Monthly Archives: February 2016

The Illusion of Balance

Most of us when faced with a lying, psychopathic cretin like Cassidy would be keen to ensure that he is treated with the contempt he deserves. There are many people who do things differently, who follow a path of gentle cultural relativism where nothing is ever entirely wrong and every claim and belief is to be treated with equal kindness, however ridiculous. Yeah, it’s a wonderful world …

For example, when American poet Terence Winch reviewed Daniel Cassidy’s book, he put in a few negatives to make the thing look balanced, but in fact, the overall effect is to validate and promote Cassidy’s vile, lying book.

But cold shoulders awaited him among some linguists and etymologists who found him lacking in scholarly rigor and authority. Grant Barrett, in particular, presented the most convincing attacks on Cassidy’s work. The debate seems to continue, with some scholars clearly threatened by an amateur barging into their domain with an exciting new insight that none of the experts had ever noticed. It seems to me, however, that Cassidy has presented a wonderful opening for trained scholars to explore, if they could get over their anger at being scooped (from scuab, to snatch away).

Insights like Cassidy’s are creative breakthroughs whose logical structures are filled in later. Last year, in this space, I discussed “eureka moments” and “tacit knowledge” in my post on Elizabeth Sewell. Cassidy’s book is one of those eureka moments that leap beyond the ordinary to give us a new understanding of the subject at hand.

That’s fine, if the book is worthwhile and well researched and correct. If the book is a pile of crud, which How The Irish Invented Slang is, then Cassidy’s theory is not ‘an exciting new insight’ and this ‘balance’ is an illusion. What is really being done is a subtle whitewash, where a couple of token criticisms make the generally positive tone of the review seem reasoned and fair.

Of course, this fake balance is predicated on the notion that all theories are created equal, that nothing can be proven, and that the evidential basis for a claim is irrelevant. I don’t believe this and I really don’t think anyone else should believe it. Winch claims that scoop in journalism comes from Irish scuab. Yet the word scoop meaning something used to pick something up dates back to the Middle Ages in English, and scuab means a brush or broom and is therefore less appropriate than the long-established English word. Winch also mentions dude coming from Irish dúid, meaning 1. Stump. 2. (a) Stumpy object, protuberant part; (short) horn, (cropped) ear, tail. (b) Short-stemmed (clay) pipe. 3. (Craned) neck, throat. 4. (a) Stumpy person. (b) Mopish, shy person; numbskull, but ignores the other claims, that it comes from Dudenkopf in German meaning a dandified idiot, or from Yankee Doodle, who ‘stuck a feather in his cap and called it macaroni.’ (The original meaning of dood is basically a fashion-victim.) He also repeats the absurd Cassidy claim that do-thóigthe means ‘a sickly, hard-to-feed calf.’ A look at any Irish dictionary is enough to disprove that one. And then he finishes with béal ónna for baloney. Yet again, there’s no evidence. If you want to claim that, you should be able to provide evidence from a dictionary or a text in the Irish language which predates Cassidy and which clearly shows that béal ónna has been used to mean nonsense. It you can’t do that, there is no evidence, so the claim is invalid. It’s not rocket science.

When trying to establish the truth, you should give equal credence to claims of equal weight. Sticking your thumb on the scales to give weight to claims which have no substance is not being balanced or fair. In reality, it is giving an unfair advantage to liars and it’s making you an accomplice in their dishonesty.

Meaisín Ticéad

A couple of years ago, I heard a Dubliner who speaks no Irish talking about the Luas system in Dublin. He made a dismissive and mocking comment about the Irish translation of ticket machine as meaisín ticéad. Interestingly, around the same time as this, I happened to read a similar criticism of the use of meaisín ticéad in a newspaper. I think it was the Irish times. I didn’t keep the article but if I remember rightly, it said something like ‘surely they can do better than this.’

And a search on Google has just turned up the following comment from a cretin called Simon Eales.

What’s the Irish for “line”? Oh wait, it’s……..line. Very helpful. The most pointless sign I’ve seen is for “ticket machine” which was “meaisín ticéad”. Oh right, thanks for that, really helpful.

First things first. There is a fundamental stupidity to these criticisms. If you are translating from one language to another, you translate according to what the dictionaries and other sources tell you. In Irish, machine is meaisín. Ticket is ticéad. The fact that both of these words are borrowings from English is irrelevant, as is the fact that their spelling and pronunciation have been changed to conform to Irish patterns. Ticéad dates back to the mid-19th century in Irish, when it was used in its original sense of ‘note’. (Ticket is ultimately a borrowing of the French etiquette.) In its modern sense, ticéad occurs as far back as Acht Fórsaí Cosanta, 1923. Meaisín has been used since at least 1925 in the language, when it occurred in Acht Chuan agus Phort Dhún Dealgan and it has been used many times since in acts, official documents and dictionaries. The morons who scoff at meaisín ticéad seem to think that translators make up basic words like this as they go along! In fact, these are terms that have been in existence since long before any of us were born.

Another point for Mr Eales and his ilk to consider is that not all words which are similar in Irish and English are similar because Irish borrowed them from English. This is just an assumption that stupid people tend to make. The words line in English and líne in Irish both derive ultimately from Latin linea. However, the word líne is first used in Irish in its modern sense (a line of text in this case) in the Féilire Aonghusa in the 8th century: (http://www.dil.ie/search?search_in=headword&q=l%C3%ADne). This predates its first recorded use in English, according to the Online Etymological Dictionary: (http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?allowed_in_frame=0&search=line) .

So, that one belongs to us, Simon. What are you going to use in English from now on to avoid looking ridiculous?

The fact is that most languages are full of borrowings. This isn’t usually an issue unless you’re a bigot like Eales dealing with a minority language. In that case, you’re going to sniff out any words that are similar and sneer at them as evidence of the inherent inferiority of the minority language in question (and presumably the ethnic group which created it), whether that language is Irish, Maori, Welsh, Wajarri or Basque. Of course, any borrowings in major languages like English can be ignored, because they’re real languages.

Let’s just stop making this artificial and irrational distinction and look at the words borrowed by English from French. For example, the English for the French condition is … condition! They didn’t even bother changing the spelling! The Irish is coinníoll or bail or a few other words, depending on the exact meaning. The French accident is accident in English! (Taisme or timpiste in Irish.) Situation is situation in English! (Staid in Irish.) Organisations criminelles are criminal organisations in English … (Eagraíochtaí coiriúla in Irish) There are thousands of borrowings in English from French! It’s too funny for words! Very helpful, eh Simon! I mean, you call English a language?

Actually Simon, I’m not an idiot and I’m not about to lower myself to your level. English is a language. It’s a beautiful, wise, funny, sophisticated language, like every other language on Earth. All human languages are beautiful and fascinating, including small and endangered ones, because the human mind (when free of ignorance and bigotry) is creative and inventive, and that is true across the entire human race. The fact that English is full of obvious borrowings from French doesn’t matter. It doesn’t invalidate its claim to be a language, any more than the far less significant number of borrowings from English in Irish means that Irish isn’t a language.

Unless, of course, you’re a narrow-minded bigot who cherry-picks your facts to suit your prejudices.

The Day JFK Was Shot

I noticed something interesting the other day in the description of Cassidy’s contribution to an oral history project at the Tamiment Library, curated by New York University. You can find the description here: http://dlib.nyu.edu/findingaids/html/tamwag/aia_030/dscref56.html

In general, the oral history project looks interesting. There are plenty of names I’ve never heard of, along with some which will be familiar to most Irish people and even one or two who are familiar faces around Belfast, like Frank Costello.

Cassidy was interviewed by his old crony Peter Quinn. One particular detail caught my eye. It says that “Cassidy provides an insider’s perspective on the day JFK was assassinated as a rookie journalist in the newsroom of the New York Times.”

This is interesting, because it throws up the same problems of chronology and accuracy that bedevil every attempt to work out the details of Cassidy’s life. The problem is that Kennedy was assassinated in November of 1963. We have sporadic references to Cassidy in the Cornell Daily Sun from February 1961, when he was applying for admittance to the Chi Psi fraternity, right through February 1963 when he was made co-editor of a literary mag at Cornell called the Trojan Horse, right up to May 1965, a month before he was withdrawn from the University, when he won a university award for his poetry.

In other words, I am very sceptical about his ‘insider’s perspective on the day JFK was assassinated as a rookie journalist in the newsroom of the New York Times.’ Not that I’m calling Cassidy a liar or anything – I’m sure we’ve all invented a degree or two to get that plum job or written a book full of fake nonsense in a language we don’t speak at some time in our lives.

Of course, I suppose he could have been working part-time in the New York Times while studying, or done a year’s work experience in between two years at college. It’s just that that isn’t the way Cassidy himself told it. In a radio interview with Myles Dungan broadcast on RTÉ 1 on the 11th of February 2007 (now available as a podcast), Cassidy states that he took a job with the New York Times after he finished at Cornell. Notice that he doesn’t say that he graduated (he knew, and we know, that he didn’t graduate.) Perhaps he just forgot where he was. I mean, who remembers where they were when JFK was shot?

I must say, I know where I was. I was in my high chair eating a rusk. As the car glided on and the president crumpled, I pointed at the screen, the rusk momentarily forgotten, dripping milk and crumbs into the bowl. I was unable to speak. Well, to be honest, I only knew about four words at the time: mummy, daddy, doggie, horsey, and somehow none of them seemed quite appropriate to the gravity of the situation …

(If anyone at the Tamiment Library would like to interview me about my traumatic experience of JFK’s death for posterity, you know where to find me.)

So, if Cassidy was still a student in 1963, why did he tell Peter Quinn he was in the newsroom of the New York Times? I’ll take a wee punt here. Cassidy was probably chatting to Peter Quinn one day about JFK, and in keeping with his personal philosophy that a lie is simply a fact with ambition, Cassidy probably told him about his imaginary experience in the newsroom when the news of JFK’s death came through. After all, he was in the newsroom at the New York Times just a couple of short years later, so he was well-placed to take a guess. All well and good, until Peter Quinn turns up with a tape recorder and asks him about that particular occasion. And at that point, Cassidy has the choice to do the right thing and say, Actually, Peter, that was just a humungous crock of shite, like nearly everything I’ve ever told you, or do the wrong thing and carry on lying as if his life depended on it.

Not much of a choice if you’re Daniel Cassidy, who would sooner have stopped breathing than stop lying!

By the way, there’s another interesting inconsistency in the Dungan interview and the Tamiment description. In the Dungan interview, Cassidy states that he sold a script called South of Market to F.F. Coppola, who was a few years senior to him in the New York Military Academy and was nicknamed Ichabod (thank God Cassidy didn’t try to find an Irish origin for that! Ith an bod, which sounds very similar, means ‘eat the penis!’). In the Tamiment description, it says that it was a script called The Volunteer. So maybe the details are wrong. Or … maybe he never really sold any scripts to F.F Coppola at all?

Moron Niall O’Dowd – Sorry, More On Niall O’Dowd

I notice that Brendan Patrick Keane’s ridiculous piece of brown-nosing in support of Cassidy’s nonsense has once again reappeared on Nihil O’Dude’s IrishCentral, only a couple of weeks after the last time it was republished there. Since Christmas they have also republished Tom Deignan’s list of 20 books which all Irish Americans should read, another article which I have criticised here for giving support to How The Irish Invented Slang.

I should point out that I didn’t find this by chance on IrishCentral, a resource which I don’t read and which is strictly for Plastic Paddies and tourists, IMHO. I have minimal interest in the kind of rubbish that IrishCentral specialises in, items like The Top Ten Whackiest Irish Saints or Which Green Food Coloring Should You Use This St Patrick’s Day? or The Rose of Tralee Makeover: Discover Your Inner Colleen. (Just to be clear, I made these up, though the real thing is often worse.) I noticed it because Cassidy’s nasty, lying little book is once again selling more copies on Amazon, as unsuspecting suckers read Keane’s dumbass opinion piece and think the book sounds like fun.

I would like to think that the republishing of these articles is happening because someone at IrishMental has read my comments on this blog rather than because they have no ideas and are forced to endlessly recycle garbage. The thought is flattering. I would love to think that I have pissed off Niall O’Dowd and his cronies. After all, if they are republishing trash that they know to be trash simply because I criticised them for doing so, that isn’t flipping the bird to me. It’s cynically flipping the bird to their own readership. Still, pigs and grunts and all that.

Let me just say it once more, for the sake of anyone who hasn’t got the message yet. Cassidy’s book is full of fake Irish. (And O’Dowd knows enough Irish to realise that. Snua ard? Really?) Most of the words which Cassidy provided fake Irish versions for already have credible and even proven origins in English or other languages. Cassidy himself didn’t speak any Irish. Cassidy was a malignant fraud who spent 12 years pretending to be a professor on a full salary on the strength of a Cornell degree that he flunked. And we all know that the only reason why O’Dowd and the bómáin at IrishCentral are supporting this garbage is because Cassidy had lots of important cronies in New York, people like Joe Lee and Peter Quinn, and offending them by acting like a genuine journalist would open up the appalling vista of O’Dowd and his mates having to buy their own cheese and wine for a change.

What a pathetic bunch of fuckwits!

What would bilingual Irish gangster slang have been like?

As I have said repeatedly in this blog, Cassidy’s explanations for American slang are completely unconvincing. Baloney does not come from béal ónna, heeler does not come from éilitheoir, crony does not come from comh-roghna. Almost all of Cassidy’s claims about the Irish origins of slang are nonsense. However, it does beg the question: If Irish slang had developed out of the bilingual dialect of Irish-American gangsters, what would it have sounded like? I think it might have sounded something like this:

“So, now, Dinny a whack1, you’re after tellin’ me dat dat cackaronya2 Finnegan is up to a bit of da old amaidí3. Damnoo air4, it’ll be dear on him5 if he carries on. Dere’ll be meelya murder6 and no mistake. We’ll hit da little laganya7 wid da law ledger8. I mean, we had a maragoo9! Whatever happened to cothrom na gceithearnach10!”

  1. a mhac – used (along with a mhic) to mean sonny, boyo
  2. cackaronya – cac ar oineach (lit. shit on honour), a worthless person
  3. amaidí – stupidity, nonsense
  4. Damnoo air – (damnú air), damnation on it!
  5. it’ll be dear on him – partial translation of beidh daor air, he will be the worse for it
  6. meelya murder – míle murdar, (lit. a thousand murders), a riot, an uproar – also found in Irish English
  7. laganya – leathdhuine, a half-person, an idiot
  8. law ledger – sounds like lámh láidir, the strong arm, violence
  9. maragoo – margadh, a deal.
  10. the fairness of kerns, equivalent to ‘honour among thieves’ in English.

 

In other words, a lot of Irish-influenced English expressions, some at least which are found in Irish English. A lot of code-switching, with fully Irish phrases like cothrom na gceithearnach thrown in all over the place. However, the thing to note is that nobody reading or hearing this would be in any doubt that this was the result of a mixture of Irish and English.

Cassidy’s suggestions are nothing like genuine Irish.

Scéal Grinn Dátheangach – A Bilingual Joke

Leagan Gaeilge

Bhí eitleán ar shéala titim as an spéir.

Bhí cúigear paisinéirí ar bord, ach ní raibh ach ceithre pharaisiút ann.

Ba í Holly Madison an chéad phaisinéir. Ar sise, “Tá clár réaltachta agam agus is mise an bhean is géarchúisí agus is gleoite ag Playboy. Bheadh muintir Mheiriceá croíbhriste dá bhfaighfinn féin bás.” Thóg sí an chéad phaca agus léim amach as an eitleán.

Arsa an dara paisinéir, John McCain: “Is Seanadóir mise. Is laoch cogaidh mé agus bronnadh boinn orm as mo chrógacht. Bhí mé i scoth-aonad de chuid chabhlach Stát Aontaithe Mheiriceá.” Ghlac seisean an dara paca agus léim.

Arsa an tríú paisinéir, Donald Trump: “Is mise an chéad Uachtarán eile ar na Stáit Aontaithe. Is mise an fear is cliste i Meiriceá agus tá mé ag dul a chur Meiriceá in ard a réime arís.” Leis sin, sciob sé an paca taobh leis agus léim amach.

Is é a dúirt an ceathrú paisinéir, Billy Graham, leis an cúigiú paisinéir, girseach scoile 10 mbliana d’aois: “Bhí saol breá fada agam agus rinne mé mo sheacht ndícheall le freastal ar Dhia. Tabharfaidh mé mo bheatha ar do shon agus ligfidh mé duit an paraisiút deireanach a ghlacadh.”

Arsa an cailín óg: “Ná bíodh imní ort, a Uasail Graham. Tá paraisiút ann duit. Tá an fear is cliste i Meiriceá i ndiaidh léim amach as an eitleán le mo mhála scoile.”

 

English version

An airplane was about to crash. There were 5 passengers on board, but only 4 parachutes.

The first passenger, Holly Madison said: “I have my own reality show and I am the smartest and prettiest woman at Playboy. Americans don’t want me to die.” She took the first pack and jumped out of the plane.

The second passenger, John McCain, said: “I’m a senator, and a decorated war hero from an elite navy unit from the United States of America.” so he grabbed the second pack and jumped.

The third passenger, Donald Trump said, “I am going to be the next President of the United States, I am the smartest man in our country, and I will make America great again”. So he grabbed the pack next to him and jumped out.

The fourth passenger, Billy Graham, said to the fifth passenger, a 10-year-old schoolgirl: “I have lived a full life and served my God the best I could. I will sacrifice my life and let you have the last parachute.”

The little girl said: “That’s okay, Mr. Graham. There’s a parachute left for you. The smartest man in America just jumped out of the plane with my schoolbag.”