Category Archives: awesome

Danny Cassidy in the news again, this time in the NY Times

dcass.jpgAlright, I know I’ve blogged about Cassidy’s book numerous times. Perhaps I feel a bit of connection to him, though we’ve never met, because a) we have some mutual friends, b) I am trying to learn Irish, c) my pops is a fluent speaker, and of course d) the book and its thesis rules. (Note: This is my blog, not my master’s thesis, and the word “rules” is most appropriate here.) In any case, the following article ran in Thursday’s New York Times, and is now the number three most-emailed article on their website. Even if you are not interested in learning Irish yourself, or in things Irish generally, you’ll be surprised to learn that many of the words that you use on a regular basis have their roots in the Irish language. Read it!

Humdinger of a Project: Tracing Slang to Ireland, by Corey Kilgannon

Growing up Irish in Queens and on Long Island, Daniel Cassidy was nicknamed Glom.

“I used to ask my mother, ‘Why Glom?’ and she’d say, ‘Because you’re always grabbing, always taking things,’” he said, imitating his mother’s accent and limited patience, shaped by a lifetime in Irish neighborhoods in New York City.

It was not exactly an etymological explanation, and Mr. Cassidy’s curiosity about the working-class Irish vernacular he grew up with kept growing. Some years back, leafing through a pocket Gaelic dictionary, he began looking for phonetic equivalents of the terms, which English dictionaries described as having “unknown origin.”

“Glom” seemed to come from the Irish word “glam,” meaning to grab or to snatch. He found the word “balbhán,” meaning a silent person, and he surmised that it was why his quiet grandfather was called the similarly pronounced Boliver.

He began finding one word after another that seemed to derive from the strain of Gaelic spoken in Ireland, known as Irish. The word “gimmick” seemed to come from “camag,” meaning trick or deceit, or a hook or crooked stick.

Could “scam” have derived from the expression “’S cam é,” meaning a trick or a deception? Similarly, “slum” seemed similar to an expression meaning “It is poverty.” “Dork” resembled “dorc,” which Mr. Cassidy’s dictionary called “a small lumpish person.” As for “twerp,” the Irish word for dwarf is “duirb.”

Mr. Cassidy, 63, began compiling a lexicon of hundreds of Irish-inspired slang words and recently published them in a book called “How the Irish Invented Slang,” which last month won the 2007 American Book Award for nonfiction, and which he is in New York this week promoting.

“The whole project started with a hunch — hunch, from the Irish word ‘aithint,’ meaning recognition or perception,” the verbose Mr. Cassidy said in an interview on Monday at O’Lunney’s, a bar and restaurant on West 45th Street. He has worked as a merchant seaman, a labor organizer and a screenwriter, and he lives in San Francisco, where he teaches Irish studies at the New College of California.

He pulled out his pocket Irish dictionary and began pointing out words that he said had been Americanized by the millions of Irish immigrants who turned New York into an extension of the Ghaeltacht, or Irish-speaking regions of Ireland.

“Even growing up around it, little shards of the language stayed alive in our mouths and came out as slang,” he said, spouting a string of words that sounded straight out of a James Cagney movie.

“Snazzy” comes from “snasach,” which means polished, glossy or elegant. The word “scram” comes from “scaraim,” meaning “I get away.” The word “swell” comes from “sóúil,” meaning luxurious, rich and prosperous, and “sucker” comes from “sách úr,” or, loosely, fat cat.

There is “Say uncle!” (“anacal” means mercy), “razzmatazz,” and “malarkey,” and even expressions like “gee whiz” and “holy cow” and “holy mackerel” are Anglicized versions of Irish expressions, he said. So are “doozy,” “hokum,” “humdinger,” “jerk,” “punk,” “swanky,” “grifter,” “bailiwick,” “sap,” “mug,” “wallop,” “helter-skelter,” “shack,” “shanty,” “slob,” “slacker” and “knack.”

Mr. Cassidy chatted with an Irish-born worker at O’Lunney’s, Ronan O’Reilly, 21, who said he grew up in County Meath speaking Irish. He nodded in agreement as Mr. Cassidy explained that Irish survived in New York as slang.

“It was a back-room language, whispered in kitchens and spoken in the saloons,” Mr. Cassidy said.

Mr. O’Reilly nodded and said, “Sometimes my friends and I will use it amongst ourselves, sort of like an underground language.

“Some of your words here sound like they are taken straight from Irish, even expressions directly translated, like ‘top of the morning’ or ‘thanks a million,’” he continued. “In Ireland, we pick up American slang from TV, like the word ‘buddy.’”

Mr. Cassidy laughed. “Buddy,” he contends, actually comes from “bodach,” Irish for a strong, lusty youth.

Another employee came up, Lawrence Rapp, 25, who said he was an Irishman from London, where the art of rhyming slang is practiced.

“If you have to piddle, you say ‘Jimmy Riddle,’” he said.

Mr. Rapp said Londoners often used the word “geezer” to describe people, and Mr. Cassidy pointed out that the term derives from the Irish word “gaosmhar,” or wise person.

“Even the word ‘dude’ comes from the Irish word ‘dúid,’ or a foolish-looking fellow, a dolt,” Mr. Cassidy said. “They called the guys dudes who came down to the Five Points section of Manhattan to chase the colleens.”

He showed a passage in his book that notes that the Feb. 25, 1883, edition of The Brooklyn Daily Eagle reported the coining of the word “dude,” referring to, among other things, a man who “wears trousers of extreme tightness.”

“You dig?” he said. “‘Dig,’ as in ‘tuig,’ or understand.”



Filed under awesome, books, ireland, Irish language

Roy lives! Lyn is awesome!

img_1481.jpgAnd yet, thanks to Begg, thanks to quick-acting EMTs Lyn McCabe and Jen Clados at the Ridgefield Half Marathon, Shapiro and the others survived their near-death experiences.”It wasn’t just me. It was everyone else jumping in to help, too,” Begg said. “To have a critical situation like we had, where all of a sudden people you don’t know just come together and jump into roles, it was amazing.”People were assisting with crowd control and starting IVs — there were nurses and techs — everyone just did their job. There were no egos. It was an impromptu MASH unit all three times.”

Remember last month when I told you that my sister was a hero (see My sister helped save someone’s life yesterday)? Well, we just found out today that the man she helped, Roy Van Eick, made a full recovery! What great news, and what a great sister. Hahaha. What’s even more amazing is that the rate of recovery for something like this is ridiculously low–just 5 percent! Read on:

And on Oct. 7 at the Ridgefield Half Marathon, Begg saved another man, Stamford resident Roy Van Eick, who grew up in Danbury, after he went into full cardiac arrest at the 31�„2-mile mark of the race.

“It was a real hot day, but this guy was a pretty experienced runner,” said Begg, who was also running in the race. “When he went down, there were some people around him who tried to give him CPR.

“When I showed up, it was basically the same thing again — mouth-to-mouth and chest compressions. With the help of paramedics, we shocked him three times, started an IV, and gave him cardiac medications and other medications.”

Like Shapiro and Kerwin, Van Eick made a complete recovery, which is a statistical rarity. The survival rate for full cardiac arrest outside of a medical setting is just five percent, Begg said.

Too bad there aren’t more Lyns to go around.

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Filed under awesome, kevin cooks turkey, lifesaver, my sister Lyn, Uncategorized

camels, bison and bears, oh my!

I saw a camel in South Dakota, grazing on some delicious grass by the side of the road. An actual camel. No, it wasn’t a yellow-colored bison, and no, I wasn’t on anything–though it did seem like a hallucination.

Max and I are on a road trip with our friend Matt, who is moving to San Francisco. It’s only been a few days, but we’ve seen so many extraordinary things–sights so breathtaking that we each feel lucky to have experienced them, and then there is always something else around each corner. (No, the camel was not one of them. Camels should not live in South Dakota.) We went hiking in the Badlands on Tuesday, and one of the first comments I made upon beginning the hike was, “Wow, I really feel like I am walking on the surface of the moon–you know, minus the zero gravity and lack of oxygen.” Then Matt informed me that they say that the Badlands is the one place on the earth that most closely resembles the surface of the moon. It was really great. Then, on our way out of the park, we happened across fields just full of chirping prairie dogs! They were everywhere, poking their heads in and out, running over to others’ holes and having meetings, wiggling their butts at us while they ran up to the road and crossed to the other side. You can’t get much cuter than a prairie dog.

Devil’s Tower was amazing as well, quite surreal–you could feel the energy surrounding the place. We arrived around sundown, and it was so exhilarating to see the rock stand out against the fading sun and then the moonlight. So calm, so peaceful (and luckily there were no climbers there!). We spent Tuesday night in Sheridan, Wyoming, and after stopping off at the T-Rex Museum along the way, we made it to Yellowstone with just enough time to make it to the middle of the park before the sun went down. Yellowstone is so, so beautiful–words cannot really describe. We were unable to camp there this evening because all of the campgrounds in this part of the country are closed at this time of year, there is snow on the ground, and it gets into the teens at night.

Oh, and then there’s the bears. They’re all over! (And apparently in their “super-eating” phase, or hyperphlagia, as they prepare for hibernation.) About 3/4 of a mile outside of the park, I thought to myself, “It would be so great if I just saw a bear out there on the side of the road. Not 5 seconds later, there he was, about 500 feet or so in from the road, just ambling along, occasionally looking over at us. Wow. A real, live grizzly bear living in the wild. Awesome. Ok, and maybe a bit scary. When we told the ranger at the gate about it, he seemed pretty excited. Then we asked him about how safe it was to go hiking in the park because of the bears…and he laughed a bit and gave us the most disconcerting response. Basically made us even more nervous about the bears–without coming right out and telling us we could really get attacked. Hahaha (I laugh, as I write my final blog post.).

Not too long after we saw the bear, we came upon three bison just moseying along the road in the left lane. I never would have thought we’d get so close. Bison are huge animals! And they were right there, just walking along, minding their own business as we rolled past. It was unbelievable. How grateful we all felt to be so close to such majestic creatures, living in their natural habitat. Later, we saw what we believe to be a caribou, and maybe a wolf (and lots of deer).

Driving through the park at night was like driving through a silent film. The landscape was so incredible that it didn’t seem real.

Well, I’m off to bed now. We’re staying in Montana tonight, but will go back into the park to hike and see Old Faithful tomorrow. Here’s to hoping we don’t get attacked by bears or anything else!

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Filed under awesome, badlands, environment, road trip, yellowstone

“Pity we don’t have a kiln…”

belvedereonline.jpgWhen my friend Mclean suggested that we have a pizza party using Andrew’s kiln, naturally my first thought was of Mr. Belvedere. Though I imagine I must have watched many episodes of the show when I was young, the only one I remember was when Kevin had to make the turkey for Thanksgiving. Having little to no cooking experience, Kevin did not realize how long a whole turkey takes to cook–so he cut corners to save time. The turkey was a dried-out disaster, and when Mr. Belvedere discovered that Kevin had turned the oven up from 250 to 500 degrees (thinking the turkey would cook twice as fast!), Mr. Belvedere said dryly, “Pity we don’t have a kiln, we could’ve had the turkey yesterday!” Perhaps not quite so funny on my blog, but it was so funny to me then that to this day that’s the only think I remember about the show. And my mom and sister–of course–said the exact same thing to me when I told them what I’d be doing…

img_1883.jpgHere are a few photos from tonight’s kiln pizza party. I like to think of the first one as the “spirits of the kiln,” but others might like to call it a “sweet ceramic bowl that Brian made with some tomatoes and basil in it.” Next is a picture of the lovely pizza kiln–you might notice that it doesn’t exactly look like something you’d want to put food into, but I suppose that was precisely the point. (There was talk of using the pottery wheel to throw the dough, but I don’t think anyone had enough energy to introduce that variable into the game.) The third shot is of our first pizza inside the kiln. img_1895.jpgIt was Brian’s idea to crack an egg in the middle. I think that’s pretty gross, and it actually felt like rubber when it was finished. As I’m sure you can imagine from looking at the picture, the hardest part of cooking pizza in a kiln is figuring out how to get it out when it is done without seriously injuring yourself (though I suppose this adds to the appeal?) The final picture is of one of our final products, which was actually the second pizza that we made.  Needless to say, they were delicious.

In case you are interested in trying this, here are some things we learned about baking pizzas in a kiln. First, make sure to preheat the kiln before you start baking.  Kilns certainly don’t take a long time to get hot, but we found that the pizzas cooked much more evenly after the first.  (Our biggest lesson was that kilns don’t really cook pizzas very evenly, and the bottom is really the last to cook).   Try not to peek in at the pizza while it is cooking too much, because that will affect how well the pizza bakes.  You may want to do a test pizza.  Oh, and think a little bit about how you are going to get the pizza out, because we (“we” as in not me) were just basically sticking our arms in there very carefully with a fork.  No burns, but maybe a bit of singed arm hair…img_1894.jpgimg_1902.jpg


Filed under awesome, delicious, kevin cooks turkey, mr. belvedere, my sister Lyn, pizza, Uncategorized

My sister helped save someone’s life yesterday!

img_1478.JPGThis is a picture of my sister Lyn from our trip to Ireland this past summer. Lyn was a swimmer throughout high school and college, and is an avid marathon runner and triathlon participant. In the past couple of years, she has also taken up scuba-diving and is trained as a scuba-diving lifesaver. While running a half-marathon in Ridgefield, Connecticut yesterday, Lyn had the chance to put her life-saving skills to the test.

She noticed a man up ahead of her fall down during the race, and her first thought was “oh, someone just tripped, that really sucks” but immediately realized that he fell straight backwards, landing on his back and hitting his head on the pavement. She and a few other runners knelt down to try to help, none of them knowing what to do. Dark red blood was pouring out of the back of his head on the pavement. His eyes were rolled back into his head and his mouth was open. One runner suggested they elevate his legs, and another held his hand and spoke to him, using his name, Roy (printed on his registration). Someone called 911 and Lyn checked his pulse, then realized that he seemed to have stopped breathing. Then his face had begun to turn purple, and she thought, “I have to do something.”

She began mouth to mouth resuscitation and “put some breath back into him.” After a moment, she said, his chest heaved and he breathed in deeply. At that point another runner came up who was an emergency room doctor and took over until the EMT arrived. Roy was then given a defibrillator and (I believe) a tracheotomy, stabilized, and taken to the hospital (after the ambulance arrived, a full 30 minutes later–ahem). Although Lyn said she’d been taught that you always fill out a report after participating in something like that (using a procedure on someone) she was told it wasn’t necessary, thanked by the EMT and sent on her way. She’ll have to wait, perhaps, until the next race to find out how Roy is recovering.

Isn’t Lyn great?! They call people who perform CPR “rescuers.” Lyn actually gave breaths to Roy who was not breathing by putting her mouth on his and forcing air into his lungs. In situations like this, where someone has stopped breathing and has suffered a heart attack, there is a very small window of opportunity in which to use CPR before permanent brain damage and tissue death will occur. You never know when you might be in a situation like this, and it really makes me want to get certified to do it myself. I’m really proud of my sister for thinking so fast on her feet, for not being afraid to put her knowledge into action, and for doing what it took to keep this man alive until professionals could take over. And Roy, we hope you are hanging in there…


Filed under awesome, lifesaver, my sister Lyn