Tag Archives: an Ghaeilge

Pure Evil (English version of Íonaí Meanie)

The Irish language is obviously in trouble. There are people who believe it to be a dead language, though that is obviously untrue. I am able to write this article and I am sure that a lot of people will read it and understand it in the future. If Irish were dead, this wouldn’t be the case, of course. But Irish is in a weakened state, undoubtedly, especially among the young people in the Gaeltachts.

The English were certainly responsible for its decline. They were the ones who made it a language of paupers and pee-ons. They were the ones who forced their culture and their language on our ancestors and left the Irish language up shite creek without a paddle.

Having said that, people often blame the Irish themselves and especially the íonaithe or the purists as they are known in English. The purists are the ones who are killing the language, according to many people. They put off people who are learning the language. They discourage people. They were the ones who created a split between the native Irish of the Gaeltachts and the unnatural Irish of the books! The purists are a disgrace! If it weren’t for them, the language would be safe and sound (yeah, right!)

But this is the question which is bothering me. Who are these purists? You would think that is a simple question, so simple that it is barely worth asking, and that there would be a simple answer too. However, things are rarely as they seem.

Even if we are talking about the official language of written Irish, there are significant differences between the Christian Brothers, the different versions of the Official Standard and the practices that educated writers use in their writings, both native speakers and people in the cities.

Or there are native speakers (I mentioned people like this recently) who will not accept any new-fangled words at all. If a person says that they have to buy bogearraí to put onto the tiomántán crua in their ríomhaire, they will think there is something false and un-Irish about that way of talking. That person should buy software, they would think, to put on the hard drive of the computer. It doesn’t matter to those people that the language can’t survive if it is not able to tackle ordinary modern subjects. And this kind of defeatism didn’t exist in the olden days, when native speakers like Amhlaoibh Ó Súilleabháin were quite happy to make words up rather than accepting words from English. Who are the purists in this case? The native speakers who want to protect their version of the language (which is full of English), or those people who are trying to keep the language free of English?

And what about those people who believe that one dialect is better than any Standard, or the other dialects? There are people like this, people who believe that anything which is not Munster Gaoluinn is not Irish, or that nothing is as good as Ulster Irish. Who are the purists in that case? Them, or the lovers of the Standard?

And there are people who believe that the rot set in long before there was any mention of the Official Standard. For example, John Grenham, a man whose opinions I have little respect for and who doesn’t even have a couple of words (because he wrote those couple of words “an cúpla focal” as the cúpla focail in the same article), claimed (wrongly, of course) that the people of The Gaelic League thought that the language of the people was corrupt and they decided to purify it. And because of that, urban Irish-language experts who had been raised with English were teaching groups of students who also only had English. The result – that English-language idioms, grammar and syntax seeped into the “revived” tongue.

Then, he gives us an example of this impure Irish : My own favourite example is the Irish-language sign in my local park urging dog-owners whose pets foul the grass to “Glan suas é”, “Clean it up”, an utterly idiomatic English phrasal verb translated word by word. Imagine a sign in French that says “Nettoyez-le en haut.” But this comparison is not valid at all, because French has an entirely different history. There are plenty of long-established phrasal verbs in Irish which have suas in them, which is not the case with en haut in French, of course. (If you don’t believe me, this is a line referring to Luther from the year 1615 – he opposed [chuir sé suas do – he put up to] the head of the Church through envy and lust and the phrase glanadh suas/clearing up was common enough with Amhlaoibh Ó Súilleabháin in the 1820s in reference to the weather.) So, it is clear that Grenham’s opinions about the Irish language and its corrupters are nothing but horse feathers and nonsense.

What is my position on these matters, then? Well, I am not a purist. I believe in the Standard. It is a very useful thing. With the Standard, Irish speakers can share books, material on line and other things freely throughout the island and overseas. But it is not necessary to give up the dialects at all. The Standard is only a tool and as is the case with English, it is not a matter of Irish but of Irishes. There are different kinds of Irish which are suitable for different purposes. A conversation in a pub in Kerry and an article on science in a state publication are not the same and it would not be right to use the same kind of Irish in both cases.

Having said that, I respect people who care about the Irish language and who work tirelessly to master it. At the end of the day, we Irish speakers cannot do much to defend the language. The only thing which all of us can do is to learn the language properly and acquire fluency and richness and a wide knowledge. If there are ten thousand people speaking Irish throughout the country every day, the enemies of the language can say that it is not worth saving. It wouldn’t be as easy for them to claim that if there were three hundred thousand, or five hundred thousand, or seven hundred thousand people speaking it every day. If everyone who is favourable to the language learned the language and used it, it would stop the rot immediately.

There are strong similarities between falling in love with a language and falling in love with a person. If you love a language, you will try to learn everything about that language. Not only that, but you will accept that language for what it is. You won’t try to change it or recreate it in your own image, as the various purists mentioned above do – and as those dilettantes do, who are too lazy to put in the effort needed to acquire the basics of the language.

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Íonaí Meanie

Is léir go bhfuil an Ghaeilge i dtrioblóid. Tá daoine ann a chreideann gur teanga mharbh í, cé gur cinnte nach bhfuil an méid sin fíor. Tá mise ábalta an t-alt seo a scríobh agus tá mé cinnte go léifidh agus go dtuigfidh neart daoine amach anseo é. Dá mbeadh an Ghaeilge marbh, ní bheadh sin amhlaidh, ar ndóigh. Ach tá an Ghaeilge in ísle brí, gan amhras, go háirithe i measc aos óg na nGaeltachtaí.

Is cinnte gurb iad na Sasanaigh ba chúis leis an mheath sin. Iadsan a rinne teanga an bhochtáin agus an íochtaráin den Ghaeilge. Iadsan a bhrúigh a gcultúr agus dteanga féin ar ár sinsir agus a d’fhág an Ghaeilge in áit na leithphingine.

Agus sin ráite, is minic a chuirtear an locht ar na Gaeil féin agus go háirithe ar na híonaithe nó na purists mar a deirtear i mBéarla. Is iad na híonaithe atá ag marú na teanga, dar lena lán. Cuireann siad as do dhaoine atá ag foghlaim na teanga. Cuireann siad beaguchtach agus lagmhisneach ar dhaoine. Iadsan a chruthaigh scoilt ollmhór idir Gaeilge dhúchasach na nGaeltachtaí agus Gaeilge mhínádúrtha na leabhar! Mo náire iad na híonaithe! Murab iadsan, bheadh an teanga slán sábháilte, mar dhea!

Ach seo an cheist atá do mo chrá. Cé hiad na híonaithe seo? Shílfeá gur ceist shimplí sin, chomh simplí sin nárbh fhiú í a chur, agus go mbeadh freagra simplí air fosta. Ach ní mar a shíltear a bítear.

Fiú más teanga oifigiúil na leabhar atá i gceist, tá difríochtaí suntasacha idir na Bráithre Críostaí, na leaganacha difriúla den Chaighdeán Oifigiúil agus na nósanna a úsáideann scríbhneoirí oilte na teanga ina gcuid scríbhinní, idir chainteoirí dúchais agus daoine sna cathracha.

Nó tá cainteoirí dúchais ann (luaigh mé a leithéid ar na mallaibh anseo) nach nglacfaidh le focal nua-chumtha ar bith. Má deir duine go bhfuil orthu bogearraí a cheannach aige le cur ar an tiomántán chrua den ríomhaire, beidh siadsan ag smaoineamh go bhfuil rud éigin bréagach neamh-Ghaelach faoin chaint sin. Caithfidh an duine sin software a cheannach, dar leo, le cur ar an hard drive den computer. Is cuma leis na daoine sin nach féidir leis an teanga maireachtáil mura bhfuil sí ábalta dul i ngleic le gnáthrudaí nua-aoiseacha. Agus ní raibh cloíteacht mar sin ann sna seanlaethanta, nuair a bhí cainteoirí na teanga ar nós Amhlaoibh Uí Shúilleabháin sásta focail a chumadh in áit glacadh le focail ón Bhéarla. Cé hiad na híonaithe sa chás seo? Na cainteoirí dúchais atá ag iarraidh a leagan féin den teanga (atá lán focal Béarla) a chosaint, nó iad siúd atá ag iarraidh an teanga a choinneáil saor ón Bhéarla?

Agus cad é faoi na daoine sin a chreideann go bhfuil canúint amháin níos fearr ná Caighdeán ar bith, nó na canúintí eile? Tá a leithéid ann, daoine a chreideann nach Gaeilge rud ar bith nach Gaoluinn Chúige Mumhan í, nó nach bhfuil canúint ar bith inchurtha le Gaeilge Chúige Uladh. Cé hiad na híonaithe sa chás sin? Iadsan, nó lucht an Chaighdeáin?

Agus tá daoine ann a chreideann gur thosaigh an meath seo i bhfad sula raibh trácht ar an Chaighdeán Oifigiúil. Mar shampla, mhaígh John Grenham, duine nach bhfuil mórán measa agam ar a thuairimí agus nach bhfuil an cúpla focal féin aige (mar scríobh sé an cúpla focal sin “an cúpla focal” mar an cúpla focail san alt chéanna), gur shíl muintir Chonradh na Gaeilge go raibh caint an phobail truaillithe agus go ndearna siad íonú ar an teanga dá réir (nil an méid seo fíor, ar ndóigh). Agus mar gheall air sin, bhí saineolaithe uirbeacha Gaeilge a tógadh le Béarla ag teagasc grúpaí daltaí nach raibh ach Béarla acu fosta. An toradh – gur shíothlaigh cora cainte, gramadach agus comhréir an Bhéarla isteach sa teanga “athbheoite”.

Ansin, tugann sé sampla dúinn den Ghaeilge neamhghlan seo: Is é an sampla is fearr liom féin ná an comhartha Gaeilge sa pháirc áitiúil a áitíonn ar úinéirí madaí a mbíonn a gcuid peataí ag salú an fhéir le “Glan suas é”, “Clean it up”, briathar frásach atá go hiomlán nádúrtha sa Bhéarla atá aistrithe focal ar fhocal. Samhlaigh comhartha i bhFraincis a bhfuil “Nettoyez-le en haut” air. Ach níl an chomparáid seo ceart ar chor ar bith, mar tá stair iomlán difriúil ag an Fhraincis. Tá neart briathra frásacha seanbhunaithe sa Ghaeilge a bhfuil suas iontu, rud nach bhfuil sa Fhraincis le en haut, ar ndóigh. (Mura gcreideann sibh mé, seo líne ag trácht ar Liútar ón bhliain 1615 – chuir sé suas do cheann na hEagluise tré formad agus ainmhian agus bhí ag glanadh suas coitianta go leor ag Amhlaoibh Ó Súilleabháin sna 1820í agus é ag trácht ar an aimsir.) Mar sin de, is léir nach bhfuil i dtuairimí Grenham faoin Ghaeilge agus lucht a truaillithe ach cleití capaill agus amaidí.

Cad é an seasamh atá agamsa maidir leis na nithe seo, mar sin? Bhal, ní íonaí mise. Creidim sa Chaighdeán. Rud úsáideach atá ann. Leis an Chaighdeán, is féidir le lucht na Gaeilge leabhair, ábhar ar líne agus rudaí nach iad a roinnt go saor lena chéile ar fud an oileáin agus thar lear. Ach ní gá éirí as na canúintí ar fad, ná ar chor ar bith. Níl sa Chaighdeán ach uirlis. Agus mar atá i gcás an Bhéarla, ní Gaeilge atá i gceist ach Gaeilgí. Tá cineálacha difriúla Gaeilge ann atá fóirsteanach do chásanna éagsúla. Ní hionann comhrá sa phub i gCiarraí agus alt ar an eolaíocht i bhfoilseachán stáit agus ní cóir an cineál céanna Gaeilge a úsáid sa dá chás.

Agus sin ráite, tá meas agam ar dhaoine a bhfuil dúil acu sa Ghaeilge agus a bhíonn ag obair go dúthráchtach le máistreacht a fháil uirthi. I ndeireadh na dála, ní féidir linne, lucht na Gaeilge, rud mór a dhéanamh leis an teanga a chosaint. An t-aon rud is féidir le gach duine againn a dhéanamh ná an teanga a fhoghlaim mar is ceart agus líofacht agus saibhreas agus eolas leathan a fháil. Má bhíonn deich míle duine ag labhairt Gaeilge gach lá ar fud na tíre, is féidir le naimhde na teanga a rá nach fiú í a shábháil. Ní bheadh sé chomh furasta sin a mhaíomh dá mbeadh trí chéad míle, nó cúig chéad míle, nó seacht gcéad míle duine á labhairt gach lá. Dá ndéanfadh gach duine atá i bhfách leis an Ghaeilge an teanga a fhoghlaim agus a úsáid, chuirfeadh sin stop leis an mheath láithreach.

Tá cosúlachtaí láidre idir titim i ngrá le teanga agus titim i ngrá le duine. Má tá grá agat do theanga, beidh tú ag iarraidh gach rud a fhoghlaim faoin teanga sin. Ní hamháin sin, ach glacfaidh tú leis an teanga sin mar atá. Ní bheidh tú ag iarraidh í a athrú nó a athchruthú i d’íomhá féin, mar a dhéanann na híonaithe éagsúla atá luaite thuas – agus mar a dhéanann na dileataint (dilettantes) atá rófhalsa an dua a chaitheamh le máistreacht a fháil ar bhunchlocha na teanga.

 

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.

October’s Twit of the Month – Hugh Curran

For this month’s Twit of the Month, I have decided to return to Hugh Curran of Maine. Readers of this blog will remember that in the winter of 2016 and the spring of this year, I took issue with many of this man’s comments on IrishCentral. These comments (now deleted along with most of the accumulated comments on IrishCentral) were complete nonsense. They supported Daniel Cassidy and his preposterous theories, arrogantly ‘corrected’ people who knew more than he did, and criticised genuine etymologists for not giving enough credence to these absurd claims. In these comments, he implied that he was a fluent native Irish speaker. A quick look on line was sufficient to show that he is not fluent in Irish and he himself has admitted this since.

Hugh Curran claimed that Cassidy’s book “is sometimes maligned because a few of the several hundred words are of questionable Gaelic origin, yet the vast majority are correct and the book makes for fascinating reading.” In another post, he claimed that about 40-50% of Cassidy’s derivations were correct. Not only do these two judgements conflict with each other, they are also both nonsense.

I lambasted him on this blog for this behaviour but I also set him a challenge. If he can find ten derivations which are correct out of the hundreds in Cassidy’s book, I will remove my comments about him. Just ten out of hundreds. The only condition was that they had to be original to Cassidy and not plagiarised by Cassidy from other people. I also said that if he couldn’t find them and issued a formal apology for supporting this dreck and misleading people, I would also remove the comments critical of him and substitute it with the apology.

Since then, we have heard nothing from Curran. He hasn’t been able or willing (actually, let’s get real – he hasn’t been able) to find evidence for the outlandish claims he was making. And he is obviously way too up himself to apologise.

Some people might think I am wrong to single out someone like this. He is plainly interested in Irish and Irish culture, even if he doesn’t know much about them. He is an ecologist (though I wouldn’t be alone in regarding the ‘deep ecology’ that he teaches as a load of New Age woo), a political liberal, a supporter of gun control, and he has worked with the homeless. All of these things are very laudable. But does that give him the right to go onto public forums, misrepresent himself as an expert on the Irish language and essentially make up a number of ludicrous claims about the merits of Cassidy’s work? No, it doesn’t! Sensible people have a duty to challenge nonsense like that.

The recent debate about the Irish Slavery meme and the heroic work of Liam Hogan in defence of the truth has shown how much fake information is out there. Most of this fake information is spread by people who believe it’s true, even though it’s clear that the overwhelming majority of them have no idea how to separate bullshit from fact and massively over-estimate their own intelligence and level of education.

One thing is sure. People who spread fake information are a menace. Whatever they think their motives are, their shallowness and arrogance are helping to make the world a worse place.

That’s why my October CassidySlangScam Twit of the Month is Hugh Curran, fake Gaeilgeoir and pompous spreader of fake information.

The Downside of Twitter

I have to say, I don’t tweet. I can see that it’s useful but it seems to me that it suffers from the same problems as many other internet-based activities. Unfortunately, much of the recent activity surrounding a tweet on Cassidy’s work by the Rubber Bandits shows the same dreary, depressing lack of common sense which has bedevilled the whole debate about Daniel Cassidy and his works.

Having said that, it’s not all bad news. A number of people like Ciara Ní Aodha, Eoin Ó Murchú, Liam Hogan, Ronan Delaney, James Harbeck, Ben Walsh, Cruiskeen Lawnmower and Donald Clarke called the list of ‘etymologies’ given by the Rubber Bandits for the bullshit they are.

However, others just reeled off the same old crap we’ve seen any number of times before. The Rubber Bandits came out with the same old shite about how there were lots of Irish speakers and so there’s nothing implausible about the idea that the Irish contributed to slang. No, there’s nothing implausible. But where’s the evidence?

And that is really the problem with the internet. Someone posts that they heard that jazz comes from Irish teas. (There are loads of possible origins and the Irish one is pretty much bottom of the list.) Someone else heard that Uncle Sam comes from the Irish acronym SAM (Stáit Aontaithe Mheiriceá = USA). Even though Uncle Sam dates back to 1775, before the USA came into existence. They think so long comes from slán, apparently, even though most sources trace it back to the German Adieu so lange (Goodbye for now) or a Scandinavian equivalent. Then some other dimwit decides to throw in a recommendation to Thaddeus Russell’s book, The Renegade History of the United States, because it gives loads of slang of Irish origin. Except that slang is copied verbatim from Daniel Cassidy’s book, so it’s full of rubbish which has been comprehensively debunked here and elsewhere. And yet another numpty takes the definition of dúid given by the Rubber Bandits (a foolish-looking fellow defined by his clothing choices) seriously and tweets that it’s great that Irish has such a word. Of course, it doesn’t. This is the meaning of dúid:

dúid, f. (gs. ~e, pl. ~eanna).1. Stump. Rud a ghearradh (amach, aníos) ón ~, ó bhun na ~e, to cut sth. right down to the stump. Chuir an tarbh an adharc go bun na ~e, go filleadh ~e, ann, the bull stuck his horn right into him. 2. (a) Stumpy object, protuberant part; (short) horn, (cropped) ear, tail. (b) Short-stemmed (clay) pipe. 3. (Craned) neck, throat. ~ a chur ort féin, to crane ones neck; to turn ones head shyly away; to eavesdrop; to mope around. Greim ~e a fháil ar dhuine, to grasp s.o. by the neck, to fasten on s.o. Rud a chur ar do dhúid, to swallow hard at sth., to gulp sth. down ones throat. 4. (a) Stumpy person. (b) Mopish, shy person; numbskull. (Var:~eán m)

Anything there about clothing choices? Another twat opines that: “A lot of what he says is completely reasonable but about 50% requires a deeply held nationalist belief system.” Anyone who thinks 50% of what Cassidy says is reasonable should realise they’re an idiot and stop tweeting before double-glazing salesmen and other assorted conmen recognise what they are and find out where they live.

Then there is some dimwit called Michael Ireland, who tweeted that: Many of these slang words were based on broken Gaelic brought to New York by famine survivors. Well, thanks for that! Pure Cassidese bullshit! The interesting thing is that when you look in his twitter feed, he just retweets any right-wing, homophobic, racist, Islamophobic, Tea Party shite he can find. Not hard to see why a thick bastard like this fell for Cassidy’s tosh …

What really frustrates me is that the internet may be a wilderness full of trolls and losers but it’s also the greatest library that has ever existed. You can look up almost anything and get real, valid answers, virtually instantly. Yet how many people tweeting around this subject looked up an online Irish dictionary to confirm whether gaosmhar is really the Irish for a wise person? (It isn’t.) How many of them bothered to check the veracity of the suggestions they were making before they posted them? Hardly any – certainly not the Rubber Bandits themselves, anyway!

There seems to be some strange notion that instead of looking for evidence to prove or disprove the accuracy of the claims being made, the required response is to flounder in ignorance and talk endlessly around the subject. Because in cyberspace, apparently, all truth is relative and nothing can be proven.

Bollocks to that! Truth isn’t relative and there is nearly always evidence. If Uncle Sam dates back to before the USA, why even suggest that it comes from the Irish acronym for the USA? Why not just look up the facts and reject it from the start rather than continuing to spread rubbish and look stupid? Or perhaps the two minutes checking the veracity of what you’re saying is considered too great a waste of time. After all, you could be spending those two minutes tweeting another piece of absolute shite dredged up from the top of the back of your head …

Pash

Daniel Cassidy, in his insane work of fake etymology, How The Irish Invented Slang, tried to convince people that he had made a major discovery. This discovery was that the Irish language didn’t die out in America and had a massive influence on the speech of ordinary Americans, a contribution which has been ignored by snobbish scholars and lexicographers and apparently went unnoticed even by Irish linguists and academics who could actually speak the language. Cassidy, who didn’t have any qualifications at all, and knew no Irish, was a fantasist and liar and con-man. Most of the supposed ‘Irish’ candidates for the origins of slang terms were made up by Cassidy himself. There is no evidence for their existence.

Even after years of debunking this pompous rubbish, I can still open his book and quickly find another example of the kind of puerile crap that demonstrates that Cassidy, far from working like a true scholar, was more like a toddler playing with fuzzy felt.

For example, Cassidy claims that the English slang term pash comes from Irish:

Pash, n., a long and enthusiastic kiss; passion. “Australian and New Zealand term for French or tongue kissing. Used mainly by teenagers and preteens. Used also in a situation so that adults won’t know what they are talking about …” (Urban Dictionary Online.)

Páis [pron. pásh], n., passion.

Apart from the obvious point that pash is just as likely to be a shortening of English passion rather than anything from Irish, we should also remember Cassidy’s total ignorance of the Irish language and his willingness to doctor and distort the material he found in dictionaries to convince badly-educated people of his case. Here’s what Ó Dónaill’s Foclóir Gaeilge-Béarla has to say about the word páis:

páis, f. (gs. ~e). Passion, suffering. An Pháis, P~ Chríost, P~ ár dTiarna, the Passion (of Christ, of Our Lord). Domhnach, Seachtain, na Páise, Passion Sunday, Week. An Pháis a léamh, to read the Passion (from the gospels). ~ oíche a fhulaingt, to endure a night of travail, of suffering.

In other words, páis is used pretty much exclusively in the religious sense of a crucifixion or a torment. There is another word, a straight Gaelicisation of the English passion (and pronounced the same), paisean. It is this word – or a native equivalent like tocht – which is used for strong emotions like love or desire, not the word páis.

A Challenge To Hugh Curran

 

I have had a comment from Hugh Curran. Remember him?

Why the negative talk using terms like “scumbag” etc. Did I say anything at that merits this kind of comment? I admitted that I was not proficient in Gaeilge even though as a young boy I spoke it at home with my parents who were native speakers. The fact that we immigrated to Canada when I was young reduced my chance to continue as a native speaker even as all my cousins in Ireland are native speakers. The writer of the above article is vehement in his denunciation for reasons I am unable to comprehend unless he feels that any positive comments about Cassidy’s book are totally erroneous. There are at least some words in Cassidy’s book that merit consideration . I would hope the writer of the article withdraws the article or apologies for his remarks.

He claims to find my hostility inexplicable, though I’ve explained it at great length in two languages. I’ve explained why his original comments implied that he spoke Irish. And I’ve also found this on the University of Maine website:

Vox 105 – Beginning Spoken Irish Gaelic I Beginning Irish Gaelic language study using a combination of self-instruction and recitation.  Class is taught by native speakers in the target language, and includes a high degree of cultural engagement.

Maybe I’m wrong but that sounds like the beginner’s course in Irish that Curran ‘teaches’.  Taught by native speakers in the target language? Really?

I’ve also made it absolutely clear that yes, any positive comments about Cassidy’s book are totally erroneous and yes, there are effectively no words in Cassidy’s book that merit consideration. Cassidy’s theories and his book are an immoral and disgusting hoax and Cassidy was a criminal liar who worked for twelve years as an academic without any qualifications at all. He didn’t speak any Irish at all and his knowledge of Irish history and linguistics was entirely inadequate – like the man himself. In short, Cassidy’s book is malicious dross.

And as this is the case, I believe that the term scumbag is entirely justified. Myself and a number of other critics of Cassidy are trying to prevent people being ripped off and lied to and misinformed. And you are trying to spread the lies and misinformation and support the liar. What a scumbag!

However, I’m a reasonable man. You claim that this book is not a malicious hoax. So, you want me to remove the articles about you? Fine, I’ll do that – if you can justify your position with evidence.

So, here’s my challenge to you. Find 10 words or phrases in Cassidy’s book where there is sufficient evidence for Cassidy’s derivation that a reasonable and impartial person would accept that Cassidy got it right. Oh, and they have to be Cassidy’s claims, not claims that were already in the public domain which Cassidy plagiarised, so you can’t use words like pet and cross and snazzy and galore and slew.

Of course, there are hundreds of words and phrases in Cassidy’s book, so if it’s the mine of undiscovered gems you claim, rather than a dark malodorous empty cave containing only the echoes of Cassidy’s insanity, it shouldn’t be that hard to find ten words or phrases that fit the bill. Should it?

If you can do that, I’ll apologise and withdraw the posts about you. (Let me tell you now, you won’t be able to – Cassidy’s book is that big a pile of shite!) And if you can’t, then I will also take down the posts about you, on condition that you apologise for supporting this nonsense in the face of all the evidence and recommend that other people avoid it, which is what a decent person would have done in the first place.