June’s Twit of the Month – Joe Lee

A couple of weeks ago, on the 22 May 2018, there was a symposium in honour of Joe Lee at Glucksman Ireland House in New York. The symposium was called J.J. Lee and Irish History: Scholar, Colleague, Mentor.

As I have written before, Lee has done some good work. Lee is a genuine historian, who has written a lot of excellent books and articles. However, as I have also said, Joe Lee was friendly with many friends of Daniel Cassidy, and that is probably the reason why he wrote this positive review for the book How The Irish Invented Slang:

“In this courageous, crusading manifesto, Daniel Cassidy flings down the gauntlet to all those compilers of dictionaries who fled to the safe haven of ‘origin unknown’ when confronted with the challenge of American slang …The originality and importance of the argument makes this an exciting contribution to both American and Irish Studies. This is a landmark book, at once learned and lively, and quite enthralling as to how American English acquired so vibrant a popular vocabulary.”

This review is rubbish, of course, because Cassidy’s book is rubbish. I have no idea why Lee chose to support a piece of fake scholarship like How The Irish Invented Slang.

It is very interesting that two of Cassidy’s friends were in conversation with Lee at the Symposium: 12.30 pm: Reflections of Directors of Glucksman Ireland House: Prof. Bob Scally & Prof. Joe Lee in Conversation with Dr. Terry Golway. Golway was a crony of Cassidy’s, and Bob Scally wrote a review which was as positive as Lee’s on the back of Cassidy’s book:

Irish Americans especially will be delighted to know they have been speaking Irish all along in their slang and American English, while believing and bemoaning that they had lost their native tongue many years ago. With imagination and scholarship, Cassidy has restored this hidden treasure to us in a book that is filled with revelations, wit and humour.

As I said, I don’t know why Joe Lee and his friends chose to ignore the evidence and insult the Irish people like this. It’s hard to understand it, especially in the case of Lee, a man who has enough Irish to recognise immediately that the likes of béal ónna and béalú h-ard and pá lae sámh are not Irish.

One thing is sure: like everyone who was friendly with Cassidy, Lee has been diminished as a scholar, as a teacher and as a human being because of that friendship. I don’t know if Lee is a fraudster and a liar, but he certainly supported Cassidy’s dishonest book, and that is a huge stain on his reputation.

That is why I am pleased to bestow the title of Twit of the Month for June 2018 on Joe Lee, who helped a con-man to sell a bad book and didn’t do a hand’s turn subsequently to rectify the situation.

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