Owen on Lollygagging

Oh dear! Here we go again! I’ve had another message from Owen.

Your argument that the word “leath-luighe géag” couldn’t mean “lollygag” is flawed because you’re basing it on the present day meaning of the Irish Gaelic words and not the language as it was used by poor Irish immigrants in the 1800’s. It stands to reason that semantic shifts and phonology could have produced the English word in question.

Man dear, it’s obvious that you are intent on defending Cassidy’s idiotic book go bun an angair but perhaps you should find some other pointless and Quixotic enterprise – restoring King Zog to the throne of Albania or saving the dodo from extinction spring to mind.

So the language as used in the 19th century was totally different from the modern language, was it? Like many Irish speakers, many of the books I read in Irish were written in the early years of the Revival, works like Mac Gabhann’s Rotha Mór an tSaoil, which I mentioned in a post recently. I have no difficulty in understanding Mac Gabhann’s Irish at all, yet he was born in 1865. Most of the people around him when he was growing up lived through the Famine. Languages change, but they don’t change that radically in 150 years.

As for how that language differed from modern Irish, I have some idea about that. Cassidy didn’t, because Cassidy didn’t speak any Irish at all. I suspect the same is true of you. You are talking about things you know nothing about.

There is no evidence that anyone has ever used leath-luighe géag in Irish. As I’ve explained, it doesn’t make sense and incidentally, it is a phrase, not a word. Phrases are rarely borrowed between languages, especially phrases which don’t actually exist in the source language. And as for semantic shifts, I suppose that means changing the meaning of words any way you want. And phonology means changing the sounds any way you want. So essentially, you’re saying that I’m being unreasonable if I don’t accept your right to take a made-up phrase in ‘Irish’, change the pronunciation and meaning of the constituent words any way that suits you and claim this as the origin of an English word.

The fact is, there is no evidence for any of this. And it might seem to you that these things ‘stand to reason’, but to people who are genuinely reasonable they don’t make sense at all. Have a very merry Christmas with Cassidy, Santy and the Tooth Fairy. And as for me, I’ll continue to put my trust in genuine, verifiable facts.

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