Monthly Archives: December 2015

Nollaig Shona!

Is dócha go mbíonn gach aon duine gnóthach ag an Nollaig agus ní taise domsa é. Níl an t-am agam teachtaireacht fhada a scríobh ach gabhaim buíochas le gach duine a thug tacaíocht don bhlag seo in 2015. Bíodh Nollaig den scoth agaibh agus guím gach rath oraibh sa Bhliain Úr.

I suppose everybody is busy at Christmas and I certainly am. I don’t have time to write a long message but I would like to thank all those who have supported this blog in 2015. Have a wonderful Christmas and I wish you every success in the New Year.

 

 

 

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A Reply to Robo

In my post Did The English Ban Irish (June 8, 2014), I criticised an article by a Canadian journalist which states that the Irish language was made illegal in Ireland in the 17th century under the Penal Laws. The other day, I received a comment on this article from someone called Robo in New York. Here is Robo’s comment in full:

The Statutes of Kilkenny in 1366 commanded that “if any English, or Irish living among the English, use the Irish language amongst themselves, contrary to this ordinance, and thereof be attainted, his lands and tenements, if he have any, shall be seized into the hands of the immediate lord…” That is the first of many. Henry VIII – 1537 And the closest to modern memory: The bata scóir or tally stick was usually a piece of wood which Irish-speaking children were forced to wear around their necks. Anybody who heard the child speaking Irish was expected to mark the stick with a notch. At the end of the day the marks were counted and the child was punished for each offence. Watch your language : an bata scóir, the insidious silencer. http://irelandhouse.fas.nyu.edu/docs/CP/4172/0111-0126_PoliticsOfTheIrishLanguage.pdf

What is Robo saying here? It’s difficult to say exactly (because he doesn’t specifically tell us) but it seems to me that by quoting a statute of 1366 banning the Irish language and the fact that the National School system in Ireland punished children for speaking Irish, that he thinks these two things are part of a continuous process, that they are somehow the same thing. This is implied in the article (not a very good one, IMHO) to which he provides a link:

“For more than six centuries, British policy in Ireland has aimed at the destruction of the Irish Gaelic language.”

I don’t agree with this. It makes me deeply uncomfortable when people put forward a clearly ideological argument and then cherry-pick the facts that suit that argument. The view that Robo is giving is history with an Irish Nationalist slant. Don’t get me wrong. I am a Nationalist and an Irish speaker. I am not pro-British, as I explain in the article. However, I am strongly opposed to the notion of Nationalist history. Facts are right or wrong, not Irish or English, and just as we don’t need an Irish mathematics or an Irish chemistry, we don’t need a specifically Irish history. All historians are biased to some extent, of course, but any decent historian should avoid polemic and try to find out what really happened.

In the Middle Ages, the English established an enclave in Ireland called the Pale (hence the expression ‘beyond the Pale’). The Statutes of Kilkenny were aimed at preserving this English enclave, which was being undermined by the strength of the Irish language. English speakers were marrying native Irish people and their children were being raised Irish-speaking.

I am quite sure that the English speakers of this enclave thought they were better and more civilised than the ‘mere Irish’ outside. However, the idea that they saw this statute as a prelude to a total blanket Anglicisation of the country is not supported by the facts. They were clearly on the back foot, and they probably thought that the chances of English surviving at all in Ireland were not good.

Through the hundreds of years in which the English consolidated their control over the country, Irish remained the language of the majority of the people. While the upper classes and the courts and institutions of government were conducted in English, English probably didn’t become the majority language of the country until the early 19th century.  In the 17th century, almost nobody in Ireland spoke English, so a law against speaking Irish would have been unenforceable. That particular claim is simply nonsense, which is the point I was making in the post.

As I have stated in another post, there is a specific reason why I object to the claim that the English banned Irish in 17th century Ireland (apart from the fact that it’s obviously not true!) Many people of a pro-British slant like to play down the importance of the Irish language in Ireland’s history and pretend that it has been a marginalised peasant patois since the 16th century. Claims like this make it easier for enemies of the language to present Irish in this light, rather than as the first language of roughly half the Irish population and of 20% of the combined population of Ireland and Britain at the beginning of the 19th century. (Which is the reality.)

However, throughout the 19th century, the Irish were encouraged by the English to fall out of love with their own language. This happened and it happened for various reasons (including the fact that many priests and Daniel O’Connell were hostile to the language). The bata scóir in the Natonal Schools is certainly a fact. It is also a fact that the National Schools were founded in 1831 and that education became compulsory in Ireland sixty years later. People didn’t have to send their kids to a school where they were beaten for speaking their own language. They chose to do so because they thought an English education was a good idea for children who would probably end up in Manchester or Glasgow or New York anyway.

In addition, this kind of simplified ideological history leaves out a huge amount. It ignores much of the complexity of the interaction between ethnicity, religion, language and class. It ignores any information which seems paradoxical. (For example, Wikipedia says: ‘Queen Elizabeth I encouraged the use of Irish even in the Pale with a view to promoting the reformed religion.’ And of course, the first printed book in Irish was a Protestant Catechism in 1571.)

And as in the case of Daniel Cassidy’s nonsense, the bottom line is that anyone with any sense wants to know what really happened in history, not a fairy tale specially concocted to pander to their collective sense of victimhood. After all, it’s not illegal to learn Irish now. Nobody has stopped me from speaking Irish. I speak it every day and I have no intention of stopping. My advice to the Cassidy-lovers is to stop bitching and whining about a fictionalised past, get up off their lazy, irresponsible arses and learn some genuine Irish.  Right this minute! (Follow the link below!) If you learn five words a day rather than wasting your time on Cassidy’s bullshit, you could have a solid basic knowledge of the language by this time next year.

http://www.focloir.ie/

More On Mo Hurley

I notice that Mo Hurley has mentioned cassidyslangscam on her blog, which you can find here: http://mohurley.blogspot.co.uk/2015/12/a-note-on-writing-lifted-by-other.html. She raised a point that I have never really considered before, the issue of copyright in relation to blogging. Is it a theft or plagiarism to quote a few lines from another blog without obtaining permission?

I’m not ‘getting at’ Mo Hurley here, but obtaining permission for every quote seems excessive and I don’t believe that quoting is plagiarism. There is, as she says, such a thing as ‘fair use’. For example, on Mo Hurley’s blog post about Cassidy, she quotes from LanguageLog and ascribes the quotation wrongly to Daniel Cassidy (it’s really from Terence Dolan). In other words, I would assume that she didn’t obtain permission to quote that!  

As a blogger, I am trying to get people to read my blog and understand the points I’m making. My argument is that Cassidy was a lousy, awful scholar and also a conscious fraudster and liar. That’s the reason why I homed in on Mo Hurley’s blog, because she says that Cassidy’s ‘research’ was flawed. She doesn’t go as far as I do and she obviously respected Cassidy. (I find that very hard to understand, but it would be a dull world if we were all the same.) However, giving a link to her blog and then quoting a few lines from it is hardly plagiarism. That particular post of hers is about what I’m blogging about, and it seems to me natural that bloggers like me should be able to quote, review and discuss other people’s posts on similar subjects. 

After all, in many ways, serious bloggers are journalists. I don’t earn any money from cassidyslangscam and I blog anonymously, so there’s no kudos involved, but my posts on this blog are the best place for someone to go if they want to find out the truth about Daniel Cassidy and his crap etymologies – and that includes the output of professional journalists, unfortunately, who almost without exception failed dismally to challenge the bullshit in Cassidy’s book.

If someone wants to lift a line or two out of my blog, then that’s fine by me because I want the truth about Cassidy to be widely known. As long as they don’t steal whole posts without recognition of authorship, or misrepresent what I say, then I’m happy.

If Mo Hurley objects to the post in question and would prefer me to delete it, she can contact me here and I will do so. However, I think it would be a pity. My comments on her post are, as she says, a back-handed compliment. I say that there are things I don’t agree with (e.g. I have no idea what she’s trying to say when she’s talking about the origins of buckaroo and obviously, boycott doesn’t derive from the Irish language), but she shows some real integrity in separating Cassidy the scholar from Cassidy the friend. Most of Cassidy’s friends simply can’t do that, hence his massively inflated reputation and the necessity for this blog.

 

 

James B

One of the least pleasant aspects of writing this blog is dealing with Cassidy’s supporters, many of whom show signs of the same mental illness, arrogance and stupidity that made their guru such a waste of space. Recently, someone calling himself James B tried to post a message as a reply to Emma’s nomination of this blog for a Liebster Award. For a while, I thought of just ignoring it, because I’ve answered this kind of nonsense over and over again and nothing’s changed. However, on reflection, I’ve decided to rescue it from the bin and make a post of it. Here’s what ‘James B’ had to say:

“Perhaps this award will propel the courageously anonymous “Debunker” to reveal something about himself – like his actual name and his credentials (if he has any at all), since he has no reservations doing the same for the late Professor Cassidy. But don’t count on it. We know how rats run from the light of day.”

Where do I start? Well, first things first. This message came from New York, from the same person who posted recently under the name of Jimbo. He uses the email address AfterTheFall@gmail.com. A troll with the username AfterTheFall also contributes regularly to NY Curbed, where he shows a great deal of interest in the New York Citibike scheme and the activities of Margaret Chin, a local politician. Both of these issues are also dear to the heart of Sean Sweeney, who has posted in many places in support of Cassidy’s rubbish. So, while I can’t prove it, I believe that this is either Sean Sweeney or a close associate of Sean Sweeney.

I won’t labour the obvious point that using a fake identity to criticise someone for writing anonymously isn’t very consistent or logical, and I won’t waste any time mocking the pretentious New York ‘Goodfella’ cliché in the last line. You … doidy … rats …

As in the last message (or the last few messages, if this is a sockpuppet for SS), the poster is still refusing to deal in facts or evidence. While he mentions the revelations about Cassidy’s qualifications, he again refuses to acknowledge them or discuss them. I mean, if he doesn’t believe in them, surely he should be using his post to defend Cassidy’s reputation? And if he does accept them, then he obviously doesn’t consider the scale and severity of Cassidy’s academic fraud to be a problem. I mean, when is he going to stop attacking the messengers and address the evidence that his friend Cassidy was a fraud?

As I have said many times, who I am is completely irrelevant, as are my qualifications. That I am better qualified than Daniel Cassidy is true – around 40% of the population of Ireland has a degree and is therefore better qualified than DC, and that’s not even including thousands of teenagers who pass competitive examinations in the Irish language every year, demonstrating a knowledge of the Irish language which Cassidy never had. But I have never said that people should trust what I say because of my qualifications. I have said, repeatedly, that people should go to primary sources and check them. And let’s not call him ‘the late Professor Cassidy’. Thanks to Cassidy’s sister and the registrar at Cornell, we know that he didn’t have a degree and that means that he obviously wasn’t a real professor. He was Cassidy, the nut Cassidy, the fraud Cassidy, or perhaps Mr Cassidy if I’m feeling nice. But why should I or anyone else call him Professor?

You see, what this blog is about is informing people of the truth, using proper evidence-based methods. Here’s an example, in case you’ve forgotten what the truth is like. The English dictionaries say that the American English expression buncombe (or bunkum) comes from Buncombe County in North Carolina and dates back to a number of filibustering speeches made by Felix Walker in 1820. When challenged, he said that he was ‘speaking to Buncombe’ and not to Washington. This expression goes back to the 1820s and is found first in a journal of 1829, but was later used by other sources in the early 19th century and was even used by Thomas Carlyle in Britain – also with the spelling Buncombe. Bunkum came later. And the early references are to people ‘speaking to Buncombe’, as in the North Carolina story, not ‘talking Buncombe’ or ‘talking bunkum’. Cassidy then comes along and claims that this story is nonsense and that the word really comes from Irish buanchumadh, which he says means a long-drawn out story. He provides no evidence for either claim. The real origin story is solid. The word buanchumadh is not in any dictionary or Irish text. There is not a shred of evidence that buanchumadh has ever existed and, as I have explained before, it doesn’t work as an Irish expression.

Most of Cassidy’s claims are similar. Worse still, lots of people think they know some Irish from reading Cassidy’s book. The nonsense phrases invented by Cassidy are spreading virally. Because of the Cassidy hoax, there are t-shirts available on line with Giog Gheal (sic) on them. This is another fake Cassidy phrase. There are people walking around with Dead Ráibéad tattooed on their arms. More fakery. Some history books have been polluted with this childish fraud, and are full of fake Irish nonsense. Thousands of people who don’t know any genuine Irish at all are convinced that Cassidy’s made-up rubbish is real. That’s why Cassidy and his supporters are traitors to the Irish language. These scum (which of course comes from Irish is cum meaning ‘is invented’ – only joking!) are betraying our heritage by pretending that a fake version of the language is the real thing.

I suspect that James B or Jimbo or Sean or whoever he is already knows that he’s wrong. If he thought he could provide some evidence to defend Cassidy’s theories, he would have done so by now. But rather than admit that he got it wrong, he is such an egomaniac that he’d prefer to carry on lying and disrespecting our language and our culture, while sneering at people who actually speak Irish, because that’s the kind of person he is. A person whose values are purely cosmetic and who doesn’t really care a damn about Ireland or its language. Greater love hath no man than this, that he betray his country for his cronies.

So, James B or Jimbo or Sean, or whoever you are, nobody gives a damn about the opinions of a self-deluding crank like you. You may not have admitted it to yourself yet, but you know full well that Cassidy was wrong, and that all the evidence is against you. Still, don’t get downhearted at your own stupidity. Why don’t you go out for a nice meal to cheer yourself up? I believe the restaurant at SoHo House is great. Just don’t forget your wallet …

The Tyranny of Narrative

One of the most noticeable aspects of Cassidy’s work (and indeed of much pseudoscience and pseudohistory) is that it is driven far more by narrative than by facts. The story takes over and if it doesn’t fit the evidence, it’s the evidence that is sidelined and ignored.

And of course, it’s easy to regard Cassidy’s book as a story (or a myth, if you prefer). All great stories begin with some revelation: a bottle with a message in it; a door to another dimension; a letter delivered by an owl. In this case, it was a book willed to Cassidy by a dying friend, an Irish dictionary.

The book was nearly thrown into the bin. For a second, the whole future of American linguistics teetered on the brink! But – phew! – Cassidy decided to keep the dictionary and read a word a night (maybe something with pictures would have been more appropriate?) Anyway, Cassidy, the loner, the maverick, the little man from the slums of Brooklyn, had an epiphany and realized that English is full of Irish. He took on the villains (academic linguists and Anglophiles) using his magic powers of street smarts and self-belief. After all, academic linguists and lexicographers don’t know street words (they sing madrigals and attend hunt balls with people called Lucretia and Sebastian in their spare time – they NEVER watch DVDs of The Wire or Goodfellas) and this is their weakness, their Achilles’ heel.

Eventually, our hero defeats his enemies with these magic powers (along with his flying monkeys like Peter Quinn and Joe Lee). He demonstrates his worth with the sheer volume of his examples and his sales and ‘proves’ that Irish America did not lose its language. No, rather the Irish language BECAME American English. So hurrah, the language and culture were not lost, merely misplaced until they were rediscovered by one plucky little motor-mouth from the Big Apple. Admittedly, it’s a great story, even if it is the purest of horseshit.

I was thinking of this recently when I received another comment from Cassidy’s sister, Susan Cassidy Connors, an old friend of Cassidyslangscam. Among several interesting points she raised was that she had never quite believed Cassidy’s story about how How The Irish Invented Slang came to be written.

As his sister says, everything Cassidy claimed is suspect. He was a liar and dishonesty was his default position. However, there are more substantial reasons to doubt Cassidy’s story about the origins of How The Irish Invented Slang.

For one thing, there are two versions of the story. In one of them, Cassidy was bequeathed a box of books by someone called Kevin O’Dowd in 2000. “He left me a box of Irish books in his will. One of the books was a pocket Irish dictionary, a focloir poca. I was in Ireland making a film at the time and thought ‘I’m too old to learn Irish, it’s too hard.’ But I told my wife, Clare, ‘I can’t throw that away. It was a sacred gift from Kevin.’”

Here’s the other version. In the book, it says that Cassidy was about to bin the book when his wife said “You can’t throw that book out, Danny. It’s a gift from Kevin. Why don’t you put it on your nightstand and look up a word a night?”

OK, memory is fickle but which of these two versions is correct? (If either of them is!)

Another bit I’m a little suspicious of is that according to the first account, Cassidy was in Ireland making a film in the year 2000. What film was this? Did it ever get finished? We know he produced a couple of documentaries in the mid 1990s. But what was this film in 2000?

Then there are the numerous examples he gives in various sources of the words which started to make him think that Irish had had such a major effect on English. Some of them are believable enough. You might well think that slug comes from Irish slogadh, to swallow. And I personally think it’s possible that snazzy comes from Irish snas meaning polish. Also, these are both basic words and would be in a learner’s dictionary. However, though I don’t have a copy of the Foclóir Póca that Cassidy had, I’m quite sure there is no word camag meaning a trick in it (camag is Scottish Gaelic, not Irish). I would also doubt that rare words like dorc and duirb are in a pocket dictionary. Perhaps if anyone does have a copy of the Foclóir Póca, they could check it and let us know. It seems to me that Cassidy is talking about words he found later, when he started looking at larger dictionaries. These are not the words he initially noticed in his pocket dictionary.

In short, it seems to me that Susan Cassidy Connors is right. This little story about the origins of Cassidy’s theory is not an accurate description of what really happened. Like everything Cassidy wrote and said, it has been doctored and manipulated carefully to produce the desired effect – parting suckers from their money.