Monthly Archives: November 2016

When historians tweet …

I am not a big fan of Twitter. I am sure it is good for something, and I certainly don’t agree with George Clooney that its users are all moronic. No, it’s just that the limit of 140 characters means that it’s hard to say anything of real value or interest unless you talk in haikus or epigrams.

However, there’s another reason not to use Twitter, the false impression it gives of it being a disposable medium, a set of one-off, casual comments framed in an ongoing conversation. Unfortunately, nothing is like that on the internet. Nothing. Your casual, off-the-top-of-your-head popinions, your empty-headed twitterings are there for all to see, unless you choose to delete them (and even then, I bet someone, somewhere has cached the tweets concerned.)

I recently noticed that several people with a background in history have gone on Twitter to recommend an imbecilic article on IrishCentral by Brendan Patrick Keane about Cassidy’s book.

Brian Donovan (a Trinity history graduate), of Eneclann, a company specializing in Irish genealogy material (and also big in FindMyPast), posted this on Twitter in August 2015 with a link to Keane’s dim-witted and ridiculous article:

Good piece on the Irish origins of New York slang. Another “so long”= slán.

No Brian, not even close. Not even WRONG. Is this how good at history the folks at Eneclann are?

And Turtle Bunbury, an oddly-named freelance Irish historian, was obviously feeling too unwell to do all the boring work of researching this stuff (like a true Bunburyist) before he posted a link in 2014:

IRISH WORDS IN NEW YORK CITY SLANG

From a 2010 report by Brendan Patrick Keane. 

I have gone into Brendan Patrick Keane’s article in depth on this blog before, but I’ll just give you a few gems from it to show why no intelligent historian should be recommending it.

This article claims that bailiwick comes from the Irish baille [sic – it should be baile], meaning home. It doesn’t, of course. It comes from the Norman-French word for a bailiff plus the English wick. Dia thoileachas isn’t a real phrase, and isn’t the origin of Gee Whillickers. Swanky doesn’t come from the Irish somhaoineach, as swank is a cognate of German schwanken, meaning to sway. (The idea is of someone strutting proudly or arrogantly.) Snooty is from a Scottish version of snout, not from snua ard, which (if it even existed) would mean high complexion. Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera …

Now, I know that IrishCentral shouldn’t have published this insulting rubbish in the first place, but the people at IrishCentral aren’t historians … or indeed, real journalists. IrishCentral isn’t a serious news site and doesn’t provide real facts. It’s just a bit of tabloid fake-Oirish green froth, and people like Donovan and Bunbury should be a lot more careful about recommending trash like this to other people if they wish to retain any credibility at all as historians.

After all, you may be regarded as a genuine historian now, but remember that checking your sources before commenting is very important, because you’re only a couple of serious lapses like this away from being a talking head on Ancient Aliens.

Don’t say you haven’t been warned.

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Irish and Jamaican Slang

I recently came across an interesting little comment from a certain Bob Fagan, who ran into Cassidy in an empty classroom in New College of California in 2005 or 2006. As Fagan says:

When I heard he was Professor of Irish Studies, I asked him if he had ever heard the theory that much Jamaican/reggae slang comes from Gaelic words that had entered their language centuries earlier, when Irish immigrants and indentured servants settled in Jamaica. Forgetting about his papers, he walked up to the blackboard and for the next ten minutes, wrote down every Jamaican slang term I threw at him, and figured out its Gaelic origins. It was obvious to me that this was a man in love with language, with teaching, as well as with learning. It was an unexpected, brief but truly delightful and memorable encounter.

I would love to have been a fly on the wall listening to Cassidy bullshitting that day. There is, of course, no evidence for Irish influence on Jamaican slang. A quick search on Google fails to turn up even one clear instance of an Irish or Gaelic slang term used in Jamaican patois. Even Monserrat, which has a much stronger claim to direct Irish connections, has almost no Irish influence on its speech patterns. (This source mentions one word which is found in Monserrat which is not found elsewhere and has a clear Irish origin, but generally finds the evidence of an Irish influence on the speech of Monserrat very underwhelming: http://www.phon.ucl.ac.uk/home/wells/brogue.htm)

I wonder what kind of rubbish Cassidy produced as he ‘figured out’ the Gaelic origins of these words for Bob Fagan that day. I’ll have a guess. No doubt, according to Cassidy, jah (in the real world, a shortened form of Jehovah) came from the Irish Dia (God), pronounced jeea. And I think he could well have suggested that irie, meaning good or excellent, comes from éirí, meaning rising or succeeding, though nobody has ever said “Tá sé éirí” in Irish.

Or perhaps (because Cassidy really didn’t know any Irish at all and I’m sure couldn’t have come up with even ludicrous fake Irish candidates without access to a dictionary) he just invented a load of random nonsense, plucking fake Irish words out of his arse to impress a total stranger. Because that’s what hateful ignorant narcissists like Cassidy do, invent a load of lying nonsense in a desperate, needy attempt to impress strangers, then leave the messes they create for other people to clear up.

President Evil

I would like to express my horror and disdain at the election of Donald Trump to the White House. While we should not forget that Hillary Clinton won the majority of the votes, it is deeply shocking that a man like Trump was able to win sufficient support to take the Presidency. It is appalling that millions of people put their trust in this New York narcissist and alumnus of the New York Military Academy, a man who lied incessantly to get what he wanted, a man given to bullying and sexual harassment, and a man who accused anyone who challenged him of being an elitist and a pawn of the establishment. I am sure Corinne Marrinan and Peter Quinn and Michael Patrick MacDonald and Peter Linebaugh and Niall O’Dowd and Sean Sweeney and all the rest of them are as dismayed as I am at the result.

However, as these people have spent the last nine years defending Daniel Cassidy, a New York narcissist and alumnus of the New York Military Academy, a man who lied incessantly to get what he wanted, a man given to bullying and sexual harassment, and a man who accused anyone who challenged him of being an elitist and a pawn of the establishment, you’ll perhaps understand why I don’t have a lot of sympathy for these people. Welcome to the ‘post-truth’ world you helped to create, a world where facts count for nothing and any lie is justifiable in the service of your own particular ideology. As you can see, this kind of dumb-ass relativism cuts both ways. If smart metropolitan liberals can support mindless fact-free bullshit when it suits them, they don’t really have the right to get angry when knuckle-dragging dim-witted fascists do the same thing.

So, God help the American people, and God forgive all the morons  like Corinne Marrinan and Peter Quinn and Michael Patrick MacDonald and Peter Linebaugh and Niall O’Dowd and Sean Sweeney who helped to make this ‘post-truth’ nightmare a reality by not insisting that a lie is a lie is a lie, even when it comes from your friends.

A Farewell To Tom Hayden

The well-known civil rights activist, Tom Hayden, died recently after a long illness in Santa Monica, California. He was born in 1939 in Detroit, Michigan, and became known as a radical anti-war and civil rights activist in the 1960s. He married actress Jane Fonda, and served a combined 18 years in the California State Assembly and State Senate. Hayden also wrote for major publications.

There is no doubt that Hayden was a genuine activist and radical. Yet even Hayden, a clever and principled man, bought into Cassidy’s bullshit for a time. In his book, Irish On The Inside: In Search Of The Soul Of Irish America (2003), Hayden quotes one of Cassidy’s stupidest claims:

The name of one of the most notorious gangs, the Plug Uglies, was an Americanized reference to Ball Oglaigh, or “Irish Volunteers”, according to Daniel Cassidy of the New University’s [sic] Irish Studies Program.

I have already pointed out the word óglach (plural óglaigh) was an ancient word meaning ‘young warrior’ which was effectively recycled as the term for a volunteer when the Irish Volunteers were founded in 1913. It was never used of the Fenian movement in the 19th century and the phrase baill óglaigh would be more likely to mean ‘the members (limbs or sexual organs) of a young warrior’ than ‘a member of the Fenian Brotherhood.’ This is typical of the dim-witted, badly-researched, psychotically over-confident claims made by Cassidy in his book.

Hayden was also involved in Cassidy’s pet project, the Arcs of Piss Festival … sorry, Gates of Gold Festival (which developed into The Irish-American Crossroads Festival). In 2002, he appeared at that festival along with all the usual suspects: William Kennedy, Peter Quinn, Maureen Dezell, and Michael Patrick Mac Donald.

In 2004 he was back at the Festival for a discussion about Irish Americans in the Labor Movement, chaired by our very own criminal fraudster and fake radical, Daniel Cassidy.

And in 2006, he was back again for a discussion on the Hunger Strikes of 1981, again chaired by Danny the Dimwit.

We know that he used to give classes at the Law School at New College but there is no information about how often or when he did this.

Were Cassidy and Hayden friends? I don’t know. He wasn’t involved in any of the ballyhoo surrounding Cassidy’s book and in spite of his links to Cassidy and to the Irish-American Crossroads Festival I am quite sure that he would have had enough decency and integrity to despise Cassidy, if he had known what we know, that Cassidy fraudulently claimed to have qualifications he didn’t have to get a job as a professor. After all, that alone is a major betrayal of any labor or socialist principles. And I would like to think that, were he still alive and in health, Hayden would have cut himself off from The San Francisco Irish-American Crossroads Festival on principle because it continues to offer the public a fake and dishonest biography of Cassidy on its website, complete with degrees we know he didn’t have, an academic status he wasn’t entitled to and some grossly inflated claims about his achievements.

In short, the evidence suggests that Tom Hayden was a genuine radical, unlike Daniel Cassidy, and should be celebrated and remembered as such.

However, it also shows how Cassidy’s theories seeped into the Irish-American community like raw sewage, corrupting and tainting even decent and intelligent people with their poison.