Henry Colton

This is a blog about Daniel Cassidy and his incredibly stupid book, How The Irish Invented Slang. In this colossal waste of trees, Cassidy attempts to demonstrate that hundreds of English expressions derive from Irish. It is quite clear throughout the book that Cassidy has no idea about Irish, or linguistics, or English, or history or any of the areas of knowledge that would qualify him to write a book of this type. However, some of the entries would make you doubt not only his intelligence, his common sense and his integrity, but even his sanity. This was the case with Gunga Din, the name of an Indian character in a poem by Kipling which Cassidy tries to link to the barrack-room banter of Irish-speaking soldiers.

This is another one, the strange case of Henry Colton. According to Cassidy, Henry Colton, a famous New York gambler and casino-owner, was really An Rí Ghealltáin, the King of Bets. He doesn’t explain what he meant by this and in many cases, I doubt whether Cassidy really knew what he meant. As far as I know, Henry Colton was not a pseudonym. This was the man’s name. He was born with it and later became a gambler and casino owner. So it isn’t as if he was called An Rí Ghealltáin and this was then anglicised as Henry Colton. So what exactly is Cassidy claiming here? That some mystical process of synchronicity is responsible for making someone’s English name correspond to a suitable Irish phrase? Or simply that Irish speakers would have heard his name and called him An Rí Ghealltáin instead of Henry Colton?

Maybe – if they spoke really bad Irish. The fact is, An Rí Ghealltáin is Cassidese, not Irish. ‘The King of Bets’ in Irish would be Rí na nGeall, which really doesn’t sound much like Henry Colton and of course, there is not a shred of evidence that anyone used any Irish phrase in reference to Henry Colton, with or without grammar. It makes you wonder if Cassidy spent too much time out there in California in a green cloud of legal medicinal ganja, jotting down whatever crazy idea wandered into his shrivelled walnut of a brain and laughing hysterically about how he was going to get one over on the dictionary dudes and make a shedload of money in the process.

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