So, after 200 posts, I have finally reached the end. As I have said before, I will continue to monitor the blog and answer any queries which merit an answer. If anyone would like my opinion on any word given by Cassidy which has not been dealt with adequately here, or if anyone feels that I have been overly harsh and would like the right of reply, they should send me a message here and I will do my best to answer.
However, I will not miss posting on this blog. To anybody with any intelligence or common sense, Cassidy’s work is tiresome in the extreme. In Cassidy’s made-up version of the Irish language, words are thrown together chaotically without much regard for grammar or pronunciation, words from different periods in the history of the language, obscure dialect forms with literary terms from before the fall of the Gaelic social order, even the odd word from Scots Gaelic when Cassidy’s relentless plundering of the dictionaries failed to dredge up anything he could pass off as an equivalent for some obscure English slang phrase.
The Irish language – the real Irish language – is a thing of great beauty and expressive power. All Irish people and Irish Americans should have some knowledge of the language because it is such an important part of their heritage. There are many resources online aimed at helping people to learn some of the language, resources such as Beo, TalkIrish, the BBC and many others.
Nobody knows exactly when Irish was first spoken in Ireland, though I personally think it arrived sometime in the Bronze Age and has been here for around three thousand years. It was still the predominant language in Ireland in the 18th century and was probably spoken in every county at that time. After the Famine in the mid-19th century, the decline of the language was rapid, especially in the east of the country. However, it continued to be spoken in many areas. When the Irish state was founded in the 1920s, the government founded an Gúm and hundreds of novels were translated into Irish from English, French, German and other languages, mostly by native speakers and at the same time the first modern novels, plays and poems began to be produced in the language. There is a lot of dialect variation in these books, both original works and translations, but they are all still easy to understand for literate speakers of the language. In many cases they were written or translated by people who were born within a generation of the Famine. The language found in them does not resemble the gibberish produced by Daniel Cassidy in this book, and I see no reason to assume that the Irish in exile altered their language so radically within one generation that it no longer resembled the Irish spoken in Ireland in any respect, which seems to be what Cassidy’s supporters believe.
And even if this did happen – where is the evidence? This is the question we need to keep asking. Maybe there was a supernatural being called the uath dubh and maybe comhrogha was used to mean crony in some obscure dialect (I’m pretty sure they weren’t, but let’s pretend for the sake of argument). But without evidence, what lexicographer is going to put that in their dictionary, on the word of a man who spoke hardly any Irish and who had never made the slightest attempt to learn the language until he was 57 years old?
This is not Anglophile bigotry. It is simply common sense. I have no doubt that this book will continue to sell and to go through new editions. I don’t like that fact but I have to put up with it. People have a right to believe in irrational nonsense if they want to but sensible people have just as much right to attack this nonsense if the believers try to pass it off as objectively verifiable fact.
However, while How The Irish Invented Slang may impress a lot of gullible people, I know that Cassidy’s book will never have any influence on the world of etymology or linguistics. Its claims won’t be appearing in any dictionaries and this is not because of anti-Irish bigotry. The bottom line is that Cassidy was just a con-man, this book is just a joke and anyone who thinks otherwise is just fooling themselves.
So, I will sign off now. Thanks to Ed Mooney and to others for their loyal support over the last year and to everyone who has read or will read this blog fairly and objectively. I’ll say my thanks and good luck to you all in our own beautiful language:
Go raibh céad míle maith agaibh, a chairde, agus go n-éirí libh amach anseo!