Category Archives: An Ghaeilge

History Ireland Apologises

There has been some great news over at Liam Hogan’s Limerick1914 Twitter feed. As you may remember, Liam was unjustly attacked by the ‘National Historian’ of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, Mike McCormack, in a letter in the pages of the magazine, History Ireland.

Now, the editor of History Ireland has apologised. I suspect that they realised how damaging this matter was to their reputation. While the apology is gracious and I am delighted for Liam Hogan’s sake, I am not sure if I will ever buy a copy of the magazine again. Robust debate is fine and personal attacks should be avoided in publications of that type (that’s what blogs like this are for!), but there is another issue which is in many ways far more important. Should Mike McCormack be allowed to publish a letter in a history magazine which contains claims about the existence of documents of parentage recording the breeding of Irish girls with Mandingo warriors, documents which obviously don’t exist? In other words, I wouldn’t publish a letter making fake claims like this, except to mock it and rip it to shreds, and I don’t think History Ireland should either. Anyway, here is the apology. Comhghairdeas leat, a Liam. Coinnigh ort leis an dea-obair!

Apology to Liam Hogan

In the September/October 2017 edition of History Ireland I published a letter from Mr Mike McCormack of the Ancient Order of Hibernians in America headed ‘The Irish and slavery’. Mr McCormack’s letter took issue with an earlier article by John Donoghue but also made personal reference to Mr Liam Hogan, who co-authored an article published in the March/April 2016 edition of History Ireland entitled ‘The Irish in the Anglo-Carribean: servants or slaves?’.

I acknowledge and accept that Mr McCormack’s letter unfairly targeted Mr Hogan, denigrated his professional reputation and disparaged his motivations in carrying out his important research into the topical issue of the Irish slaves myth. Specifcally, I accept that Mr Hogan was accused of engaging in “Irish American bashing” and being a “bigot”.

I acknowledge that Mr Hogan is a respected librarian and historian who has carried out extensive and diligent research and work on this topic which has been fair, ethical and subject to the appropriate rigours of scholarly historical research. I acknowledge and agree that at no stage has Mr Hogan been in any way intolerant of others or bigoted and that the allegation to the contrary should not have been published.  History Ireland is committed to being a forum for robust academic discussion but does not condone personalised attacks such as was contained in this letter. We regret that we failed to live up to this principle on this occasion.

I apologise unreservedly to Mr Hogan on behalf of History Ireland. I acknowledge and regret the damage to his reputation that the publication of Mr McCormack’s letter has caused. Mr Hogan’s own response to the letter will appear in the November/December 2017 edition of History Ireland.

Tommy Graham

Editor

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Of Irish Slaves and Irish Slang

I have recently had cause to criticise the absurd ‘Irish Slavery Meme’ which has been challenged by a number of historians, most notably Liam Hogan of Limerick. While this may seem like a deviation from the aims of CassidySlangScam, which is primarily about the Irish language and more specifically about the ridiculous fake Irish etymologies produced by the late Daniel Cassidy, there are clear parallels between these two dishonest sets of claims.

In both cases, a meme which is almost entirely rubbish is being circulated virally, often by horrible people with a particular agenda. With Cassidy’s work, many of his supporters are naïve and foolish people who believe they are defending the Irish language when they support Cassidy’s ridiculous made-up rubbish. With the Irish Slavery Meme, many of them are White Supremacists who claim that their ancestors had it worse than African slaves but you won’t find them bitching and moaning and asking for positive discrimination, blah blah blah …

In both cases, the meme is of relatively recent origin. Cassidy’s ludicrous nonsense first started to spread when he published his first articles in 2003. The Irish slavery meme has precursors going back over a hundred years in the work of Thomas Addis Emmett but didn’t go mainstream until  the publication of To Hell or Barbados, a highly inaccurate book written by a journalist (not a historian) and published in 2001. It has never had any currency among genuine historians.

In both cases, there is a core of genuine information surrounded by immense quantities of guff. In both cases, the genuine information is non-controversial and accepted by both sides. In the Cassidy case, there is a handful of derivations which are accepted (shebeen, puss, phoney etc.) by all dictionaries but most of Cassidy’s claims link English expressions to made-up ‘Irish’ phrases. In the Irish Slavery meme, there is no doubt that a certain number of people were essentially kidnapped from Ireland and transported against their will to the colonies where they were forced to work as indentured servants for a number of years. The followers of this meme vastly inflate the numbers involved, claim that the indentured servants were slaves or were treated worse than slaves, and that this ‘Irish slave trade’ continued for hundreds of years.

In both cases, we find some of the same names supporting this rubbish: IrishCentral and Niall O’Dowd; Donnacha DeLong; Mike McCormack.

In both cases, the fakeness of most of the evidence presented can easily be established. It’s just that people are either too lazy to go looking for it or unwilling to have their fantasy version of the world challenged by facts.

In both cases, anyone who argues that this meme is fake news and completely untrue is verbally attacked by people who claim that their position is ‘anti-Irish’ or Anglophile, or that they are ‘deniers’, as if denial of lies is a bad thing!

In both cases, this results in the claim that orthodox academia has somehow suppressed the truth about the Irish origins of American slang or the suffering of hundreds of thousands of Irish slaves and that these ‘truths’ should be acknowledged by academics or taught in schools – even though there isn’t a shred of evidence that these things happened.

More on Caribbean Slang

I had a message recently from someone called mat_leith (Mat Leith? Mat from Leith? Who cares!)  in relation to my post on Irish and Jamaican slang. In that post, I discussed how few traces the Irish language left on Caribbean slang (though I am quite prepared to accept that Irish was spoken by some people in the Caribbean and America, both black and white). Here’s his message:

Your actually a retard there are atleast half a dozen patois words with clear irish origions

Yeah, I’m a retard, as is the academic whose work I quoted. I mean, why respect Professor John Wells’ opinion just because he’s a linguist with a BA from Cambridge, an MA and a PhD from UCL, fluency in a Celtic language (Welsh) and decades of experience, as well as being in a very long-term relationship with a guy from Montserrat?

I wouldn’t bother answering this nonsense at all but it does give me a chance to reiterate my position on when people deserve a reply and when they don’t. So, to all the deluded trolls and arrogant dumbasses like Mat out there, people who continually fall into the abyss of ignorance that lies between what they know and what they think they know, let me just make myself clear. I am not interested in your opinions. If you’re just going to send me a message to tell me how smart you are (even if you can’t spell you’re or origins), don’t bother. If you have any genuine evidence to offer (such as what the five or six words of Irish origi(o)n in Caribbean English are), then please supply it so that I can refute it or agree with it. If not, go and waste someone else’s time.

 

Science Matters

One of the best things about cyber-reality is the way that, because of its vastness, you can easily find people whose ideas and beliefs coincide with your own. For example, I recently found a blog by an Irish scientist (Science matters: http://blobthescientist.blogspot.co.uk/), whose daughter had noticed the Rubber Bandits’ post on Cassidy’s ‘research’ and wondered whether it was true:

Meanwhile, in another part of the internet, this casual investigation of etymology by two lads from Limerick has been fueling a shit-storm of indignation. That is because the list of supposed Hiberno-Yankee slang seems to be from How The Irish Invented Slang published in 2007 by Daniel Cassidy. There seems to be no sense of de mortuis nil nisi bonum (Cassidy died of pancreatic cancer in 2008) among certain linguists and etymologists. In 2013, an anonymous gaelgeoir started a blog cassidyslangscam.wordpress.com to debunk, eviscerate and pour scorn [an ignorant, narcissistic fraud with no qualifications] on Mr “Deceased” Cassidy and his one book. This chap has been posting several articles a month ever since on this one topic. That shows commendable stamina in setting things right: “Etymologies from Cassidy’s How the Irish Invented Slang are widely duplicated across the internet. However, many of Cassidy’s definitions have been shown to be wishful thinking or completely made up”. As the blog was started a full five years after Cassidy died, this may seem like bolting the stable door after the horse is gone. But one of his (I presume cassidylangscam is a He, because none of the women I know get so cross about such a small annoyance) points is well taken. If nobody complains when things are wrong, the error will fester away and other people, less careful about evidence, will believe them to be true.

This is a good take on the story. I will ignore the line about maleness and getting angry about trivial annoyances – yes I am a man (though using the divine He is perhaps overegging the mixture a bit and my wife would certainly disagree that there is anything God-like about me), but I don’t consider the Irish language a trivial matter and unlike the author of Science matters, I don’t measure my gripes in nanometres! However, I have to say that I find his blog very enjoyable and interesting. There is a truly astonishing range of subjects, from Matisse to vaccination, from Flannan Isle to family history. He writes well and argues intelligently. Like myself, his default position is scepticism. He also has a very good sense of humour. I don’t agree with everything he says. His ideas on fluoridation seem irrational to me (well, he says that this is because of his ‘tree-hugging’ nature) and I am deeply suspicious of attempts to treat historical linguistics like programs showing the spread of epidemics (https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1107054532/ref=wl_it_dp_o_pC_S_ttl?_encoding=UTF8&colid=1TMMT8PVFH50O&coliid=I1MU2OK2I90522)

However, in general, this is a very good blog and well worth a read. However, there is one thing about this blog that I really hate and I hope its author will pay heed. The font is way too small, which gives it an off-putting appearance. It looks more like an academic journal article than something you would read for fun.

Please experiment with different fonts and sizes until you find something that doesn’t offend the eye and doesn’t need to be measured in nanometres!

Put It Up On The Web, Limerick Traitors!

Hats off to Murchadh Mór. Not only has he written an excellent article on The Rubber Bandits’ foolish post about Cassidy’s fake etymology on Nós, and a post giving a number of genuine words which derive from Irish, he has also posted a pic of a document which gives the real origins of the words given by the Rubber Bandits in their list.

Unfortunately, the Rubber Bandits themselves seem unwilling to post the truth on this subject. When Murchadh Mór asked them to circulate the true list, this was their reply:

Stuff about Cassidy being dubious was shared under the original thread. We commented on it, too. It would have been seen.

It’s disappointing to see them refusing to do the right thing here. You see, what they’re failing to acknowledge here is that this isn’t a level playing field. In the world in general, and to an even greater extent on social media, nonsense has longer legs than sense, and lies are faster and better runners than the truth. The figures for shares and likes show that. The original (wrong) post got far more than Murchadh Mór’s corrections.

Why? Well, for a number of reasons. Because lies sparkle and shine, because they can be as glittery and bright and attractive as the human imagination can make them. All truths can be are what they are. Because lies are presented as simple certainties, while the truth is often messy and complex. Because the truth doesn’t have an agenda, while lies are often blended with xenophobia and hatred, which tastes like honey to many people. Because people’s memories are fickle and they selectively filter out anything that doesn’t make a good narrative, which is why the thousands of times homeopathy fails are ignored but the one time where it coincides with a sudden improvement is proof that homeopathy works (mar dhea). (And perhaps it also explains why the definition of the English word dude is given as the definition of the Irish word dúid in the original list of nonsense given by the Rubber Bandits. Or perhaps someone was just lying …)

Because of these facts, it makes me wonder what the real story is about the RB’s post on Cassidy. Who wrote it? Did the RBs themselves write it, or was the (mis)information supplied to them by somebody else? A friend, a relative, a fan? Someone they don’t want to offend by getting off the fence and telling it like it is?

William Blake wrote that ‘the road to Hell is paved with good intentions’. So just remember this. Cassidy wasn’t a nice man who got it a bit wrong. He was a malicious fraud and people who support him are choosing lies over truth. It’s that simple. And as I’ve said above, lies already have an inbuilt advantage over the truth, so for fuck’s sake, lads, let’s stop giving liars and their falsehoods a head start.

JUST COPY THE POST, YA GOWLS!!!

Why The Rubber Bandits Were Conned

I have decided to write a brief post here just to explain to casual visitors why the Rubber Bandits were conned when they decided to publish a list of some of Daniel Cassidy’s fake derivations of American Slang from Irish on August 11th. Anyone who wants to know more can look at the older posts on this blog, where the material below is explained in greater detail.

Daniel Cassidy was born into a lower-middle class Irish-American family in NY in 1943. His father ran a bar and he was raised in the green pastures of Long Island (though he carefully cultivated the image of streetwise ghetto man-of-the-people). He was a bright child and went to NY Military Academy (alma mater of Donald Trump) on a music scholarship. From there, he went to Cornell University. While at Cornell, he wrote some poetry which was published but he then got into drugs and flunked out without a degree.

He worked for a little while in the NY Times, went to California, then ended up in rehab for two years. He learned to play guitar in rehab, cut an album (unsuccessful) and became a musician. For years, he disappears from the radar. Then he wrote some scripts. He claimed that he sold one of these scripts to Francis Ford Coppola but in different interviews, he mentions two different scripts as the one he sold. In the mid-90s, he produced a couple of pro-Sinn Féin video documentaries about the Six Counties, which aren’t even mentioned on IMDB.

He became a Professor of Irish Studies (!) in 1995 at a small radical college in SF called New College of California. How he became a professor when he didn’t have any qualifications is a mystery, but it seems clear that Cassidy himself claimed to have degrees he didn’t. According to one allegation from a person who contacted me, he was a serial sleaze who continually hit on female students. He used his position to cultivate ‘friendships’ with high-profile Irish-Americans and Irish people who could be useful to him. In 2007, he published a book called How The Irish Invented Slang, a nonsensical piece of crap which claims that lots of American slang comes from Irish. However, because Cassidy didn’t speak any Irish, he just made up lots of bizarre phrases which have never existed in Irish. Honky-tonk, apparently, comes from aingíocht tarraingteach, which means something like attractive peevishness. Baloney is from béal ónna, which Cassidy claimed meant nonsense (literally ‘naïve mouth’). Geezer comes from gaosmhar, which Cassidy claimed means wise person. It doesn’t. And in many cases, Cassidy simply ignored the fact that the words already had perfectly clear derivations. A longshoreman is a ‘man along the shore’, not an old-fashioned Irish word for a sailor. There are hundreds of these fake, made-up derivations. Almost none of these claims has any substance, and the handful that do were plagiarised by Cassidy from other people.

The book was criticised immediately and strongly by real scholars but Cassidy and/or his wife used sock puppet identities to attack anyone who told the truth about the book. Meanwhile, Cassidy’s friends and cronies were ever-present, boosting his reputation, providing good reviews, generally lying their arses off in support of the book. And because the book pretended to be a radical departure, a man-bites-dog story about how Anglophile scholars had systematically excluded the story of Irish’s influence on English, lots of people who think with their arses instead of their brains were quite prepared to make this arrant raiméis a viral phenomenon.

Cassidy fell sick shortly after the book was published and died of cancer in 2008. Unfortunately, the book and the ridiculous theories are still with us.

In short, if you ever look around and wonder why the world is such a shite place and why we have the leaders we have, look no further than the Cassidy Scandal. The same stupidity, pomposity, arrogance, narcissism, cronyism and manipulation that have allowed Cassidy’s nonsense to thrive are what fuels people like the Tea Party and Donald Trump and the supporters of the Irish Slavery Meme. Nobody should support this garbage, least of all people who believe in decent, liberal, democratic values.

And that’s why Murchadh Mór is right. The Rubber Bandits left their sense outside with the horse when they chose to support this shite.

A Quick Update

There is quite a lot of news to report. Firstly, Murchadh Mór has posted an alternative to the Rubber Bandits’ silly piece of Cassidese nonsense in Nós (http://nos.ie/gniomhaiochas/teanga/na-rubberbandits-an-ghaeilge/) and on Facebook. What he has done is to give a number of words that really do come from Irish. I hope that this will have some effect and that it will be spread the way the original list of nonsense derivations has been spread.

I’m not sure if it will, for one very simple reason. The original list, along with the rest of Daniel Cassidy’s book, is full of words for which nobody would ever have suspected an Irish origin. Longshoreman from Irish loingseoir? Really? Sucker comes from Irish sách úr? What? Wanker from uath-anchor? That’s amazing!! Except Cassidy’s claims are all lies and nonsense, a concoction of fake Irish and deliberate distortion. The list given by our friend Murchadh Mór is considerably less ball-grabbing, simply because it’s actually true and because of that, the claims made are less bizarre and left-field.

I hope the Rubber Bandits will see sense and stop spreading this childish shite. We all know it’s rubbish (including the Bandits by now). And hell, it’s not as if myself or Murchadh Mór are implacable enemies of the Rubber Bandits and all they stand for. We’re not irate peasants standing here with blazing torches and pitchforks shouting “Aargh! Burn the rubber-faced spawn of Lucifer!” In terms of political and social opinions, I doubt if you could get a Rizla paper between us. I was posting happily in support of Liam Hogan months before any of this stuff came up on Twitter and I reckon most of our opinions coincide closely. Plus much of their material is actually very funny. It’s just that in this case, they’re peddling fake news and supporting a bunch of liars and I’d rather they didn’t.

As a result of the controversy over the RBs’ tweet, the number of hits on this site has spiked. Every year, the number of visitors and hits has surpassed the year before. This year, the number of visitors outstripped last year’s figure about a month ago and just today, we surpassed the number of hits we achieved last year. Which means that more and more people have now been informed about Cassidy’s nonsense, thanks to this blog and to others with a sense of responsibility and a love of the language like Murchadh Mór and Ciara Ní Aodha.

Finally, I would like to point out that someone has commented on the derivation of the term leprechaun. Apparently an Italian academic suggested that lúchorpán (small-bodied creature) is not the genuine origin of later terms like leipreachán. His idea, given in an article in the Cambrian Journal of Celtic Studies, is that it derives from the Latin Lupercus, the Roman version of Pan whose festival was the famous Lupercalia. I don’t know if he has any evidence for this and I really don’t care, because it doesn’t change the fact that the English word leprechaun comes from Irish. Its ultimate origins are completely irrelevant. Apparently the word Gael comes from a Welsh word meaning ‘wild man’ but there is no doubt that Gael and Gaelic entered English from Irish or Scottish Gaelic, not from Welsh, so we say that they are Gaelic loanwords in English. The ultimate derivation of the word is not relevant because how far back do you go and where do you stop? And after all, if the word lúchorpán is the correct origin, the chorp part of it is a loan from the Latin corpus anyway.

Leprechaun is absolutely, definitely an English word of Irish origin. It occurs in Irish first in the 14th century, where the lúchorpáin are found in the sea under Dundrum Bay in County Down, though that story is thought to be a rewriting of an earlier version. In English, it first occurs as ‘Irish lubrican’ in 1604. And I know that ‘hey, did you know that leprechauns aren’t Irish … they’re fucking Italian … I shit you not!!’ has a lot more wow factor than the truth. Unfortunately though, like many glittery little factoids, it happens to be a pile of utter shite garnished with iron pyrites, and some of us still care about not wasting our time with things like that.