Some of the people you find supporting Daniel Cassidy’s nonsense would surprise you. Some of them don’t immediately seem like cranks. One such person is Donnacha DeLong, a journalist and former worker with Amnesty International. For a while, he was also the President of the National Union of Journalists. He was raised in Dublin and attended a Gaelscoil. From his tweets, it seems that he does have some fluency, though his Irish is far from perfect.
For some reason, DeLong has posted in support of Cassidy in several places. In December 2011, he was posting this comment on a review on Amazon.uk:
Cassidy makes clear in the book that he’s speculating about many of the suggestions he’s making. This is how research in this area happens, someone speculates and then others investigate and either verify or falsify what they’ve done. To reject the entire work because you can falsify some (or even most) of his suggestions is unfair and, if as you say, it’s preventing scholars doing further work on the topic, that’s ridiculously unscientific.
The reviewer gave him short shrift. Then more recently, he rushed to the defence of Brendan Patrick Keane’s terrible article on IrishCentral when it was savaged by intelligent people on the comments page:
This is simply not true. Cassidy put a huge amount of research into parts of the book – the parts on jazz, on poker, on nonsense verse – were based on proper documentary research. And it’s not as if he didn’t signpost his guesswork. I’d guess that no more than 40% of the list is credible as an explanation – agus is gaelgeoir mé. He was trying to start something, get others to do the kind of research that they simply hadn’t bothered doing for years. And I think he managed to push the locked door just enough. Slagging him off inaccurately serves no-one.
Grant Barrett, veteran campaigner against Cassidy’s rubbish, was quick to answer:
You’ve been defending this terrible book and unscholarly research for years. What’s your stake in this? Why are you more interested in Daniel being right than you are in furthering a correct understanding of the Irish and Gaelic influence on English?
As Barrett suggested, there are several main points here which need to be challenged. Firstly, how did Cassidy ‘signpost his guesswork’ or make clear that he was speculating? The book is completely free of any suggestion that Cassidy might have got it wrong. The OED, Merriam-Webster, these people were, according to Cassidy, making ridiculous stabs in the dark, while Cassidy’s own derivations were accurate and correct. If Donnacha deLong or anyone else can find a quote which sounds as though Cassidy is expressing the slightest doubt about his own work, then please post it here. As I’ve said before on this blog, as far as I can see, Cassidy’s book is a humility-free zone.
Secondly, according to DeLong, Cassidy did valid research. Cassidy put a huge amount of research into parts of the book – the parts on jazz, on poker, on nonsense verse – were based on proper documentary research. With respect, this doesn’t seem to be the case. What kind of research did Cassidy do? Did he find evidence that his Irish phrases existed? No. And to the best of my knowledge, he never did any research on nonsense verse (which means verse like Jabberwocky). What DeLong means here is nonsense refrains, and that includes the nonsense about Fillfidh mé uair éirithe and his other crazy nonsense about dogies. You would need to be pretty stupid to give any kind of credence to that.
Another is the question of how much of Cassidy’s book is in any way probable. Anyone who has followed this blog will realise that my estimate is much less than ten per cent, including many which are certainly of Irish origin like shebeen, which are already in the dictionaries. How DeLong gets 40% is beyond me. Such a figure is ludicrous. Cassidy’s book is full of weird made-up Irish phrases which simply could not have existed. As I have said, it seems that DeLong does have some fluency in Irish, though the fact that he can’t spell Gaeilgeoir is telling. However, like Grant Barrett, I am convinced that there is something here that we are not being told. I believe that DeLong must have links with Cassidy, or with Counterpunch, or with one of Cassidy’s cronies. There is simply no reason for a person who knows any Irish to support a book like this.
And finally, DeLong repeats the old chestnut that Cassidy was trying to change attitudes and that he succeeded: He was trying to start something, get others to do the kind of research that they simply hadn’t bothered doing for years. And I think he managed to push the locked door just enough. Slagging him off inaccurately serves no-one.
This is absurd. Firstly, it makes me wonder, how do you know this? Are you privy to information about Cassidy’s intentions that the rest of us aren’t? I have not seen any article or anything in the book which suggests that this was Cassidy’s aim. Cassidy presents his book, his rubbishy, childish travesty of a book, as reality. This is the way that many very stupid people have chosen to take it. And meanwhile, it has had no effect at all on research into the Irish influence on English. Personally, I find DeLong’s argument inexplicable in someone describing themselves as a journalist. The figure of 40% is ridiculous, but that is DeLong’s figure and it means that according to him, at least 60% of this book is wrong. Would you buy a book on Irish history, or the Bosnian crisis, or Islam, which was 60% nonsense?!! No. And why would you buy this book if it’s less than half correct?
In conclusion, I don’t pretend to understand what DeLong thinks he’s doing here. I believe that he is somehow linked to Cassidy and has some ulterior motive for being so positive about this nonsense. However, even if I am wrong about this, I am not wrong about Cassidy or the inadequacy of his scholarship. In relation to Cassidy, DeLong is, as we say in Irish, ag iarraidh an dubh a chur ina bhán orainn – trying to persuade us that black is white. If DeLong wants to claim to be a journalist, then he needs to learn the most basic principles of the craft, principles like being sceptical and being willing to murder your darlings. Until he’s prepared to do that, he’s only playing at being a journalist.