, níl seans dá laghad go bhfuil de áit ceart mar bhunús an Bhéarla ditch.

Ar an láimh eile, tá an focal Béarla ditch thar a bheith fóirsteanach agus thar a bheith soiléir mar mhíniú. Tagann an focal ditch, a chiallaíonn ‘díog’, ón fhocal Sean-Bhéarla dic. Agus sna seanlaethanta, nuair a bhí bruscar agat, dhéantaí é a dhumpáil sa díog, nó é a ‘ditcheáil’. Leis na blianta, fuair an focal ditching an chiall chéanna le dumping.

Ní rud deacair casta é seo. Tá céimeanna ollscoile agam ach níl céim de dhíth ar dhuine (ná fiú an teastas ardscoile a bhí ag Cassidy in áit céimeanna) lena oibriú amach gur raiméis é an méid a dúirt Cassidy faoin fhocal seo. Níl de dhíth ar dhuine ach scileanna réasúnta litearthachta, teacht ar an Idirlíon agus intinn oscailte chiallmhar. Sin an fáth a gcuireann sé a oiread sin iontais orm go bhfuil a oiread sin daoine sásta tacú le leabhar a bhfuil a oiread sin bómántachtaí follasacha ar nós an chinn seo ann.






Amadáin na Míosa – Eagraithe agus Urraithe an Irish-American Crossroads Festival

I gceann cúpla lá, cuirfear tús leis an Irish American Crossroads Festival in San Francisco. Ba é Daniel Cassidy agus cuid dá chairde agus leantóirí a bhunaigh an fhéile. Sin an fáth a mbíonn eagraithe na féile ag insint bréag faoi Cassidy go fóill.

Níl aon amhras faoi na fíricí a bhaineann le Cassidy. Ní raibh céim aige, mar gur theip air céim a fháil ó Cornell in 1965 cionn is go raibh sé i dtámhshuan mar gheall ar na drugaí. Ní raibh céim aige ó Cornell agus níor fhreastail sé fiú ar Columbia. Bhí saol corrach lán teipeanna aige agus ansin, d’éirigh leis post a fháil mar ollamh ag ollscoil bréige darbh ainm New College of California trí bhréaga a insint faoin taifead acadúil aige. I ndiaidh dó tuarastal léachtóra nach raibh tuillte aige a fháil ar feadh dhá bhliain déag, d’fhoilsigh sé leabhar aiféiseach darbh ainm How The Irish Invented Slang. Sa leabhar sin, chum Cassidy (fear nach raibh Gaeilge ar bith aige) na céadta frása bréige i ‘nGaeilge’, leithéidí béal ónna agus gíog gheal agus gearról úr agus pá lae sámh, ionas go dtiocfadh leis cur i gcéill gur tháinig a lán cora cainte i mbéarlagair Mheiriceá ón ‘Ghaeilge’ nuachumtha seo.

Ba bhréagadóir cruthanta é Cassidy, duine a chum a lán raiméise faoina shaol agus a shaothar – ní a chuid céimeanna amháin – agus duine ar bith a léann an blag seo go cúramach, tuigfidh siad láithreach cé chomh bréagach a bhí sé.

Ar an drochuair, tá cinneadh déanta ag eagraithe na féile seo nach maith leo an fhírinne agus gur chóir dóibh leanúint leo ag moladh Cassidy mar eiseamláir agus gur chóir plé leis an chur i gcéill mhailíseach a chum sé (cur i gcéill a bhfuil an Ghaeilge agus cultúr na hÉireann thíos leis go mór) mar a bheadh fíorléann ann. Tá an raiméis seo faoi Cassidy go fóill ar shuíomh gréasáin na féile.

Sin an fáth a bhfuil mé lánsásta an teideal Amadáin na Míosa a bhronnadh ar eagraithe agus ar urraithe na féile seo. Duine ar bith a bhfuil ciall dá laghad aige, nó duine ar bith a bhfuil náire ar bith ann, coinneoidh sé glan amach ón bhastard seo agus a chuid cairde.

Twits of the Month – The Organisers and Sponsors of the Irish-American Crossroads Festival

In a couple of days time, the Irish American Crossroads Festival will begin in San Francisco. This festival was founded by Daniel Cassidy and a number of his friends and enablers. That is why the festival’s organisers continue to lie about Cassidy.

The facts about Cassidy are well-known. Cassidy had no degrees, having flunked out of Cornell in a narcotic haze in 1965. He had no degree from Cornell and he never even attended Columbia. He had a life full of failures and then managed to bluff his way into a job as a professor at a diploma-mill called New College of California by lying about his lack of qualifications. After drawing a lecturer’s salary which he was not entitled to for twelve years, he published an absurd book called How The Irish Invented Slang, in which Cassidy, who didn’t speak any Irish at all, invented hundreds of fake Irish expressions such as béal ónna and gíog gheal and gearról úr and pá lae sámh so that he could pretend they were the origins of American slang expressions.

Cassidy was a pathological liar who invented all kinds of nonsense about his life and work – not just his fake degrees – and anyone who reads this blog carefully will quickly realise what a humungous liar the man was.

Unfortunately, the organisers of The Irish-American Crossroads have decided that the truth isn’t what they are about and that Cassidy should continue to be promoted as a role model and that his malicious hoax at the expense of the Irish language and Irish culture should continue to be treated as a valid piece of scholarship. This nonsense is still in the In Memoriam section of the festival’s website.

This is why I am happy to bestow the title of Twits of the Month on the organisers and sponsors of this festival. Anybody with any common sense or decency would avoid Cassidy and all his works like the plague.

More on New College of California

I found this comment on New College of California in a very interesting blog. You can find it here:


In the case of New College, a clique of followers gathered around the school’s president, Peter Gabel. I witnessed this myself when Gabel brought Michael Lerner (among others) to discuss their vacuous “politics of meaning.” I can remember thinking at the time (and I was in my early 20s) that this supposed politics was devoid of any political content. It was feel-good 1960s catharsis.

But people fawned all over Mr. Gabel and presented him as some sort of intellectual, of all things. He brought in a coterie of incompetent buffoons heading sundry “interdisciplinary” programs while these teachers lacked the basic domain knowledge to even begin to make connections within a discipline, let alone across them. But Gabel was smart in knowing they would be loyal to him when things eventually went bad. Others have identified this as Founder’s Syndrome “in which charismatic leaders think they can run complex community service organizations by force of personality, rather than via plans, processes, and rules.”

This is really spot-on. This individual was obviously there at the time and saw Cassidy and his pathetic cronies in action. The comment about the coterie of incompetent buffoons might have been written specifically with Cassidy in mind. Cassidy was an ignoramus with absolutely no knowledge at all of the subjects he was supposed to be teaching. I wonder how many others there were like Cassidy and how many of them are still around in San Francisco?


A Farewell To Tom Hayden

The well-known civil rights activist, Tom Hayden, died recently after a long illness in Santa Monica, California. He was born in 1939 in Detroit, Michigan, and became known as a radical anti-war and civil rights activist in the 1960s. He married actress Jane Fonda, and served a combined 18 years in the California State Assembly and State Senate. Hayden also wrote for major publications.

There is no doubt that Hayden was a genuine activist and radical. Yet even Hayden, a clever and principled man, bought into Cassidy’s bullshit for a time. In his book, Irish On The Inside: In Search Of The Soul Of Irish America (2003), Hayden quotes one of Cassidy’s stupidest claims:

The name of one of the most notorious gangs, the Plug Uglies, was an Americanized reference to Ball Oglaigh, or “Irish Volunteers”, according to Daniel Cassidy of the New University’s [sic] Irish Studies Program.

I have already pointed out the word óglach (plural óglaigh) was an ancient word meaning ‘young warrior’ which was effectively recycled as the term for a volunteer when the Irish Volunteers were founded in 1913. It was never used of the Fenian movement in the 19th century and the phrase baill óglaigh would be more likely to mean ‘the members (limbs or sexual organs) of a young warrior’ than ‘a member of the Fenian Brotherhood.’ This is typical of the dim-witted, badly-researched, psychotically over-confident claims made by Cassidy in his book.

Hayden was also involved in Cassidy’s pet project, the Arcs of Piss Festival … sorry, Gates of Gold Festival (which developed into The Irish-American Crossroads Festival). In 2002, he appeared at that festival along with all the usual suspects: William Kennedy, Peter Quinn, Maureen Dezell, and Michael Patrick Mac Donald.

In 2004 he was back at the Festival for a discussion about Irish Americans in the Labor Movement, chaired by our very own criminal fraudster and fake radical, Daniel Cassidy.

And in 2006, he was back again for a discussion on the Hunger Strikes of 1981, again chaired by Danny the Dimwit.

We know that he used to give classes at the Law School at New College but there is no information about how often or when he did this.

Were Cassidy and Hayden friends? I don’t know. He wasn’t involved in any of the ballyhoo surrounding Cassidy’s book and in spite of his links to Cassidy and to the Irish-American Crossroads Festival I am quite sure that he would have had enough decency and integrity to despise Cassidy, if he had known what we know, that Cassidy fraudulently claimed to have qualifications he didn’t have to get a job as a professor. After all, that alone is a major betrayal of any labor or socialist principles. And I would like to think that, were he still alive and in health, Hayden would have cut himself off from The San Francisco Irish-American Crossroads Festival on principle because it continues to offer the public a fake and dishonest biography of Cassidy on its website, complete with degrees we know he didn’t have, an academic status he wasn’t entitled to and some grossly inflated claims about his achievements.

In short, the evidence suggests that Tom Hayden was a genuine radical, unlike Daniel Cassidy, and should be celebrated and remembered as such.

However, it also shows how Cassidy’s theories seeped into the Irish-American community like raw sewage, corrupting and tainting even decent and intelligent people with their poison.