Category Archives: Feedback

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.

 

Advertisements

Twit of the Month: Mike McCormack – fake historian, scribbler of doggerel and plagiarist

I was unsure whom to bestow my Twit of the Month Award on this September, but then another shitstorm developed on social media in relation to Liam Hogan’s excellent work debunking the racist myth of Irish Slavery. The only monthly Irish history magazine, History Ireland, published a letter by a dimwit who is apparently the National Historian of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, a bunch of conservative homophobic Catholic bigots. You can see a picture of him above. He seems to be wearing some kind of leprechaun suit and looks like Donald Trump’s even more evil twin brother – or perhaps Val Doonican with a serious habit.

Many real historians and sensible and decent people from all walks of life were dismayed that this delusional cretin, whose name is Mike McCormack, was given a platform to publish such a childish, petulant and insulting letter in Ireland’s only monthly history magazine. History Ireland doesn’t have a great record in this respect. I have already criticised it in this blog for an appalling article by Bob Curran about Irish vampires but this is really completely indefensible. I will never buy another copy of this magazine and that’s a promise.

I am not going to go through every lie and piece of arrogant nonsense in Mike McCormack’s long-winded and ignorant rant. Other people will do that better than I could. They will point out that the population of Montserrat were never ‘70% Irish slaves’, that the difference between slavery and bonded servitude is real and existed long before political correctness, that there is no evidence that Goodwife Glover was even a bonded servant, never mind a slave who escaped from anywhere. They will point out that the documents of parentage detailing the organised rape of young Irish girls by Mandingo warriors are a lurid, racist fantasy, and that this nonsense wasn’t discussed before about 20 years ago because it hadn’t been invented yet. This man is a stupid, talentless amateur, not a historian.

As for his ‘poetry’, this rubbish about a Mass Rock is an example of the pathetic doggerel this man writes:

For this was a special celebration,

Testing the faith in which they believe;

Though it was a time of tribulation,

This was the mass on Christmas Eve.

 

How they suffered; how much they gave;

Just so they could worship their God,

They left a lesson for us to save,

And a memory that cannot be marred.

 

Does the rhyme God/marred work anywhere? Even in New York?

It will come as no surprise to readers of this blog that not only is this man a crap poet and a fake as a historian, he is also a supporter of the late Daniel Cassidy, the fantasist and liar who is the primary target of this blog (just like Niall O’Dowd of IrishCentral and the Irish Echo, Irish America’s answer to Joseph Goebbels, and Donnacha DeLong, the man who put the dick in anarcho-syndicalism.) However, I must say, the way McCormack chose to pay tribute to Cassidy was very odd. Even though imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, plagiarising substantial portions of an article by Cassidy without acknowledgment seems a somewhat dubious way of showing your respect. (Cassidy is mentioned in McCormack’s article, but it certainly doesn’t say that Cassidy wrote much of it.)

Here are the two articles. One (in bold) is Cassidy’s original article from the San Francisco Chronicle of 1998, while the other (italicised) is a 2009 article (republished in 2011) from the Irish Echo with McCormack’s by-line. Read both of them carefully, and note how much was copied, shared or liberated by Mike McCormack from the original article:

http://www.sfgate.com/opinion/openforum/article/

Churches of Fire in Ireland and the South

ALTHOUGH IT HAS been more than 20 years since Alex Haley’s “Roots” first hit the top of the best-seller list, it is still the most widely read novel written about African-American history. What is less known is that before his death, Haley was working on another book concerned with “roots.” This new story would begin not in Africa however, but in Ireland.

Alex Haley was an Irish African American. A people that both communities have chosen to forget, descended not from the shipwrecked sailors of the Spanish Armada but from the slave ships of Liverpool and the coffin ships of the Great Famine of Ireland.

Yet, until recently, few in either community have spoken about their shared past. Author and MacArthur Genius Award recipient Ishmael Reed has written and spoken often of his Irish and African roots. African Americans such as Muhammed Ali and writer Alice Walker have confirmed their Irish ancestry. Other Irish African Americans include jazz greats Billie Holiday, born Eleanora Gough Fagan, and Ella Fitzgerald.

Intermarriage in the 19th and early 20th centuries was certainly not common, but from the very beginning of the Irish and African entries into the New World, the relationship between the two races was complex and intense. A study of the “Bloody Ould Sixth Ward” turned up a number of Irish-African-American families living in New York’s largest Irish ghetto before the Civil War. Flying in the face of conventional wisdom, these interracial couples were able to live there peacefully during a time of massive riots, labor strife and gang wars. Less dramatic than intermarriage is the fact that after the Famine emigration, Irish and African Americans lived together in countless slums and shantytowns. Both were exiled peoples, forced from their native lands. Both lost their language, yet both held onto their identities through their music, their dance and their religion.

Finally, both formed gangs so powerful that they first ruled the streets and were later transformed into powerful political organizations.

Nevertheless, the relationship between Irish Americans and African Americans has been reduced by many to a black-and-white snapshot of mutual antipathy, epitomized by incidents ranging from the New York City Draft Riots of 1863 to the South Boston anti-busing conflagrations of the 1970s.

Omitted from this neat equation however, is a rich and forgotten history that stretches from the ancient fortresses of the Ulster kings, who traded with merchant princes of Africa two centuries before Christ, to Pete Williams’ dance hall in The Five Points neighborhood of New York, where author Charles Dickens was startled by the sight of “Paddy” and black revelers dancing together.

A history that can only be found in New York’s Old Bowery, where the children of the Famine emigrants cheered when the Black Laborer’s Union and the Fenian leader O’Donovan Rossa paraded up Baxter Street together in 1871 to fight for the eight-hour workday. Is it possible that the “lost chord” at the heart of the American experience lies hidden within these forgotten moments? The history that is as filled with dance and music as it is with violence.

Today, many of the obstacles that held Irish Americans back have been surmounted. But the African American struggle against injustice continues.

In July 1998, as Roman Catholic churches were torched all across Ulster, we are reminded of the black churches burned in the American South; the specter of the three Irish Catholic Quinn brothers, incinerated in their beds July 12 by a gasoline bomb thrown into their County Antrim home by Protestant extremists, recalls the fate of James Tate, dragged to death behind a pickup driven by Alabama white supremacists, simply because he was an African American.

The novelist Peter Quinn asked, “Could the parallels between the Irish and the Africans prove more than a coincidence? Might these two peoples share not only a journey, but a destination?”

Perhaps then the night skies of Belfast and Birmingham will no longer burn. Perhaps then, children will no longer perish in the churches of fire. Perhaps then we will be able to hear the echoes of Irish fiddlers and African banjo players mingling over the rooftops of our cities.

 

And here is Mike McCormack’s plagiarized version of the same article, originally published in the Irish Echo in September, 2009:

 

http://irishecho.com/2011/02/the-black-the-green-meeting-at-the-crossroads-of-shared-history-2/

The Black and the Green: meeting at the crossroads of shared history

 

Roots had been about his family tree on his father’s side; his new novel would be about the branch of his family, traced through his grandmother – the daughter of a black slave woman and her white master.

Haley died before he could complete the story, but at his request, it was finished by David Stevens and was published as “Alex Haley’s Queen.”

That story did not begin in Africa, but in Ireland, for Alex Haley was an Irish-African American – a member of a group of people that both the Irish and African communities have forgotten, but a group that deserves to be remembered.

It was a group descended from the slave ships of Africa and Liverpool, and the coffin ships of Ireland’s Great Hunger.

Haley was as proud of his Irish roots as he was of his African ones.

The late Daniel Cassidy, director of the Irish studies program at New College of California in San Francisco, said that while few in either community recognized their shared past, MacArthur Genius Award winner, Ishmael Reed, often wrote and spoke of his Irish and African roots and people like Muhammed Ali – in Ireland just last week – and writer Alice Walker have also held up high their Irish roots.

Other African-Irish American notables include Billie Holiday, born Eleanora Fagan, and Ella Fitzgerald as well as, of course, President Barack Obama.

From the beginning of Irish and African arrival in the New World, the relationship between the two races was furthered by their common social position.

Tired of biased treatment, a group of workers met at John Hughson’s waterside tavern in New York City in the winter of 1740-41 to plan an insurrection on St. Patrick’s Day. The conspirators were a mixture of slaves and low-wage laborers of many nationalities, but the leaders were David Johnson, who swore he would help to burn the town, and kill as many white people as he could (meaning rich people for Johnson was white), John Corry, an Irish dancing-master, who promised the same, and an African-American named Caesar. Eventually they burned down Fort George, the governor’s mansion, and the imperial armory – all symbols of Royal authority and the instruments of ruling-class power in British New York. The British put down the rising and 13 were burned at the stake, 21 were hanged, and 77 were transported out of the colony as slaves or servants.

The corpses of two of the hanged leaders dangled in an iron gibbet on the waterfront as a lesson to others. As the bodies decayed, observers noted a gruesome transformation. The corpse of the Irishman turned black and his hair curly while the corpse of Caesar, the African, bleached white. It was accounted by the bigoted WASP society as proof that there was no difference between the blacks and the Irish.

That event is only a small part of a history of two groups that had suffered the same violence of the lash, the gallows and a ship’s dark hold just for being who they were.

Today, not only is their amicable association being misunderstood and eliminated from history, but tales of conflict between them have been credited to race alone in order to hide to hide the broader truth.

In the 19th and early 20th centuries, intermarriage was not uncommon and studies of the Five Points, the Bloody Old Sixth Ward and the Central Park Shantytowns in New York reveal a number of African American families living in New York’s largest Irish ghettos before the Civil War.

Despite the prejudiced attitude of society in general, interracial couples were able to live there peacefully amid crime, riots, labor strife and gang wars. After the Great Hunger immigration, Irish and African American families lived together in the slums and shanty towns of all of America’s largest cities.

Both were exiled peoples who were forced from their native lands and had lost their language; yet both held onto their identities through their music, dance and religion. Omitted from today’s understanding is a rich and forgotten history of mutual tolerance that stretches from the ancient fortresses of Ireland’s Ulster kings, who traded with merchant princes of Africa two centuries before Christ, to Pete Williams’ dance hall in The Five Points neighborhood of New York, where author Charles Dickens was startled by the sight of ‘Paddy’ and black revelers dancing together.

The black dancers swapped steps and rhythms with the Irish, blending into an art form which found expression on the American stage.

In an article in the “International Tap Newsletter,” Jane Goldberg wrote that tap dancing came out of the lower classes, developed in competitive “battles” on street corners by Irish immigrants and African American slaves.

Another writer in the newsletter suggested that only in the great American melting pot could Irish jigs combine with African shuffles and sand dances to form an entirely new and exciting art form.

According to writer and critic Clive Barnes, it was the Irish clog dancers who started tap dancing, but these Irish forms were clearly grafted onto existing dances that came directly from Africa.

An early example of this story was the solo presentations of Johnny Durang, an Irish dance master in Philadelphia, who first gave Irish step dancing a theatrical form through his on-stage performance of the hornpipe. He was also apparently the first Irish person to blacken his face for performances. As blackface led to Minstrel Shows, the music changed from Irish to jazz and tap dancing to new rhythms evolved as well.

Irish and African laborers also created a history that can be found in New York’s Five Points, where the children of Irish immigrants cheered when the Black Laborer’s Union and the Fenian leader O’Donovan Rossa paraded up Baxter Street together in 1871 to fight for the eight-hour workday.

Another great connection was made with the contributions to the anti-slavery debate made by the flamboyant Irish nationalist leader, Daniel O’Connell.

In 1845, black leader Frederick Douglass traveled to Ireland and met and befriended the Irish nationalist leader and was pleased to be called the “Black O’Connell.”

When Douglass went to Ireland, he saw countless dead and millions of starving people eating grass. He wrote a friend of how the people of Ireland lived in the same degradation as American slaves.

He said, “I see so much here to remind me of my former condition I should be ashamed to lift my voice against American slavery but that I know the cause of humanity is one the world over.”

In a letter to William Lloyd Garrison, founder of the American Anti-Slavery Society, he wrote: “I have undergone a transformation. I live a new life. I gaze around in vain for one who will question my equal humanity, claim me as a slave, or offer me an insult.” Daniel O’Connell, the Irish Liberator, had sympathy for the cause of liberty everywhere, and was especially known for his public denunciations of slavery in America.

When southerners sent him money for his work in Ireland, he sent it back, calling it a bloodstained offering, saying he would never purchase the freedom of Ireland with the price of slaves.

Professor Patricia Ferreira, of Norwich University, concludes that although from a young age Douglass possessed the inclination to be a leader, Ireland was the site where this trait blossomed.

Ireland was also the site, according to Professor Bill Rolston, where Douglass honed both his oratorical and political skills. He returned to the U.S. transformed by his Irish experience and went on to become one of the greatest orators of the 19th-century.

The “lost chord” at the heart of the Irish-African experience in America lies hidden within these and many more forgotten moments.

Today, much of the prejudice against Irish Americans and African Americans has been overcome, but occasionally reminders appear.

In July 1998, as Roman Catholic churches were torched all across Northern Ireland, we were reminded of the black churches burned in the American South; the specter of the three Quinn children, incinerated in their beds by a gasoline bomb thrown into their County Antrim home by loyalist extremists, recalls the fate of James Tate, dragged to death behind a pickup driven by Alabama white supremacists, simply because he was black.

We have long prayed for a time when the night skies of Belfast and Birmingham will no longer burn and children will no longer perish in churches of fire.

Hopefully, that time has finally arrived.

 

Mike McCormack is National Historian of the Ancient Order of Hibernians.

There you have it! Mike McCormack – fake historian, poetaster, plagiarist and September’s CassidySlangScam Twit of the Month!

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!!!

A Pleasant Surprise

I have just had a pleasant surprise. Apparently Douglas Harper’s Online Etymological Dictionary or Etymonline (an amazing resource which I have frequently referenced in this blog) has published a link to CassidySlangScam on Facebook with the words: “Salute to this site for patiently and persistently picking apart bad popular etymology”.

It’s always nice to know that my efforts are appreciated and doubly so when it comes from etymologists who really know what they’re doing.

More on Shanty

One of the most disappointing and irritating things about the recent flurry of Twitter activity surrounding a tweet by the Rubber Bandits was that several people (the Rubber Bandits included) tweeted that ‘the Irish’ for old house is ‘Sean Tí’.

Since the efforts of the Irish state to provide you with a basic knowledge of your own linguistic heritage obviously failed woefully because YOU WEREN’T PAYING ATTENTION, here’s a brief Irish lesson:

The Irish for ‘old house’ is SEANTEACH, pronounced SHANCHAH, with the ‘cha’ as in cha-cha-cha.

The Irish for ‘house’ is teach. It’s only in the genitive. means ‘of a house’, so doras tí is door of a house. But on its own means nothing.

Sean is an adjective. Most adjectives in Irish come after the noun, so teach mór is a big house. However, a handful are prefixes which are attached to the noun. So it’s seanteach. Not sean teach or sean-teach. And still less sean tí or sean-tí.

As for the question of the meaning, imagine that you are standing in a mining camp out in the wilds somewhere. You have just chopped down some trees and built yourself a rough cabin. One of your neighbours comes up and says,

“Hi Séamus, nice house! What do you call a house like that in your language?”

“Well, sure, I call it seanteach, which in my language means ‘old house’.”

And your neighbour scratches his head and says,

“So you’ve just finished building the thing, and your hand sticks to the wall on account of all the pine resin oozing from the freshly-cut logs, but you call it an old house?”

“Aah, but you’re forgettin’ dat I’m Irish, and we have a reputation for quirkiness, eccentricity and irrationality to uphold, so we do!”

Yeah, right, you gowls! And then there’s the fact that we have one book written as a memoir in Irish (Micí Mac Gabhann, Rotha Mór an tSaoil) by a Donegal man who joined the gold rush and lived in a mining camp. When he refers to the houses in the camp, he uses the words bothán, cábán, teach and sometimes cábán tí. He never talks about seantithe. And why the fuck would he?

So long to the Irish origin of ‘so long’

One of the language myths that have been brought to light by the Rubber Bandits’ recent tweet on Cassidy’s eymology is the claim that the English colloquial ‘so long’ is really a corrupted form of Irish slán, a parting salutation.

There are several claims for the origin of this term. Some derive it from Arabic salaam, or from Hebrew shalom. Neither of these seems very convincing. The etymology websites (along with Cassidy’s book – unusually, he admits that he didn’t come up with the slán derivation) say that it first appears in 1860 in the works of Walt Whitman.

Most of them agree that it probably comes from the German expression Adieu so lange (something like ‘farewell until we meet again’) or from related Scandinavian phrases Norwegian Adjø så lenge, Farvel så lenge, Mor’n så lenge, literally “bye so long, farewell so long, morning so long;” and Swedish Hej så länge “good-bye for now,” with så länge “for now” attested since 1850 according to Swedish sources. The German expression Adieu so lange dates back to at least 1791.

In a recent OED blog post, Anatoly Liberman quotes a Mr Paul Nance who has found an earlier reference to so long from 1835.

However, I think I can do better than that. I Googled the phrase the other day and I have come across an earlier example of it. It’s in a book of humorous material called Salmagundi written in magazine form by Paulding in New York. The book is available on Google Books. It is dated 1835 but the internal headings show that the particular magazine containing the entry was first published in 1819.

The article takes the form of a humorous letter from a lady of means, who signs herself off at the end with the salutation: Adieu, so long, Aurelia.

Personally, I think that’s a smoking gun and gives a clear bridge between the German and the English expressions. But even if you choose to say that it’s just a coincidence that the earliest known use of so long in English has Adieu stuck in front of it, there are other reasons for dismissing the Irish origin. Why is this expression always written as two words? Why does it never occur as slawn, or slong? And why does it never have any other words attached? Why don’t we find it sometimes as so long go foyle (slán go fóill), or so long lath (slán leat) or so long a wallah (slán abhaile)? These are common expressions in Irish. And then again, why don’t we find it commonly in stage-Irish idiom? Begorrah, sor, it’s so long and farewell to yous

So, let’s just forget the idea that the expression so long comes from Irish. There’s no evidence for it and there’s something so needy and desperate about these attempts to trace words to Irish. It’s as if our language and culture have no reality or value outside their relations with the English-speaking world. Anyone who thinks that should learn some real Irish – NOW!