Monthly Archives: December 2017

Nollaig Shona Agus Bliain Úr Faoi Mhaise!

Ba mhaith liom an deis a thapú anseo míle buíochas a ghabháil le gach duine a lean nó a léigh an blag seo i rith na bliana. Go raibh bliain den scoth agaibh in 2018!

Seo daoibh carúl galánta sa teanga s’againne, Don Oíche Úd i mBeithil:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KBgcClx2wnM

Agus seo na focail i nGaeilge, le haistriúchán garbh i mBéarla:

 

Don oíche úd i mBeithil

beidh tagairt ar grian go brách,

don oíche úd i mBeithil

gur tháinig an Briathar slán;

tá gríosghrua ar spéarthaibh

‘s an talamh ‘na chlúdach bán;

féach Íosagán sa chléibhín,

‘s an Mhaighdean ‘Á dhiúl le grá

 

Ar leacain lom an tsléibhe

go nglacann na haoirí scáth

nuair in oscailt gheal na spéire

tá teachtaire Dé ar fáil;

céad glóir anois don Athair

sna Flaitheasaibh thuas go hard!

is feasta fós ar an talamh

d’fhearaibh dea-mhéin’ siocháin!

 

N.B. Baineann an leagan seo úsáid as an tseaniolra thabharthach –aibh (col ceathrair –ibus na Laidine, mar shampla, sa tseanfhocal ‘e pluribus unum.’) Níl sin le fáil sa teanga nua-aoiseach. Agus bíonn ‘faoin ghrian’ nó ‘faoin ngrian’ sna leaganacha nua-aoiseacha, cionn is nach dtuigeann Gaeilgeoirí an lae inniu an frása ‘ar grian’ a chiallaíonn ‘ar domhan’.

 

Yon night in Bethlehem

will be talked of on earth forever

yon night in Bethlehem,

the night the Word was born;

there is a glow in the skies

and the earth is covered with white;

behold Jesus in the cradle

and the Virgin feeding Him with love.

 

On the bare stones of the mountain

where the shepherds take their shelter

when in a bright opening of the sky

God’s messenger is there;

a hundred glories to the Father,

in the Heavens above so high!

and forever after on the earth

peace to men of good will!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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An open letter to the advisory board of the San Francisco Irish-American Crossroads Festival

To:

Charles Fanning

Katherine Hastings

Caledonia Kearns

Daniele Maraviglia

Linda Norton

Miriam Nyhan

Nancy Quinn

Peter Quinn

James Silas Rogers

Tim Sullivan

 

Sometimes, our heroes turn out to have feet of clay and even when they were responsible for establishing valid and worthwhile institutions, it can be difficult for those institutions to avoid being contaminated with the scandal associated with a toxic founder.

In the case of the Lance Armstrong Foundation, it rebranded itself as the Livestrong Foundation when Armstrong was exposed as a drugs cheat. It continues to raise money but it is not as successful as it was. Its new name suggests a link to Armstrong (L – strong) but the information on its website gives no indication of the organisation’s history or Armstrong’s role in it.

In the case of the Jimmy Savile Charitable Trust, when the shit hit the fan, it initially considered rebranding itself to remove all links to the serial rapist and paedophile who founded it but a few weeks later, it declared that it was shutting up shop. The scandal and the stigma were just too great.

As for the New College of California, the exposure of its founder as a predatory paedophile came shortly before the wheels came off the institution itself. The exposure of John Leary as a sexual predator was not responsible for the collapse of the institution but it probably didn’t help. Had the college survived, it would have been necessary to remove or rewrite material like this about its founder to reflect the fact that Leary was kicked out of Gonzaga for a sexual assault on a young boy: “Jack, a Jesuit priest and teacher of philosophy, had recently resigned as president of Gonzaga University in Washington state because of his dissatisfaction with the current American model of undergraduate education. He wanted to start over. And so New College of California began as a handful of students and teachers meeting in Jack’s Sausalito living room.”

The San Francisco Irish-American Crossroads Festival was founded by Daniel Cassidy, a ‘professor’ at New College in 2004. After Cassidy’s book was published, Cassidy was criticised immediately by genuine scholars for his poor research but it is only in the last few years that the full extent of Cassidy’s dishonesty and criminality has come to light.

As I have said before on this blog, the In Memoriam section of the Festival’s website gives a fictional and sanitised account of the founder’s life. According to this account, Cassidy had degrees from Columbia and Cornell. In a radio interview with Myles Dungan, Cassidy talks about his Bachelor’s degree from Cornell and taking some ‘graduate’ classes at Columbia. Cornell University has stated that Cassidy was removed from Cornell without gaining a degree and his sister has stated here that he never went to Columbia. This in itself is clear evidence that Cassidy was a fraudster. Cassidy had no degrees or qualifications at all. He was not a real professor.

His book, How The Irish Invented Slang, is one of the most dishonest, ignorant and badly-researched books ever written. Far from being a revelatory work of etymology, it is an insult to the world of scholarship, to the Irish people and to anyone who cares about basic standards of honesty and fair play. This dim-witted collection of disinformation is totally antithetical to the mission statement of the Festival: “Founded in 2004, the Crossroads Irish-American Festival promotes the discovery and understanding of the Irish experience in the Americas to ensure that the richness of the arts, culture, history and traditions of this heritage are both held in great esteem and preserved for generations to come.”

I cannot force the people at the Irish-American Crossroads Festival to tell the truth about Cassidy. All I can do is to point out once again that Cassidy should be held to account for his fraud and criminality, not held up as an inspiration and a good example. Anyone who allows lies like this to be associated with their name is not a decent human being. If you wish to protect your reputation, demand that those responsible for the website remove the lies about Cassidy. If you support Daniel Cassidy and his insane theories, directly or indirectly, you are a willing accessory to this puerile, dishonest nonsense which has been used to swindle tens of thousands of people out of their hard-earned money.

Cracker

I recently bestowed my December Twit of the Month Award on Michael Krasny for an appalling radio interview with the late Daniel Cassidy. At one point, Krasny mentions the word cracker to Cassidy. Cracker is a slang term, originally referring to the poor whites of certain southern states, and now used as a disparaging term for a white man. A letter to the Earl of Dartmouth dated to the 1760s says: “I should explain to your Lordship what is meant by Crackers; a name they have got from being great boasters; they are a lawless set of rascalls on the frontiers of Virginia, Maryland, the Carolinas, and Georgia, who often change their places of abode.”

In the interview, Cassidy laughs smugly and says that he is certain that the word cracker is derived from Irish. In his insane rubbishy book, Cassidy says that it comes from similar Irish or Scottish Gaelic words meaning boaster or jester. Cassidy is right that there are terms for boaster or jester in both Irish and Scottish Gaelic which sound like cracker (cracaire or craicire in Irish, cracaire or cnacair in Scottish Gaelic).

However, just because there are similar words in English and Gaelic doesn’t tell us anything about why they are similar. There are four possible explanations.

One is that this is pure coincidence. This is less unlikely than you might think (look at Irish daor and English dear, both meaning expensive, both pronounced similarly and completely unrelated). However, it is still pretty unlikely, so we will leave this possibility aside.

Secondly, there is the possibility that the two words are cognates, words which derive from an earlier language which was ancestral to both sets of languages. However, there is no history to explain the words craicire in Irish or cnacair in Scottish Gaelic and these words can only be traced back a couple of hundred years in the Gaelic languages, so this is unlikely.

The third possibility is that the similar words result from borrowing and that that borrowing was from the Gaelic languages to English. As crack meant a loud noise and then boastful talk in English and cracker for boaster dates back at least to the 16th century in English, it makes more sense to regard cracker in English/Scots as being the original and the Gaelic words as borrowings, particularly given that there is a pattern of borrowing from English to Irish and no pattern of extensive borrowing from Irish to English. The word craic may be treated as an Irish word now but it is very definitely a borrowing from English or Scots and therefore can’t be the origin of craicire. Cracaire in Irish (modern spelling craicire) is first found (as far as I can ascertain) in O’Reilly’s Irish-English Dictionary of 1817, where it means a boaster. I cannot find any reference to it in Corpas na Gaeilge (a collection of poems, prose works and songs in Irish from the 17th to the 19th centuries, with over seven million words of searchable text). It is not in the Electronic Dictionary of Irish Texts.

In other words, the fourth possibility is by far the most likely – that this word originates from English or Scots cracker (derived from crack meaning loud noise, conversation) and then was borrowed into Irish and Scottish Gaelic in the 18th century. The word seems to be derived from the Middle English cnac, or crak, which originally meant the sound of the cracking of a whip and later came to mean loud or bragging talk. Cracker goes back a long way in English. It is found in Shakespeare’s King John (1595): “What cracker is this same that deafs our ears with this abundance of superfluous breath?”

Just a word about a couple of other pieces of dishonesty in Cassidy’s idiotic book. In the book, Cassidy mentions that some slang dictionaries claim that cracker is linked to the sound of slave-masters cracking their whips and says that Dwelly’s dictionary confirms this. However, when we look at the original quotation from Dwelly, it directs you to the word cnacair:

“Cnacair, sm Talker, (Scot, cracker). 2 Cracker. 3 Cracker of a whip. 4 Knocker. (see: http://www.dwelly.info/index.aspx)”

In other words, it does mention ‘cracker of a whip’, as Cassidy says. However, it also says that this is not really a Gaelic word at all, but a borrowing from Scots (not Scottish Gaelic, but the Lowland Scots cousin of English). How did Cassidy miss this vital piece of information? Well, I don’t believe he did. He continually doctored and edited the information he found in his sources in order to make the best case possible for whatever piece of nonsense he was trying to prove. He had no respect for the truth or for the values of genuine scholarship.

I should also point out that this word is mentioned in Green English, Loretto Todd’s May 2000 book on the Irish influence on English. I have discussed this before. It is a rather slapdash affair, though nowhere near as flaky as Cassidy’s ‘research’. I am convinced that Cassidy used it as a source, though there is no acknowledgement of his indebtedness in the book.

Incidentally, there was also an historian of Celtic influences on the Old South called Grady McWhiney who insisted (erroneously) that cracker derived from craic. I don’t know if Cassidy had come across this book or not.

Once again, Cassidy’s claims turn out to be self-serving, dishonest, badly-researched baloney.

December’s Twit of the Month – Michael Krasny

December’s Twit of the Month was originally intended to be Peter Linebaugh, an indifferent Marxist historian who has given his support to Cassidy’s crazy theories about the Irish origins of slang. However, a week ago, I happened on an interview given by Cassidy late in 2007, and broadcast on St Stephen’s Day (26th of December) in that year. You can find it here: https://ww2.kqed.org/forum/2007/12/26/daniel-cassidy/

The interview was conducted by a radio presenter and academic (a professor of English at San Francisco State) called Michael Krasny. Like all interviews with Daniel Cassidy, it is an embarrassing mixture of arrogance, stupidity, fake modesty and name-dropping. As with other interviews with Cassidy, Krasny makes no attempt at all to cut through all the bullshit and establish the truth.

Anyway, the nonsense in this KQED interview begins almost immediately. Michael Krasny reels off a list of some of the fake derivations given by Cassidy, words like scram, skedaddle and jazz. All of these have been dealt with here. Use the search box above to find out more.

The interview begins with Daniel Cassidy trying to pretend that he speaks some Irish by reciting a sentence he has learned by heart – badly. Unfortunately, Krasny interrupts him several times, so he has to repeat the first phrase three times. This phrase is supposed to be “Tá áthas orm” (I am happy) but what he actually says three times is “Tá amhas a’am” (I have a hooligan). The rest of it is not much better and demonstrates beyond doubt that Cassidy knew no Irish and probably didn’t have access to anyone who could speak good Irish either (for example, áit a bhí an Ghaeilge beo should be áit a raibh an Ghaeilge beo – anyone comfortable with Irish grammar would know this).

The rest of this tiresome interview is no better. It’s the same old shite. Cassidy says that glom, a word meaning to grab, comes from Irish. As we’ve already seen, it came into standard English from Scots glaum, and it probably originates in Scottish Gaelic. This is the explanation given by the mainstream dictionaries. It completely invalidates Cassidy’s claim. Why Krasny couldn’t look up a dictionary himself, or at least adopt the time-honoured motto that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, is unclear. I note that Krasny taught in San Francisco State university. So did Cassidy, before he became a lecturer at New College of California. Did they know each other?

It would take too long to go through every lie, every piece of incompetence, every wasted opportunity to bring out the truth in this appalling interview. Brag doesn’t come from Irish and the OED doesn’t say that it is from a word meaning trousers (that’s a similar French word which doesn’t enter English until long after brag was first used and is therefore not the origin of brag in English). Duking doesn’t come from Irish tuargain, which is not pronounced as duking anyway. Spiel, as Krasny says but doesn’t press for, comes from Yiddish and has no connection to a Scots Gaelic word speal (which isn’t pronounced spiel, as Cassidy pronounces it here) and which doesn’t mean a sharp hoe (it’s a scythe). All of Cassidy’s claims, about jazz and sucker and kike and cant are all crap. The man blithely lies and mispronounces and fakes meanings and fails to point out that his idiotic ‘Irish’ equivalents for baloney and nincompoop and bunkum were his own inventions, not real phrases in the Irish language.

Krasny doesn’t seem to care. He gives Cassidy an easy time of it, buys all his bullshit, gives him a platform to sell this arrogant trash to unsuspecting people and even attacks his fellow academics for their anti-Irish bias in not recognising Cassidy’s made-up rubbish as fact.

However, the worst of it is in the phone-in section of the programme. A couple of people are critical of Cassidy but Krasny doesn’t dig deeper. In fact, when one caller points out that he has got it wrong about the origins of the word tinker, and says ‘it goes to prove the point many people have called – you are reaching’, Krasny and Cassidy thank him quickly and move on.

Finally, I feel I should explain what I meant by Cassidy’s false modesty. Cassidy says several times that he isn’t sure of every word. On the surface, he sounds like a reasonable human being. Yet a little more than a month after this, using a fake identity, Cassidy answered critics on a forum about language like this:

“Barret the Parrot had better kiss the toin (buttocks) of his publishers at Oxford. With his books down around 270,000 and 600,000 on Amazon, whereas Cassidy’s book is in 5th reprint in 7 months and just won an American Book Award.

Is it a twerp (duirb, a worm)? Is it a dork (dorc, a dwarf)? Or is it Barrett the Parrot? No it’s “Superscam” (aka Barret the English Parrott) and his phoney made-up quotes.

Here are REAL QUOTES that haven’t been hahahahaha deleted hahahahahahaha.

Believe Barrett the Parrott (AKA Superscam) or Dr. Joe Lee, who is a native Irish speaker and the Director of Irish Studies at NYU? Professor Lee is one of the foremost scholars in the field of Irish Studies in the US and Ireland.”

(Lee, of course, was a friend of Cassidy’s.) In other words, while he was being treated the way he felt he had a right to be treated, as a genuine academic with a valid theory, Cassidy managed to pretend to be a sane and reasonable person. When anyone tried to confront him with the truth, he regressed to being an ignorant, infantile narcissist who was completely incapable of dealing with the least challenge to his fragile ego.

Krasny should have spotted the logical inconsistencies, smelt the bullshit and acted accordingly. Instead, he became one of this man’s many unwitting enablers and accomplices in his project of deceiving Irish America and lining his own pockets with the profits of his fraud. It is for that reason that I am happy (or should that be, I have a hooligan?) to award Michael Krasny December’s Twit of the Month Award.

Mayhem

I have noticed that many of the early posts on this blog get relatively little traffic, so I have decided to start republishing some of them.

According to Cassidy, this word, which means a disturbance or trouble, is derived from the Irish word maidhm, which means an outbreak. Sounds plausible enough when you first hear it but let’s examine the evidence carefully. First of all, what does the word maidhm mean?

Maidhm is pronounced  similarly to the English word mime. It is used of something which has been held in and suddenly breaks through. So a maidhm shneachta is a maidhm of snow, an avalanche. A landslide is a maidhm thalún, while a maidhm phortaigh is a distinctly Irish natural disaster, the bogslide.

So, can maidhm be used for riot or civil disturbance? Irish is very rich in words and phrases for disturbances or hubbub. Trioblóid, ciréib, cíor thuathail, cath, ruaille-buaille, rí-rá, fuirse má rabhdaileamMaidhm is not one that would normally be used.  If someone said “Bhí maidhmeanna i mBéal Feirste aréir”, an Irish speaker would take this to mean that there were landslides of some kind in Belfast, not that there were riots.

When maidhm is used about warfare, it has a very specific meaning, namely that your defensive line has broken and that your troops are running away. In other words, it means a rout or catastrophic defeat. This is not at all what the word mayhem means, of course.

And in any case, the word mayhem doesn’t sound much like maidhm and it has an unassailable history in English going back to the 13th century, before any Irish ghettoes appeared in the English-speaking world. It derives from Norman French and is a legal term.  Cassidy mentions the dictionary derivation but obviously prefers his own fantasy version to reality.

As we linguists say, etymology by sound is not sound etymology!

Some useful terms

I have recently been looking at a handful of words and phrases which are useful in describing pseudoscience and woo and fake information. All of them could easily be applied to the crackpot supporters of Daniel Cassidy. The first of these words is truly wonderful. It’s ultracrepidarianism.

The story goes that an ancient Greek artist called Apelles heard one of his paintings being criticised by a cobbler, and the artist replied that the cobbler should not go beyond his soles (ultra crepidam in the Latin version). This has become proverbial in many languages, though the sole has often been transformed to last, the wooden block (ceap in Irish) used to fashion a shoe. (The cobbler should stick to his last in English, for example.) Ultracrepidarianism describes someone who is going beyond his area of expertise, holding forth on subjects he or she knows nothing about. Unfortunately, as far as I can see, this proverb has never made it into the Irish language, and we have no direct equivalent for ultracrepidarianism, though the word pápaireacht (=pontificating, talking like a pope, talking nonsense) is a fairly close match, as is the phrase ‘ag labhairt thar a eolas’ (speaking beyond his knowledge).

Ultracrepidarianism has no connection to the word decrepit, by the way, and is nothing to do with the expression ‘a load of cobblers’ either, which comes from rhyming slang (a load of cobbler’s awls = balls).

Another great phrase which I have just come across is The Dunning-Kruger Effect. This was coined fairly recently by the eponymous psychologists. It means: a cognitive bias wherein people of low ability suffer from illusory superiority, mistakenly assessing their cognitive ability as greater than it is. Basically, it means the tendency of stupid people not to realise just how stupid they are. If you want to use it as Gaeilge, it’s just Éifeacht Dunning-Kruger, of course.

And here’s a word that I have invented and I want to try to get it into the OED, so I hope others will pick up on it and use it as much as possible. It’s synomosophilia. Synomosia (συνωμοσία) is the ancient Greek for conspiracy, so a synomosophile is a lover of conspiracies. Many of Cassidy’s supporters are clearly synomosophiles. The default position of a synomosophile is to assume that there is a hidden story and that the facts aren’t really the facts. Hitler? Survived the War, lived in South America, the Holocaust didn’t happen. 9/11? A coup carried out by the military-industrial complex against the American people! Shakespeare? Written by an Irishman and full of coded messages! Pyramids? Made by aliens and brought to South America by ancient navigators! etc. etc.

In Irish (using the conventions usually employed to Gaelicise scientific terms), these people would be sionamósaifíligh (singular, sionamósaifíleach).

Nice word, isn’t it, and incredibly useful in the sad old world we live in today! Let’s get it out there …