Tag Archives: an Ghaeilge

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.

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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.

 

Beannachtaí na Féile Pádraig

St Patrick’s Day will soon be here, so it seems like a good opportunity once again to attack Cassidy’s rubbish book of fake Irish, to encourage people to learn a little of the real thing, and to say a couple of words about the philosophy of language learning.

At this time of year, many people in the Irish diaspora take an interest in their culture and history. Because of the irresponsible behaviour of a number of prominent members of the Irish-American establishment like Peter Quinn, Joe Lee, Michael Patrick MacDonald, Tom Deignan and countless others, who recommended and continue to recommend this nonsense to gullible people, this book is still in print and still being sold. This is a disgrace. Cassidy’s ‘research’ is a cruel and disgusting hoax and IMHO no decent person would support it. However, thanks in part to this blog, people are now much more aware of how dishonest and foolish this book is, so the newspaper articles about Cassidy’s linguistic ‘revelations’ which used to appear at this time of year have been considerably fewer over the last couple of years. The only major organ (yes, I’m aware of the innuendo) of the diaspora which still supports this raiméis is the egregious IrishCentral. They continue to republish a semi-literate ‘review’ of Cassidy’s book by some 9/11 Truther called Brendan Patrick Keane.

Anyway, it seems appropriate to celebrate St Patrick’s Day with some handy (and GENUINE) phrases in our beautiful Ulster dialect of the Irish language.

 

Beannachtaí na Féile Pádraig duit!

Ban-akh-tee na fayla pahrig ditch!

Blessings of St Patrick’s day to you!

 

Go raibh míle maith agat.

Go roh meela moy oggut!

A thousand thanks!

 

Tá sé iontach deas inniu.

Tah shay intah jass inyoo.

It’s very nice today.

 

Sláinte mhór agus saol fada agat!

Slahn-chya wore ogus seel fadda oggut!

Good health and long life to you!

 

If you want some more information on these things, there are hundreds of resources on line. Focloir.ie is particularly good and has audio files for common words. Just don’t trust anything you read on IrishCentral, in any language, and don’t use Cassidy’s book as a source for learning Irish!

As for the philosophy of language learning, here’s a few points for people thinking of learning Irish:

DO

  • learn a little every day – start NOW!
  • label things you use every day – fridge, cooker, car, door
  • write common words or phrases on cards and carry them round with you
  • learn a few proverbs or songs by heart
  • use apps and words of the day and the Kindle and other new technology
  • get output by TG4 and Raidió na Gaeltachta and listen to the language as much as possible (without bothering about understanding it) just to get used to the sounds and intonation

 

DON’T

  • go to a class once a week and forget about it the rest of the time
  • try to learn everything at once and get disheartened when you can’t
  • use Google Translate to translate INTO Irish (it’s useful to get an idea of what a text means in a language you don’t speak well or at all but, for example, if you put I cycled a lot into Google Translate, you get Rothar mé go leor, which is garbage!)
  • make up sentences which are too complicated for you – stick to the structures you know to be correct. Walk, then run! There’s no point in practising elaborate structures which are wrong. Stick to simple sentences which are right! 

Beannachtaí na Féile Pádraig daoibh!!

More on the Folklore Poker

In December 2015, I wrote a post (The Tyranny of Narrative) in which I questioned Cassidy’s story about how his ludicrous book How The Irish Invented Slang came to be written. As I explained in that post, there are a number of reasons for doubting Cassidy’s claim that he came up with his theory after inheriting a pocket Irish dictionary and noticing words in Irish which were similar to English slang terms. For one thing, Cassidy’s sister Susan doubted its truth. Then there is the fact that Cassidy was a pathological liar and that very little of what he said and wrote is trustworthy. And then again, there is the fact that Cassidy’s little origin myth about the pocket dictionary (which he insisted on calling a Folklore Poker rather than a foclóir póca) exists in two different forms. Plus the fact that the words which Cassidy claimed to be examples of the similarities he had spotted are mostly obscure terms which don’t occur in the pocket Irish dictionary he inherited.

Anyway, in another post (Cassidy’s Plagiarism) I also pointed out that many of the more believable (though none the less wrong) claims in Cassidy’s book had already appeared on an Irish language forum called the Daltaí Boards in 2004. Cassidy joined this forum and bothered people with his nonsense for a while in 2005 but of course, he may have read it many times before he joined. I suggested at the time in the comments that Cassidy perhaps derived his theory not from the pocket dictionary, but from reading the posts on the Daltaí Boards.

Recently, I had another look at this question and decided to find out when the earliest evidence of Cassidy’s ‘research’ can be found online. I found that Cassidy wrote an article in the NY Observer (standing in for his crony Terry Golway) in January 2003 about the links between criminal cant and Irish. If he had already posted in 2003, then plainly, he wasn’t influenced by the posts about Irish influence on the Daltaí Boards. However, there was something that just didn’t sound right to me, so I decided to check the Daltaí Boards again.

It turns out that the exchange in 2004 wasn’t the first discussion of words of Irish origin in English on the Daltaí Boards. There was an earlier exchange in April 2002, in which a number of terms were discussed, including shanty, slew, slogan, trousers, smithereens, galore, kybosh, whiskey, leprechaun, banshee, bard, bog, brogue, colleen, glen, jockey, keen, pet, so long, phoney, longshoreman, do you dig?, spree.

So, what’s the real story about Cassidy’s ‘epiphany?’ It seems to me that the story about the pocket dictionary is full of holes. Perhaps Cassidy noticed one or two words that other people have mentioned before (like snas and snazzy) but I think it was his surfing on Google that really gave him the first claims for his book. And then he went on the rampage with his own imagination, inventing hundreds of nonsensical Irish phrases like bocaí rua and gruaim béil and sách úr and leathluí géag and gus óil to fill his book up and turn it into the collection of total garbage which has polluted the world’s libraries and bookshelves ever since.

Bailiwick

Another ludicrous claim of Cassidy’s is that the word bailiwick (meaning someone’s sphere of influence or control) is from the Irish baile aíoch. This is clearly rubbish for two reasons.

Firstly, the phrase baile aíoch is completely unattested in Irish outside of Cassidy’s fantasy version of the language, although the two elements which Cassidy put together to make this phrase, baile and aíoch, do exist. Baile means home or town, while aíoch means hospitable, and is related to the word aoi, meaning guest. So this phrase might just mean “hospitable home”, though the word aíoch is not very common.

So what’s wrong with this as the origin of bailiwick? Let’s imagine a group of Irish-speaking gangsters discussing their activities in New York in the 19th century. Are they really going to refer to their ceantar (area) or ríocht (kingdom) or fearann (domain) or talamh (ground, land) as mo bhaile aíoch? I can’t see it. It is an unlikely enough phrase anyway, but if I did hear it, I would think of a guest house, or their own house, or even the old home back in the Old Country, not an area which is under someone’s control in a city.

It is also highly unlikely that the word aíoch (pronounced ee-okh or ee-oh] would become wick in English.

And in any case, if Cassidy had done some basic research (something he was obviously too lazy or stupid to do) he would have realised that bailiwick has been in English for nearly six hundred years. It means the area of influence of a bailiff. The most famous bailiwick is probably the Bailiwick of Jersey in the Channel Islands, which obviously has no connection with the hospitable homes of Irish wise-guys.