Monthly Archives: March 2016

Damp Squid

Daniel Cassidy did no original research at all. His idea of research was to abstract information from dictionaries, then sneer at the people who had done the work for him. His main targets were the Oxford English Dictionary and Merriam-Webster, who he misrepresented as a clique of WASP bigots. Cassidy called these bastions of the linguistic establishment ‘the dictionary dudes’. In reality, of course, there is more of an implied criticism of the main dictionary-makers in the Irish language in Cassidy’s work, as none of Cassidy’s insane phrases like pá lae sámh and béal ónna are mentioned in any of the Irish dictionaries. It is also interesting that when Cassidy was confronted with a real Irish person who knew some Irish and could clearly see that Cassidy knew nothing about the subject, Cassidy was quite happy to hide behind the authority of the OED. This happened in an RTÉ radio programme, Highway 101 with Myles Dungan, now available as a podcast, where Cassidy, having been pulled up on his pronunciation, talks about the origins of phoney in Irish fáinne. Cassidy says: Your audience must be saying, this guy Cassidy’s a real crackpot, [TRUE!!] but that’s not my etymology, that’s the etymology in the Oxford English Dictionary … Strange that he both sneers at the OED and then appeals to its authority when it suits him. But then, Cassidy was what we call a teanga liom leat (a tongue with-me with-you, a hypocrite) or a coileach gaoithe (a weather vane). Or in the English of Ireland, a gobshite.

However, most of Cassidy’s sheeple have never heard this podcast and don’t know anything about Irish, and they continue to spout nonsense about how the OED and Merriam-Webster are full of anti-Irish bigots. Just recently I quoted the Boston writer Michael Patrick MacDonald, who talks about the ‘racist OED lapdogs!’ What an idiot!

I have been reading a book recently by one of these ‘racist OED lapdogs’, Jeremy Butterfield, who has commented here. I do not know Jeremy personally. I’ve never met him outside of the virtual realm of language blogs and I’ve never even been to Oxford.

However, I loved the book, and I am giving a brief review here, mainly because it’s a good book and worth reading, but also because it exemplifies very clearly how stupid and paranoid the criticisms of the ‘dictionary dudes’ by the Cassidy Cargo Cult are.

Damp Squid: The English Language Laid Bare is a very witty, informative and well-written account of lexicography and its history and the way that corpus linguistics and computing have changed the way that dictionaries like the OED are compiled. I have read a lot of books on linguistics, so much of the material was familiar to me, but there were plenty of interesting facts which were new to me. For example, the term dictionary was quite late in arriving on the scene. The first English dictionary was Latin-English. The second was apparently Welsh-English (1547)!

There are fascinating discussions of metaphor, register and eggcorns (phrases like damp squid, which was originally damp squib, but most people don’t know what a squib is these days, so they reinterpret it). I was particularly struck by his observations about how society is always metaphorically a building, while the state is often a ship. (‘foundations of a just society’, ‘Captain, My Captain…’) Obvious, when you think about it, but I had never thought about it.

It is also quite clear that Jeremy Butterfield is not the bigoted WASP Cassidy and his friends liked to denigrate. His views on language are very democratic. In the culture war between people like Simon Heffer and David Crystal, there is no doubt that he is on the Crystal side. He does not believe that dictionary definitions are set in stone, and he mocks the approach of a long-dead generation of language mavens who disliked the use of French words because you can apparently say all kinds of morally suspect things in French which English simply can’t express!

The open-mindedness of his approach demonstrates beautifully that comments like MacDonald’s ‘racist OED lapdogs’ are just childish displays of ignorance and bigotry.

In other words, Damp Squid is a fascinating book. It is full of information, but it is also fun and very readable. In short, it is everything that Cassidy’s rubbishy book is not. And even more gratifying, it is much higher on the Amazon Bestsellers Rank than How The Irish Invented Slang. Yay!!

You can (and should) buy the book at Amazon here: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Damp-Squid-English-Language-Laid/dp/019957409X

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An fód a sheasamh ar son an chomhionannais – Standing up for equality

Bhí rud éigin ar IrishCentral ar na mallaibh faoi Mhórshiúl clúiteach na Féile Pádraig i Nua-Eabhrac. Faoi dheireadh thiar thall, ligfear do dhream LADT (Leispiach, Aerach, Déghnéasach agus Trasinscneach, nó LGBT i mBéarla) bheith páirteach sa mhórshiúl. Ba mhaith liom comhghairdeas a dhéanamh leo anseo. Tá súil agam, ní hamháin go ligfear dóibh bheith páirteach, ach go gcuirfear fáilte fhial fhairsing Ghaelach rompu. Is Gaeil iad, agus tá an ceart acu bheith ansin.

Luaitear Peter Quinn, cara mór le Cassidy, san alt chéanna. De réir cosúlachta, bhí seisean páirteach san fheachtas le stop a chur leis an éagóir a bhí á déanamh ar Ghaeil LADT na cathrach. Tréaslaím a shaothar leis, agus tréaslaím a saothar leis na daoine eile atá luaite san alt, Loretta Brennan-Glucksman agus Malachy McCourt ina measc. Sa chás seo, tá an rud ceart déanta ag Peter Quinn agus ag na daoine eile.

An gciallaíonn sin go bhfuil mé sásta maithiúnas a thabhairt do Quinn as tacú leis an ghealt uafásach sin Cassidy? Is dócha go bhfuil freagra na ceiste sin ar eolas agaibh cheana féin. Tá mé sásta a fheiceáil go bhfuil Quinn ar thaobh na n-aingeal sa chás seo. Ach an ndéanann dea-ghníomh cúiteamh as drochghníomh? Níl mé róchinnte.  Is é rud é, gur thug Quinn tacaíocht do Cassidy. Dhiúltaigh sé an fhírinne a insint agus dhiúltaigh sé a admháil nach raibh sé ceart ná cóir an tacaíocht sin a thabhairt don chaimiléir agus don bhréagadóir is mó i stair na nGael i Meiriceá.

Tá Peter Quinn agus a chairde le moladh as tacaíocht a thabhairt don chomhionannas agus do chearta daonna maidir leis an mhórshiúl. Ach tá a fhios againn gur ghlac Cassidy leis an phost mar Ollamh in New College, in ainneoin nach raibh céim ar bith aige, in ainneoin nach raibh sé cáilithe, in ainneoin nach raibh foilseacháin acadúla ar bith foilsithe aige agus in ainneoin nach raibh Gaeilge ar bith aige. Bímis ionraic faoi. Ghoid Cassidy an post sin. An amhlaidh nach raibh duine aerach ar bith ann a raibh céim nó céimeanna aige nó aici i litríocht na hÉireann san am sin? An amhlaidh nach raibh duine de bhunús Afracach nó Easpáinneach a raibh céim aici nó aige sa Léann Éireannach sna Stáit in 1995?  Níl a fhios againn cén sórt daoine a bhí ann, réidh leis an phost sin a dhéanamh agus a dhéanamh go maith, cionn is nach bhfuair siad an deis. Ghoid Cassidy an post agus an t-airgead a bhí ag gabháil leis. Agus daoine cumasacha a raibh cáilíochtaí acu, fágadh amuigh san fhuacht iad ionas go dtiocfadh leis an liúdramán seo ligean air gur ollamh léannta a bhí ann os comhair an tsaoil.

Maith sibh as balla gloine amháin a bhriseadh agus ligean do dhaoine a gcearta a bheith acu. Ach ná déan dearmad ar an chara s’agatsa, a Peter, a dhruid an doras ar dhuine éigin anaithnid d’fhonn tuarastal agus stádas nach raibh tuillte aige a choinneáil chuige féin.

Nach bhfuil sé in am duit cuimhneamh ar an éagóir a rinneadh ar an duine anaithnid sin, agus an rud ceart a dhéanamh sa deireadh thiar thall?

 

 

There was something on IrishCentral recently about the famous St. Patrick’s Day Parade in New York. At long last, an LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) group will be allowed to take part in the parade. I would like to congratulate them here. I hope that not only will they be allowed to take part, but they will receive a generous Irish welcome. They are Irish people, and they have a right to be there.

In the same article, Peter Quinn, a big friend of Cassidy’s, is mentioned. Apparently, he was involved in the campaign to put a stop to the injustice to which the LGBT Irish people of the city were being subjected. I applaud his efforts, and I applaud the efforts of the other people who were mentioned in the article, Loretta Brennan-Glucksman and Malachy McCourt. In this case, Peter Quinn and those other people have done the right thing.

Does that mean I’m happy to forgive Quinn for supporting that horrible nut-job Cassidy? You probably know the answer to that question already. I am glad to see that Quinn is on the side of the angels in this case. But does a good deed make up for a bad deed? I’m not so sure. The thing is, Quinn supported Cassidy. He refused to tell the truth and he refused to admit that it was neither right nor proper to support one of the biggest fraudsters and liars in the history of Irish America.

Peter Quinn and his friends are to be praised for supporting equality and human rights in relation to the parade. But we know that Cassidy accepted the job as Professor in New College, in spite of the fact that he had no degree, in spite of the fact that he wasn’t qualified, in spite of the fact that he had no academic publications to his name, in spite of the fact that he had no Irish. Let’s be honest here. Cassidy stole that job. Were there no gay people who had a degree or degrees in Irish literature at that time? Were there no people of African or Hispanic origin with a degree in Irish Studies in the States in 1995? We don’t know what sort of people there were, ready to do the job and do it well, because they didn’t get the chance. Cassidy stole the job and the money that went with it. And talented people who had qualifications were left out in the cold so that this moron could pretend to the world that he was a learned professor.

Well done for breaking one glass wall and allowing people to have their rights. But don’t forget, Peter, that your friend closed the door on some unknown person in order to keep a salary and a status which he hadn’t deserved for himself.

Isn’t it time you remembered the injustice that was done to that unknown person and finally did the right thing?

 

Beannachtaí na Féile Pádraig

St Patrick’s Day will soon be here, so it seems like a good opportunity once again to attack Cassidy’s rubbish book of fake Irish, to encourage people to learn a little of the real thing, and to say a couple of words about the philosophy of language learning.

At this time of year, many people in the Irish diaspora take an interest in their culture and history. Because of the irresponsible behaviour of a number of prominent members of the Irish-American establishment like Peter Quinn, Joe Lee, Michael Patrick MacDonald, Tom Deignan and countless others, who recommended and continue to recommend this nonsense to gullible people, this book is still in print and still being sold. This is a disgrace. Cassidy’s ‘research’ is a cruel and disgusting hoax and IMHO no decent person would support it. However, thanks in part to this blog, people are now much more aware of how dishonest and foolish this book is, so the newspaper articles about Cassidy’s linguistic ‘revelations’ which used to appear at this time of year have been considerably fewer over the last couple of years. The only major organ (yes, I’m aware of the innuendo) of the diaspora which still supports this raiméis is the egregious IrishCentral. They continue to republish a semi-literate ‘review’ of Cassidy’s book by some 9/11 Truther called Brendan Patrick Keane.

Anyway, it seems appropriate to celebrate St Patrick’s Day with some handy (and GENUINE) phrases in our beautiful Ulster dialect of the Irish language.

 

Beannachtaí na Féile Pádraig duit!

Ban-akh-tee na fayla pahrig ditch!

Blessings of St Patrick’s day to you!

 

Go raibh míle maith agat.

Go roh meela moy oggut!

A thousand thanks!

 

Tá sé iontach deas inniu.

Tah shay intah jass inyoo.

It’s very nice today.

 

Sláinte mhór agus saol fada agat!

Slahn-chya wore ogus seel fadda oggut!

Good health and long life to you!

 

If you want some more information on these things, there are hundreds of resources on line. Focloir.ie is particularly good and has audio files for common words. Just don’t trust anything you read on IrishCentral, in any language, and don’t use Cassidy’s book as a source for learning Irish!

As for the philosophy of language learning, here’s a few points for people thinking of learning Irish:

DO

  • learn a little every day – start NOW!
  • label things you use every day – fridge, cooker, car, door
  • write common words or phrases on cards and carry them round with you
  • learn a few proverbs or songs by heart
  • use apps and words of the day and the Kindle and other new technology
  • get output by TG4 and Raidió na Gaeltachta and listen to the language as much as possible (without bothering about understanding it) just to get used to the sounds and intonation

 

DON’T

  • go to a class once a week and forget about it the rest of the time
  • try to learn everything at once and get disheartened when you can’t
  • use Google Translate to translate INTO Irish (it’s useful to get an idea of what a text means in a language you don’t speak well or at all but, for example, if you put I cycled a lot into Google Translate, you get Rothar mé go leor, which is garbage!)
  • make up sentences which are too complicated for you – stick to the structures you know to be correct. Walk, then run! There’s no point in practising elaborate structures which are wrong. Stick to simple sentences which are right! 

Beannachtaí na Féile Pádraig daoibh!!

More on Michael Patrick MacDonald

Before Christmas, in a blog post called Fact or Fun, I mentioned an incredibly stupid tweet from the Boston writer Michael Patrick MacDonald, a crony of Cassidy’s. A Twitter user called Coiste Focal Nua (=New Word Committee) said that Cassidy’s book was regarded as ‘academic fraud’, whereupon Michael Patrick MacDonald wrote:

Never was academic. Bigger than that. It raises serious questions about the racist OED lapdogs.

Coiste Focal Nua replied:

No it does not. He made almost everything up. Here is a reliable enough list http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_English_words_of_Irish_origin

MacDonald replied with another stupidity:

That’s a ridiculous list. One of the most loquacious ethnicities in U.S. contributed a handful of words to American slang?

Of course, this is the same old nonsense we have had from every supporter of Cassidy. No specific words are mentioned. No evidence is provided. There just must be more words than that because Irish people talk a lot. Coiste Focal Nua replied with this:

Most probably. Go n-éirí leat le foghlaim na Gaeilge. (May you be successful in learning Irish.)

MacDonald’s reply was another typical piece of lame-brained nonsense:

good luck studying American social history & culture.

This is a standard response from the Cassidy-lovers. We’ve seen the same pompous rubbish from Sean Sweeney, amongst others. Apparently, there are certain arcane and obscure aspects of Irish-American culture which we non-Irish-Americans know nothing about and this is why we don’t accept Cassidy’s claims, not because they’re lies. It’s a foolish argument and it’s also incredibly condescending. I mean, what are these aspects of Irish-American culture which confirm Cassidy’s arguments? What exactly are we Irish so ignorant of?

Wow, so you mean that all those people who left Ireland, they went to America? Really? I thought they all went to Greenland, or Botswana. I know all my relatives lived in Boston and New York but I thought that was just us! So, they came over to the USA. And they lived in slum houses. Not castles … or mud huts … or houseboats? OK, slum houses. And they found jobs? They worked? Why did they work? Oh, I see, they would have starved to death if they didn’t. Never thought of that. But some of them didn’t work. They became criminals. Right. That means they broke the law? Hmm. This is getting complicated. Mind if I take notes?

The fact is, of course, that the number of Irish speakers in the community, the jobs they did or the social class they belonged to are entirely irrelevant. They mean nothing.

Cassidy’s crazy theories fall flat on one question and one question only. Are there hundreds of words in American slang which have no known origin and which resemble Irish phrases and words? And the answer to this is a resounding NO. Cassidy invented almost all the Irish phrases in the book, he lied about the definitions of the Irish words, he ignored alternative explanations. When you strip away all the rubbish, all that’s left is a handful of words and phrases like slew, galore, shebeen and sourpuss, which were already clearly labelled as words of Irish origin in the dictionaries.

The fact is, no aspect of American social history can increase the number of slang words which have matches in the Irish language. No aspect of social history can make Cassidy’s Irish better or his absurd phrases more like the real thing. No aspect of social history can make Cassidy less of a fraud and more of a scholar.

So MacDonald, wise up and stop talking nonsense! The only reason you’re supporting this shite is because Cassidy was a friend of yours. He wasn’t a friend of mine and he wasn’t a friend of the Irish language or the Irish people. And as long as you continue to support this American con-man who treated our language and culture with such obvious contempt, neither are you.