Tag Archives: Daniel Cassidy

Hunch/Aithint

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.

There is some doubt about the origin of the term ‘hunch’, as in ‘I had a hunch that would happen.’ The dictionary experts believe that it derives from the English word hunch meaning a hump, though it is very difficult to understand how that connection arose. Apparently it meant a push or final shove towards an answer, and then it came to mean a kind of intuition.

Cassidy disagrees with this, which is fair enough, if you can find a better and more convincing explanation. As usual, Cassidy couldn’t be bothered finding anything convincing, so he just pounced on a word which he happened to think sounded a bit like the candidate and had a meaning somewhere in the same general semantic area. The word he chose was aithint, which means knowing or recognition. Cassidy’s association of this with hunch only works if people in Irish would use aithint to mean a hunch. Would they? Of course not. Recognising something is not the same as having an opinion or a guess or a feeling about something.

How would you say ‘I had a hunch that would happen’ in Irish? Here are a few ways:

Bhí mé ag déanamh go dtarlódh sin.

Bhí éachtaint agam go dtarlódh sin.

Bhí mé ag smaoineamh go dtarlódh sin.

Bhí barúil agam go dtarlódh sin.

Bhí tuairim agam go dtarlódh sin.

Shíl mé go dtarlódh sin.

Cheap mé go dtarlódh sin.

Bhí iomas agam go dtarlódh sin.

What you wouldn’t say is ‘Bhí aithint agam go dtarlódh sin’ because it wouldn’t mean anything, any more than it would mean anything if you said ‘I had a recognition that would happen’ (though a precognition would just about work). In other words, this is just more stupid bar-room blether and fake scholarship from Cassidy.

 

Thug mé faoi deara nach bhfaigheann cuid mhór de na haltanna luatha ar an bhlag seo mórán cuairteanna, agus mar sin de, tá cinneadh déanta agam iad a athfhoilsiú anseo.

Níl a fhios againn cá has a dtáinig an téarma ‘hunch’ sa Bhéarla, focal a chiallaíonn buille faoi thuairim nó tomhas. Creideann na saineolaithe Béarla go bhfuil baint aige leis an fhocal hunch a chiallaíonn cruit, cé gur deacair a oibriú amach cén fáth a mbeadh an nasc sin ann. De réir cosúlachta, bhí sé ag tagairt don bhrú nó seáp a thugann duine agus iad ag iarraidh freagra a fháil, agus as sin, fuair an focal an chiall bhreise sin de ‘iomas’.

Ní aontaíonn Cassidy leis an mhíniú seo. Tá sin maith go leor, más féidir leat teacht ar mhíniú atá níos fearr agus níos inchreidte. Ach mar ba ghnách, ní thiocfadh le Cassidy bheith gaibhte rud éigin níos inchreidte a fháil agus mar sin de, léim sé ar fhocal a bhí giota beag cosúil leis an Bhéarla, dar leis, agus a raibh ciall aige a bhí giota beag cosúil lena chiall. Ba é aithint an focal a roghnaigh sé, focal a chiallaíonn knowing nó recognition i mBéarla. Ar ndóigh, ní chiallaíonn aithint an rud céanna le hunch an Bhéarla. Ní hionann rud a aithint agus iomas a bheith agat faoi rud.

Cad é mar a déarfá ‘I had a hunch that would happen’ i nGaeilge? Seo roinnt dóigheanna:

Bhí mé ag déanamh go dtarlódh sin.

Bhí éachtaint agam go dtarlódh sin.

Bhí mé ag smaoineamh go dtarlódh sin.

Bhí barúil agam go dtarlódh sin.

Bhí tuairim agam go dtarlódh sin.

Shíl mé go dtarlódh sin.

Cheap mé go dtarlódh sin.

Bhí iomas agam go dtarlódh sin.

Ach ní déarfá, ‘Bhí aithint agam go dtarlódh sin’ mar ní bheadh ciall ar bith leis, ach oiread leis an fhrása ‘I had a recognition that would happen’ i mBéarla (cé go bhféadfá cás a dhéanamh ar son ‘I had a precognition that would happen!’) Lena rá ar dhóigh eile, níl sa raiméis seo ach cabaireacht lucht tábhairne agus léann bréagach ó Cassidy.

Advertisements

Chicken

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.

I have already said that Cassidy ignores perfectly good English explanations for words in favour of improbable or impossible made-up Irish derivations. This is a perfect example. Chicken means scared and a chicken is a coward. I think this comes from the English word chicken which is a nervous type of bird. In English, phrases like hen-hearted go back to the 14th century at least. As early as the 15th century, the churles chekyne was used as an expression for a coward. It is obvious, realistic, and it ticks all the boxes.

Cassidy and his supporters will have none of it. Chicken doesn’t come from chicken, apparently. It comes from teith ar cheann, which means – says Cassidy – to run away first. Does it? No, of course not. This is How The Irish Invented Slang we’re talking about here, not a serious work of scholarship! Teith ar cheann is unattested. If you look it up on Google, you will find a handful of references to Daniel Cassidy. In terms of Irish grammar, it doesn’t make sense, as it really means ‘flee at the head of’ rather than flee first. At the head of what? I hear you ask. Exactly. On its own, this phrase means nothing.

There are lots of expressions for a weakling or coward in Irish and any of them could have been used in slang, so it seems strange that people would use a grammatically meaningless and unfamiliar phrase in preference to these words. Of course, in reality, they didn’t. Chicken is English. A chicken is a chicken is a chicken. And Cassidy was a birdbrain.

 

Thug mé faoi deara nach bhfaigheann cuid de na postálacha is luaithe sa bhlag seo mórán cuairteanna agus mar sin de, ba mhaith liom iad a athfhoilsiú anseo.

Mar atá ráite agam go minic roimhe seo, bíonn Cassidy ag maíomh go dtig focail ó fhrásaí Gaeilge a chum sé féin, frásaí nach bhfuil ciall ar bith leo, cé go bhfuil an fhíorshanasaíocht Bhéarla soiléir sothuigthe i gcuid mhór cásanna. Seo sampla foirfe den amaidí sin. Ciallaíonn chicken go bhfuil duine scanraithe agus is ionann chicken agus cladhaire. Tagann sin ón fhocal Béarla chicken, dar liomsa, mar is éan cineál neirbhíseach í an chearc nó an sicín céanna. Sa Bhéarla, tá frásaí mar hen-hearted le fáil ón 14ú haois ar aghaidh. Chomh luath leis an 15ú haois, bhí an frása the churles chekyne in úsáid le tagairt do chladhaire nó meatachán. Tá an míniú sin soiléir, simplí agus tá sé ag teacht leis na fíricí.

Ach is cuma le lucht leanúna Cassidy faoi na fíricí. Ní hionann chicken (cladhaire) agus chicken (cearc), dar leosan. Is ón fhrása ‘Gaeilge’ ‘teith ar cheann’ a tháinig sé, de réir cosúlachta, frása a chiallaíonn, dar le Cassidy, ‘to run away first.’ Ní Gaeilge sin, ar ndóigh. Níl ann ach raiméis agus amaidí.

Tá a lán dóigheanna le bogachán nó meatachán nó cladhaire a rá i nGaeilge. Nach iontach an rud é gur roghnaigh na Gaeil i Meiriceá úsáid a bhaint as raiméis neamhghramadúil ar nós teith ar cheann in áit ceann de na focail sin? Ach, ar ndóigh, níor tháinig chicken ó ‘teith ar cheann’. Níl ciall ar bith leis sin. Is Béarla é an focal chicken, sa dá chiall, agus ní raibh sa Chasaideach ach bréagadóir gan náire.

IrishCentral agus Bliain na Gaeilge/IrishCentral and the Year of the Irish Language

De réir cosúlachta, is é Bliain na Gaeilge é 2018. Táthar ag ceiliúradh thús Athbheochan na teanga 125 ó shin. Tá súil agam go n-éireoidh leis an fheachtas seo agus go dtiocfaidh méadú ar líon na gcainteoirí agus ar mheas an phobail ar an teanga agus ar an chultúr s’againne mar gheall air.

Cé gur blag Béarla atá sa bhlag seo, den chuid is mó, bíonn corralt ann sa dá theanga nó i nGaeilge amháin. (2% nó 3% den ábhar, is dócha.) Déanfaidh mé mo dhícheall níos mó Gaeilge a fhoilsiú ar an bhlag seo i mbliana.

Tá IrishCentral i ndiaidh cúpla alt a fhoilsiú ó thús na míosa le tacú le Bliain na Gaeilge. Ar an 4ú lá de Mhí Eanáir, bhí alt darbh ainm 2018 to become the year of the Irish language agus ar an 5ú lá de Mhí Eanáir, d’fhoilsigh siad Favorite Irish phrases for the official year of the Irish language.

Mar is eol daoibh, ní maith liom IrishCentral ar chor ar bith. Sa bhliain 2010, d’fhoilsigh siad alt amaideach le Brendan Patrick Keane atá bunaithe ar shaothar Daniel Cassidy. Is masla uafásach é an t-alt sin don teanga s’againne agus do lucht labhartha na teanga. Cé go bhfuil an t-alt sin agus na bréaga loma atá ann cáinte go mór agus go minic agam ar an bhlag seo, rinne Niall O’Dowd agus an chuid eile de na bómáin ag IrishCentral an post sin a athfhoilsiú arís agus arís eile. Léiríonn sin nach bhfuil meas dá laghad acu ar an Ghaeilge.

Ní hamháin sin, ach ó chuir Niall O’Dowd IrishCentral ar bun sa bhliain 2009, ní dóigh liom gur fhoilsigh IC oiread agus alt amháin i nGaeilge, dírithe ar lucht labhartha na teanga. Tá corrphíosa ann faoin Ghaeilge, corrphíosa dírithe ar fhoghlaimeoirí na teanga. Ach nach bhfuil pobal Gaeilge i measc na nGael i gcéin? Cad chuige nach bhfuil IC ag freastal ar lucht na Gaeilge?

Agus fiú nuair a dhéanann IC píosaí atá dírithe ar an fhoghlaimeoir, bíonn siad amaitéarach go leor. Mar shampla, san alt a foilsíodh ar an 5ú lá den mhí seo, tá an frása “Ní chainteoir dúchais mé” ann. “Ní cainteoir dúchais mé” an leagan ceart. Is leagan diúltach den chopail é sa chás seo agus ní chuireann sé séimhiú ar an ainmfhocal a leanann é. Mionphointe, b’fhéidir, ach léiríonn sé gur cuma sa tsioc leis na daoine seo faoin Ghaeilge nó faoina lucht labhartha. Níl sa Ghaeilge ar IrishCentral ach cur i gcéill agus béalghrá.

 

It seems that 2018 is the Year of the Irish Language. It is celebrating the 125th anniversary of the Irish Revival. I hope that this campaign will succeed and that the number of speakers and the Irish people’s respect for our language and culture will grow as a result.

Although this is an English blog for the most part, there are occasional articles in both languages or solely in Irish. (Probably about 2% or 3% of the material.) I will do my utmost to increase the amount of Irish published on the blog this year.

IrishCentral has just published a couple of articles since the start of the year to support Bliain na Gaeilge. On the 4th of January, there was an article called 2018 to become the year of the Irish language and on the 5th of January, they published Favorite Irish phrases for the official year of the Irish language.

As you know, I don’t like IrishCentral at all. In the year 2010, they published a stupid article by Brendan Patrick Keane which is based on the work of Daniel Cassidy. This article is a gross insult to our language and its speakers. Although I have criticised these bare-faced lies often and strongly on this blog, Niall O’Dowd and the other morons at IrishCentral have republished the post again and again. That shows how little respect they have for the Irish language.

That’s not all. Since Niall O’Dowd established IrishCentral in the year 2009, I don’t think that IC has published so much as one article in Irish, aimed at speakers of the language. There are occasional pieces about Irish or aimed at learners of the language. But isn’t there a community of Irish speakers in the Irish diaspora? Why doesn’t IC cater for Irish speakers?

And even when IC do pieces which are aimed at the learner, they are amateurish enough. For example, in the article which was published on the 5th of this month, there is the phrase “Ní chainteoir dúchais mé.” (I’m not a native speaker.) “Ní cainteoir dúchais mé” is the correct version. in this case is a negative version of the copula and it doesn’t lenite the noun which follows it. A minor point, perhaps, but it shows that these people don’t give a shit about the Irish language or its speakers. The Irish on IrishCentral is nothing but tokenism and lip-service.

 

 

January’s Twit of the Month – Peter Linebaugh

For a couple of months now, I have been meaning to tackle the subject of Peter Linebaugh, a very indifferent Marxist historian who was a friend and crony of Daniel Cassidy and who unwisely lent his support to Cassidy’s ridiculous book and theories. As Linebaugh says in a review of Cassidy’s puerile trash on Counterpunch:

This now will change thanks to Daniel Cassidy’s amazing dictionary. The efflorescence of Irish-American cultural studies which has taught us (referring to a couple of other books) how the Irish saved civilization or how the Irish became white, has now explained How the Irish Invented Slang: The Secret Language of the Crossroads (2007). Cassidy’s entries are often little essays of social history expressed in caustic wit and erudition, similar to the work of those other people’s lexicographers of the San Francisco Bay, Iain Boal and Ambrose Bierce.

Elsewhere in the same article, he uses a large number of Cassidy’s idiotic fake Irish terms:

If it was an English speaker who said there’s no free lunch, surely it was an Irish one who gave us lunch. On the one hand the Irish distrusts extravagance or b.s. and is quick to spot a phoney or name a wanker or a twerp or a nincumpoop, a hick or a jerk. On the other hand it is capable of all the malarkey and baloney you’ll ever need. It supplies ‘fighting words,’ the pigeon, the sap, the punk, the mug, and the puss, and follow them with a wallop, a slug. And it’ll keep you in stitches, going helter-skelter, in a generalized hilarity of the giggle from the proletarian quarters.

These words have been comprehensively dealt with here, so nobody (including Peter Linebaugh) has any excuse for claiming that lunch, wanker, twerp, hick, helter-skelter, giggle, jerk or baloney have anything to do with Irish. (As we’ve seen before, phoney is almost certainly of Irish origin but predates Cassidy by years.)

Elsewhere (and in 2016, years after Cassidy was totally discredited) he writes: Danny Cassidy supplied … a lexicography from below showing how the Irish language, while severely diminished in Ireland, survived in America as slang!

But the rot goes deeper than this. The problem seems to be the shallow, Google-search style of history that Peter Linebaugh practices and it’s this lack of depth which makes him give credence to Cassidy’s derivations without checking their validity.

The work of Linebaugh’s that I have read (which is, in fairness, two books – it was enough for me) seems to cherry-pick and flit from place to place and era to era in pursuit of support for vague ideological arguments. I am not an expert on history, but it seems that the debate here (http://www.nybooks.com/articles/2001/09/20/the-many-headed-hydra-an-exchange/) between Linebaugh (and his co-author Rediker) and David Brion Davis shows the incompetence of their research – “The Many-Headed Hydra is riddled with … blatant errors from the start to the finish.”

John Madziarczyk also claims that Linebaugh is essentially drawing on other, more obscure sources (http://www.losthighwaytimes.com/2007/06/peter-linebaughpopularizer-of-ideas-not.html) like the book Pirate Utopias by Peter Lamborn Wilson and that his work is deeply derivative. I cannot vouch for the accuracy of these observations (and to be frank, I can’t be bothered doing the necessary research in an area so far outside my comfort zone), though I consider the criticisms entirely credible.

Linebaugh and Rediker also come in for criticism here for taking a newspaper account from 1738 of a Native American uprising against settlers in Nantucket as genuine: (http://historynewsnetwork.org/article/166955)

And at the end of the day, I’m of the left and socially very liberal. I am not bothered or offended by Linebaugh’s or Cassidy’s purported leftism. I am bothered by a tendency to make claims unsupported by evidence. This kind of fakery is repugnant, whether it’s coming from some Trump-loving redneck or from a gaggle of Californian liberals and their socialist intellectual friends. The truth is the truth. It has no left or right, no ethnicity or gender or sexual orientation or nationality. If something doesn’t correspond at all to the known and established facts, it isn’t true and nobody, regardless of their beliefs, should waste their time on it.

It is for this reason that I am happy to bestow my January 2018 CassidySlangScam Twit of the Month Award on Peter Linebaugh, lousy historian and crony of Daniel Cassidy.

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.

An open letter to the advisory board of the San Francisco Irish-American Crossroads Festival

To:

Charles Fanning

Katherine Hastings

Caledonia Kearns

Daniele Maraviglia

Linda Norton

Miriam Nyhan

Nancy Quinn

Peter Quinn

James Silas Rogers

Tim Sullivan

 

Sometimes, our heroes turn out to have feet of clay and even when they were responsible for establishing valid and worthwhile institutions, it can be difficult for those institutions to avoid being contaminated with the scandal associated with a toxic founder.

In the case of the Lance Armstrong Foundation, it rebranded itself as the Livestrong Foundation when Armstrong was exposed as a drugs cheat. It continues to raise money but it is not as successful as it was. Its new name suggests a link to Armstrong (L – strong) but the information on its website gives no indication of the organisation’s history or Armstrong’s role in it.

In the case of the Jimmy Savile Charitable Trust, when the shit hit the fan, it initially considered rebranding itself to remove all links to the serial rapist and paedophile who founded it but a few weeks later, it declared that it was shutting up shop. The scandal and the stigma were just too great.

As for the New College of California, the exposure of its founder as a predatory paedophile came shortly before the wheels came off the institution itself. The exposure of John Leary as a sexual predator was not responsible for the collapse of the institution but it probably didn’t help. Had the college survived, it would have been necessary to remove or rewrite material like this about its founder to reflect the fact that Leary was kicked out of Gonzaga for a sexual assault on a young boy: “Jack, a Jesuit priest and teacher of philosophy, had recently resigned as president of Gonzaga University in Washington state because of his dissatisfaction with the current American model of undergraduate education. He wanted to start over. And so New College of California began as a handful of students and teachers meeting in Jack’s Sausalito living room.”

The San Francisco Irish-American Crossroads Festival was founded by Daniel Cassidy, a ‘professor’ at New College in 2004. After Cassidy’s book was published, Cassidy was criticised immediately by genuine scholars for his poor research but it is only in the last few years that the full extent of Cassidy’s dishonesty and criminality has come to light.

As I have said before on this blog, the In Memoriam section of the Festival’s website gives a fictional and sanitised account of the founder’s life. According to this account, Cassidy had degrees from Columbia and Cornell. In a radio interview with Myles Dungan, Cassidy talks about his Bachelor’s degree from Cornell and taking some ‘graduate’ classes at Columbia. Cornell University has stated that Cassidy was removed from Cornell without gaining a degree and his sister has stated here that he never went to Columbia. This in itself is clear evidence that Cassidy was a fraudster. Cassidy had no degrees or qualifications at all. He was not a real professor.

His book, How The Irish Invented Slang, is one of the most dishonest, ignorant and badly-researched books ever written. Far from being a revelatory work of etymology, it is an insult to the world of scholarship, to the Irish people and to anyone who cares about basic standards of honesty and fair play. This dim-witted collection of disinformation is totally antithetical to the mission statement of the Festival: “Founded in 2004, the Crossroads Irish-American Festival promotes the discovery and understanding of the Irish experience in the Americas to ensure that the richness of the arts, culture, history and traditions of this heritage are both held in great esteem and preserved for generations to come.”

I cannot force the people at the Irish-American Crossroads Festival to tell the truth about Cassidy. All I can do is to point out once again that Cassidy should be held to account for his fraud and criminality, not held up as an inspiration and a good example. Anyone who allows lies like this to be associated with their name is not a decent human being. If you wish to protect your reputation, demand that those responsible for the website remove the lies about Cassidy. If you support Daniel Cassidy and his insane theories, directly or indirectly, you are a willing accessory to this puerile, dishonest nonsense which has been used to swindle tens of thousands of people out of their hard-earned money.

Cracker

I recently bestowed my December Twit of the Month Award on Michael Krasny for an appalling radio interview with the late Daniel Cassidy. At one point, Krasny mentions the word cracker to Cassidy. Cracker is a slang term, originally referring to the poor whites of certain southern states, and now used as a disparaging term for a white man. A letter to the Earl of Dartmouth dated to the 1760s says: “I should explain to your Lordship what is meant by Crackers; a name they have got from being great boasters; they are a lawless set of rascalls on the frontiers of Virginia, Maryland, the Carolinas, and Georgia, who often change their places of abode.”

In the interview, Cassidy laughs smugly and says that he is certain that the word cracker is derived from Irish. In his insane rubbishy book, Cassidy says that it comes from similar Irish or Scottish Gaelic words meaning boaster or jester. Cassidy is right that there are terms for boaster or jester in both Irish and Scottish Gaelic which sound like cracker (cracaire or craicire in Irish, cracaire or cnacair in Scottish Gaelic).

However, just because there are similar words in English and Gaelic doesn’t tell us anything about why they are similar. There are four possible explanations.

One is that this is pure coincidence. This is less unlikely than you might think (look at Irish daor and English dear, both meaning expensive, both pronounced similarly and completely unrelated). However, it is still pretty unlikely, so we will leave this possibility aside.

Secondly, there is the possibility that the two words are cognates, words which derive from an earlier language which was ancestral to both sets of languages. However, there is no history to explain the words craicire in Irish or cnacair in Scottish Gaelic and these words can only be traced back a couple of hundred years in the Gaelic languages, so this is unlikely.

The third possibility is that the similar words result from borrowing and that that borrowing was from the Gaelic languages to English. As crack meant a loud noise and then boastful talk in English and cracker for boaster dates back at least to the 16th century in English, it makes more sense to regard cracker in English/Scots as being the original and the Gaelic words as borrowings, particularly given that there is a pattern of borrowing from English to Irish and no pattern of extensive borrowing from Irish to English. The word craic may be treated as an Irish word now but it is very definitely a borrowing from English or Scots and therefore can’t be the origin of craicire. Cracaire in Irish (modern spelling craicire) is first found (as far as I can ascertain) in O’Reilly’s Irish-English Dictionary of 1817, where it means a boaster. I cannot find any reference to it in Corpas na Gaeilge (a collection of poems, prose works and songs in Irish from the 17th to the 19th centuries, with over seven million words of searchable text). It is not in the Electronic Dictionary of Irish Texts.

In other words, the fourth possibility is by far the most likely – that this word originates from English or Scots cracker (derived from crack meaning loud noise, conversation) and then was borrowed into Irish and Scottish Gaelic in the 18th century. The word seems to be derived from the Middle English cnac, or crak, which originally meant the sound of the cracking of a whip and later came to mean loud or bragging talk. Cracker goes back a long way in English. It is found in Shakespeare’s King John (1595): “What cracker is this same that deafs our ears with this abundance of superfluous breath?”

Just a word about a couple of other pieces of dishonesty in Cassidy’s idiotic book. In the book, Cassidy mentions that some slang dictionaries claim that cracker is linked to the sound of slave-masters cracking their whips and says that Dwelly’s dictionary confirms this. However, when we look at the original quotation from Dwelly, it directs you to the word cnacair:

“Cnacair, sm Talker, (Scot, cracker). 2 Cracker. 3 Cracker of a whip. 4 Knocker. (see: http://www.dwelly.info/index.aspx)”

In other words, it does mention ‘cracker of a whip’, as Cassidy says. However, it also says that this is not really a Gaelic word at all, but a borrowing from Scots (not Scottish Gaelic, but the Lowland Scots cousin of English). How did Cassidy miss this vital piece of information? Well, I don’t believe he did. He continually doctored and edited the information he found in his sources in order to make the best case possible for whatever piece of nonsense he was trying to prove. He had no respect for the truth or for the values of genuine scholarship.

I should also point out that this word is mentioned in Green English, Loretto Todd’s May 2000 book on the Irish influence on English. I have discussed this before. It is a rather slapdash affair, though nowhere near as flaky as Cassidy’s ‘research’. I am convinced that Cassidy used it as a source, though there is no acknowledgement of his indebtedness in the book.

Incidentally, there was also an historian of Celtic influences on the Old South called Grady McWhiney who insisted (erroneously) that cracker derived from craic. I don’t know if Cassidy had come across this book or not.

Once again, Cassidy’s claims turn out to be self-serving, dishonest, badly-researched baloney.