Category Archives: Humour

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.

Motherfoclóir

I hope all my readers had a fun and relaxing Christmas. I have been taking it easy, so I am only just now getting round to my first post of the New Year.

Some time ago, I recommended a Twitter feed called theirishfor. It is about strange and interesting words in the Irish language. I like it for a variety of reasons. Firstly, most native Irish speakers are resistant to new words, or book words. They would rather use the word fridge than cuisneoir or invent a phrase like prios fuar or cófra fuar. It’s great to see people trying to find suitable words to fill the gaps in their knowledge. And it’s even better to see them having fun with the language rather than being i ndáiríre faoin Ghaeilge.

I was interested to see that the man behind this Twitter feed (Darach Ó Séaghdha) has brought out a book called Motherfoclóir. I was given a copy at Christmas and decided to read it and review it here. I would recommend it, for the same reasons I would recommend the Twitter feed. It’s amusing, it’s informative and it’s well worth reading. Just to give one example, the word stadhan (I would pronounce it sty-un) apparently means a gathering of seagulls over a shoal of fish. It’s a great word. You could use it of journalists over a scandal (= feeding frenzy), or ignorant Irish-American phoneys gathering around Cassidy’s book. And now, thanks to Twitter and this book, most young Irish-speakers would understand what I’m saying if I used it. That’s got to be a good thing. It’s an antidote to defeatism and the creeping loss of the richness of the language among its speakers.

However, there’s a but and it’s quite a big but. I wish I could be 100% positive about this book, but it is a mixture of a very good idea and some very enjoyable writing, marred by some really sloppy research and editing. For example, on the front cover, there is a funny observation that the Irish word for extremist sounds a lot like the Irish phrase for ‘the Prime Minister’. The problem is that the Irish word for extremist should be spelled antoisceach, not antioisceach, because it comes from toisc, meaning circumstance. And on the same cover is the observation that a simple fada (acute accent) can make a lot of difference: fáil means hiccup, while fail means ‘of destiny’ or ‘of Ireland’, as in Fianna Fáil. Except, these two words should be reversed – it’s fail that means hiccup, not fáil (talk about an epic fail!) And that’s only THE COVER!!!

There is actually a reference to Daniel Cassidy and a brief discussion of etymology. It epitomises why this book is both good to a point and immensely frustrating. The central comment on Cassidy is exactly right: This text has since been discredited; so much so, in fact, that any claim to an Irish origin for an English word now seems to be suspect. He also points out that well-known apocryphal stories like the word kangaroo meaning I don’t know or I don’t understand in an Aboriginal language also draw exasperated sighs from linguists.

However, he then goes on to do exactly what Daniel Cassidy and every other crap etymologist from the beginning of time has done – spouting rubbish without checking whether any of it is true first. He says that the word gansey, meaning a jumper (or undershirt in the Caribbean) comes from Irish or Scottish Gaelic geansaí. But the word gansey almost certainly comes from Guernsey or Guernsey frock (just as jersey comes from the isle of Jersey) and geansaí is a relatively recent borrowing of gansey into Irish. I looked in the Corpas na Gaeilge, a huge seven million word database of Irish and there I found just one reference to the word geansaí, in a poem probably written in the early nineteenth or late eighteenth century. However, I was surprised to find that it isn’t a reference to the geansaí or gansey you wear, but to Guernsey itself: A bhfuil as seo go Geansaí /De fhíon, de bheoir is de bhrandaí (Of all that there is from here to Guernsey/Of wine, of beer and of brandy).

Then he makes a number of correct assumptions about how genuine etymologies can be established: if it’s a genuine phrase in the source language, if it is mentioned as being from the source language in documents from the time and if there is no other more probable source for the word, then it’s likely to be a genuine connection. He claims (or he seems to be claiming – it’s not very clear) that mucker for a friend comes from the Irish mo chara because it meets the criteria he’s mentioned. In reality, it only meets the criterion that mo chara exists in Irish. There is a much better explanation (that muckers are people you muck around with), I’m sure there are no contemporary documents claiming that mucker comes from Irish, mucker isn’t exclusively or mainly an Irish expression and mo chara, (which roughly rhymes with Sahara) doesn’t sound anything like mucker and therefore couldn’t have become mucker in English.

And finally, at the end of this section he talks about the word bróg and the expression brogue for an Irish accent. He says that Merriam-Webster suggests that it comes from barróg, meaning a tight hold but then says that no-one ‘has come up with a chain of evidence such as Barrett suggested.’ This is nonsense. The chain of evidence is pretty clear. If you look up barróg on foclóir.ie, you find the following definitions:

barróg1, f. (gs. -óige, npl. ~a, gpl. ~).1. Hug. ~ a bhreith ar dhuine, to hug s.o. 2. Wrestling grip. D’fháisc siad ~ ar a chéile, they got to grips with each other. 3. Brogue, impediment of speech.

In other words, barróg (meaning something like ‘a little tip’) is a perfectly fine Irish expression for someone who has a bachlóg ar a theanga (a bud on his tongue, lisp) or whose speech is impeded by the crampa Gaelach (the Gaelic cramp). It has no connection with the Gaelic word for shoe, bróg. It would take a very fastidious linguist to deny the strength of the evidence linking barróg to brogue. All Ó Séaghdha had to do was look it up in an Irish dictionary to realise that! This is strange, because before he begins his piece on etymology, he says that he can predict that if he claims a word is of Irish origin, he will be told he’s got it wrong. Knowing that to be the case, you’d think he might have looked in an Irish dictionary instead of just Merriam-Webster … (Actually, if he had said that shebeen, or galore, or phoney or whiskey are Irish, nobody would argue, because they are. It’s only when the claims are false that people like me will shoot them down.)

Having said that, Ó Séaghdha wouldn’t be the only person to think that etymology requires no skill or research and can be dashed off on the back of an envelope without effort or donkey-work. (Una Mullally produced a dreadful pile of bullshit for the Irish Times last year.) I hope that the book does well but I sincerely hope that in future editions of Motherfoclóir, the typos and errors and the crap etymology will disappear. There is so much about the Twitter feed and the book that is admirable and I would love to be completely positive about it.

Micmac Paddy Whack

Recently, I have criticised Mike McCormack, National Historian of the Ancient Order of Hibernians for his fake research and ignorance, especially in relation to the Irish Slavery Meme. One of these criticisms centred on his gullible acceptance of the claims of the late Dr Barry Fell, who claimed that the Americas were peppered with inscriptions in various European and North African languages which prove that Celts, Libyans, Ancient Egyptians, Greeks and what have you were all happily involved in trade and exploration in the New World thousands of years ago.

I have already given links to some of Barry Fell’s claims and to refutations of Fell’s ridiculous theories. However, to a debunker like myself, Barry Fell’s ideas seemed worth looking at because of the strong odour of bullshit emanating from them. With that in mind, I ordered a second-hand copy of America BC.

I can fully understand why people of limited education would be impressed by the book and by Fell’s credentials. Fell was a Professor at Harvard. However, significantly, he was a Professor of Marine Biology, not of archaeology or linguistics or ancient languages. Mike McCormack was also impressed at the fact that he was President of the International Epigraphic Society, though it should be pointed out that Barry Fell founded the Epigraphic Society and it was pretty much a one-man band. The book is full of convincing illustrations and diagrams and maps. There are comparisons between Egyptian hieroglyphs and a writing system used a few hundred years ago by Micmac Indians, which look really convincing. More on that later.

The reaction of the world of academia to Barry Fell’s claims has been almost entirely negative. A close associate of Fell’s called Norman Totten was also an academic at Bentley College and a genuine epigrapher called David Kelley who worked on Mayan also took his work seriously. (Though Kelley criticised much of Fell’s work, he accepted the idea that there were genuine European rock-carvings in the Americas, a belief that is not shared by most experts in anthropology or history or archaeology.) However, these people were exceptions. The overwhelming majority of scholars reject Fell’s claims.

Of course, conspiracy theorists and other lovers of the arcane and weird will no doubt take the contempt of the academic establishment as proof that Fell was onto something rather than as proof that he was nuts.

As I’ve said, one of the things that has convinced many people is where Fell takes a hieroglyphic system which was in use by Micmac Indians. There are no petroglyphs (rock carvings) which use these Micmac hieroglyphs and many experts believe that the system was invented by a French priest, perhaps using some traditional mnemonic signs which had been painted on birch-bark by the Micmacs. Fell plays down the amount invented by the priest and stresses the antiquity of the system. He also presents extremely convincing (on first inspection) correspondences between a Christian religious text in the Micmac system and Ancient Egyptian. However, although I don’t know anything about Egyptian hieroglyphs (or Micmac, for that matter), I am suspicious for several reasons.

Firstly, if I used a hieroglyphic system to write a sentence of English and the same sentence in Irish so that the principal concepts were represented by signs and not by an alphabet, the signs wouldn’t appear in the same place in the two versions. Yet in Fell’s version, the Micmac and the Egyptian correspond perfectly. This is doubly surprising because it appears that the Micmac system was a mixture of logograms and phonetic elements (like Japanese writing), as was Ancient Egyptian. In most cases, the correspondences of the Micmac symbols and the Egyptian symbols given by Fell aren’t that similar, even in his version. While I would like to see a proper treatment of this by an Egyptologist, I have searched out a few Egyptian hieroglyphs, such as heaven, gold and silver and I have been unable to find the same versions given by Fell. In other words, Fell’s version of Ancient Egyptian doesn’t seem to be genuine.

Let’s take a look at one claim made by Fell in the book which gives a good indication of how he did things. We have already looked briefly at the ogham script in a previous post. This was a Celtic script found in Ireland and Britain, which used scratches around a stem line to represent letters. Fell often ‘identified’ letters where there were fairly random scratches and no stem line, which is like a fraction without a denominator.

Fell also claimed that ogham was used as a kind of secret signalling system and he gives a table of hand signals which looks like some kind of deaf sign language. It doesn’t use vowels (which real ogham did), and the consonants are arranged into three groups of five, one with the left hand, one with the right and one with both hands. The claim that ogham was used for signalling is also found in Macalister’s Secret Languages of Ireland, but Macalister suggests that this was done in two ways, as Nose-Ogham, where the nose was used as the stem line and the fingers of one hand represent the letters, or as Leg-Ogham, where the fingers were arranged around the shinbone to represent letters. So where did Barry Fell’s two-handed version of the ogham signalling come from? There is no way of knowing, but the most likely conclusion is that Barry Fell made it up.

Then Fell looked at two Iberian statues which show people with fingers sticking out, corresponding to ‘letters’ on his made-up ogham chart. Apparently one of these, a naked statue, represents a warrior (because it’s naked and ancient Celtic warriors fought naked!) and his hands spell out the letters Q _ B. However, in the text, it says that it is Q _ T, representing the modern Irish word ‘cath’ meaning battle. (in other words, the caption and the text give two different versions of the two consonants!) He also shows a statue of a woman, whose hand signals supposedly correspond to Q _ N in Irish, or the modern Irish caoin, ‘mourn’. The hands of this female statue are simply stretched out in front of her with all digits extended, like someone who is offering a hug. Hmm.

To me, looking at these claims rationally, there are a number of possibilities, not just Fell’s certainty that he had solved a mystery and got it right:

  1. These statues have their fingers pointing in random ways and there is no significance to the way their hands are depicted.
  2. The fingers of the statues have some significance within the culture which produced the statues (a blessing, for example) but we don’t know what this was.
  3. Fell was right about the fingers having some alphabetic meaning but it could have been a completely different alphabetic system (since Fell’s version of ogham signalling is unsupported by any evidence).
  4. Fell got it right about the letters but was wrong about the language and it could have been some other language entirely.
  5. Fell got it right about the letters and the Celtic language but the meaning was completely different. After all, the letters q-n could stand for head, or dog, or harbour, or quiet, or gentle, or distant, depending on the vowels you choose to put in.

You could probably add to this list. I think 1. and 2. above are probable, while 3, 4 and 5 are highly improbable, or almost impossible. So, why did Fell believe he’d got it right if it wasn’t true?

I don’t know. There are some people who think they are always right, regardless of the subject. And though Fell was undoubtedly clever, there is no doubt that some clever people get the most outrageously stupid ideas in their heads and somehow manage to maintain them alongside more rational beliefs. (We have looked before at Charles Mackay, who was both one of the first identifiers of crankness and a major etymological crank.) I think Fell was one of those people who is mad with regard to one thing and rational about everything else. I could be wrong about that, but the fact that he identified Maui, the great Polynesian ancestor, as a Greek student of Eratosthenes, and ‘translated’ the mysterious Phaistos Disk, though he didn’t know what language it was written in (only that it was related to Luwian, apparently), don’t inspire confidence. Here is his confident and unfaltering ‘translation’ of the front of the Phaistos Disk:

The omens that you seek are explained in this tablet, every one. The omens that are sent forth for man’s destiny, every one. Whatever you may ask, great or small, if you are worried, is given (an answer), every one. Seek an omen by offering a sacrifice to the birds, that the Gods may be well disposed. Ask anything you wish, on this tablet is explained everything. You may ask anything by sacrificing an offering to the birds, that the Gods may from Heaven send forth an omen; everything is (answered) above the earth, deceiving never, everything. And so men may ask for protection, everyone. Should they (the Gods) be angered by something, or by the sacrifice, ill omens are released, all of them, signifying death or disaster; which appear upon asking, all of them.

Another reason to doubt Fell’s book is how old-fashioned it all looks now. It was published in the 70s but there is something very hippy about it. When I look through the photographs in the book, there are many photos of hairy archaeologists, often stripped to the waist, and line drawings of equally hairy ancients totally naked, some of which remind me of The Joy of Sex. (The Joy of Texts??) There is a lot of stuff about phallic cults. Apparently there are stone phalli in Vermont (no, not really) which have ‘ogham’ inscriptions referring to male fertility. Irish and Gaelic speakers will be very surprised to learn that ‘bog bod’ meant ‘erect penis’ to our ancestors. As the primary meaning of bog is soft, that doesn’t make any sense at all. Oh, and the adjective follows the noun in Irish.

In other words, America BC is a load of shite. Only an idiot would buy into this crap, and that’s why academia has ignored it – because there really is nothing of any value to it. Like the Irish Slavery meme, or Cassidy’s fake etymology, or the nonsense about Irish vampires, this is just fakery promoted by people who have no bullshit sensors and no common sense.

July’s Twit of the Month – Eamonn McCann

In June, my inaugural Cassidyslangscam Twit of the Month was Jeffrey St. Clair, an ‘investigative reporter’ who was comprehensively hornswoggled by Cassidy’s puerile bullshit. In that post, I mentioned a clapped-out media ganch (ganch= a Hiberno-English expression for someone who talks too much) from Derry. For July’s Twit of the Month, I have chosen the aforementioned media ganch, Eamonn McCann of Derry.

This is part of an article McCann wrote on HotPress:

When I wrote here two years ago of Danny’s insistence that “jazz” derived from the Donegal-Irish “teas” (heat), the dominant reaction was derision.

But no-one has since been able to challenge Cassidy’s prodigious research, tracing the term back to post-Famine Donegal, then to “jass”, first used by an Irish-American sports writer of a “hot” pitch in baseball in 1913, and then in evolution to define a form of “Dixieland” music.

In the past year, the New York Times has carried a feature-page filled with testimonials to the solidity of Danny’s research. Academics and writers have accepted the validity of his thesis – that Irish is the source of much American slang.

This is complete crap and it certainly provides no evidence for the claims made. I mean, what research? There are dozens of theories about the origins of the word jazz, which first occurred in a musical context in 1912. Here’s a brief selection of them:

From the word jasmine, because jasmine oil was used in brothels and became associated with sex.

From Creole brothels where jezebels (prostitutes) worked.

From Creole patois jass “strenuous activity,” especially “sexual intercourse.”

From a black entertainer called Jas (James).

From a black entertainer called Chas (Charles).

From a Chicago musician called Jasbo (Jasper) Brown.

From jaser, a French word meaning conversation or intercourse, in various senses.

From the French word chasser, to hunt.

From a variant of jasm, a slang term dating back to 1860 that means ‘pep, energy’ and is related to jism for semen.

From various African languages, words like Mandingo jasi, ‘to become unlike oneself’.

From deas, the Irish for nice.

Cassidy’s claim that the word comes from teas is no more likely than any other claim on the list, and considerably less likely than most. (We also have to take into account that Cassidy believed the word teas was pronounced jass in Donegal – it isn’t, in any dialect of Irish. The difference between teas and deas is as phonemic as the difference between tip and dip or bad and pad in English.) Then Danny Cassidy ‘gusted into the musty world of etymology like a blast of ozone into smog’, as McCann puts it. In reality, of course, the forums of etymology were a bracing open space with continual discussion and debate, an ozone-rich place where nonsense was blown away by gales of common sense. Cassidy, the bearer of a rich urban smog of fanciful nonsense, didn’t last long when he tried to present his rubbish to etymologists. He withdrew himself from any forum he had joined but continued to believe he was right, in spite of all the criticism.

The New York Times article contained no ‘testimonials to the solidity of his research.’ This particular piece of brain-dead pseudo-journalism was simply an interview with Cassidy in a bar where he spouted some of his nonsense. Since the publication of his book, no specialist in the fields of linguistics or Irish studies has endorsed his work. None of his etymologies has been accepted by academia and not because of any anti-Irish bias. It is simply because his etymologies are all shite.

We should also point out that when Eamonn McCann calls Cassidy Danny, this is because he had known him for twelve years at the time he was writing the article. He got to know him when Cassidy was making one of his documentaries and McCann was a talking head on the film. That’s why McCann is taking everything Cassidy said as the truth – not because any of it is true, but because Cassidy was a crony of his. However, I probably wouldn’t have bestowed my Twit of the Month Award on McCann if it weren’t for the following piece, which is not only very stupid but also deeply dishonest.

The Oxford English Dictionary reckons that lunch “perhaps evolved from lump, on the analogy of the apparent relation between hump and hunch, bump and bunch.” Scholarly, eh? Danny’s truer story comes with a tour of 19th century Irish bar-rooms in New York and San Francisco: “Lunch is the plural Irish noun lóinte (pron. lónche) meaning ‘food, victuals, rations, ‘grub’ – from ‘Middle Irish lón, Old Irish lóon; (it is) cognate with Old Breton lon.” (Mac Bain’s Gaelic Etymological Dictionary; Dineen, 675; Ó Dónaill, 800.)

Sounds definitive to me.

Of course, if you look up what the OED really has to say about the vexed and tricky origins of lunch and luncheon, it is a lot longer and more complicated than the eighteen words given above. It’s a fact that lunch was used for a lump of bread or cheese over four hundred years ago in English. It is also a fact that there was a word nuncheon which meant a light meal in the afternoon, and that this is the probable origin of luncheon and that some people think the end was knocked off luncheon giving lunch, and that the modern use of lunch has nothing to do with the older word meaning a lump. If you’re really interested, there’s a link here which explains it all:

http://www.wordorigins.org/index.php/site/comments/lunch_luncheon/

As for Cassidy’s ‘Irish’, it is (as usual) a total distortion of the facts. While Cassidy copied most of the etymological details out of McBain’s Etymological Dictionary, he missed things out and put things in. No dictionary defines lón as ‘grub’, of course. Its meaning was originally ‘fat, lard’, I suppose because people needed to store fat for the winter both as food and lighting fuel. It then came to mean provisions (not exclusively food) and indeed lón cogaidh or armlón mean ammunition in modern Irish. Lón was sometimes used in the plural as lónta or lóinte, but the English etymologies for the English word lunch are far more convincing, even if they are somewhat confusing. Only an anti-intellectual dimwit with a huge chip on his shoulder would call Cassidy’s claims definitive and dismiss the scholarship of the OED.

And that, really, is where McCann has earned his Twit of the Month Award. The word definitive means that something is resolved with authority. Not only is Cassidy’s spiel distorted and devoid of any original research and any merit, the OED treatment of these words is comprehensive and scholarly. It’s also complex and difficult to follow, as the truth very often is. (As McCann found out on the Nolan Show, where he made Diane Abbott look polished.) The idea that Cassidy’s simplistic and twisted account of the facts is in any way comparable to the OED or to any other real scholarly account of etymology is just nonsense. Worse than that, Cassidy was a ‘professor’ who didn’t have any degrees and didn’t speak any Irish and the only reason McCann is supporting him here is because they were mates.

This is the holier-than-yous Eamonn McCann, who constantly excoriates the privileged and their cronyism. However, in this case, he shows that he is just as willing to forget the facts and support a pal because of cronyism, even if that pal betrayed all socialist principles by becoming a professor with only fake qualifications and betrayed the Irish language by pretending to be an Irish scholar without knowing any of the language. And that’s not even taking the allegations of Cassidy’s sexual harassment of his students into account. Still, perhaps, it was ’emotionally true’, even if it was really a pack of lies.

With all this in mind, I am delighted to bestow my July Twit of the Month Award on Eamonn McCann, pompous clapped-out media ganch and unashamed pal of Daniel Cassidy. It is richly deserved.

Twit of the Month – Jeff St. Clair

I have just come across the ridiculous tweet above and as a result, I have decided to bestow the dubious honour of inaugural Cassidyslangscam Twit of the Month Award on its author, Jeff St. Clair. St. Clair is an ‘investigative journalist’ who, along with Alexander Cockburn, was responsible for publishing Cassidy’s puerile and ignorant book on the supposed Irish etymology of American slang through CounterPunch and AK Press. Indeed, this numpty actually did the index for the book, so he can hardly claim that he didn’t read it carefully!

Anyway, to demonstrate why Jeff St. Clair is a fool and why CounterPunch were a bunch of morons to publish this book, I’ll just go through all the evidence of naivety and cronyism and blind ignorance in the ridiculous obituary which his friend Cockburn (now dead himself) wrote for Cassidy. Cockburn says:

I look at the book here on my desk and think, Thank God he got that out of his head and on to the printed page and the world will have that part of him always.

Yeah, thank God for that, eh?

Cockburn then talks about what a city boy Cassidy was, a true son of Brooklyn. However, according to Cassidy’s sister, the Cassidys were raised in Long Island in the forties and fifties. As she says ‘It was all country!’ His sister also pointed out that Cassidy’s eyes were brown, not blue, as Cockburn misremembered: His bright blue eyes would shine as we’d argue sometimes.

Plainly Cockburn thought a lot of Cassidy, largely because he didn’t really know him at all and fell for the lies and the hype like a true sucker.

He was thin-skinned about all the right things: the assumption of privilege, the pretensions of the toffs, the bottomless wellsprings of English and Yankee arrogance that looks down its nose and misses everything that matters. Danny had the vivid, humorous, compassionate, furious realism of someone who knew well what life looks like from the other side of the tracks, terrain intimately familiar to the millions of the Irish diaspora.

Yeah, it’s a terrible thing, the assumption of privilege. I mean, WHY should someone get a job as a professor just because they actually got their degree rather than flunking out in a narcotic haze? Cassidy deserved that job because he could bullshit better than any man alive, degree or no degree! (And he did receive a wonderful education from the same school as President Trump in his underprivileged youth, of course!)

Then there’s a load of pompous crap in the obituary about Cassidy’s book on slang and how his ‘street smarts’ (from Long Island?) enabled him to see things other people couldn’t about the Irish etymology of American slang.

The first taste of Cassidy’s nonsense that the late Cockburn (and St. Clair) swallowed uncritically was that baloney comes from béal ónna, meaning ‘Silly, inane loquacity.’ While Cassidy was an expert on silly, inane loquacity, he knew nothing about Irish. As we’ve said many times, béal ónna was a complete fabrication, just like most of the ‘Irish’ in the book.

Cockburn quotes a lot of other shite from Cassidy, such as stool pigeon coming from an imaginary phrase steall béideán and stoolie (obviously a derivative of stool pigeon) coming from another imaginary phrase, steall éithigh. Note all the fake definitions here that don’t come from any dictionary, and the ubiquitous fig. which betokened a figment of this liar’s imagination.

“Steall béideán, pron. stoll beejaan [sic], to spout gossip, lies, slander, aspersions, scandal; a spouting snitch; a spouter of scandal, calumny, lies. Stoolie: Steall éithigh, pron. stall eehih [sic], spouting lies, fig. a snitch; stooler: steallaire, a tattler.”

But apparently, because Mike Quill, a native Irish speaker, used the phrase stool pigeon a good hundred years after it was first used in English, that ‘proves’ it comes from Irish …

And squeal apparently doesn’t come from the English squeal, as in ‘he squealed like a pig to the feds’. No, it comes from the Irish verb scaoil meaning (quoting from WingLéacht) loose, loosen, release, discharge, undo, untie, unfasten, slack, slacken, let out, spread, unfurl, release, open, let go, discharge, disband, disperse, break loose, dissolve, resolve, remove, relieve, make known, reveal, give away, distribute, discharge, fire, shoot. A perfect match!

Later, in his exchange of emails with Cockburn, Cassidy refers to a clapped-out Derry politician and media ganch who was a friend of his, saying that “he appreciated that Jazz as teas, pronounced, jass, is Ulster dialect, as opposed to the teas (chass, heat) of Connaught.”  Aye, so in Ulster dialect, we apparently pronounce teas as jass. How do we pronounce deas, then? (In case you doubt this, you can find sound files for both deas and teas in the Connaught, Munster and Ulster dialects of Irish at focloir.ie: http://www.focloir.ie/ga/dictionary/ei/heat) What total garbage! More obvious evidence that this man was an ignorant bollocks who knew nothing much about anything, but still managed to convince a couple of ‘investigative reporters’ (as well as the aforementioned media ganch) that he wasn’t a talentless arse. Go figure …

As Cockburn said: He had me on the line now and it was time for him to set the hook.  Ain’t that the truth!

So, Cockburn and his equally dimwitted buddy St. Clair ended up publishing this inane garbage because “some hooded revisionist anonymous irish academic put the eighty-six (éiteachas aíochta, a refusal or denial of hospitality, to be barred or expelled) on it.”

That’s eiteachas, not éiteachas, by the way, and in any case, again, there’s no evidence of anyone using the imaginary (and clunky) phrase eiteachas aíochta. What they did with Cassidy’s manuscript at the University of Limerick was dhiúltaigh siad í a fhoilsiú (they refused to publish it), shéan siad í (they refused it),  chaith siad amach í (they threw it out), chuir siad ar ais í (they sent it back).  Something like that. Something real, something genuine Irish-speaking people say in real Irish. Not a fake piece of cultural appropriation, not an arrogant racist concoction from a seasoned con-man.

In short, what Cassidy did to this pair of highly skilled ‘investigative reporters’, Cockburn and St. Clair, was essentially to truss and pluck them, turn them over and stuff them both like a pair of shite-gobbling, pin-headed prize Christmas turkeys. CounterPunch has been showcasing and hosting and promoting this dishonest, moronic crapfest for a decade, in spite of its claims to tell the facts. And as I’ve said before (and my little essay on the dross in Cockburn’s obituary above proves it), Cassidy really wasn’t such a great liar. He was too stupid, too lazy, too self-obsessed and too unaware of his own limitations to be a truly accomplished liar.

In conclusion, you would need to be a total and utter love-muscle to take crap like this seriously for more than five minutes, never mind a decade, and that’s why Jeff St. Clair is such a worthy recipient of my inaugural Twit of the Month Award.

Mayday Your Nipples With Google Translate

One of the stupidest things I have seen in the press recently was an article by Newton Emerson about the Irish language. Newton (who normally talks a fair amount of sense) obviously knows nothing about languages. He claimed in the article that with automatic translation, nobody needs translators any more.

Hmm. This is, to say the least, a pile of horse feathers. Irish is a difficult language. If Máirtín Ó Muilleoir, arguably the most prominent champion of the Irish language in Stormont, can make a complete hames of the language in a prominent position on his Twitter feed – the phrase ‘Bí thusa an t-athrú’ is equivalent to saying ‘Tá mé polaiteoir’ or ‘An bhfuil tú an múinteoir?’ and he also misspells the word for opinions – then someone with no knowledge of the language using Google Translate is bound to come up with something ludicrous.

I’ve just seen this Google Translate gem on Twitter: Bealtaine an ádh ar an Shine na hÉireann ar tú an lá seo Fhéile Pádraig. It’s supposed to mean ‘May the luck of the Irish shine upon you this Saint Patrick’s day.’ It really means something like ‘Mayday the luck on the nipple of Ireland on you this day Festival of Patrick.’

Ó, m’aintín mheadhránach! (That’s a crap translation of Oh, my giddy aunt …)

Eek! Cassidy has risen from the grave …

I recently came across a disturbing little blog from California by an individual calling themselves Wandering Graveyard Rabbit. You can find it here: http://wanderinggyrabit.blogspot.co.uk/2008/11/abandoned-cemetery-purissima-in-half.html It ran from 2008 up until 2012. I was shocked to see that the individual who wrote the blog claims to be Daniel Cassidy:

Over the years I have lectured and assisted in family history under the guise of Danny Cassidy-Professor, film maker and award winning Author (How the Irish Invented Slang The Secret Language of the Crossroads).

In other words, Daniel Cassidy has returned from the grave and until five years ago, he was frequenting Californian graveyards as … appropriately enough … a dead rabbit.

However, the individual also mentions a daughter and a bath products business (I don’t think Cassidy had either). In that case, it could be that the person who wrote the blog means guidance rather than guise and that Daniel Cassidy did die in 2008 as we always thought.

However, I intend to eat a lot of garlic for the next couple of weeks, just in case …

It’s Official: The Etruscans Were Irish!

[I would like to make it quite clear that THIS IS NOT A REAL THEORY. I AM TAKING THE PISS. Unfortunately, it is the nature of the Internet that people flit around reading little bits of things and then tweeting about them and republishing them in other ways, so it is no surprise that there is a thing called Poe’s Law, which states that unless the material is clearly labelled as ironic, somebody will always take your parodies and satires at face value. On this blog, I have already had people take seriously claims that the phrase Vichy Water is from Irish and that the Irish language has a word for the sound horses make when you pull their feathers out. Seriously! So, just to be clear, I’m being sarcastic – Etruscan is NOT an early form of Irish.]

The Irish Milesian Academy For Intellectual Arts (IrishMAFIA), founded five years ago to further the work of the late Daniel Cassidy, have come up with their biggest and boldest claim yet. According to Brendan Patrick Gurne, Head of Creative Etymology with IrishMAFIA:

“We were looking at Google and found a website about Etruscan, an ancient language of Italy, and its links to extra-terrestrials, the Illuminati and home-made anti-gravity machines. We then found a vocabulary of Etruscan and were amazed to find clear parallels between Irish and Etruscan. We are convinced that Etruscan is in fact an early form of Irish and that through the Etruscans, Irish was responsible for the Roman Empire and the whole history of Western Civilization.

Let’s look at some examples. For example, clan is Etruscan for son. This is just like clann in Irish, which means children. The Etruscan for jar is pruchum, which is like the Irish próca. Shuthi, meaning a vault or grave is very like the Irish or sidhe, meaning a fairy mound or grave mound. The Etruscan word for a state, tuθi (tuthi) is almost exactly the same as Irish tuath, meaning a petty kingdom. Cel, the word for earth, ground or soil, is very similar to cill, which means churchyard. The Etruscan for bull, thevru, is very like Irish tarbh. The Etruscan for I is mi, which is just like Irish . The Etruscan for a free person is zeri, which is just like the Irish word saor. And what about mech, meaning lady or queen? Surely this is the same word as Macha, the ancient goddess of war who gave her name to Armagh? There can be no doubt about it. The Etruscans were Irish.”

Reaction to the revelation from academic linguists has been universally skeptical and hostile, but it has been enthusiastically repeated by the Irish Times, the Irish News, IrishCentral , the Irish Echo, RTÉ, Michael Patrick MacDonald, Joseph Lee and Peter Linebaugh.

[WARNING: THIS IS SATIRE! The Etruscans were NOT Irish. The vast majority of Etruscan vocabulary bears no relation to any Celtic language. Próca isn’t originally an Irish word. Clann is an early Irish borrowing of Latin planta. Cill also comes from Latin and is related to English cell. The taurus/tarvos word for bull is found in many Indo-European languages and is probably Afro-Asiatic in origin. The others are just coincidental similarities, helped along by selective use of definitions. It just goes to show how easy it is to make random and completely worthless connections when you are dealing with a fairly large set of data.]

Scéal Grinn Dátheangach – A Bilingual Joke

Leagan Gaeilge

Bhí eitleán ar shéala titim as an spéir.

Bhí cúigear paisinéirí ar bord, ach ní raibh ach ceithre pharaisiút ann.

Ba í Holly Madison an chéad phaisinéir. Ar sise, “Tá clár réaltachta agam agus is mise an bhean is géarchúisí agus is gleoite ag Playboy. Bheadh muintir Mheiriceá croíbhriste dá bhfaighfinn féin bás.” Thóg sí an chéad phaca agus léim amach as an eitleán.

Arsa an dara paisinéir, John McCain: “Is Seanadóir mise. Is laoch cogaidh mé agus bronnadh boinn orm as mo chrógacht. Bhí mé i scoth-aonad de chuid chabhlach Stát Aontaithe Mheiriceá.” Ghlac seisean an dara paca agus léim.

Arsa an tríú paisinéir, Donald Trump: “Is mise an chéad Uachtarán eile ar na Stáit Aontaithe. Is mise an fear is cliste i Meiriceá agus tá mé ag dul a chur Meiriceá in ard a réime arís.” Leis sin, sciob sé an paca taobh leis agus léim amach.

Is é a dúirt an ceathrú paisinéir, Billy Graham, leis an cúigiú paisinéir, girseach scoile 10 mbliana d’aois: “Bhí saol breá fada agam agus rinne mé mo sheacht ndícheall le freastal ar Dhia. Tabharfaidh mé mo bheatha ar do shon agus ligfidh mé duit an paraisiút deireanach a ghlacadh.”

Arsa an cailín óg: “Ná bíodh imní ort, a Uasail Graham. Tá paraisiút ann duit. Tá an fear is cliste i Meiriceá i ndiaidh léim amach as an eitleán le mo mhála scoile.”

 

English version

An airplane was about to crash. There were 5 passengers on board, but only 4 parachutes.

The first passenger, Holly Madison said: “I have my own reality show and I am the smartest and prettiest woman at Playboy. Americans don’t want me to die.” She took the first pack and jumped out of the plane.

The second passenger, John McCain, said: “I’m a senator, and a decorated war hero from an elite navy unit from the United States of America.” so he grabbed the second pack and jumped.

The third passenger, Donald Trump said, “I am going to be the next President of the United States, I am the smartest man in our country, and I will make America great again”. So he grabbed the pack next to him and jumped out.

The fourth passenger, Billy Graham, said to the fifth passenger, a 10-year-old schoolgirl: “I have lived a full life and served my God the best I could. I will sacrifice my life and let you have the last parachute.”

The little girl said: “That’s okay, Mr. Graham. There’s a parachute left for you. The smartest man in America just jumped out of the plane with my schoolbag.”

It’s Official – Mazel Tov is Irish Too!

For centuries, people have believed that Mazel Tov is Hebrew and an exclusively Jewish expression. Now an Irish-American academic has thrown down the gauntlet to this biased scholarship which refuses to give Irish culture its rightful place at the centre of the universe.

Brendan Patrick Gurne, Professor of Creative Etymology at the newly-founded Irish Milesian Academy For Intellectual Arts (IrishMAFIA) could not hide his delight when he spoke to our correspondent.

“The Academy was founded last year with funding from Celtic Research On New York (CRONY) to continue the research of the late Daniel Cassidy into the Irish influence on American speech. This is our first important breakthrough. We have checked it with our extensive library and both of the books are in full agreement. Also our special Irish language consultant, the guy in the Blarney Stone Bar who says he speaks Irish, concurs with our findings.”

“The Irish word asal means donkey and tofa means chosen. Therefore the phrase m’asal tofa means ‘my chosen donkey’. This seems to go back to the old days when donkey racing was a common activity in Ireland. When someone was lucky and won a race, they used to shout m’asal tofa! When large numbers of Irish speakers came to New York in the 1840s, Jewish people heard the expression and adopted it.”

Another Irish American who is delighted with the revelation is John Weeney of the SoLo Dalliance.

“It stands to reason that these people are right. They’re friends of mine! You only have to look at the nonsense given out by the traditional Anglophile linguists. They say that it comes from two Hebrew words meaning ‘planet good’! It doesn’t even make sense! I think all these linguists in their ivory towers should go off in a rocket and find a better planet and leave us working stiffs down here with our feet on the ground!” he guffawed, smugly. “Anyone who refuses to believe that Mazel Tov is derived from Irish donkey-racing slang and accepts the discredited Hebrew origin is simply a self-hating Irishman.”

Professor Gurne says that they are working on hundreds of other words now.

“We hope to have Irish derivations for kimono, blitzkrieg and mariachi very soon!” he said. “Watch this space!”

A number of people have commented on the revelation.

“Oy vey, voss far a mishegoss!” (I endorse this message!) said Rabbi Samuel Tishbein.

“Tha è sin glè mhath!” said Dizzy Gillespie, channelled from beyond the grave by internationally renowned medium Madam Bletherovsky.

“Daniel Cassidy was a god, a champion, a muse, an idol, a star, a force of nature, the greatest intellectual since Plato. At last his genius is beginning to bear fruit! Mazel Tov, Danny Boy!” said Peter Quint, Professional Irish-American.

“What do I think? I don’t know. Ask Peter Quint or Mallarkey McQuart!” said Ned Lunch, writer and fighter.

“This is a great claim altogether, a wonderful claim. Sure, it’s like Danny was still here beside me sharing a bit o’ the old crack. Now, where’s the buffet?” said writer Mallarkey McQuart, brother of the more famous.

“THIS IS A MAJOR REVULSION IN ENTOMOLOGY. ITS THE BIGEST THING SINSE COPPERKNICKERS,” said some guy on the Internet with a tinfoil hat.