It has been said …

We’ve all heard of Uncanny Valley, that virtual realm where the animation is nearly convincing but just slightly off and that slight unreality is enough to unsettle and perturb. However, there is another virtual realm located in a misty valley in cyberspace. Let’s call it the Kingdom of Quotatia. You can get to it by uttering the magic words It has been said.

You see, there is an awful lot of misinformation out there in cyberspace. And it’s not hard to spot bullshit. But with the help of the magic words, you don’t have to bother proving anything or disproving it. All that’s necessary is for someone, somewhere to have said it and bingo, you can quote it. It doesn’t matter if the person who said it was a complete nut-job and fantasist. It doesn’t matter if there is absolutely no evidence for it. If somebody has said it, it automatically becomes A THING. And when it’s A THING you can use it. However dumbass and absurd and ludicrous it is, you can claim it because someone else said it.

Jason Colavito has written a great deal about the way that errors are created and then spread by pseudoscience writers. They quote each other’s mistakes, building vast edifices of trash on misunderstandings and misquotations and downright lies. That’s why so many people spread nonsense like Cassidy’s claims or the rubbish about Dracula being Irish. With the magic power of the words It has been said, you can spread any kind of lying trash you want and you don’t have to worry about the fact that it’s bullshit. Because somebody else said it and you can put the blame – and the responsibility – on them.

Why you should boycott the San Francisco Irish-American Crossroads Festival

Yesterday, the Fourteenth Irish-American Crossroads Festival began in San Francisco. On June 30, 2015, I devoted a post to criticising this festival. As I pointed out then, there is an In Memoriam on the website of the festival which contains several lies about Daniel Cassidy, who was instrumental in founding the festival. It claims that he had degrees from Cornell and Columbia. In reality, he had no degrees from anywhere. It claims that he was a professor of Irish Studies and Media Studies at New College of California. In reality, without any qualifications or academic publications, Cassidy was not entitled to be a professor in any university, though he certainly had no moral qualms about collecting the salary or using his undeserved status. There is plenty of evidence that he pretended to have these qualifications, and in my book, that also makes Cassidy a criminal. It also contains flattering material about Cassidy’s absurd book, How The Irish Invented Slang, a disgusting assault on the Irish language and on Irish scholarship by a man who couldn’t even be bothered learning the basics of grammar and vocabulary. As I have said elsewhere recently, Cassidy’s ridiculous theories are the linguistic equivalent of blackface. They are a thin veneer of fake ethnicity hiding a deep disrespect for the genuine article. Nobody with any decency would support this offensive Anglocentric rubbish.

Since I posted this criticism, I am quite sure that someone associated with the Irish Crossroads Festival has seen it. They have not contacted me to defend their absurd decision or removed their lies from the website. Why not? Well, with so many friends and enablers of Daniel Cassidy  associated with the festival, it comes as no surprise that the dishonest version continues to have pride of place on their website and that they refuse to engage in a rational debate they will inevitably lose.

So, as those responsible for the festival refuse to do the right thing, I am appealing directly to the festival’s sponsors. You wouldn’t support a blackface minstrel show, so why would you support a festival which refuses to condemn cultural appropriation or call a liar a liar or distance itself from a criminal fantasist whose fake version of the Irish language continues to pollute the internet? Here is a list of sponsors taken from the festival’s website. I appeal to each and every one of them to put pressure on the organisers of the festival to do the right thing and remove these lies from the festival’s website.

Government of Ireland’s Emigrant Support Programme & Cultural Relations Programme

Peter & Joan Cuddihy

Monica McGuire

David J. Philpott & Karen Philpott

Ranger Pipelines

Nancy Quinn & Tom Driscoll

Timothy F. Sullivan

Wheelcare Express, Inc.

Zellerbach Family Foundation

International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (I.B.E.W.) Union, Local #6

I.A.T.S.E. Local #16 Stagehands Union

Mahoney Vineyards

United Irish Cultural Center & Irish Cultural Centre of California

Boru Jewelry

Brody, Walsh & Brody Employee Benefit & Insurance Services, Inc.

Carpenter’s Union Local #22

Doherty Restoration

Gilligan Development

Harrington’s Bar & Grill

McCarthy Moving & Storage

Paragon Real Estate Group, Pete Brannigan

Powerscreen of California & Hawaii

Riordan & Horgan Law Firm

Tourism Ireland

Shaw Pipeline

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 …

Tuilleadh ar Mháirtín Ó Muilleoir/More on Máirtín Ó Muilleoir (Dátheangach/Bilingual)

Bhí toghchán againn sna Sé Chontae Déardaoin. Níor tháinig deireadh na dtorthaí amach go dtí maidin inniu agus bhí áthas an domhain orm nuair a chuala mé iad. Bhí Arlene Foster, ceannaire an DUP, i ndiaidh olc a chur ar gach aon duine sa phobal náisiúnach anseo lena dímheas ar an teanga agus leis an dóigh ar mhaslaigh sí daoine a bhí ag iarraidh ar an DUP Acht na Gaeilge a thabhairt isteach. Ní bheadh ann ach “géilleadh chun síthe” (appeasement), dar léi. Má thugann tú a bhfuil uaidh don chrogall, beidh sé ar ais arís le tuilleadh a iarraidh gan mhoill. Chuir na vótóirí pionós uirthi as a biogóideacht arú inné!

Ar ndóigh, nuair a vótáil an chuid ba mhó de na daoine san oileán seo ar son Chomhaontú Aoine an Chéasta beagnach scór bliain ó shin, bhí Acht na Gaeilge mar chuid den chomhaontú. Vótáil daoine ar son an Chomhaontaithe ar fad, ní ar son na ngiotaí sin de a chuirfeadh gáire ar bhéal Arlene Foster. Is cuma cá mhéad a bheadh air (agus creid uaim é, níor mhaith liom féin airgead á chur amú ar rudaí gan tábhacht – ba mhaith liom príomhchosaintí na teanga a choinneáil, rudaí ar nós cláir theilifíse agus raidió, áiseanna leabharlainne, an ceart freagraí a fháil i nGaeilge ar litreacha a chuirtear chuig eagraíochtaí an stáit i nGaeilge). Agus i gcead don Bhean ‘Uasal’ Foster, ba mhaith liom cearta a bheith ag lucht labhartha na Polainnise fosta, ach níl an Pholainnis i gcontúirt agus níl stair na mílte bliain ag an Pholainnis sa tír seo.

Toghadh Máirtín Ó Muilleoir i ndeisceart Bhéal Feirste agus tá mé thar a bheith sásta. Cuireann sin teachtaireacht láidir chuig Arlene Foster agus a cairde biogóideacha. Agus sin ráite, tá mise in éadan Arlene Foster mar gheall ar an easpa measa atá léirithe aici ar an Ghaeilge (agus ar chúiseanna eile fosta, ar ndóigh.) Mar atá ráite agam roimhe ar an bhlag seo, thug Máirtín Ó Muilleoir tacaíocht do Daniel Cassidy, duine a raibh dímheas de chineál eile aige ar an teanga agus ar an chultúr s’againne. Is ionann bréaga Cassidy agus ‘aghaidh dhubh’ i gcúrsaí siamsaíochta, leithghabháil chultúrtha gan náire. Ba chóir dó a rá go soiléir neamhbhalbh nach raibh an ceart ag Cassidy agus nach raibh ann ach caimiléir, in áit bheith ag sodar i ndiaidh uaisle Mheiriceá agus ag tacú le teoiricí bómánta Cassidy le Michael Patrick MacDonald, Peter Quinn agus an chuid eile de chlub móidíní Cassidy a shásamh.

Tá rogha shimplí romhat, a Mháirtín. Más breá leat an teanga, bí á cosaint. Mar a dúirt duine críonna éigin, gura thusa an t-athrú ba mhaith leat a fheiceáil ar an domhan! Mura dtig leat bheith gaibhte sin a dhéanamh, beidh a fhios againn nach bhfuil sa ghrá sin atá agat don teanga, dar leat féin, ach béalghrá le vótaí a fháil.

 

 

We had an election in the Six Counties on Thursday. The last of the results only came out this morning and I was delighted when I heard them. Arlene Foster, the leader of the DUP, had offended everyone in the nationalist community with her contempt for the Irish language and with the way she insulted people who were demanding that an Irish Language Act be brought in. It would only be appeasement, she said. If you give a crocodile what it wants, it will be back looking for more in no time. The voters punished her for her bigotry the day before yesterday!

Of course, when most of the population of this island voted for the Good Friday Agreement nearly twenty years ago, the Irish Language Act was part of the agreement. People voted for the whole Agreement, not for those bits of it which would put a smile on Arlene Foster’s face. It doesn’t matter how much it would cost (and believe me, I don’t want money to be wasted on trivial things – I want the principal defences of the language to be maintained, things like television and radio programmes, library resources, the Irish medium schools etc.) And with respect to Mrs Foster, I want Polish speakers to have their rights too, but Polish is not endangered yet and Polish does not have thousands of years of history in this country.

Máirtín Ó Muilleoir was elected in South Belfast and I am very pleased about that. It sends a strong message to Arlene Foster and her bigoted friends. Having said that, I am against Arlene Foster because of her lack of respect for our language (and for other reasons, of course). As I have said before on this blog, Máirtín Ó Muilleoir supported Daniel Cassidy, a man who showed another kind of disrespect for our language and our culture. Cassidy’s lies are the equivalent of ‘blackface’ in the world of entertainment, a shameless piece of cultural appropriation. Ó Muilleoir should say clearly and unambiguously that Cassidy was wrong and that he was nothing but a charlatan, instead of chasing after a bunch of American big wigs and supporting Cassidy’s moronic theories in order to suck up to Michael Patrick MacDonald, Peter Quinn and the rest of Cassidy’s fan club.

You have a simple choice, Máirtín. If you love the language, defend it! As some wise person said, be the change you want to see in the world! If you can’t be arsed to do that, we will know that that love you claim to have for the language is nothing but lip service to garner votes.

Old Media and New Media

I have just finished watching Aaron Sorkin’s media-based drama, The Newsroom. I enjoyed it as a series. The acting is good, the characters are likeable. The dialogue is a little wearing at times, as everybody has the same ultra-witty voice and style of delivery. However, the series made me think about the way that the media are changing and whether those changes are a good thing, a bad thing or a mixture of both.

For Sorkin, journalism is – or should be – a sacred calling. There are many comments in The Newsroom about the evils and dangers of citizen journalism and the great care that real journalists take in checking their facts, as well as the dire consequences of not doing the checking properly. Now, I am not blind to the dangers of some of the new media. The way that fake stories have been invented and propagated by dodgy sources is a great cause for concern. We have seen a lot of it recently, especially in connection with the Trump campaign.

My beef is, basically, that the role of the old media in spreading Cassidy’s lies shows quite clearly that they aren’t always the stalwart defenders of truth depicted in Sorkin’s fairytale. Since Cassidy’s work of fake etymology, How The Irish Invented Slang, was published ten years ago, many newspapers have published uncritical and dim-witted articles about the Great Fraud and his theories: the New York Times; the Irish Times; the San Francisco Weekly; The San Francisco Chronicle; The Boston Globe (yes, the Spotlight paper); The Boston Phoenix; The New York Observer; The Irish News; the Irish Echo; Lá. And that’s just the newspapers. There have been a few skeptical and dissenting voices but mostly, Cassidy’s lies have been accepted at face value in the traditional media.

With the new media, it’s more of a mixed bag. There are several articles on the highly successful (and highly crappy) IrishCentral website which uncritically praise Cassidy’s work and give information which is obviously incorrect as if it were true. In IrishCentral’s defence, you could say that it has a comments column and that many, if not most, of the comments are highly critical of Cassidy’s scholarship. However, this is not much of a defence. It should be IrishCentral establishing the truth and telling the truth, with the comments section being the usual mix of crazy, bitter and sensible, not the other way round!

In short, what I’m saying is that there is good media and bad media and that’s more important than old or new. You would expect IrishCentral to produce rubbish because its former editor, Niall O’Dowd, doesn’t have much journalistic integrity and will obviously publish any story, however stupid, as long as it attracts readers.

Some new media have higher standards, of course. While Wikipedia is not perfect, it is pretty much free of Cassidese bullshit now, in spite of several crass attempts by dishonest members of Cassidy’s social circle to suppress the truth about his lack of qualifications.

And then, of course, there’s Cassidyslangscam. This blog is a new media format, but it has actually made the truth about Cassidy available to a lot of people when newspapers, radio stations, TV stations and books have continued to spread falsehoods. To give just one example, nobody would know that ‘Professor’ Cassidy didn’t have any qualifications if it weren’t for this blog. Cassidy’s sister Susan kindly volunteered the information that he flunked his degree, I confirmed it with the excellent registrar Cassie Dembosky at Cornell and published it here.

To the best of my knowledge, no newspaper or news programme has followed suit, though they were all very quick to publish Cassidy’s lies when they first came out.

Ring

This is one of the many cases in Cassidy’s book where he ignores the correct and straightforward explanation in favour of a creaky and unconvincing origin of his own invention. As he says in the book:

But if a button is … ringing (roinn, pron. ring, to deal) in a crooked deck, every Punter is a loser. (Page 52)

In other words, Cassidy is claiming that ringing, a slang word for substitution, is from the Irish word roinn, the basic meaning of which is divide. Why a word meaning divide or deal would acquire the meaning of substitute is not explained, but then Cassidy didn’t put this one in the glossary, so presumably he was well aware that it was bullshit.

In reality, the term ringing dates back to the early nineteenth century as an expression for substitution, probably from the bell-ringing phrase ‘to ring the changes’. Then in the late nineteenth century, we get the expression a dead ringer, meaning a horse which resembles another horse and is substituted for it to banjax the gambling odds.

Cassidy’s claim is simply nonsense, like nearly everything in How The Irish Invented Slang. Incidentally, there is an even sillier explanation doing the rounds for dead ringer, that it refers to people putting telephones into graves in case they were buried alive. This just goes to show that people are absolute suckers for fake etymology.

Three Kinds of Lies

There are three principal kinds of lies among the ‘etymologies’ in Cassidy’s ridiculous book How The Irish Invented Slang.

Plagiarism

As we have said before, there are many entries in Cassidy’s book which are plagiarised. Dozens of expressions were already in the public domain before they appeared in Cassidy’s book (though most of these are also fanciful and unlikely to be correct.)  In most cases, the Great Fraud didn’t acknowledge where he got them. Examples: longshoreman from loingseoir, ballyhoo from bailiú, snazzy from snas, smashing from is maith sin, slug from slog, etc.

Single words

In many cases, Cassidy found individual words in English and English slang. He then hit the Irish dictionaries and tried to find words which were a vague match for his English words. So, suppose Cassidy had decided that the term to drink a toast to someone doesn’t have anything to do with toasted bread. So he hits the dictionary and finds the word tost, meaning silence. Well, you propose a toast and of course, everyone is silent while they’re drinking. So it’s from the Irish tost meaning silence.

However, Cassidy often changed his story. (Slum was originally from saol lom, according to Cassidy but in the book it’s from ‘s lom é.) So, suppose he was looking through a dictionary and happened to notice the word tóstal, meaning assembly, muster, array or pageant. And suppose Cassidy decided that this, not tost, is a better origin of toast. So, he writes a ‘dictionary definition’:

tóstal – assembly, muster, pageant; a public display (of respect etc.)

and then adds a few dictionary references, so that a casual observer might assume that this was taken verbatim from a dictionary. Of course, the really impressive bit, about the public display of respect, would be a complete fiction invented in California by a man who didn’t speak any Irish. (In reality, I made this example up using Cassidy’s ‘methodology.’)

Phrases

Of course, if Cassidy had been restricted to plagiarism and words which accidentally have a phonetic similarity and some similarity of meaning, his book would have been little more than a pamphlet. Most of his ‘etymologies’ were phrases.

Here’s how it works. Cassidy finds the word bamboozle and decides it must be Irish. So, he hits the Irish dictionaries and looks for something that corresponds to it. Of course, there’s no suitable Irish word. So, this pretentious dimwit – who doesn’t speak any Irish at all – cobbles together a ‘well-known phrase’ in Irish. First, he finds the word bamba, which means tiresomeness or frustration. So far, so good. But what about the oozle? So, he looks in the dictionary and finds uasal, which means noble, but also has a subsidiary meaning of ‘fairy’. Great! In ‘Irish’, bamba uasal is a phrase meaning frustrated by the fairies, thwarted by supernatural forces.

Of course, it doesn’t mean that. It doesn’t exist. I just made it up ten minutes ago as an example of how Cassidy’s mind didn’t work. There are hundreds of similar expressions in Cassidy’s book: uath dubh; gus óil; gruaim béil; gearr-ól úr etc. etc.

I note with great sadness that people are still spreading this nonsense. For example, a couple of weeks ago, someone called Glopweiller (or Daniel Patrick Galvi) put a reference to Cassidy’s dumbass theory about the origins of dude on Twitter. There is a lot of talk at the moment about the post-truth world we live in. The fact is, it’s only post-truth if we decide to let that happen, by ignoring the facts and not checking them. I suggest we make that an additional New Year’s resolution – to check every fact, however trivial, before passing it on and contributing to the morass of ignorance out there.