I find it very hard to understand why any Irish speaker would compromise their integrity by supporting this nonsense. I can only assume that Joseph Lee, of UCC and New York University, must have been a friend of Cassidy’s. Either that, or he must have taken leave of his senses.
As for some of the other Irish speakers like Máirtín Ó Muilleoir and Pól Ó Muirí, whom Cassidy described as Celtic scholars, both have made valuable contributions to the Irish language, but neither of them is really a Celtic scholar. I don’t know why they supported this book. Ó Muilleoir described Cassidy as ‘our friend’ in his own blog, so he presumably knew him. Cassidy was instrumental in establishing the Irish Crossroads Festival in San Francisco and Ó Muilleoir’s colleague Ciarán Ó Pronntaigh was a guest speaker at that festival. It seems inconceivable that Ó Muilleoir and Ó Muirí couldn’t spot the bullshit in Cassidy’s arguments. I can only assume that they thought that Cassidy’s book would be good for the Irish language and that the debate would help to awaken interest in the language throughout the Irish diaspora. If so, I think this was a bad mistake. It was a mistake because it is wrong to spread false information and journalists shouldn’t have to be reminded of that. It is a mistake because as a result of it, a substantial proportion of the ‘facts’ that are given in cyberspace relating to the Irish language were made up by Cassidy and have no basis in reality.
It is a mistake because people who have read Cassidy’s book, when they hear that someone is an Irish speaker, will start asking them if they know anything about the uath dubh or what a sách úr is, and the poor Irish speaker will wonder what the Hell they are talking about, while the Cassidy dupe will wonder if they speak Irish at all. If you think I’m making this scenario up, check out this exchange from a GAA forum: http://hoganstand.com/Antrim/MessagePage.aspx?PageNumber=0&TopicID=49420
And it is a mistake even in tactical terms, because far from encouraging people to learn Irish, it allows people to regard themselves as plugged into their Gaelic roots simply because they happened to hear words like nincompoop, hippy, shindig, hick and baloney bandied around when they were growing up, words which are part of every English speaker’s patrimony and have nothing to do with Irish at all.
The case of Ciarán Ó Pronntaigh is a little different. Cassidy posted Ó Pronntaigh’s review proudly on several websites, so we have access to it, and it is clear that Ó Pronntaigh was between a rock and a hard place because, as we have said, he knew Cassidy. While the overall tone of the review is positive and laudatory, Ó Pronntaigh simply can’t avoid the fact that there is a huge pile of elephant dung in the room – Cassidy’s theories. So while his review is diplomatic and kind, you can see that, reading between the lines, he realised what a load of nonsense the book is. He classifies the words and phrases in the book into four categories, only one of which is really positive. Of the others, two are saying that he should be praised for his attempts to prove his case and the fourth is negative. He says that the first category consists of those which are almost certain (is scéal cinnte, chóir a bheith, gur ón Ghaeilge a tháinig siad), such as spraoi and gab. (I don’t accept either of these as Irish). He also mentions words like acushla and aroon, which are obviously Irish and therefore leave the paradigms untouched. Then his second category is words which he thinks have the look of truth and which it is possible to make a good case for, words like squeal and longshoreman. Again, it is clear from these examples that Ó Pronntaigh is no linguist, as neither of these words is likely to be correct. Then there is a third category, the list of words which Ó Pronntaigh finds doubtful but feels that Cassidy makes a good case for, such as slum and scam (both ridiculous in my opinion). And then there is the fourth category, where Ó Pronntaigh says that Cassidy is completely wrong and where he twists the language to achieve the result he wants.
In other words, the review is a bit ‘weasel wordy’. It is far too kind to Cassidy but it still manages to tell the truth in a subtle way. I include it in full below for those who understand Irish. Be warned, it was transcribed by Cassidy so it is full of mistakes!
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 .