Bad book of Irish Slang

Lexicographer Grant Barrett has pointed out that Daniel Cassidy, author of How the Irish invented slang, is a Humdinger of a bad Irish scholar. Judging by Grant’s detailed review, Daniel uses creationist (or crackpot) tactics: misrepresent, jump to conclusions, fail to look for evidence, and whine about how everyone’s against him:

I challenged Cassidy to present all of his evidence. I told him that I’m the descendant of three strains of Irish, four strains of empiricist, and the son of a bluster-catcher, and I said he was going to have to do better than trot out the same-old “they’re all against me!” argument of every perpetual motion inventor.

Read Grant’s article for a decisive repudiation of what amounts to a collection of folk etymologies.

8 Responses to “Bad book of Irish Slang”

  1. eclaremc Says:

    Only an Anglophile like Grant Barrett could blithely ignore Irish studies scholars like Professors Joseph Lee and Robert Scally, Irish language speakers like Irish Times Irish language the editor Pol O Muiri, the writer and Irish language newspaper publisher Mairtin O’Muilleor, and Irish and Irish-American writers from Peter Quinn and Pete Hamill to MIchael Patrick MacDonald and Terry Golway. The scores of positive reviews Cassiy’s book HOW THE IRISH INVENTED SLANG: The Sceret Language of the Cerossroads has gotten in just a few months is amazing. As someone curretnly writing their senior paper on Cassidy’s amazing book, I am appalled at reviews like Mr. Barrett’s. They are in one word: bigoted.

    “This is a landmark book…” Professor J. Joseph Lee, Director Irish Studies, NYU, Professor of History, Univ. College Cork.

    “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.” Professor J. Joseph Lee,

    “Daniel Cassidy makes powerful case for the influence of Irish on slang.” Frank Mc Nally, An Irishman’s Diary, Irish Times, Aug 2, 2007

    “It’s not every dictionary you can describe as a thrilling read. But when I picked up Daniel Cassidy’s How the Irish Invented Slang: The Secret Language of the Crossroads the other day, I soon found myself reluctant to put it down. Compared with the OED, certainly, this is a page-turner….” Frank McNally, Irish Times, Aug. 2, 2007.

    “New College professor and author Daniel Cassidy can say this for sure: He’s huge in Ireland… By plucking words such as “scam” and “snazzy” out of old English dictionaries and comparing them with phonetic twins in Irish dictionaries, Cassidy shows how Irish words were absorbed into American English while the Irish themselves were assimilating.” Reyhan Harmanci, San Francisco Chronicle, Sept. 13, 2007.

    “Among artists, scribes, and scholars who have probed the Irish-American past, only Daniel Cassidy has delved into the essence of Irish American culture and character: our inherited gift of language. Cassidy has explored and explained the origins and endurance of the blunt, evocative, sordid and exquisite Irish words and phrases that have given verve to American vernacular.” Maureen Dezell, author, Irish America: Coming into Clover.

    “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 humor.
    Bob Scally, Professor Emeritus, New York University, author, The End of Hidden Ireland.

    “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.” Professor J. Joseph Lee, Director, Glucksman Ireland House, Professor of History and Irish Studies, New York University; Professor of History, University College Cork.

    “Imagine old, sunken roads re-surfaced on our maps. Imagine an x-ray of the American language, its sinews and its muscles. This is what Dan Cassidy gives us in his thrilling investigation. Here are the words, fresh off the boat, and here’s what happened to those words and the people who spoke them. He lays out what the Irish in their revels, their loves and their hates, their exuberant, often desperate battle with the New World, have given America in the way we all speak and read and write.” Alexander Cockburn, CounterPunch.

    “What Cassidy has done is nothing short of miraculous: he has brought back to life that which was considered dead and settled. Roll over, Webster and Murray!” Peter Quinn, author, Banished Children of Eve, Looking for Jimmy: A Search for Irish America.

    “Begorrah, those guys are speaking our language.” Gareth Morgan, Irish Independent, Aug 14, 2007

    A language expert who believes that many Irish slang words are derived from our own Gaeilge says a tour of Ireland has only strengthened his thesis.

    Professor Daniel Cassidy has returned to his fatherland to test his theory against the toughest audience of all – people who speak Irish as a first language… Dude, he says, is simply the Irish word dúid, meaning a foolish looking fellow, or a numbskull. He points out that the Irish word teas, meaning “heat, “ is pronounced “jass” in Ulster and north Mayo, making it a likely root of the name given to the swinging sounds which fermented in steaming cellars of American cities. ‘The reaction I’ve had,” says Cassidy, “has been beyond my wildest imagination…” Gareth Morgan, Irish Independent, Aug. 14, 2007

    “Gee Whiz Daddy-o! Irish Slang is Baloney!
    Margaret Canning, Irish News, July 18, 2007

    It is a conundrum that has long confused scholars – why the Irish
    language seems to have had little influence on English as spoken in
    America.

    Millions of Irish emigrated to America but English as Americans now
    speak it appears devoid of Irish references – despite the reputation
    of the Irish for verbal creativity.

    And with other ethnic groups leaving an indelible mark on English –
    from the chutzpah of Yiddish spoken by Jews to the zeitgeist of German
    immigrants, the lack of an Irish verbal footprint is regarded as an
    anomaly.

    Now, in good news for Gaelgoiri everywhere, a new book credits the
    Irish language for influencing spoken English – and slang most of all.

    In How the Irish Invented Slang: the Secret Language of the
    Crossroads, Irish American academic Daniel Cassidy demonstrates that
    the influence of Irish emigrants on American existence went beyond
    pubs and politics…So the idea that the Irish have contributed zilch (word meaning nothing or zero, origin unknown) to American English could be béal ónna, (baloney, foolish blather) after all. Margaret Canning, Irish News, July 18, 2007

    Cassidy’s book is stunningly original… Eamonn McCann, Belfast Telegraph, Aug. 2, 2007
    Save the Irish dude (dúid) from the Oxford English Dictionary! That’s the demand of Professor Dan Cassidy who hits Derry and Belfast next week to fling down the gauntlet to all conventional dictionaries and introduce his new book, The Secret Language of the Crossroads: How the Irish Invented Slang.

    “Giving America cúpla focal.
    Word up: How the hybrid became hip.”
    By Kate Holmquist, The Irish Times, July, 28, 2007

    A new book claims the Irish language gave America such slang words as dude, dork and jazz.

    How the Irish language became American slanguage has become a passion for Daniel Cassidy, who grew up in Brooklyn, New York speaking “Irish” without even realising it. It all began with a pocket Irish dictionary, Foclóir Póca, left to him by a friend, Kevin O’Dowd, who died at the age of 37.

    Cassidy, who thought he was too old to learn Irish, was about to toss the dictionary into the rubbish, when his wife, Clare, told him he couldn’t do that to a book left by a dead friend. She suggested he keep it on his night stand and learn a word a night.

    So that’s what he did and before long, he had an epiphany. The words and phrases he’d learned as a kid in New York in the 1940s and 1950s – such as “in dutch”, “say uncle”, “dukin”, “snazzy” and “dude” – were lighting up in his mind as he learned Irish words. Was it possible that “in dutch” came from “duais” (Irish for trouble) and that “say uncle” was related to “anacal” (Irish for mercy)? The more Irish words he learned, the more connections he found. “Snazzy” was actually Irish (“snasach” pronounced snasa) for polished, glossy and elegant. “Dukin” seemed to come from the Irish “tuargain”, meaning hammering, thumping, pounding.

    Yet while this made sense, the connections Cassidy was making went against the academic grain. It was well-known, Cassidy says, that unlike Italians, Jews, Hispanics, French, Dutch, Germans, Scandinavians, Native Americans and Asians, the Irish had contributed no words or phrases to the English language. Dictionary editors such as Noah Webster and James Murray believed that the Irish had lost their language “utterly, without a whisper or a trace”.

    Is i Nua-Eabhrac a tháinig Cassidy ar an saol agus is de thaisme a chuir sé spéis san ábhar seo. Cara dá chuid a fuair bás go hóg agus a d’fhág foclóir Gaeilge le huacht aige ba chúis le tús a chuid taighde ar fhocail Ghaeilge a mhaireann faoi chruth an Bhéarla Phoncánaigh. Pol O’Muirí, Irish language editor, The Irish Times, beo Magazine, Aug. 12, 2007.

    Údar Gael-Mheiriceánach é Daniel Cassidy, mar a d’aithneofá ar a ainm baiste agus ar a shloinne, agus comhlacht Meiriceánach é CounterPunch. Is leabhar i mBéarla é seo faoin Ghaeilge agus leabhar ina gcíorann Cassidy lorg na Gaeilge ar Bhéarla na Stát Aontaithe. Is i Nua-Eabhrac a tháinig Cassidy ar an saol agus is de thaisme a chuir sé spéis san ábhar seo. Cara dá chuid a fuair bás go hóg agus a d’fhág foclóir Gaeilge le huacht aige ba chúis le tús a chuid taighde ar fhocail Ghaeilge a mhaireann faoi chruth an Bhéarla Phoncánaigh

    “The book is essential to reading James Farrell, Eugene O’Neill, or Pete Hamill, and belongs on every writer’s reference shelf.” Professor Peter Linebaugh

    At the Crossroads: Speaking in Tongues
    Peter Linebaugh, CounterPunch Magazine, Aug. 4/5, 2007

  2. Seán Says:

    Hm. Eclaremc. You wouldn’t by any chance be Clare McIntyre, widow of Daniel Cassidy? If you’re not, it seems a little strange that you have so much information, so many reviews etc. Cassidy liked to use sock puppets on the web to forward his own opinions and boost himself. It matters a lot, because you seem to be accusing those of us who criticise this worthless and stupid book of being Anglophiles but if you are Clare McIntyre, then you are presumably the beneficiary of his estate and so the reviews given to this trash directly affect your bank balance, which is one hell of a vested interest to have. I am not an Anglophile myself. I am a fluent Irish speaker, members of my family were killed by the British in the Irish War of Independence. My hatred for this book is purely because it is sloppy, arrogant, badly-researched and because Cassidy treats the Irish language as if it is some obscure Amazonian language which he can play with any way he wants without fear of being contradicted. Of course, if there were more Irish speakers around or if he were trying to claim this about a language with many speakers, he would have been exposed much more quickly and thoroughly. I don’t know how people like Rickford or Lee or McCann could possibly justify their support for such a piece of garbage but it just goes to show that people lend their support to things for a variety of reasons and you really can’t trust the endorsement of anyone without knowing if they have a personal connection to the person they’re endorsing. Facts are what count. And the facts are quite clear. Many words claimed by Cassidy as Irish, words such as mayhem, clamour and quirky, were in English before America was colonised. Mayhem and clamour are Norman French, and quirky is an adjective from quirk, which makes his derivation from corrchaoi even less likely. Most of his Irish derivations are ungrammatical, nonsensical and not attested in Irish. I am confident that no Irish speaker has ever used expressions like sách úr, béal ónna, ‘s lom or uath dubh (and in any case, there is absolutely no proof that these phrases have ever existed or been used) and some of his suggestions show a detachment from reality and an ignorance of Irish which is truly staggering, eg. his assertion that Butter and Egg Man in a Louis Armstrong song comes from Bodaire an Aicme Án. The use of aicme in a sociological way to talk about classes is quite recent, it’s a feminine noun so it would be Bodaire na hAicme Áine anyway, and this phrase (meaning roughly “Churl of the Bright Tribe”) is about as improbable a phrase as anyone could imagine, even once the grammar is corrected. And then of course, why can’t it just refer to butter and eggs? Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar … Respect to Grant Barrett, Michael Patrick Brady and anyone else who has had the sense and the integrity to challenge this book and its stupid claims. Shame on those people who have unwisely lent their support to this trash. You have let yourselves down.

  3. Seán Says:

    I presume this means that eclaremc and monado are the same person and neither is the widow of Daniel Cassidy. In which case, I apologise to her unreservedly, but my opinion of this book stands. It is pure rubbish from beginning to end and anyone who thinks otherwise is ignoring the facts.

    • Seán Says:

      I’ve just realised what’s happened. Monado answered Steve Kowit’s post – he was asking eclaremc if she’s the widow of Cassidy. So that possibility is still open …

  4. Seán Says:

    And I have just found another post, very similar in style and subject-matter, from an ellen mcintyre. So it looks like eclaremc is Ellen Clare McIntyre, widow of Daniel Cassidy and if that’s the case, I withdraw my apology. If you have a direct, vested interest in a book, you shouldn’t masquerade as an ordinary member of the public to promote that book. It’s morally wrong. It’s even more morally wrong when the book in question is an insulting, fraudulent piece of crap.

  5. monado Says:

    I’m still not Clare nor anyone’s widow and I agree that it’s wrong to pretend to be an unrelated fan and pretend you don’t have an interest in something written by a relative.


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