Category Archives: Feedback

A Reply To Damien Kirwan

I received a message a few weeks ago from someone called Damien Kirwan and I have decided to answer it briefly, just as a way of showing what kind of comments deserve an answer and what kind of comments do not. Here is what Kirwan says:

I read the book when it came out. I don’t see why you are so angry with Dan Cassidy. His explanation for the origin of the words such as dig, slum, jazz, phoney and the phrase to “say uncle” have merit and gives dignity to a modern European language that has almost vanished. God be good to Dr Cassidy RIP, ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.

This, of course, is the kind of comment that really doesn’t deserve an answer and I am fully aware that in publishing this and replying to it, I am doing the poor moron who wrote it no favours. However, the fact is that I have put a lot of work into this blog because I felt that the Irish language needed some protection from lying con-men like the late Daniel Cassidy and it bothers me that some arrogant bómán like Damien Kirwan wants to set me straight about Cassidy without bothering to read any of the blog. The fact is, if he had bothered to look through the material dealt with here, he would know that the possible (but not very likely) origin of dig was first discussed in a paper by Eric Hamp in 1981, that phoney deriving from fáinne has been in the public domain for decades before Cassidy came along and was discussed by Eric Partridge and that the ‘say uncle’ theory was first proposed in an article in American Speech vol 51, 1976. In other words, none of these theories was invented by Cassidy. He merely claimed them without giving proper credit.

He would also have learned that there is no evidence for Cassidy’s claims about slum and jazz. The idea that Cassidy’s wholesale invention of hundreds of nonsensical phrases in fake Irish contribute to the status or dignity of Irish is also ludicrous and quite offensive. And to top it all, this arrogant moron refers to Daniel Cassidy, dim Dan from San Fran, who flunked his degree from Cornell and never acquired any qualifications at all, as Dr Cassidy!

I would like to point out here to people like Damien (and a certain member of the O’Keeffe family who should learn the difference between codail and chodail) that I am not under any obligation to provide a forum for people to express their stupidity and arrogance and I certainly do not have to dignify their semi-literate nonsense with a reply. I have better things to do with my time. If people really want to comment on these matters, they can always start their own blog.

Boogaloo

A recent exchange with one of Cassidy’s supporters on the comments section of this blog (which I have since removed) had one useful outcome, as I realised that my treatment of Cassidy’s claims about the origins of the word boogaloo were not detailed enough.

The origins of boogie are mysterious enough. The known facts are that boogie was originally recorded in 1917 as a term for a rent party. Among poor black people, when they were unable to make the rent, they had a party (with alcohol during Prohibition) as well as music to raise the money to keep them from eviction. According to the excellent Etymonline, a song title “That Syncopated Boogie-boo” first appears in 1912. The style of music known as boogie or boogie-woogie dates back to 1928. The term boogaloo is quite late, being recorded first in the 1960s.

Cassidy ignores these subtleties and claims that the word boogie is from the Irish bogadh. He doesn’t mention boogie-woogie (because he can’t twist it into an ‘Irish’ form) but emphasises the late word boogaloo.

Bogadh is an Irish verbal noun. Its main meaning in modern Irish is ‘to move’. Because of this, Cassidy doesn’t mention the rent party origin, emphasising instead the meanings of dancing and movement. The word bogadh is a bad match in terms of sound. Bogadh is pronounced boggoo in the north and bogga in southern Irish.

As we have said, boogaloo is a very late development of the word boogie. Cassidy claims that it comes from an ‘Irish’ phrase bogadh luath. The word luath has the primary meaning of early, but can also mean fast. Because of this ambiguity, it is unlikely that it would be used in phrases like this rather than a word that unambiguously means fast, like gasta, tapa or mear.

To convince ignorant and gullible people that bogadh luath is an Irish phrase, Cassidy gives several examples of sentences using it. He claims that Níl bogadh luath ann means ‘he is unable to move fast’, while according to him, bogadh luath as áit means ‘to move fast out of a place; to boogaloo out of a joint’. Where did these examples of bogadh luath in use come from?

The answer, of course, is that they are crude fakes manufactured by Cassidy. He copied two phrases from Ó Dónaill’s dictionary, Níl bogadh ann and bogadh as áit, and then randomly stuck the word luath into them and pretended that they would make sense.

In fact, Níl bogadh ann is an all-or-nothing kind of a phrase. The best comparison would be expressions like the English ‘There wasn’t a peep out of him’. Just because you can say that doesn’t mean you can say ‘There wasn’t a big peep out of him’ if he spoke a little bit.

As for bogadh luath as áit, if you said ‘they moved quickly out of the house’, you would have to say bhog siad (or bhogaidis) as an áit GO luath. You need the adverbial particle go. People don’t bogadh luath or dul gasta or teacht réidh in Irish. Of course, Cassidy was completely ignorant of the Irish language and wouldn’t have had a clue what was right and what was wrong, either in terms of Irish grammar or personal morality.

Daniel Cassidy – A Study in Dishonesty

People have frequently visited this site and deposited hostile comments, usually without bothering to read the evidence first. Occasionally, I have answered these criticisms, which is usually a mistake. The debates can get very heated, on both sides, and the critics are usually totally unwilling to take the evidence on board or deal with it in a rational way.

One of the main criticisms tends to be that Cassidy was honest and that my depiction of him as a con-man and a fraud is misplaced. According to these people, Cassidy’s book of fantasy etymologies was basically well-intentioned, an interesting attempt but Cassidy ‘overreached’ a little so the core of truth has to be sifted out of less believable material. This is utter nonsense.

As I have shown on this blog, there is no core of truth in Cassidy’s work. Cassidy certainly tapped into a number of common folk-etymologies linking English words to the Irish language and he probably obtained these through an Irish-language learners’ forum he used. This gave him words like twig and dig, say uncle, longshoreman, phoney, pet. All of these have been dealt with in great detail and have nothing to do with Cassidy. (Some of them like twig from tuig and phoney from fainne are certainly possible, while others like longshoreman are very unlikely.) He then set to work looking for further words and phrases derived from Irish. In doing this, he tried to claim links between words like case as in case the joint and Irish casadh, gump and Irish colm and a host of other ludicrously improbable etymologies. He deliberately ignored any alternative derivations or anything that did not confirm his ridiculous hunches.  For example, he claimed that swoon comes from Irish suan, meaning sleep. Sounds convincing, except that swoon has an impeccable genealogy in English going back to Anglo-Saxon, so the similarity with suan is pure coincidence.

However, if he had stuck to single words like this, his book would still have been a pamphlet, so he made up lots of ridiculous phrases like béal ónna, uath dubh, uath-anchor, gus óil, éamh call, árd-iachtach-tach, sách úr etc. etc. Hardly any of the phrases in Cassidy’s book are genuine Irish. The vast majority are the most imbecilic concoctions. As David L. Gold has pointed out, Cassidy’s contribution to the study of etymology was less than zero, because not only did he fail to produce any genuinely valid or potentially interesting derivations, he muddied the water by producing hundreds of entirely fake ‘Irish’ phrases which are still doing the rounds on the Internet.

If that weren’t enough, there are also huge questions to be answered about Cassidy’s academic record.  When I started this blog in 2013, I still thought Cassidy had a university degree. This in itself would raise questions because you would normally expect a university lecturer to have at least a Master’s and often a doctorate. However, Cassidy’s sister Susan (no fan of her brother) told me that he had flunked his Cornell degree in 1965. This was confirmed by the Cornell registrar, Cassie Dembosky. In other words, there is not a shred of evidence that Cassidy had any qualifications at all, so it is hard to see how he managed to work for twelve years as a university lecturer. The only explanation, as far as I can see, is that he lied about his qualifications.

There are other strong indications of Cassidy’s dishonesty. He left reviews of his book on line using sockpuppet identities, which is not only highly unethical, the way it was done was incredibly incompetent. You would be in no doubt reading these fake reviews that Cassidy was the author.

Other details of his biography also raise questions. He was apparently working in the newsroom of the New York Times when JFK was shot. Except in reality, he didn’t work there until two years after Kennedy died.

Everything about this man is dodgy, suspect, hooky. His American and Irish cronies, lackeys and enablers can deny the truth as much as they want. It remains the truth. What is important to me is to get the message across that Cassidy knew nothing about Irish and that most of his claims are based on made-up expressions which clearly demonstrate Cassidy’s profound lack of respect for the Irish language and the people who speak it.

Begorrah!

I have had a message from a watcher of the site in New Zealand:

Just wanted to ask you a question,
(Long time lurker on your site)
I am looking for the origins of the word –
begorrah , Been Googling seems to be an Irish loan word into English
I have a wee bit of Irish & can’t see any obvious answers in Irish, other than a “stage Irish” ( Punch cartoon) translation
of ” by God “
My apologies but sometimes these things concern me !, shame Cassidy is dead ! I could have asked him & got a bullshit reply!
Go raibh maith agat ( in advance )
Chris O’Regan

I’m a bit pressed for time at the moment but I thought I would give a brief reply. Chris is asking where the word Begorrah comes from and it’s an interesting question.

Begorrah is what we call a minced oath, a kind of euphemism where a taboo expression is disguised. Thus the French say Sacré Bleu instead of Sacré Dieu, the Irish say dar fia instead of dar Dia and the English say jeepers instead of Jesus. Minced oaths are very common.

There are lots of minced oaths based on by God, such as by gum (and the iconic Yorkshire ‘ee bah gum!’), by gosh, by golly, by George, begob. Begorrah is a version of one variant of by God, begor. This is found as begorras in Somerset and begorrie in Scotland. In other words, begorrah has nothing to do with the Irish language.

The particular form begorrah, of course, is specifically associated with the Irish and particularly with the kind of phoney stage-Irish talk found in 19th century melodramas. (e.g “Begorrah, sure and isn’t it a fine soft morning that’s in it, ma vourneen oh …”)

Apparently, Pat O’Brien, the American actor, once claimed that it was never heard in Ireland and was invented by a vaudeville comedian called Pat White, who flourished in the decade before the First World War. A quick search of newspaper archives turns up examples of it in stage-Irish dialogue from (at least) the year 1838, so that’s plainly not true, though it is true that Irish people rarely say begorrah and never without a sense of irony!

And while the late Daniel Cassidy never actually wrote about begorrah, he did make up some arrant bullshit about how By Golly! comes from Irish ‘bíodh geall air’, which basically means ‘you bet’, or ‘that’s for sure’ (or ironically, it can mean ‘yeah right!’) This is a bad match in sound and meaning and doesn’t take into account all the related terms like begob, Golly!, Gosh!, and by gum.

Anyhow, Chris, greetings to you and the rest of the folks in the Land of the Long White Cloud. Bígí sábháilte agus kia kaha!

A brief post-script: It seems that Chris O’Regan, mentioned above, is a talented artist from Dunedin in New Zealand who specialises in metalwork based on ancient Celtic knotwork and animal designs. You can check out his products here:

Celtic Triskele 50 mm Pendant – Celtic Art Dagda Metalwork

More on the Tally Stick

A while back, I wrote a short piece in answer to Maureen Hurley. At the end of that article, I said that I would try to write a piece on the bata scóir, so here it is.

What was the bata scóir? Well, the word bata means stick in Irish, while the word scór is a borrowing of the English word score. It means a score or notch and comes ultimately from the Old Norse skor, meaning a notch or (because of its use in tallying) a count of twenty. In other words, it means a tally stick, a device used for counting or tallying. Usually, this was a small wooden block of various forms, which was usually able to be marked with notches indicating various values and then split lengthwise so that the two parts would tally. (Also, you could place the two parts together temporarily to mark new notches on it.)

In Ireland, historically, the bata scóir has had several meanings or uses. It was principally used in the nineteenth century as a kind of time card, used by labourers to prove how many hours they had worked. For example, an tAthair Peadar in his book of 1915, Mo Sgéal Féin, says this about the bata scóir used by labourers and farmers:


Bhíodh an bata scóir acu, agus choimeádaidís araon an cúntas ar an mbata scóir.
Is amhlaidh a bhíodh an bata scóir ‘n-a dhá leath ar a fhaid, agus leath acu ag an bhfear oibre agus an leath eile acu ag an bhfeirmeóir. Nuair a bhíodh an cúntas acu
le cur síos, do thagaidís i bhfochair a chéile agus a leath féin de’n bhata ag gach duine acu. Ansan, cuir i gcás go mbéadh chúig lá oibre déanta ag an bhfear oibre, do shínfidís an dá leath-bhata suas le n-a chéile, agus do ghearfadh duine acu chúig scóir le sgiain ar an dá leath-bhata, scór, nó fáibre, i n-aghaidh gach lae oibre d’ár deineadh. Do gearfaí na fáibrí i dtreó go luighfeadh an sgian ar an dá leath-bhata i n-aonfheacht, agus go mbéadh gach fáibre geartha isteach ionta araon. Ansan do choimeádfadh gach aoinne a leath féin de’n bhata scóir, agus níor bh’fhéidir d’aoinne
acu éagcóir a dhéanamh ar an nduine eile, mar níor bh’ fhéidir scór do ghearadh amach ‘ná scór do chur isteach gan an dá leath-bhata do shíneadh le chéile airís, agus nuair a sínfí le chéile iad do chaithfeadh na fáibrí teacht isteach le n-a chéile cruinn, fé mar a gearadh iad ar dtúis.

They used to have the tally-stick, and they would both keep the account on the tally stick. It so happened that the tally-stick used to be split lengthwise into two halves, one half kept by the workman and the other half by the farmer. When they had to record the account, they would come together, each of them with his own half of the stick. Then, suppose the workman had done five days of work, they would lay the two half-sticks up against each other, and one of them would cut five scores with a knife on the two half sticks, a score, or a groove, for every day of work that was done. The grooves would be cut so that the knife would lie on both of the half-sticks together, and so that each groove would be cut into both of them. Then each one would keep his own half of the tally-stick, and neither of them could cheat the other one, because it was not possible to cut a groove out or to put a score in without laying the two half-sticks together again, and when they were laid together the grooves had to match each other accurately, just as they had originally been cut.

However, many Irish people will be aware of a more sinister meaning to the phrase bata scóir, as a device used to punish Irish-speaking children for using their native language in school. This was particularly associated with the National School system which was brought in in 1831 but the custom seems to have been used to force children to learn English before then in the hedge schools (scoileanna scairte or scoltacha scairte), unofficial local schools run in barns or outdoors by a teacher paid directly by the parents.

This practice was used in many countries where an indigenous language was supplanted by a more powerful language like English or French. The best-known example was probably the famous Welsh Not. This was a badge that was hung on the neck of a child who was heard speaking Welsh. When another child was heard speaking the language, the Welsh Not was transferred to them and so on. At the end of the day the child wearing the Welsh Not was punished. Many years ago, I was told that this was also the pattern in Donegal.

However, most accounts of the bata scóir in Ireland tend to emphasise the scoring or notching aspect. For example, a child called Pádraig Ó Cuirrín from Waterford gave the following account (collected from his father) in the collection of folklore called Bailiúchan na Scol in the 1930s (my translation):

When my grandfather was going to school he used to speak Irish and a Bata Scóir was placed around his neck. He spoke ten words of Irish and ten notches were put in the stick for every word and then he was put outside the door. When he went home, his father gave him a blow for every notch that was in the stick.

Another account is in an Irish translation of an essay by William Smith O’Brien (written in 1893 but translated in 1905):

Ba mhinic, le deich mbliadhna is dachad do labhradh go trom ar lucht cnáide leanbh Gaedhealach scoile nuair a bheirtí ortha ag labhairt na teangan do thugadar leó ó lacht chíche a máthar, agus níl amhras ná gur bh’aithiseach an bheart í. Ní hé an cipín scóir do cuireadh ar chrochadh fé bhrághaid leanbh labhartha na Gaedhilge, mar tharcuisne ar a dteangain, fé ndeara dhi bheith ar gcúl, acht teicheadh na ndaoine thar sáile.

People have frequently spoken critically for the last fifty years about those tormenters of Irish-speaking school children when they were caught speaking the language they were given from their mother’s milk, and there is no doubt that this was a shameful act. It was not the tally-stick which was hung around the neck of children who spoke Irish to scorn the language which was the reason for its decline but the emigration of people overseas.

(The original version is: Bitter things have been said of those who in the last fifty years were used to chide Irish school children caught lapsing into their own mother-tongue; and no doubt it was a sorry spectacle. But it was emigration, not the ferule of the old pedants, that drove the Irish language out of fashion.)

An article called The Hedge Schools of County Limerick by Tony Lyons states that the bata scóir did not originate in the National School system but in the earlier hedge schools. In some places, according to Lyons, the individual schoolmasters were favourable to the Irish language but in others, they used bataí scóir or ‘tally sticks’ to discourage pupils from speaking the language. These were sometimes called by other names. In Kerry it was known as a cingulum or singulum.

Sir William Wilde in 1853 mentioned seeing a man hearing his child speaking Irish and marking a tally around his neck (called a scoreen or scóirín) so that he could be punished.

All this is very interesting but very contradictory. Anybody examining this and other evidence will quickly realise that there is a very clear difference between the standard nationalist polemic about the bata scóir and the reality.

The polemic has it that the English came into Ireland and as part of a concerted campaign of cultural genocide, they imposed compulsory education in English and cruelly punished any children who spoke their own native language, regardless of their parents’ wishes, by hanging a badge of shame around their necks called a tally or a bata scóir and beating them accordingly.

How do the facts differ from the polemic version?

1. The use of the tally stick began in the hedge schools, which were nothing to do with the English.

2. The tallies were certainly used in the National Schools but the National Schools were not compulsory, Compulsory education was not brought in in Ireland until 1893, sixty years after the National Schools. Many schools in Ireland had begun teaching Irish by this time.

3. The idea that the very word bata scóir struck shame and anger into the hearts of Irish speakers throughout the nineteenth century is false. The main use of the term was for a kind of device for counting the hours or days worked by a labourer.

4. Not only did parents not have to send their children to a National School, they were often part of the system of punishment, carrying out the beatings. In some cases, it is stated that the tally was used to prevent children speaking Irish outside school, not inside it. The painful truth is that Irish-speaking parents bowed to strong cultural and economic pressures (many derived from the English – they aren’t blameless in this) in trying to prevent their own children from speaking Irish. They did this because they feared that their children would end up starving in Boston or Birmingham because they couldn’t get a job in an English-speaking environment.

5. We have no idea what the original bata scóir would have looked like and as far as I know, there are no examples of a bata scóir in existence. Pictures purporting to be bataí scóir on the internet are fakes, tally sticks with a different purpose from Germany or Canada.

Hurley’s Stick

I noticed recently that I have been defamed by one of Cassidy’s lickspittle ‘friends’ in California, Maureen Hurley. This is in relation to a comment made on this blog by someone called Robo and my reply to Robo:


“The bata scóir or tally stick was usually a piece of wood which Irish-speaking children were forced to wear around their necks. Anybody who heard the child speaking Irish was expected to mark the stick with a notch. At the end of the day the marks were counted and the child was punished for each offence. Watch your language : an bata scóir, the insidious silencer.”

From https://cassidyslangscam.wordpress.com/tag/bata-scoir/

PS The person (unnamed) responsible for the blog where I got this info, at cassidyslangscam, who continues to slander my friend Danny Cassidy, after his death, is a vindictive scourge. He maligns Robo’s comment, yet my Bantry grandmother, FFS, told me the same story. So it certainly was true in the middle to late 19th c., in the West of Ireland. STET!

While I’m not really bothered (being attacked by someone as stupid as Maureen Hurley is like being savaged by a dead sheep), it is a little irritating when somebody lies so casually about you.  As readers of this blog will know, I have not slandered Cassidy, nor even libelled him. (You would think someone claiming to be a poet would know the difference!) The fact is, of course, that expressing your disdain for someone only becomes any kind of defamation if the bad things you are saying are untrue. Because my criticisms of Cassidy are entirely justified, all I am guilty of is not agreeing with Maureen Hurley and I can certainly live with that!

However, before discussing Hurley’s failings in greater detail, let’s just get one thing straight. Anyone reading her comment above would assume that I am arguing that the bata scóir didn’t exist. If you go to my blog and read it you will find the following line: The bata scóir in the National Schools is certainly a fact.

Could I have expressed it any more clearly or unambiguously? The bata scóir was a fact. It existed and I have never denied the fact. Presumably, Hurley failed to actually read my blog post before commenting on it. Either that, or, if she is a total liar like the rest of Cassidy’s friends, she is providing a ‘straw man’ argument, where you set up a nice easy fake target, ascribe it to your opponent, and knock that down instead of actually engaging with your opponent’s real arguments.

As I said in a previous post on Hurley, she actually realises that at least some of Cassidy’s work was nonsense, saying that he played it a little too fast and loose with linguistics, that he didn’t speak Irish and didn’t know the grammatical rules of Irish. Fair play to her for recognising that much. Unfortunately, she does not take it to its conclusion and makes a lot of half-baked and moronic excuses for Cassidy. Here is Hurley sneering at real academics who criticised her friend:

Some pedagogues groused that Danny was an amateur etymologist, and ever-so-eloquently stated that his linguistic claims were “a big heaping load of hooey”; that maybe the award should have been given for fiction instead. I’m sure that was the response Danny was expecting from that crowd. He was a great one to challenge the halls of academe.

In other words, she is giving us the typical unintelligent guff that we have come to expect from the Cassidy apologists. The academics hated Cassidy because they’re a stuck-up crowd of snobs sitting in their ivory towers, not because it was incompetent rubbish. According to Hurley, Cassidy was sometimes wrong but got it right a lot of the time.

As you will discover if you read my blog rather than Hurley’s ramblings, Cassidy was almost never right about anything. It isn’t that there is a solid core of genuine research in Cassidy’s book and that the academic linguists are just carping about a few marginal cases. The truth is that Cassidy’s book is a monumental waste of time, a collection of childish lies and distortions. There are no words of genuine Irish origin in his book apart from the ones that were already acknowledged as such in the dictionaries. Everything original to Cassidy is infantile garbage. And while an Anglo dilettante like Maureen Hurley wouldn’t really care about the Irish language, those of us who speak Irish and use it on a daily basis find Cassidy’s work deeply insulting.

Hurley tries to demonstrate that there is value in Cassidy’s work but because she can’t be bothered reading what anybody else writes, she makes a total mess of it. She quotes what she thinks is a comment given by Daniel Cassidy. In fact, it’s from Terence Dolan, one of Cassidy’s critics, and it’s clearly denying Cassidy’s core thesis:

In an interview, Danny said: “The English language does not often absorb other languages, especially the Celtic languages. Irish has the longest association with English of any language on the planet, yet in England all we’ve got are a handful of words such as whiskey.”

I mean, obviously, if there are only a handful of Celtic words such as whiskey in English, then Cassidy must have been wrong!

After that, things get really surreal.

For example, Danny said the word buckaroo came from the Irish bocaí rua, “wild playboys” or “bloody bucks.” But bó is cow, buachaill is a cowherder (or cowboy, if you will), and ruadh, is, well, red (or red-haired)—so the meaning is close enough. Even if he came at it all wrong.


I have no idea what she is talking about here. This is a total non-sequitur. Bocaí rua means a red-haired playboy – if if means anything. (Bocaí is a singular word meaning playboy, not the plural of boc, which would be boic.) And another word, buachaill means boy and etymologically is linked to the Irish word for cow. But are the two facts connected? No. And where does buckaroo really come from? It comes from vaquero, the Spanish for cowboy. How is the meaning ‘close enough’? Close enough to what, FFS?

Anyway, unbelievably, it gets worse:


When Danny began to point out words “of uncertain origin” is often code for Irish, it struck a chord with me. I knew there were many more Irish words buried within the English language, despite what the Oxford English Dictionary claimed—aside from the usual suspects: smithereens, hoolighan (a surname), and shanty. 
There’s also shebeen, shebang, shindig, Sheila, slew, slogan, lollapalooza, colleen, clan, keen, kabosh, banshee, brogue, brogan, bar, ben, glamour, gombeen, leprechaun, whiskey, etc., to name a few.

This is also nonsense. Shanty, of course, is from French, not Irish, whether it refers to a cabin or a song. Shebeen is from Irish and all dictionaries say so. They are also quite happy to admit that slew, colleen, keen, banshee, brogue, gombeen, leprechaun, gob and whiskey are Irish. (Hurley also treats us to some rubbish about how the e of whiskey is related to Irish uisce – the convention of the spelling of whiskey and whisky by country is a recent convention in English and has nothing whatever to do with different varieties of Gaelic.) Kabosh probably isn’t Irish, lollapalooza certainly isn’t and it isn’t mentioned in Cassidy’s book, and neither is glamour, which certainly isn’t Irish. Shindig doesn’t come from Cassidy’s seinnt-theach, because it doesn’t exist. (It doesn’t come from Loretto Todd’s sínteach either, which does exist but has no appropriate meanings.) Bar doesn’t come from Irish and I’m not aware of anyone ever claiming it did. She says that boycott is an Irish word. Obviously, it isn’t because it’s an English surname, though it did originate in Ireland and like most languages, we have a version of the verb derived from it in Irish (baghcatáil, to boycott).

She also repeats the claim that the OED and Webster’s were rabidly anti-Irish and therefore lied about the Irish origins of words but without any evidence or any reason for claiming this other than her own bigotry and misplaced loyalty to Cassidy. She complains about these dictionaries saying that words were Scottish Gaelic rather than Irish and uses the idiotic argument that somehow Scottish Gaelic IS Irish.

Where did the British think Scots Gaelic came from? Donegal Irish in another lexicon.

Hurley is showing here once again that for a so-called poet, she has a very poor grasp of the English language.  What does ‘in another lexicon’ mean? The fact is, of course, that the Irish and Scottish versions of Gaelic are mutually incomprehensible, though similar. Does ‘in another lexicon’ mean that they are similar but have different words? And if so, could you say that Dutch is English in another lexicon? Or that Portuguese is Spanish in another lexicon? Similar but totally different? What the fuck are you wittering about, Hurley?

And of course, some words come from Scottish Gaelic while others come from Irish. Smithereens and shebeen are from Irish. Pibroch and claymore are from Scottish Gaelic. Bog and whisk(e)y could be from either, or indeed both.

Hurley also claims that glom isn’t in the dictionary. In reality, glom is recognised as deriving from Scots glaum, on record since the 18th century, which in turn came from Scottish Gaelic glàm.

Anyway, I already hated Cassidy’s guts when I first started this blog seven years ago, because of the lying nonsense he had made up about the Irish language. However, writing works of crap research is not illegal. Using false qualifications to get a job you are not entitled to is illegal, as well as being immoral and deeply hypocritical in someone who spent much of his time blathering about social justice. This is the big pile of elephant dung in the room that people like Hurley refuse to talk about.

Cassidy’s sister tipped me off that her brother had no qualifications about five years ago. I contacted the Registrar of Cornell University, Cassie Dembosky, who confirmed that Cassidy was removed from Cornell after four years of study without a degree. And this was later confirmed by one of Cassidy’s supporters, his brother Michael, who says that he used to needle his brother about not having a degree.

In theory, of course, it is quite possible to become a professor without having a degree. If you are a poet of international standing, or a brilliant novelist, or a film director with a dozen highly-regarded movies under your belt, that will be regarded as equivalent to or better than a doctorate. However, Cassidy did not have any such staggering achievements. In fact, he didn’t have any achievements, staggering or not. He was a nobody with no degrees and the only reasonable explanation for his having the status of a university professor without even a BA is that he lied about his qualifications to get that job.

Hurley and people like Hurley might consider that there is nothing wrong with doing that. However, there are rules in relation to fair employment, protocols that protect us from the worst kinds of discrimination. Rules that make it hard for someone to give a job to an Orangeman with no qualifications rather than to a Catholic with an MA on the grounds that the Catholic’s face wouldn’t fit. Rules that guarantee that a gay woman of West African heritage will not be passed over in a recruitment process in favour of a straight, chalk-white Christian dude like the late Daniel Cassidy because he’s a friend of the Dean. I think that Daniel Cassidy essentially ignored these rules and was allowed to do so and I think I am entirely justified in saying that he was a worthless, hypocritical prick for doing that.

Finally, before I finish, I just want to make an observation about the silly little internet picture of a bata scóir which Hurley posted along with her criticism of this blog. As I have said, I know that the bata scóir existed. However, I don’t believe that 19th century schoolteachers had that much time to whittle elaborate notches on pieces of wood, so it seemed to me unlikely that this was a genuine Irish bata scóir. I therefore acted on my hunch and put the words tally stick into Google image and within a few seconds, I found out where the picture came from. It’s of a tally stick that was used to guarantee a debt. It dates from the 16th century and was discovered in 2011 in an excavation in Wittenberg, Germany, so it is not an Irish bata scóir and has nothing to do with the English or Irish languages.

You can find out more here: https://archive.archaeology.org/1111/artifact/wittenberg_germany_tally_stick.html

There are also other pictures of bataí scóir on line which are tally sticks from Baffin Island in Canada. To the best of my knowledge, there are no genuine bataí scóir from the Irish National Schools in existence and we don’t really know what they would have looked like. If I get time, I will post on the whole question of the bata scóir and the available evidence about it, as it is an interesting subject.

A Reply To Seán Corcoran

I have received a message from a certain Seán Corcoran, who has sent a link to the post about Did The English Ban Irish? The original post was taking issue with the notion that the Irish language was banned completely and on pain of punishment or imprisonment in Ireland. This is, of course, nonsense. The English certainly did nothing to help the Irish language or actively promote it but they didn’t make it illegal to speak Irish.

In the link provided by Corcoran, there is an article by Pádraig Óg Ó Ruairc about the use of Irish and Welsh in the courts. It’s a very poor article and it is difficult to understand how a professional and highly-qualified historian with a doctorate from the University of Limerick could have produced something so shoddy. The obvious conclusion is that Ó Ruairc is wearing both the broad black brimmer of the Irish Republican here as well as his historian’s hat. He who wears two hats simultaneously always ends up looking stupid. A historian has a duty to write history, not polemic.

You can read the original article by going to the site The Irish Story and searching for To Extinguish Their Sinister Traditions And Customs – The Historic Bans On The Legal Use Of The Irish And Welsh Languages.

Ó Ruairc explains the argument of his article thus:

Constitutionally both Wales and Northern Ireland are considered part of the integral and sovereign territory of the United Kingdom governed by the same legal system.

Yet the use of Welsh, the indigenous language of Wales, is legal in Welsh Courts whilst the use of Irish, the indigenous language of Ireland, is illegal in the courts of Northern Ireland and is a crime punishable by a monetary fine or contempt of court ruling.

I will ignore the Welsh language case here, as I have little to say on the subject. I should also point out that Ó Ruairc is entirely correct (in my view) in criticising the attitude of the courts in Northern Ireland towards the Irish language. It seems completely perverse to refuse to allow people to give their testimony in Irish now, in an age when language and cultural rights are respected by democratic regimes all over the world, when people were allowed to testify in Irish in the courts in the 19th century. Fortunately, before coronavirus came along, the DUP politicians in the north had consented to allow a Language Act in Northern Ireland which should resolve these problems for good.

Anyway, back to Ó Ruairc’s piece of pseudo-history. Ó Ruairc begins his discussion of this with the early legislation banning the use of the Irish language. As I have pointed out before, the Statute of Kilkenny of 1367 was very different, in that it was about stopping English colonists in Ireland from going native and using Irish. In other words, it is from a time when the English language was on the back foot in Ireland. Ó Ruairc continues:

This was followed in 1537 with The Statute of Ireland – An Act for the English Order Habit and Language that prohibited the use of the Irish language in the Irish Parliament.[10] In 1541, further legislation was passed which banned the use of Irish in the areas of Ireland then under English rule.[11]

There is no evidence that these were enforced, even in the limited areas of the Pale which were controlled by the English or their agents rather than local chieftains, most of whom spoke Irish and would hardly have imposed a ban on the only language they could speak.

Then Ó Ruairc discusses the supposed ban on Irish in the courts:

The Administration of Justice (Language) Act (Ireland) was passed by the Irish Parliament in 1737.[12] The Act not only forbids the speaking of Irish within the courtroom, it also prohibits the completion of legal documentation in Irish and imposes a financial penalty of £20 each time Irish is spoken in court in contravention of the law.

This is simply not true. It is a distortion because it doesn’t put the act in its proper context but it also goes way beyond the facts in terms of what the act says. You can find the text of this Act here:

statutes.org.uk/site/the-statutes/irish-laws/1737-11-george-2-c-6-administration-of-justice-language-act/

Firstly, a word about context. This Act was essentially transferred wholesale from the English courts. Its aim was not to attack Irish but to get rid of the tendency for all law to be conducted in a form of bastardised Norman-French and lawyer’s Latin. If you read the wording of the act, it is full of references to writing and written documents. It is not at all clear that there is any mandate in there to ban spoken languages other than English, though the words ‘and proceedings thereon’ could be construed that way. (A point I will return to below.)

However, it is important to stress here that the genuine practice in the courts in the 18th and 19th centuries allowed people to speak Irish. We know this because there are plenty of records of it happening, as I mentioned in my post.

Ó Ruairc says: It seems clear therefore that the implicit intention of these laws was to promote the Anglicisation of the Welsh and Irish peoples rather than the stated intention of the legislation ie: for the purpose of securing the orderly transaction of court cases in the ‘local vernacular’ language which in all cases was wrongly assumed to be English.

If it were true that the Irish language was banned in courts, then this would be tenable. As this isn’t the case, it isn’t.

In fact, Ó Ruairc actually contradicts himself in his reference to the Maamtrasna case. As Ó Ruairc says, interpretation was carried out by a member of the constabulary. Why wasn’t the policeman fined every time he spoke Irish in the court? He wasn’t fined because it was standard practice to interpret for witnesses who couldn’t speak English. Maamtrasna was a disgrace but there was more wrong with it as a trial than bad interpretation.

As I have said, there are many, many documented cases of interpreters being used in courts, though we also know that much time and effort was wasted trying to establish how much English people had and whether they could give evidence in that language to try to stop people pretending they didn’t speak English. As a result of this, following the case of R v Burke (1858), it was decided at the Court of Crown Cases Reserved that Irish speakers could provide testimony in any language they preferred.

There is a whole book (a real history book and a good one) about the use of the Irish language in the courts in 18th and 19th century Ireland, by an academic called Mary Phelan. It was published after Ó Ruairc’s article but that is no excuse. I knew about these cases before its publication and I’m not a professional historian ná baol air. You can get the book here:

https://www.fourcourtspress.ie/books/2019/irish-speakers-interpreters-and-the-courts-17541921/

In short, Mr. Corcoran, Ó Ruairc’s article doesn’t change things. The English didn’t ban the Irish language in the 19th century, even in the courts. As I have said before and keep saying, people like Seán Corcoran should learn to think for themselves and assess the value of articles like this on their merits rather than accepting stuff like this as gospel without evidence.

A Reply To Damien Scanlan

I had a message recently from a man called Damien Scanlan about my piece Did The English Ban Irish, in which I objected to the claim made by many Irish-American fakes that the Irish language was legally banned by the English. As I stated in that article, the English did a huge amount to weaken and undermine the language but they didn’t stop people who only spoke Irish from using that language. It wouldn’t have been practical to do so. Furthermore, the Irish language was the main or only language of the majority of the Irish population until the early 19th century. It was a major European language in terms of numbers of speakers at that time. There were more Irish speakers than Dutch, Danish or Swedish speakers at that time. (Which is food for thought.)

Anyway, here is Damien Scanlan’s (barely literate) comment, with my countercomments in Italics. Enjoy!

 

I get the impression you’ve completely missed the point of these writings. You seem to be attacking the notion based on the premise of how it has been worded in these other writings.

You mean, I am missing the point by thinking that they are claiming that the Irish language was banned by the English? Because that’s what their words tell me? So, what should I be using, if not the words that people actually write?

Of course there was no law stating that the use of Irish was illegal.

Eh, of course? Both the comments I cited in the post say that there was a legal ban on Irish. I am pointing out that there was no such ban. So you’re giving me a hard time for saying what you’re saying?

But the use of the language within public gatherings often lead to public beatings by frustrated soldiers unable to understand ‘what all the commotion was about’ – It’s commonly known that this restrictions on public gatherings encompassed both public discussion in Irish, singing in Irish and writings in Irish for fear they contained anti British rhetoric or revolutionary subject matter.

In fact, many soldiers and even more members of the constabulary in the 19th century probably spoke Irish, because at the beginning of the 19th century approximately half the population of Ireland spoke Irish as their first or only language. It’s certainly not true that all of the soldiers in Ireland would have been English. Still less with the constabulary.

The weight you put on your title ‘did they ban Irish’ is completely misrepresented in what you’ve writing and shows poorly selected partial facts. The Irish language had no official status and was actively discouraged and suppressed. By 1800, any Irish persons at any level of optical or socioeconomic stature had to more or less completely disown the language as it was seen to be a peasant language of the uneducated.

Optical? As I wrote in the original post: The fact is, of course, that the English administration in Ireland was no friend to the Irish language. Irish was progressively squeezed out of any realm of life which would have given it power or influence.

In other words, you seem to be arguing with me by saying exactly what I’m saying. 

When the only schooling available is conducted in one specific language and all governmental, media and employment deties are conducted in that language, it stands to reason that nobody would want to speak it, so effectively, the ban existed, in the form of all out suppression.

Again, the English did everything but ban the language legally. But they didn’t ban the language legally. That’s what I’m saying. That’s ALL I’m saying. (Yawn!)

This concerted effort to suppress the language is in no way different to how Yiddish was suppressed in the early stages of the holocaust, yet you speak about these writings as though the writer(s) are idiots and about how their theories are idiotic, purely because it didn’t enter a colonist legal system.

We aren’t talking about Yiddish or Central Europe. And if people claim that the Irish language was banned by law, and it wasn’t banned by law, then they should have checked the truth of that information first, so yes, I think that’s pretty stupid.

You don’t seem to realise that a ban in legal statute is barely different to a heavily enforced regulation. I mean they were hardly about to broadcast their methods of cultural destruction and ethnic cleansing to the rest of the world. Ask yourself.. How much is taught in British schools of the multiple massacres in British India. How much do you read of the restrictions placed on the regional Indian languages during those times.

Sorry, I thought we were talking about Ireland, and the policies of the British in Ireland? That’s what I was talking about, anyway. I don’t know much about the legal status of native Indian languages under the Raj and I suspect you don’t either. What are you talking about? (If you know!)

Although I doubt you’re intentionally coming across like this in your writing, it seems you’ve completely missed the point and that because you’ve read a couple of articles on the matter you’re an expert in debunking ‘the myth of banned Irish’ – Your reasoning is quite laughable actually .

Laugh away, Damo! You’re the one who is missing the point – over and over again! The Irish language was not banned by law. Your argument that a ban in legal statute is almost the same as heavily enforced regulation – you do know that the primary meaning of regulation is rule or directive made by an authority, as in a law, don’t you? – makes no sense at all. Even if you mean regulation as in close control rather than in a legal sense. I’ll say it again – a legal ban and no legal ban ARE DIFFERENT THINGS. Is dócha nach bhfuil Gaeilge ar bith agat ach, seo é i nGaeilge fosta, ar eagla na heagla – IS RUDAÍ DIFRIÚLA IAD!

My grandfather spoke many times about the scars his mother bore on her face when he was you, a result having been punched in the face and then kicked repeatedly on the ground when she was a teenager, by the ‘lawmen’ of Dublin in the latter part of the 1880’s; purely because she was unable to respond to their barrage of questions and kept responding with “ní thuigim”… Would you speak your language in public of there was a possibility this might happen? I doubt it very much.

Your grandfather was me? An interesting anecdote. Ach mar sheanfhondúir ó na Sé Chontae a bhfuil Gaeilge aige, tuigim go maith gur féidir leis bheith contúirteach Gaeilge a labhairt leis na péas, nó le saighdiúirí, nó in áit ar bith a bhfuil Dílseoirí thart. Cibé ceachtanna atá le teagasc agat, a Damo, níl an ceacht sin de dhíth orm, go raibh céad mile maith agat.

So next time you’re so quick to debunk theories that you don’t have any real understanding of, maybe you could at least choose more appropriate wording for your perspective. The lack of a constitutional/legal literal ban, does not, in any way shape or form, mean no such ban existed.

Eh, yes it does. 100%. A legal ban is a legal ban. An absence of a legal ban is an absence of a legal ban. They’re two different things. And please read through some of your own sentences above (optical?) before accusing me of not using appropriate wording.

Food for thought.

If you think that’s food for thought, perhaps you should be eating more fish. Here’s some food for thought for you. When you, or any other moron nach bhfuil focal den teanga ina phluc aige tries to claim that the Irish language was banned under the Penal Laws, you are giving comfort and support to the many enemies of the language and culture who like to pretend that Irish was virtually dead by the 17th century. Lies sometimes have unexpected consequences. Which is why everybody should stick to the known facts. That’s what I’m doing. Suggest you do the same (or shut the fuck up). Either option is fine by me.

The Motherfoclóir Podcast

Earlier this year, I wrote a post about the book called Motherfoclóir. In that post, I stated that while I generally approved of Darach Ó Séaghdha’s book about the Irish language, I felt it was marred by some extremely sloppy research.

Over the last week, I have listened to a couple of podcasts by Ó Séaghdha and the Motherfoclóir team. The first one was a Halloween-themed post called The Vampirish For. You can find it here: https://player.fm/series/motherfocloir/ep-62-62-the-vampirish-for

This podcast started well. It criticised the ludicrous claims made about the Irish origin of Dracula, which some fools have tried to link to an Irish phrase ‘Drochfhola’, supposedly meaning bad blood. He pours scorn on this claim and describes it as bullshit. Quite right too.

However, the podcast then shows the same lack of common sense and proper research which made the book so unsatisfactory. I have dealt here with the fake claims about Abhartach, supposedly a vampire chieftain who lived in a mountainous area of Derry. As I have stated here, the genuine story of Abhartach describes this evil chieftain returning from the dead. He is later killed with a yew-wood sword and buried upside-down with a huge rock over his body.

Starting about twenty years ago, a revisionist version of this story appeared, claiming that Abhartach demanded the blood of his subjects and that he was described as a neamh-mharbh and a dearg-diúlaí.

So, this piece about Abhartach on Ó Séaghdha’s podcast is basically a rerun of what was wrong with the etymological section of the book. There is one piece of bogus information denied, then a welter of ignorant nonsense lifted from untrustworthy sources without the least attempt to establish the truth. To be fair to Ó Séaghdha, it is a guest of his who recounts this story. They probably lifted much of this nonsense about Abhartach from Wikipedia, which has a longish article on the subject. It looks credible on first inspection but anyone with any common sense would quickly realise that it has huge holes in it.

For one thing, it claims that Bob Curran is a lecturer in Celtic History and Folklore at the University of Ulster. There is no department of Celtic History and Folklore at the UU. I believe Curran is a Child Psychologist by profession and I am told that he has never been a lecturer, though he may have taught evening classes. History Ireland is not a peer-reviewed journal. You only have to read Curran’s article in it to realise that.

Also, I’m willing to bet the PSNI never decided to dig up a listed ancient monument to solve a local murder, and according to Curran, a man got a cut hand when a chainsaw broke during an attempt to uproot the thorn bush. In this piece of fantasy, the man’s hand is cut clean off by the curse of Abhartach! Do me a favour!

Of course, I don’t believe that Abhartach was a real person. That’s not the point. The point is that folklore is interesting and is a legitimate field of study, with its own methodology. Embellishing and inventing to make the story ‘better’ is not part of that methodology. In Patrick Weston Joyce’s story, Abhartach died and came back and then had to be stopped by supernatural means. He wasn’t a vampire. About twenty years ago, Abhartach suddenly became a vampire because Peter Haining and Peter Tremayne and Bob Curran said so. But where did that claim come from? Where’s the reference, the evidence? Until I see something from a recorded folk-tale or a magazine or a book predating these authors, Abhartach is a revenant, not a vampire. That’s what the original story says.

And let’s face it, if he wasn’t a vampire, he really has fuck all to do with Dracula.

There were other bits that were even stupider. Apparently Stoker’s notes contained no books on Transylvania and no mention of Vlad Dracul. Nonsense! Stoker copied some information from William Wilkinson’s An Account of the Principalities of Wallachia and Moldavia about Vlad III. He also set the first part of the book in Transylvania and makes it quite clear that his Count isn’t Irish. And if it’s true that Stoker had a copy of PW Joyce’s History of Ireland in his library, that is completely irrelevant, because that book doesn’t contain any reference to Abhartach or to any supposed Irish vampires.

The second podcast was even worse. You can find it here: https://www.headstuff.org/motherfocloir/45-2-mailbag-2-furious/

The description said that it was a mailbag edition, in which Daniel Cassidy’s legacy would be discussed, so I was keen to hear it.

A few minutes into the podcast, an anonymous critic writes that he likes the book and the podcast of Motherfoclóir and has been trying to learn a little Irish over the last year. He says that he is a writer and musician from the Irish-American community and that he is from New York. His initials are TW. He says that he has a bone of contention, namely the way that Motherfoclóir dismissed Cassidy’s revolutionary theory about the Irish origins of slang. Plainly, from the details given, this is an Irish-American mediocrity called Terence Winch.

Winch is typical of the pompous dimwits who support Cassidy. “I am not sure all his examples would hold up to academic scrutiny but that does not mean to say that his overall theory is completely flawed.” In other words, Winch is insisting on ignoring all the evidence on this blog and elsewhere, because he believes that there are only a few bad apples in Cassidy’s barrel. The reality is that not only is there no baby in Cassidy’s bathwater, there isn’t even anything that looks like a rubber duck, floats like a rubber duck and might just vaguely, possibly be a rubber duck. I have examined most of Cassidy’s nonsense here and shown why his derivations are fake. Winch is welcome to take up the challenge I have issued to the rest of the tribe of Dan. Let’s see if you can offer ten words from Cassidy’s work where any reasonable person would regard Cassidy’s explanation as convincing (i.e. where the Irish origin really exists and there isn’t a better explanation from English or some other language). Good luck with that!

I was disappointed with Darach Ó Séaghdha’s response to Terence Winch, which was, to say the least, a bit weasel-wordy. In the original book, Ó Séaghdha had criticised Cassidy’s book (before going off into the realms of etymological fantasy himself). In his reply to Winch on the podcast, he states that Cassidy has been described as the Andrew Wakefield of linguistics. I don’t know who said that, but I agree with it 100%. (Except, perhaps, that Wakefield was a real doctor who was struck off. Cassidy never had any qualifications in the first place.)

Ó Séaghdha then goes on to say that Cassidy just got it a bit wrong but that’s fine and he finds the hostility against Cassidy hard to understand and it is false to say that Cassidy was a con-man or a trickster. I think it’s quite clear from this that Ó Séaghdha has never read much of this blog. I also suspect that Ó Séaghdha has never read Cassidy’s book either, because he insists that Cassidy thought the English word jazz came from Irish deas (nice). If he had read the book properly, he would know that Cassidy claimed it came from teas (heat) – though confusingly, Cassidy also thought teas was pronounced as deas in Ulster Irish, information supplied to him by his principal source of enlightenment, his own arse.

Ó Séaghdha couldn’t be more wrong about Cassidy’s dishonesty. Cassidy was obviously a criminal fake. He ‘worked’ for twelve years as a professor in a university on the strength of his ‘education’ at Cornell and Columbia. As his sister (and then the Cornell registrar) informed me, Cassidy failed his degree at Cornell and never went to Columbia. Even Cassidy’s friends and supporters have not tried to challenge these facts or offer any evidence to the contrary or excuses for his criminal behaviour.

However, the worst evidence of Cassidy’s dishonesty is in the book itself. ‘Irish’ definitions were imagined, rewritten, miscopied, and ‘figurative’ meanings invented. Hundreds of completely fake phrases were invented by Cassidy.

That is (one of the reasons) why Winch’s comment is so stupid. He seems to be implying that linguists are being obtuse and difficult (because, apparently, they are ‘threatened by’ Cassidy) because they refuse to accept Cassidy’s candidate Irish phrases on the grounds that there is no contemporary evidence of these phrases crossing between the Irish language and English slang. This is not the issue.

Linguists and etymologists reject the overwhelming majority of Cassidy’s ‘Irish’ phrases not because there’s no evidence of them crossing from Irish but because they never existed in Irish. Nobody ever said that béal ónna meant nonsense in Irish until Cassidy made it up, nobody ever used comhroghna to mean friend or companion, foluach doesn’t exist as a way of saying a rare reward, leathluí géag and liú lúith and gus óil and sách úr and píosa theas and hundreds of other pieces of nonsense in Cassidy’s book are simply fantasy. Cassidy never provided any evidence that any of this rubbish existed and linguists shouldn’t waste their time and energy on the fantasies of a dishonest lunatic. Terence Winch should have known this, because I wrote a blog post answering his post of 2007 and explaining that all the words he provided as examples from Cassidy’s work are fake. I suppose it’s possible he’s never Googled himself but … mneh … Plainly, he isn’t ready to stop this nonsense. You can read my post here: https://cassidyslangscam.wordpress.com/tag/terence-winch/

There is another thing which irritated me. In the same podcast where Winch’s nonsense was discussed, there was a discussion of people misspelling Irish names and leaving off the accents. This is something that irritates me too, but it seems a bit rich to complain about this as a matter of respect and identity, while simultaneously, on the same podcast, saying that it’s perfectly OK for some random Yank to invent hundreds of phrases in our language, a language he had never made any attempt to learn, and try to pass it off as fact. It isn’t. It’s an insult to our culture and language and identity, and fatheads like Terence Winch should be told in no uncertain terms that intellectual debate should be conducted on the basis of the evidence, not on the basis of how good a friend-of-a-friend Cassidy was or who happens to be on Winch’s Christmas-card list.

However, I hope my American friends (who are self-deprecating, intelligent and reasonable) will forgive me for saying that there is more to this. It seems to me that there is a poisonous strain of arrogance in modern American culture. I found an interesting article by Tom Nichols here which chimes with my theory: (https://www.marketwatch.com/story/the-real-reason-americans-cant-agree-on-unemployment-or-just-about-anything-else-2017-03-29):

This isn’t just human nature, but the result of a narcissism that took root in American society after the 1960s and has been growing ever since. Surrounded by affluence, enabled by the internet, and empowered by an educational system that prizes self-esteem over achievement, Americans have become more opinionated even as they have become less informed, and are now utterly intolerant of ever being told they’re wrong about almost anything.”

This, I feel, is what’s happening here. Admitting you got it wrong simply isn’t a valued part of modern American culture, and people like Winch have no interest in learning the truth if the truth means admitting they were duped.

Whether that is the case or not, one thing that both of these podcasts show very clearly is that once fake memes are released into the wild, it’s almost impossible to stop them from eclipsing the truth. That’s why the Rubberbandits behaved like total dicks in relation to the list of fake Irish derivations they spread on social media. Once the genie is out of the bottle, or Abhartach out of his tomb drinking blood, it’s impossible to put them back again. Falsehoods with a good story behind them always outstrip the truth. Motherfoclóir is well-placed to try and restrain some of those falsehoods. Instead, because of poor research and intellectual laziness and a fear of strapping on a pair and offending arrogant American fans of Cassidy like Terence Winch, they are helping to spread this worthless fakery rather than challenging it properly.

Podchraoltaí Motherfoclóir

Níos luaithe sa bhliain, scríobh mé postáil faoin leabhar Motherfocloir. Sa phostáil sin, dúirt mé go raibh mé i bhfách le leabhar Dharaigh Uí Shéaghdha faoin Ghaeilge, ar an iomlán, ach mhothaigh mé go raibh an leabhar le cáineadh as taighde sleamchúiseach a bhí ann.

Ar na mallaibh, bhí mé ag éisteacht le roinnt podchraoltaí le Ó Séaghdha agus le foireann Motherfocloir. An chéad cheann ar éist mé leis, bhí sé bunaithe ar théama na Samhna, podchraoladh darbh ainm The Vampirish For. Is féidir leat é a aimsiú anseo: https://player.fm/series/motherfocloir/ep-62-62-the-vampirish-for

Thosaigh an podchraoladh seo go maith. Cháin sé cuid den amaidí a maíodh faoi bhunús an ainm Dracula, agus shéan sé an nasc leis an fhrása Gaeilge ‘Drochfhola’. Bréagnaíonn sé an teoiric seo agus deir sé nach bhfuil ann ach cacamas. Tá an méid sin ceart.

Agus sin ráite, léiríonn an podchraoladh an easpa céille agus taighde a d’fhág an leabhar chomh leamh sin. Phléigh mé na bréagtheoiricí faoi Abhartach, taoiseach agus vaimpír (mar dhea), a bhí ina chónaí i gceantar sléibhtiúil Dhoire fadó. Mar a scríobh mé roimhe seo, san fhíorscéal a scríobhadh faoi Abhartach, d’éirigh Abhartach ó na mairbh. Ina dhiaidh sin, maraítear le claíomh iúir é agus adhlacadh bun os cionn é agus carraig mhór os a chionn.

Tuairim is fiche bliain ó shin, cumadh leagan athbhreithnitheach den scéal seo. Sa leagan sin, d’éiligh Abhartach ar a phobal babhla fola a thabhairt dó agus dúradh gur neamh-mhairbh agus dearg-diúlaí é.

Mar sin de, tá an píosa seo faoi Abhartach ar phodchraoladh Uí Shéaghdha a bheag nó a mhór chomh holc leis an chuid den leabhar a bhaineann leis an tsanasaíocht. Bréagnaítear píosa amháin amaidí, agus ansin tugtar léar mór amaidí eile a tógadh ó fhoinsí neamhiontaofa gan an iarracht is lú an fhírinne a chinntiú. Lena cheart a thabhairt do Dharach Ó Séaghdha, ní eisean a insíonn an scéal seo ach aoi ar an phodchraoladh. Is dócha gur thóg an duine seo an chuid is mó den raiméis seo as Wikipedia, a bhfuil alt measartha fada ann faoi Abhartach. Tá sé inchreidte go leor ar an chéad dul síos, ach d’aithneodh duine ar bith a bhfuil ciall dá laghad aige gan mhoill go bhfuil sé chomh lán poll le píosa cáise ón Eilbhéis.

Rud amháin, maíonn sé gur léachtóir le Stair agus Béalóideas na gCeilteach é Bob Curran ag Ollscoil Uladh. Níl a leithéid de roinn ann in Ollscoil Uladh. Creidim gur síceolaí leanaí an ghairm atá aige agus deirtear liom nach léachtóir a bhí ann riamh, cé go bhfuil seans maith ann go raibh ranganna oíche á dteagasc aige. Ní irisleabhar piarmheasúnaithe é History Ireland. Is leor alt Curran ar vaimpírí a léamh leis an méid sin a thuiscint.

Ní hamháin sin, ach chuirfinn geall nach ndearna an PSNI cinneadh riamh séadchomhartha náisiúnta a thochailt le dúnmharú sa cheantar a réiteach, agus de réir Curran, gearradh lámh duine nuair a bhris sábh slabhrach agus daoine ag iarraidh an sceach a ghearradh. Sa phíosa fantaisíochta seo, gearrtar an lámh iomlán den duine de dheasca mhallacht Abhartaigh! Tchí Dia do chiall má chreideann tú sin!

Ar ndóigh, ní chreidim féin gur fíordhuine a bhí in Abhartach. Ach ní hé sin an fhadhb. Seo an fhadhb – is rud spéisiúil é an béaloideas, agus ábhar fiúntach staidéir, a bhfuil modhanna dá chuid féin aige. Níl scéalta a mhaisiú agus cumadóireacht a dhéanamh leis an scéal a ‘fheabhsú’ i measc na modhanna sin. I scéal Patrick Weston Joyce, fuair Abhartach bás agus d’éirigh sé ó na mairbh and bhí orthu cleasaíocht osnádúrtha a  úsáid lena chur chun báis arís. Ní vaimpír a bhí ann. Tuairim is fiche bliain ó shin, rinneadh vaimpír d’Abhartach go tobann cionn is gur scríobh Peter Haining agus Peter Tremayne agus Bob Curran gur vaimpír a bhí ann. (An Peter Haining céanna a scríobh leabhar faoi Sweeney Todd agus a mhaígh gur charachtar stairiúil a bhí ann!) Ach cad chuige a ndúirt siad gur vaimpír a bhí ann? Cá has ar tháinig sin? Cá bhfuil an tagairt, cá bhfuil an fhianaise? Go dtí go bhfeicim rud éigin ó scéal béaloidis nó ó irisleabhar nó ó leabhar a bhí ann sula raibh na húdair sin i mbun pinn, is taibhse é Abhartach, ní vaimpír. Sin an rud atá scríofa sa bhunscéal.

Agus lena rá go hionraic, más amhlaidh nach vaimpír a bhí ann, níl baint ná páirt aige le Dracula.

Bhí rudaí eile ann a bhí níos amaidí ná sin. De réir an duine a d’inis an scéal, ní raibh aon leabhair ar an Trasalváin ag Stoker agus ní raibh tagairt ar bith do Vlad Dracul ina chuid nótaí. Amaidí! Chóipeáil Stoker roinnt eolais ó An Account of the Principalities of Wallachia and Moldavia le William Wilkinson faoi Vlad III. Chomh maith leis sin, tá an chéad chuid den leabhar suite sa Trasalváin agus is ríléir sa leabhar nach Gael é Dracula ach comhthíreach le Vlad III. Agus más fíor go raibh cóip de Stair na hÉireann le PW Joyce ina leabharlann ag Stoker, ní bhaineann sin le hábhar, mar níl aon tagairt d’Abhartach ná do vaimpír Gaelach ar bith eile sa leabhar sin.

Má bhí an podchraoladh sin go holc, bhí an dara ceann níos measa. Thig leat é a aimsiú anseo: https://www.headstuff.org/motherfocloir/45-2-mailbag-2-furious/

Dúirt an cur síos gur clár speisialta le post agus ríomhphoist a fhreagairt, agus go bpléifi tionchar Daniel Cassidy ann. Bhí mise ar bís le héisteacht leis, ar ndóigh.

I ndiaidh cúpla nóiméad den phodchraoladh, luaitear duine anaithnid a scríobhann go bhfuil dúil aige sa leabhar agus sa phodchraoladh de Motherfocloir agus go bhfuil sé ag iarraidh giota beag Gaeilge a fhoghlaim le bliain anuas. Deir sé fosta gur scríbhneoir agus ceoltóir é ó Nua-Eabhrac agus is iad TW cinnlitreacha a ainm. Chomh maith leis sin, luann sé postáil a scríobh sé faoi Daniel Cassidy sa bhliain 2007. Deir sé go bhfuil cnámh spáirne amháin aige, is é sin, an dóigh a ndearna an leabhar beag is fiú de theoiric réabhlóideach Cassidy faoi bhunús Gaeilge an bhéarlagair. Ó na sonraí a tugadh, is léir gur éigsín leamh darb ainm Terence Winch atá ann.

Tá Winch cosúil leis na liúdramáin phoimpéiseacha eile a thugann tacaíocht do Cassidy. “I am not sure all his examples would hold up to academic scrutiny but that does not mean to say that his overall theory is completely flawed.” Lena rá ar dhóigh eile, tá Winch ag dul a chur neamhshuim san fhianaise uilig a tugadh ar an bhlag seo agus in áiteanna eile, mar go gcreideann seisean nach bhfuil ann ach go ndearna Cassidy corrmheancóg, go bhfuil na teangeolaithe gairmiúla ‘ag díol an asail leis an adhastar’. Is é fírinne an scéil nach bhfuil á dhíol i leabhar Cassidy ach carn de chac asail. Tá sanasaíochtaí Cassidy scrúdaithe go mion agam anseo agus thaispeáin mé cad chuige nach bhfuil iontu ach caimiléireacht. Tá fáilte roimh Winch an dúshlán a fhreagairt a chuir mé roimh dhaoine eile a shíleann go raibh an ceart ag Cassidy. An dtig leat deich bhfocal a aimsiú ó shaothar Cassidy a ndearna Cassidy cás éifeachtach ar a son (i. cinn ina bhfuil an leagan Gaeilge ann agus nach bhfuil míniú níos fearr ar fáil sa Bhéarla nó i dteanga éigin eile)? Ádh mór leis an cheann sin!

Chuir freagra Dharach Uí Shéaghdha ar Terence Winch díomá orm. Teanga-liom-leatachas neamhleithscéalach a bhí ann. Sa leabhar Motherfocloir, cháin Ó Séaghdha leabhar Cassidy (sular imigh sé féin go Tír na nÓg leanbaí na mbréagshanasaíochta.) Ina fhreagra ar Winch ar an phodchraoladh, deir sé gur baisteadh Andrew Wakefield na teangeolaíochta ar Cassidy. Níl a fhios agam cé a dúirt sin, ach aontaím leis go hiomlán. (Ach amháin, b’fhéidir, gur fíordhochtúir a bhí in Wakefield, go dtí gur baineadh de liosta na ndochtúirí é. Ní raibh cáilíochtaí ar bith ag Cassidy riamh.)

Leanann Ó Séaghdha leis ansin agus deir sé nach raibh ann ach go ndearna Cassidy meancóga agus tá sé sin go breá agus is deacair aige an nimh atá san fheoil ag daoine maidir le Cassidy a thuiscint agus gur bréag a rá gur caimiléir nó cleasaí a bhí in Cassidy. Sílim gur léir ón méid sin nár léigh Ó Séaghdha mórán den bhlag seo riamh. Tá amhras orm gur léigh sé leabhar Cassidy riamh ach oiread, mar go n-áitíonn sé gur dhóigh le Cassidy gur tháinig an focal jazz sa Bhéarla ón fhocal Gaeilge deas. Dá mbeadh an leabhar léite aige mar is ceart, bheadh a fhios aige gur mhaígh Cassidy gurbh ón fhocal teas a tháinig sé, ach leis an scéal a dhéanamh níos casta, chreid Cassidy gur fuaimníodh teas mar ‘deas’ i nGaeilge Chúige Uladh, faisnéis a fuair sé ón fhoinse ab ansa lena chroí, a thóin féin.

Is mór agus is rómhór an dul amú a bhí ar Ó Séaghdha maidir le mí-ionracas Cassidy. Chaith Cassidy dhá bhliain déag ag ‘obair’ mar ollamh ollscoile, a bhuíochas don ‘oideachas’ a fuair sé ag Cornell agus Columbia. Mar a d’inis a dheirfiúr dom (agus dhearbhaigh cláraitheoir Columbia an fhíric sin ina diaidh), theip ar Cassidy céim a fháil ó Cornell agus níor fhreastail sé riamh ar Columbia. Fiú cairde agus lucht leanúna Cassidy, ní dhearna siad iarracht ar bith na fíricí seo a bhréagnú agus níor thug siad aon fhíricí a bhréagnódh iad nó aon leithscéalta as mí-iompar coirpeach Cassidy.

Agus sin ráite, is é an leabhar féin an fhianaise is mó a dhamnaíonn Cassidy. Na sainmhínithe ‘Gaeilge’ a thug Cassidy, rinneadh iad a shamhlú, a athscríobh, a chóipeáil go mícheart agus cumadh bríonna ‘fáithchiallacha’. Chum Cassidy na céadta frása a bhí go huile abus go hiomlán bréagach.

Sin an fáth (nó ceann de na fáthanna) a bhfuil an méid atá le rá ag Winch chomh hamaideach sin. De réir cosúlachta, tá Winch ag cur i gcéill go bhfuil na teangeolaithe ag iarraidh bheith cadránta deacair (cionn is go mothaíonn siad ‘faoi bhagairt’ ag Cassidy), cionn is go ndiúltaíonn siad glacadh le sanasaíochtaí amaideacha Cassidy cionn is nach bhfuil aon fhianaise chomhaimseartha gur thrasnaigh na frásaí seo idir an Ghaeilge agus béarlagair an Bhéarla. Ní hé sin an cheist.

Is é seo an cheist. Diúltaíonn teangeolaithe agus lucht sanasaíochta glacadh le bunús na bhfrásaí ‘Gaeilge’ a mhol Cassidy, ní cionn is nach bhfuil fianaise ann gur thrasnaigh siad ón Ghaeilge go Béarla, ach cionn is nach bhfuil fianaise ar bith ann gur Gaeilge iad.

Níor mhaígh duine ar bith gurb ionann béal ónna agus amaidí sa Ghaeilge go dtí gur chum Cassidy é, níor úsáid duine ar bith comhroghna leis an chiall cara nó comrádaí, níl foluach ann mar dhóigh le hamhantar a rá, is fantaisíocht lom iad leathluí géag agus liú lúith agus gus óil agus sách úr agus píosa theas agus na céadta píosa raiméise i leabhar Cassidy. Níor thug Cassidy fianaise dá laghad go bhfuil cuid ar bith den raiméis seo fíor agus níor chóir do theangeolaithe a gcuid ama a chur amú ar an rámhaille mí-ionraic na geilte seo.

Ba chóir go dtuigfeadh Terence Winch an méid seo, mar scríobh mise postáil ar an bhlag seo mar fhreagra ar an phostáil a scríobh sé in 2007 agus ag míniú nach raibh ach caimiléireacht sna samplaí uilig a luaigh sé ó shaothar Cassidy. Ní hamháin sin, ach chuir mé ina leith nach raibh ann ach comhchoirí i mí-ionracas Cassidy. B’fhéidir nár ghúgláil sé a ainm féin riamh ach … ní chreidim sin! Is léir nach bhfuil sé réidh éirí as an raiméis seo. Thig leat an phostáil sin a léamh anseo: https://cassidyslangscam.wordpress.com/tag/terence-winch/

Tá rud amháin eile a chuir isteach orm anseo. Sa phodchraoladh chéanna inar pléadh raiméis Winch, pléadh daoine gan Ghaeilge a mhílitríonn ainmneacha Gaeilge agus a fhágann na sínte fada ar lár. Sin rud a chuireann isteach ormsa fosta, ach is dóigh liom gurb aisteach an mhaise dóibh gearán a dhéanamh faoi sin cionn is go léiríonn sé easpa measa ar na Gaeil agus ar ár bhféiniúlacht, ach, san am chéanna, ar an phodchraoladh chéanna, deirtear nach bhfuil rud ar bith cearr le Poncán randamach éigin nár fhoghlaim an teanga riamh, a chum na céadta frása bréige ‘Gaeilge’ agus a rinne iarracht a mhaíomh gur fíorGhaeilge a bhí ann.

Níl sé maith go leor. Is masla é don chultúr agus don teanga agus don fhéiniúlacht s’againne, agus ba chóir a rá go neamhbhalbh le liúdramáin ar nós Terence Winch gur chóir díospóireachtaí intleachtúla a dhéanamh bunaithe ar an fhianaise, agus ní ar an bhonn gur cara maith le cara de chuid Terence Winch a bhí in Cassidy nó go bhfuil cairde Cassidy ar liosta Chártaí Nollag Terence Winch.

Agus sin ráite, tá súil agam nach dtógfaidh mo chairde Meiriceánacha (daoine modhúla, éirimiúla, réasúnta) orm é má deirim go bhfuil a thuilleadh ag baint leis seo. Dar liomsa, tá féith nimhiúil díomais i gcultúr nua-aoiseach Mheiriceá. Tháinig mé ar alt spéisiúil le Tom Nichols atá ag teacht go maith leis an teoiric sin: (https://www.marketwatch.com/story/the-real-reason-americans-cant-agree-on-unemployment-or-just-about-anything-else-2017-03-29):

“This isn’t just human nature, but the result of a narcissism that took root in American society after the 1960s and has been growing ever since. Surrounded by affluence, enabled by the internet, and empowered by an educational system that prizes self-esteem over achievement, Americans have become more opinionated even as they have become less informed, and are now utterly intolerant of ever being told they’re wrong about almost anything.”

Seo go díreach an rud atá ag tarlú anseo, dar liomsa. Níl mórán measa ag daoine i gcultúr na Stát Aontaithe na laethanta seo ar an chumas a admháil go ndearna tú meancóg, agus ní spéis le leithéidí Winch an fhírinne a chluinstin má chiallaíonn an fhírinne go gcaithfidh siad a admháil gur cuireadh dallamullóg orthu.

Bíodh seo fíor nó ná bíodh, rud amháin a léiríonn na podchraoltaí seo go ríshoiléir ná, a luaithe agus a scaoiltear méimeanna bréige mar seo amach sa tsaol mhór, tá sé beagnach dodhéanta iad a stopadh den ruaig a chur ar an fhírinne. Is é sin an fáth a raibh iompraíocht na Rubberbandits chomh míréasúnta ceanndána sin maidir leis an liosta sanasaíochtaí bréige a scaoil siad ar na meáin shóisialta. A luaithe agus a scaoiltear an ghinid as an bhuidéal, nó a ligtear d’Abhartach imeacht as a thuama le fuil a dhiúgadh, ní féidir iad a chur ar ais arís. Bréaga a bhfuil scéal maith ar a gcúl, sáróidh siad an fhírinne i gcónaí. Tá Motherfocloir in áit mhaith le hiarracht a dhéanamh cuid de na bréaga seo a stopadh. Ina áit sin, mar gheall ar dhrochthaighde agus falsacht intleachtúil agus an eagla atá orthu dul i ngleic leis an fhadhb go cróga agus olc a chur ar leantóirí díomasacha Cassidy mar Terence Winch, tá siad ag cuidiú leis an chaimiléireacht gan mhaith seo a leathadh in áit a dhúshlán a thabhairt mar is ceart.