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“SCAM”
Posted: 27 January 2008 08:57 AM   [ Ignore ]
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I just wanted to mention that I enjoyed seeing author Daniel Cassidy on BookTV (C-Span2)—He was talking about his book “How the Irish Invented Slang”, and how he connected many words now shown in dictionaries as (origin unknown) with short Celtic phrases.  Two examples: “slum” which sounds like Irish for “empty or deprived place”, and “scam” ditto Irish for “twisted or deceptive”. The initial “s” was analogous to the French “c’est __”, i.e. “it’s” __, in the Celtic. Could be a treasure trove for etymologophiles (if there may be such a word)?

I don’t know when the word “slum” first appears, but Cassidy thought it was around 1835 in New York City, if I noted that correctly—were there Irish immigrants there that early? Need to see the book!

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Posted: 27 January 2008 09:24 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Put not your trust in Daniel Cassidy, the guy is a crackpot. See language hat’s recent piece .

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Posted: 27 January 2008 10:02 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Okay—the book itself is a SCAM !  Great articles your link provided, thanks!

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Posted: 27 January 2008 10:27 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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I didn’t see the CSPAN appearance but I have Cassidy’s book and have read it through. This entry, like most of the others, relies solely upon a supposed phonetic similarity. As is often the case, he supposes that a phrase of Irish became a single word in English.

Cassidy’s entry is this:

Scam, n., a crooked trick, a deceit, a swindle; a con, a racket; v., to scam, to trick, to swindle, to defraud. Origins obscure. (OED.)

’S cam é (pron. scam æ), it is a trick, it is a deception. ’S cam é (pron. scam æ), it is a fraud. ’S (contraction, copula, is, pron. iss) is. Cam, n., crookedness, a deceit, a trick. ’S cam é (pron.’s cam æ), it is crookedness, it is dishonesty.

Scam doesn’t scam its way into American slang until the early 1960s. It is the antonym of the slang term square as in fair play.

’S coir é (it is honesty, it is fair play) is square.
’S cam é (it is a trick) is a scam.

In 1963, Time Magazine was one of the first publications to pick up on the rooked new slang word scam. “He … worked as a carny huckster… ‘It was a full scam.’” (Time Magazine, June 1963.)

A carny scam is also called a gimmick (camóg, camag; a crooked stick, a device, a trick, a deception). (See Ikey Heyman axle.)

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Posted: 27 January 2008 10:43 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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By the way, my favorite comment about Cassidy’s work appeared in soc.culture.irish Nov. 9th, 2007. It has since been automatically deleted, as the author chose to not have his posts to the group archived by Google. A few lines of it have been quoted in other posts, but I saved the whole thread to my drive.

“Cassidy launched this book at Oideas Gael in Gleann Cholm Cille this summer. He’s fun to listen to, talks nineteen to the dozen like only a native New Yorker can, and how can you not like someone who can tell a five minute anecdote that goes from a job at the New York Times to draft-dodging in Canada to writing a screenplay for Francis Ford Coppola without drawing breath, but when he explained his theory he was met with polite smiles. The book is great crack, but should be filed under fiction. Cassidy is clueless about Irish pronunciation, but that doesn’t stop him violently shoehorning every unusual word in American English into his theory, even those with established origins - mostly words that have their roots firmly planted in Afro-American culture, and some that he blatantly nicked from the Italians. Cassidy spent most of the time in the pub when I met him being corrected on his Irish pronunciation, and insisting after the sounds had changed beyond recognition that they could still be mapped on to his English candidates. It didn’t help matters that the locals noticed that when he did get something right, his pronunciation had a notable Munster bias. By the end of the night, we were making up words to give him for the second edition. Good crack, but don’t take it seriously.”

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Posted: 27 January 2008 03:46 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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By the end of the night, we were making up words to give him for the second edition.

That is rich!

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Posted: 27 January 2008 10:59 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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I was at Cassidy’s presentation at Oideas Gael in Glencolumbcille, and Mr. Barrett is full of mullarkey, and his alleged quote is a scam. Cassidy was given a standing ovation by more than a hundred people in the audience and a line to buy autographed books snaked out the door. I believe he sold more than he had that night. Barrett is one of the tiny handful of dictionary dudes that treat the OED as if it were the St. James Bible.

Please contact the director of Oideas Gael, Liam O’Cuinneagan for an accurate description of the unbelievable response Daniel Cassidy received that night and all across Ireland.

Barrett’s quote ‘s cam e (it is a fraud, a trick). Barrett the Parrott also claims to be Irish. So what. So is Ian Paisley. As to Munster derivations, Glencolumcille is in Donegal and Cassidy’s grandparent’s spoke Donegal Irish.  Barrett the Parrott is an Anglophile hack whose boring books are in the basement of Amazon.com and in the remainder baskets of most bookstores. Before you believe a focal (word) out of Grant Parrots’ gob ( beak, mouth), check out these reviews. Barret the Parrot had better kiss the toin (buttocks) of his publishers at Oxford. With his books down around 270,000 and 600,000 on Amazon, whereas Cassidy’s book is in 5th reprint in 7 months and just won an American Book Award.

Is it a twerp (duirb, a worm)? Is it a dork (dorc, a dwarf)? Or is it Barrett the Parrot?
No it’s “Superscam” (aka Barret the English Parrott) and his phoney made-up quotes. 

Here are REAL QUOTES that haven’t been hahahahaha deleted hahahahahahaha.

Believe Barrett the Parrott (AKA Superscam) or Dr. Joe Lee, who is a native Irish speaker and the Director of Irish Studies at NYU? Professor Lee is one of the foremost scholars in the field of Irish Studies in the US and Ireland. 


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

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 other day, I soon found myself reluctant to put it down… this is a page-turner. Cassidy makes a powerful case for the Irish influence on American slang.”
Frank McNally, Irish Times

“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

“Save the Irish dúid from the Oxford English dictionary!  Daniel Cassidy has shaken the study of linguistics in the U.S. with a startlingly new theory – that much of American slang has been borrowed from Irish… Cassidy’s ideas have rapidly gained academic respectability since the publication of his book early this summer. This book is truly amazing!”
Eamonn McCann, Belfast Telegraph

“A Humdinger of a Project...Tracing American Slang back to Ireland.” Corey Kilgannon, New York Times, Nov. 9, 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 gave verve
to the American vernacular.” Maureen Dezell, Irish America: Coming Into Clover; Drama Critic, Boston Globe.

“Irish Americans especially will be delighted to know they have been speaking Irish all along in their slang and American English… With imagination and scholarship, Cassidy has restored this hidden treasure to us in a book that is filled with wit and imagination.” Professor Robert Scally, author, The End of Hidden Ireland, Professor of History and Irish Studies Emeritus, New York University.

[ Edited: 27 January 2008 11:24 PM by dalta ]
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Posted: 27 January 2008 11:12 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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Here are two leading Irish langauge scholars’ reviews of Cassidy’s book in the two leading Irish language publications, La Nua and Beo.  Ask Barrett the English Parrott to translate them for yoiu. hahaha. They haven’t been deleted from anywhere. hahahahaha

How the Irish Invented Slang by Daniel Cassidy,
by Ciaran O Prontaigh, La Nua, Jan. 17, 2008

Buille Tabhachacht i gcogadh teanga (A Significant Blow in the Language War)

Glacann sé fear cróga an dúshlán a thabhairt do choimeádaithe Bhéarla na Stát Aontaithe, agus leis an leabhar nua ó Daniel Cassidy, How the Irish Invented Slang: The Secret Language of the Crossroads (Counterpunch), tá seans maith go bhfuil a leithéid de dhuine inár láthair.

Agus mar a bheifeá ag dúil leis i leabhar a thugann a mhalairt de léamh ar bhunús mór bhéarlagair an ghnáthdhuine (nó is dócha gur cruinne ‘caint na ndaoine’ a thabhairt air) ba mhór an chonspóid a tháinig mar gheall air.

Is é atá leagtha amach ag an Uasal Cassidy, ar as ceantar ‘Gaelach’ i Nua-Eabhrac é, sanas Gaeilge slám mór focal a tháinig isteach ‘ón bhonn aníos’ i mBéarla na Stát.

Ní mhaíonn Cassidy aon mhóreolas faoin Ghaeilge ach de thairbhe gur tógadh é le caint na ndaoine, an cineál teanga nach raibh sna nuachtáin, níl duine ar domhan níos fearr leis na ceangail a dhéanamh.

(Rud amháin a thagann amach as an leabhar seo cé chomh haineolach is atáimid faoin teanga faoi cheilt seo, is cuma cá mhéad scannán de chuid James Cagney a fheicimid).

Cuid de na focail a luann sé is scéal cinnte, chóir a bheith, gur ón Ghaeilge a tháinig siad; focail amhail ‘spree’ (spraoi) agus ‘to gab’ (gab/gab nó fiú gob).

Leis an fhírinne a dhéanamh is geall le liosta iad de na focail Ghaeilge a bhí in úsáid ag na Gael-Mheiriceánaigh, rudaí cosúil le ‘acushla’ agus ‘aroon’. 

Cuid eile tá an oiread sin de chraiceann na fírinne orthu go nglacfainn leis go bhfuil cás maith le déanamh ar a son. Orthu siúd d’áireoinn focail amhail ‘longshoreman’ (loingseoir) agus ‘squeal’ (scaoil an fhírinne), agus tá liosta le háireamh ann cinnte.

An tríú rang a dhéanfainn, agus an rangú is suimiúla díobh uile, sanas a mbeadh amhras orm faoi ach ag an am céanna a ndéanann an t-údar cás iontach maith ar a son.


Cuir i gcás ‘slum’ (is lom an áit é) nó ‘scam’ (is cam an cluiche é), baineann siad go mór le saol na nÉireannach i Meiriceá i ndiaidh an Drochsaoil.

Sin ráite tá cuid eile de na focail agus ní léir go bhfuil an ceart ag an údar ar chor ar bith. Cuid acu tá an chuma orthu go bhfuil an teanga á lúbadh ar mhaithe leis an mhíniú ba mhaith leis.

Ach maithim sin dó. Tá a thuilleadh oibre de dhíth ar an cheist seo agus leis an leabhar seo tá bunús againn a dtig linn tús ceart a chur léi.
...
Agus ardaítear ceist eile, chomh maith. Cad é faoi na focail a chonacthas i mBéarla na Stát roimh theacht na mórshluaithe Gael ach de thairbhe thionchar lucht na Gaeilge gur daingníodh iad nó gur thug an téarma ón Ghaeilge athbhrí dóibh, an bhrí atá againn faoi láthair?

Agus d’éireodh leis an chogadh smaointe beag a dhéanamh den tsibhialtacht Ghaelach murach daoine fearacht Daniel Cassidy, agus bí cinnte is cogadh é atá ar siúl go dtí an lá inniu. Fiú na leabhair fhónta (Five Points le Tyler Anbinder, mar shampla) ní mó ná go luann siad go raibh a dteanga féin ag na Gaeil.

Is furasta agus is rófhurasta an rud nach bhfuil i bprionta a fhágáil as an áireamh agus staidéar á dhéanamh ar an cheist seo, ach fiú Cassidy féin ní luann sé go raibh nuachtán dátheangach ag na Gaeil i Nua-Eabhrach, An Gaodhal.

Ar bhealach tá an leabhar seo mar chéim eile san obair atá déanta ag údair ar aon dul le Séamas de Napier (Lorg na nGael), Daniel Corkery (The Hidden Ireland) agus fiú Thomas Cahill (How the Irish Saved Civilization) ach go bhfuil an suíomh anois aistrithe trasna an Atlantaigh.

Tá scéal suimiúil le hinsint sa leabhar seo, ní amháin scéal na Gaeilge san Oileán Úr (agus an bhéarlagair a spreag sí) ach scéal sóisialta na nÉireannach nach raibh anró agus an sluma i ndán dóibh nuiar a chuaigh siad anonn.  Tá tús curtha Ciaran O Prontaigh is editor of La Nua .


This review is excerpted from Beo (Life) magazine. It is by Pol O’Muirí, Irish language editor of The Irish Times, Aug. 12, 2007. 

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

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

[ Edited: 27 January 2008 11:26 PM by dalta ]
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Posted: 28 January 2008 05:33 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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Barret the Parrot had better kiss the toin (buttocks) of his publishers at Oxford. With his books down around 270,000 and 600,000 on Amazon, whereas Cassidy’s book is in 5th reprint in 7 months and just won an American Book Award.

Well, mazel tov!  (Oh Lord, that’s probably Irish too, now I come to think of it.) Tosh about word origins always finds a ready market, even without an Irish-expat-patriotism angle to help it along. Only consider the highly profitable success and many favourable notices given to Albert Jack’s dismally fictional Red Herrings and White Elephants: The Origins of the Phrases We Use Every Day since it came out in 2006.
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Posted: 28 January 2008 06:04 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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Well, Mr. Cassidy, I see you continue to use your sockpuppet everywhere. I have a full collection of your quotes and notices already, thanks, including the negative reviews and the condemnations that you choose not to share. No need to keep reposting them everywhere. I also have copies of the emails you are sending people who post negative reviews of your books. They forward your messages to me, usually commenting in wondering tones that you imagine you are convincing anyone. Your efforts at a defense are even less convincing than your book—and just as lacking in substantive evidence.

I challenge you, Daniel Cassidy. I challenge you to a public debate, in English, in New York City. We will both present etymological evidence on “bunkum,” “jazz,” “giggle,” “spiel,” and “scam.” We will let the audience decide who is right. You can contact me at to accept this debate and I will arrange a time that is agreeable at a neutral location that is open to the public.

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Posted: 28 January 2008 06:06 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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Dalta, Ireland has a lot to recommend it.  However, you would do well to defend the great Irish authors and poets for their contributions to the language and not spend your credibility defending a book that is based on shoddy scholarship.  And your sophomoric attacks on Grant Barrett are an embarrassment.

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Posted: 28 January 2008 06:31 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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I believe he sold more than he had that night. Barrett is one of the tiny handful of dictionary dudes that treat the OED as if it were the St. James Bible.

It’s just adorable when someone who makes overwrought claims of literary sophistication, makes such an obvious mistake.

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Posted: 28 January 2008 06:35 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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I’ve banned dalta for the abusive posts.

In this case I’ve left the offending posts up because several people have given substantive replies to them. Also, if dalta is indeed a sockpuppet of Mr. Cassidy’s, it is important to keep a record of such unprofessional behavior.

If people think I should just delete all the posts and replies, post to the meta discussion thread.

And in the future when someone posts something abusive or spam, don’t reply to it. I’ll catch it and delete it. If you want to email me, that’s fine, it may make the deletion happen sooner.

I’d rather you not send me a private message. That just adds a step as I don’t monitor it and all that happens is that I get sent an email saying someone has sent me a private message and then I have to go to the private message mailbox to read it. It saves a step to just send an email.

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Posted: 28 January 2008 06:41 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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Thanks, Dave. Leaving it up seems like the best way to handle it.

I have sent my challenge to Daniel Cassidy’s email address. I’m pretty weary of his failure to engage at an academic level and I’m hoping that we can have a light-hearted public event where the etymological method can be fully explored.

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Posted: 29 January 2008 07:44 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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What is it about etymology that brings out such reactions?  I have never understood why it attracts cranks as it does.

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Posted: 29 January 2008 08:47 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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Richard Hershberger - 29 January 2008 07:44 AM

What is it about etymology that brings out such reactions?  I have never understood why it attracts cranks as it does.

Crank-ness knows no bounds. Every human activity attracts cranks. The internet just makes it easier for them to be heard.

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