Putting The Kibosh On Cassidy

An interesting investigation into an idiom that has been claimed to be Irish. The OED (1901) notes ‘origin obscure: It has been stated to be Yiddish or Anglo-Hebraic’.

cassidyslangscam

In Daniel Cassidy’s worthless book of fake etymology, he claimed that the word kibosh or kybosh is of Irish origin. Cassidy was certainly not the first to claim this and his sole authority for saying it was a website called Cork Slang Online. The usual claim in relation to its supposed Irish origin is that it comes from caidhp bháis or caidhp an bháis or caip bháis, meaning a cap or cape of death. Some sources also mention cie báis, but cie is not a possible word in Irish orthography.

While caidhp bháis is given as the name of a fungus in Irish dictionaries (the death cap), there is no evidence that this is an ancient expression and it may have been composed on the pattern of the English phrase death cap in the 20th century.

There are various explanations for the meaning of caidhp bháis as…

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Damp Squid

I’m relieved to know I’m not a “racist OED lapdog.” A splendid review of my little “Damp Squid.”

cassidyslangscam

Daniel Cassidy did no original research at all. His idea of research was to abstract information from dictionaries, then sneer at the people who had done the work for him. His main targets were the Oxford English Dictionary and Merriam-Webster, who he misrepresented as a clique of WASP bigots. Cassidy called these bastions of the linguistic establishment ‘the dictionary dudes’. In reality, of course, there is more of an implied criticism of the main dictionary-makers in the Irish language in Cassidy’s work, as none of Cassidy’s insane phrases like pá lae sámh and béal ónna are mentioned in any of the Irish dictionaries. It is also interesting that when Cassidy was confronted with a real Irish person who knew some Irish and could clearly see that Cassidy knew nothing about the subject, Cassidy was quite happy to hide behind the authority of the OED. This happened in an RTÉ radio…

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Achingly astute: my latest linguistic hero

Praise from an unexpected quarter. Thanks, Kamahl.

In Praise of the Written Word

First, I must tip my hat to my Al Jazeera Engish colleague Bernard Smith for emailing this link out to our whole newsroom.  I hope everyone reads it.

Until today I’d never heard of Jeremy Butterfield.  He is (seeing as you asked) the editor of Fowler’s Dictionary of Modern English Usage, and has written a brilliant Comment is Free article in today’s Guardian newspaper:

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/apr/03/bad-language-bugs-me

Jeremy is, I believe, a little bit like me.  Slightly pedantic, occasionally furious, but always passionate about defending the English language.  The examples he gives in his article are things I see creeping into journalism all the time – even TV journalism, which is supposed to be all about simplicity and speaking normally.

Jeremy – whether it’s the linguist’s hat or tinfoil hat you occasionally forget to don*, I’m glad you do.  English will of course evolve, as it must.  But isn’t it equally, if not more important…

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Charlotte Bronte’s last love letter

Fascinating piece of literary detection.

Rereading Jane Eyre

‘To forbid me to write to you, to refuse to answer me, would be to tear from me from my only joy on earth, to deprive me of my last privilege _ a privilege I shall never consent willingly to surrender. Believe me, my master, in writing to me it is a good deed that you will do. So long as I believe you are pleased with me, so long as I have hope of receiving news from you, I can be at rest and not too sad.’

The last known love letter Charlotte Bronte wrote to her ‘master’, the man she fell madly in love with in her early twenties, her Belgian professor, Constantin Héger, was written on 18th November 1845,exactly 169 years ago, tomorrow.

M Héger M Héger

What do we know of the love life of the woman who penned one of the greatest love stories ever written?…

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