In this post, I will conclusively demonstrate that Daniel Cassidy didn’t know about shit. With this turn of phrase, I am not trying to be ‘down with the kids’. I am not like Cassidy himself, who, according to a sickeningly pseudo-intellectual and sycophantic review by Jonathan Scott in the Journal of the Research Group on Socialism and Democracy online, presented his research in an easy-going style ‘as if he’s delivering all his humdingers in a spiel at some local joint while lollygagging with a few hep kids from the block.’ Oh dear God! How uncool is that?
No, what I mean is that Cassidy had no idea about the Irish word for shit, cac. In his mind-numbingly stupid book, How The Irish Invented Slang, Cassidy claimed that the word caca (used as a childish euphemism for shit in English) derives from the Irish word cac, meaning shit. This sounds reasonable enough, but the fact is that variants of the word cac are found in many Indo-European languages, including English. The Spanish swear by saying things like Me cago en la mar salada! (I shit in the salty sea), the Irish have cac, cack is used in English dialects in phrases like cack-handed and in the childish expression above, a cacophony is literally a shitty sound in Greek, and even in Hindi the word khaki means dust-coloured or shit-coloured. So no, ca-ca is not a borrowing from Irish. It is a word which is found all over Europe and Asia in slightly different forms. Linguists know these things, because they study them closely, look for evidence, weigh it up and analyse it, all activities which Cassidy couldn’t be arsed doing.
Cassidy also says that the Irish cac is a borrowing from the Latin caco. It isn’t, of course. The Irish knew how to shit before the advent of Christianity and the Latin book-learning of monks and they had a word for it too.
So, Cassidy didn’t know shit about shit or indeed about anything else. However, according to the reviewer mentioned above, this lack of any methodology is in fact a radical departure from traditional ways of working in the academic world and should be welcomed. At least, I think that’s what he’s saying – it’s badly-written as well as pretentious.
‘This is so precisely because the cross-disciplinary method’s concrete principle – to discover in every culture’s development and change an immanent logic – is anathema to the fusing together of discrete disciplines. Instead of integrating or de-localizing highly specialized academic disciplines, the cross-disciplinary method sees in every existing field of knowledge a wealth of particular information essential for the further enrichment of theory itself, of a general theory of historical development and change. To put it another way, whereas the interdisciplinary tendency is counter to historical materialism –- it favors radical heteronomy over the logic of immanence – the cross-cultural approach is entirely consistent with it.’
Luckily, I have a pretty good idea what shit is, which is why I wouldn’t give Daniel Cassidy a good review and also why I wouldn’t come out with crud about favouring radical heteronomy over the logic of immanence. Tí Dia a chiall … (God love his wit!)