Tag Archives: comhroghna

Cassidese Glossary – Crony

For some time now, some of my on-line friends have advised me to provide a version of CassidySlangScam without the invective aimed at Cassidy and his supporters. In response to that advice, I am working on providing a glossary of the terms in Cassidy’s ludicrous book How The Irish Invented Slang with a short, simple and business-like explanation of why Cassidy’s version is wrong.

Another oft-quoted claim of Cassidy’s, which has absolutely no basis in fact, is the notion that crony can be traced back to an Irish phrase comh-roghna. Cassidy says that this word means “fellow chosen-ones, mutual-sweethearts, fellow favourites, close friends, mutual pals”.

This is totally false. While comh– exists and rogha/roghanna (roghna is the older version of the plural of rogha, roghanna the modern spelling) exist there is no evidence in the Irish language of either roghanna or comhroghanna being used to mean friends or pals.

The words comhrogha and comhroghanna are not even in Ó Dónaill’s dictionary, though the word comhrogha has been used sporadically in the language to express the abstract senses of rival, alternative or choice.

Here are some examples of the use of comhrogha from the Electronic Dictionary of the Irish Language:

murab comhrogha leo maraon = unless it would be the joint choice of both of them

atáid dhá theach má [sic] comhrogha = they are two houses to be chosen between (i.e. heaven and hell

níl le do chlú comhrogha = your reputation has no rival

dá gcur i gcomhrogha = being compared

dá gcuirfí i gcomhrogha a bháis nó = if it was a matter of alternatives of death or martyrdom

an comhrogha thuas = the preceding example (comparison of two couplets, Bardic syntactic tracts

agus de chomhroghna curadh = and of the finest of warriors

The word comhrogha has also been used occasionally in modern Irish in general contexts to mean alternative, in financial and economic contexts to mean ‘joint option’ and in betting to mean ‘popular favourite’.

It should also be pointed out that comhroghanna (koh-ray-anna) doesn’t sound much like croney and it is plural – loanwords tend to be borrowed in their most basic, singular form.

Back in the real world, crony is widely believed to be Cambridge university slang, derived from Greek chronios, meaning long-lasting, as in ‘old boy’. It first occurs in Samuel Pepys’s diaries and Pepys was a Cambridge graduate.

Crony

I have noticed that many of the early posts on this blog get relatively little traffic, so I have decided to start republishing some of them.

Another oft-quoted claim of Cassidy’s, which has absolutely no basis in fact, is the notion that crony can be traced back to an Irish phrase comh-roghna. Cassidy says that this word means “fellow chosen-ones, mutual-sweethearts, fellow favourites, close friends, mutual pals”.

This is typical of Cassidy’s fantasies. While comh– exists and rogha/roghanna (roghna is the older version of the plural, roghanna the modern spelling) exists there is no evidence in the Irish language of either roghanna or comhroghanna being used to mean friends or pals. Comhrogha and comhroghanna are not even in Ó Dónaill’s dictionary, though the word comhrogha has been used with the abstract senses of rival, alternative or choice. Rogha itself means a choice. There are plenty of words and phrases for the concept of friends or mates – cairde, compánaigh, comrádaithe. Comhroghanna and roghanna are not among them. The word comhroghanna does not occur in the dictionaries with these meanings and they are not used in speech in this sense.

While the other words for companion or comrade, comrádaí, compánach and cara occur many times in Corpas na Gaeilge (a database of Irish), comhrogha only occurs five times and always in the sense of choice or alternative, never to refer to friends. In any case, comhroghanna (koh-ray-anna) doesn’t sound much like croney and it is plural – loanwords tend to be borrowed in their most basic, singular form.

It is also widely believed to be Cambridge university slang, derived from Greek chronios, meaning old. It first occurs in English contexts, not Irish.

Cassidy and Cronyism

I have already discussed Cassidy’s claim that crony and by extension cronyism come from the Irish language. Cassidy was lying about this, because the word he claimed meant a comrade or companion, comhrogha (plural comhroghna or comhroghanna) does not exist. The word is used as an obscure term for an alternative or a rival, but never in the sense of friend.

However, in a sense, Cassidy was right to associate cronyism with Irish culture. According to Wikipedia, cronyism is ‘partiality to long-standing friends, especially by appointing them to positions of authority, regardless of their qualifications. Hence, cronyism is contrary in practice and principle to meritocracy.’

There is no doubt that cronyism is part of our national sickness. You only have to look at the way that corrupt bankers and politicians led our country to the brink of disaster to see that we are far too prone to this kind of old boys’ network.

Perhaps, depressingly, this is the greatest legacy of the Irish to American culture, that we have helped them to create a society where loyalty to your friends is often considered far more important than loyalty to your principles or loyalty to the public good.  

In the categories of this blog, I refer to the Cassidy affair as The Cassidy Scandal. Perhaps this is a little melodramatic but to me, it is a scandal. It is a scandal that anyone could write and publish such an amateurish, ignorant, worthless collection of nonsense and have it recommended by some of the most important Irish-American writers, intellectuals and academics, as well as a scattering of people in Ireland who should have had far more sense. It is quite clear from the internet that many of these people were friends of Cassidy’s. The whole Cassidy Scandal reeks of cronyism.

There is nothing  radical or left-wing about cronyism. Cronyism is contrary in practice and principle to meritocracy

To those people who are victims of this scam and who bought this book in good faith thinking it to be a serious work of scholarship, especially those who still thought that after reading it, I can only say that you are lucky to have been ripped off over something relatively trivial. You have spent a few dollars on something which in terms of its intellectual content isn’t worth a plug nickel. It could be a lot worse.

You could be feeding poison to your children in a South American jungle because the authorities are closing in on your Messiah. You could be facing penury because you invested your life-savings in a mine somewhere that doesn’t exist. You could be flying a plane full of innocent people into a building because you believe that this is the way to Paradise.  

So take this as a lesson. Learn to be more critical and less trusting. Because unfortunately there are lots of horrible people like Cassidy out there who think lying to you is fun.