Tag Archives: Donnacha DeLong

IrishCentral and Irish Slavery

Recently, I came across a fascinating document on line by an academic at the University of Limerick called Liam Hogan. In March 2016, in the run up to St Patrick’s Day, Hogan published an open letter to The Irish Examiner, Scientific American and IrishCentral, criticising the nonsense they have promoted which claims that huge numbers of Irish people were enslaved by the British and that the first slaves in the Caribbean and in the Americas were really Irish. Hogan is pointing out that the indentured servitude and penal servitude of the Irish in the 17th century, while it was harsh and brutal, wasn’t the same as chattel slavery and should not be compared directly to it. He also points out that there are outright fabrications, distortions and exaggerations in the accounts of Irish ‘slavery’.

You can find it here: https://medium.com/@Limerick1914/open-letter-to-irish-central-irish-examiner-and-scientific-american-about-their-irish-slaves-3f6cf23b8d7f#.mqeiu3req

Hogan states that it is important for people in the Internet age to check sources and be responsible in what they publish. He points out that white supremacists and opponents of the Black Lives Matter campaign are using this disinformation to make light of the legacy of slavery among African Americans.

The letter was signed by fifty academics, primarily history specialists. Two of the publications targeted by Hogan, the Irish Examiner and Scientific American, accepted the criticism and changed their output accordingly. What was the response of Niall O’Dowd and IrishCentral? Well, anyone who has read this blog will have a pretty good idea. The response was to ignore it. The original article is still on IrishCentral. You can find it here: http://www.irishcentral.com/roots/irish-the-forgotten-white-slaves-says-expert-john-martin-188645531

There are some interesting parallels here to my issues with IrishCentral. For a number of years, IrishCentral has published and republished an article by Brendan Patrick Keane about the theories of the late Daniel Cassidy, who claimed that much American and English slang comes from the Irish language. This article, like Cassidy’s book, is an incompetent collection of lying garbage. I have repeatedly criticised it here, along with IrishCentral’s editor, Niall O’Dowd, who has continued to promote this pompous crap. My criticisms have been ignored. This is only a small blog, so perhaps that is unsurprising. However, the fact that Niall O’Dowd is such a creep that he simply ignores fifty prominent academics who are accusing him of supporting false claims which have been used by white supremacists to further their ends is a surprise, even to me. (And I have actually read Niall O’Dowd’s autobiography. Jeez, what a tedious waste of a day that was! Still, thank God I only read it. I didn’t have to live it …)

There is another interesting parallel. While we don’t know who penned the IrishCentral article on Irish slaves (it’s just labelled IrishCentral Staff) it quotes from a prominent 9/11 Truther called John Martin, who is described as an ‘expert’. Brendan Patrick Keane, the author of the crap article on Cassidy, is also a 9/11 Truther.

An even stranger parallel is that an Irish numpty called Donnacha DeLong supported Cassidy and was criticised by me here. Guess who published an article critical of Hogan on his blog in May 2016? Yep, Donnacha DeLong! You can find it here: https://donnachadelong.info/2016/05/13/irish-slavery-fact-or-myth/

DeLong’s arguments are as imbecilic as the crap he advanced in defence of Cassidy. He describes this as a ‘stupid debate’ and accuses Hogan of making ‘a name for himself condemning those who talk about the Irish history of slavery’. DeLong condemns racism and the racists who misuse the Irish slave meme but then says ‘lumping everyone who’s looking into the treatment of the Irish in the 17th Century in with neonazis and racists is simply wrong.’ He doesn’t explain who exactly is doing this lumping. Hogan is certainly not accusing everyone who believes in the Irish slavery meme of being a racist and he’s not saying that the English treated the Irish well. He’s saying that the way people of African descent were treated was much worse. Which it was.

DeLong recommends that people should look at other sources, like Peter Linebaugh’s co-written The Many-Headed Hydra. Linebaugh, a very mediocre Marxist historian, was also a big fan of Cassidy’s nonsense. Like DeLong’s, Linebaugh’s response to Cassidy’s work shows that he simply can’t be arsed doing the research a real historian or journalist should do.

Anyway, a thousand thanks and a big round of applause to Liam Hogan and to everybody else in this story who has stood up for honest, evidence-based research and journalism. As for Donnacha DeLong, Niall O’Dowd, John Martin, Brendan Patrick Keane and all the rest, shame on the lot of you, you shower of dim-witted post-truth arseholes! People like you make me ashamed to be Irish!

Fact or Fun?

While I don’t intend to blog on a regular basis in 2016, I have decided to start the New Year with a post about a question which has been bothering me for some time. Basically, there are two attitudes towards Cassidy’s fake ‘research’ among those who support him. One is that Cassidy didn’t claim to be a serious academic researcher and that his book was just a bit of fun. The other, opposing view, is that Cassidy’s work is of immense value and significance and that it ‘throws down a gauntlet’ to the prevailing academic view of Irish influence on English.

Why is this issue worthy of a post? Well, firstly, there are some clowns like Donnacha DeLong and Michael Patrick MacDonald who actually try to maintain both of these contradictory views at once! According to DeLong, Cassidy’s work is simply a set of suggestions humbly offered to the public for their consideration with much of it clearly labelled as speculative, yet at the same time Cassidy was pushing at an imaginary ‘locked door’, which presumably means that the world of academia and the dictionary makers were the ones who locked the door to prevent Irish derivations from gaining access. Of course, the truth is, they’re quite willing to accept Irish derivations when words genuinely have Irish derivations, like shebeen and sourpuss. What they don’t do is accept lunatic off-the-wall derivations without any evidence, and why should they?

An even stupider statement of the same ilk is found on Twitter, where Cassidy’s chum(p) Michael Patrick MacDonald answered an intelligent critic who described Cassidy’s book as ‘academic fraud’ with the words: ‘Never was academic. Bigger than that. It raises serious questions about the racist OED lapdogs.’

So, it’s not academic. But it challenges the running dogs of English imperialism at the OED. Just not with facts or evidence, apparently. It’s bigger than that. (Have you been taking lessons from Dylan Avery, Michael?)

You see, if Cassidy’s work was just a joke, then it isn’t entertaining, or interesting, or worth reading, because it’s a very unfunny joke. Either Cassidy’s derivations are the Irish origins of English phrases (which they aren’t) or the literary quotes and stupid comments and anti-intellectual jibes in How The Irish Invented Slang are just a random collection of nothings thrown together by one man’s crazy obsession.

And if Cassidy’s book isn’t just a piece of ‘amusing’ fluff without any real substance, if it is a genuine challenge to the academics, then why doesn’t it play according to the rules of academia? I mean, academic methodology isn’t random, any more than the selection process for professors is random.

If Cassidy wanted to challenge the dictionary dudes, there were certain things he needed to do. The first and most indispensable of these things was to learn Irish. And in spite of Cassidy’s claims that places like New York were awash with Irish even in the twentieth century and that his grandparents spoke Donegal Irish (though none of them came from Donegal – his one Irish-born grandparent came from Monaghan), Cassidy seems to have never engaged with the Irish language in any manner, shape or form until he was in his late fifties. It is bizarre that a man who spoke no Irish thought it was OK to invent phrases by picking words out of the dictionary and throwing them together with a blithe disregard for how the language is actually used. However, Cassidy was a nut-job and that’s why it seemed perfectly fine to him.

Anyway, because he also discussed Scottish Gaelic, Cassidy would have needed a working knowledge of Gaelic too. Plus a knowledge of slang and non-standard English and of the sources available for those subjects.

Not only that, but in the world of linguistics, there are thousands of articles and books available on the subject of language contact. Just try putting in keywords like ‘language contact’ and ‘loanword’ on Google and see how many references come up. The fact is, whole books have been written about the way that vocabulary is borrowed when languages come into contact. For example, it will come as no surprise to anyone who has ever thought about it that nouns are borrowed most frequently and that this is a universal of language contact. (Rather than random bits of phrases like ‘n-each’!) A knowledge of this literature would also be an essential for writing an academic book about the influence of one language on another.

Is this reasonable? I hear some people say. Cassidy would have had to have devoted most of his life to acquiring the skills necessary to write the book. Yeah, like tens of thousands of people in academia, he would have had to have done more than scratch at the surface and blether. People do spend their whole lives acquiring a knowledge of a particular field. If someone wanted to write an academic work about quantum physics or pure mathematics, you would expect them to know everything about the basics of the subject and virtually everything about the particular topic they are specialising in before setting pen to paper. Most people think there is no special skill involved in linguistics (because most people know jack shit about linguistics) but believe me, you can’t walk into any field of academic study and make a valid contribution without either being a total genius (which Cassidy certainly wasn’t) or having done the necessary work first.

Which brings me to another thing Cassidy didn’t do. When anyone sets out to write a dissertation or a book or a long article in any field of academia, the first thing they do is a literature review. This doesn’t mean they read a novel and discuss it. It means that they find out what has been written about their area of study, examine it, look for strengths and weaknesses, assess the current state of knowledge in the field. They do this because you don’t want to spend three years working on reinventing the wheel. They also do this because true learning tends to progress incrementally on the basis of what other people have already done rather than through massive sudden paradigm-shifts like the one claimed for and by Cassidy. And they also do it because if you don’t do it, you could be repeating claims or ideas which have already been made by other people, leaving you open to allegations of plagiarism. Cassidy failed to do this, of course, and there are many, many claims made in Cassidy’s book which have already been made by others: longshoreman coming from loingseoir; uncle in ‘say uncle’ coming from anacal; shanty coming from seanteach; snazzy from snasach. In fact, anything even slightly believable in Cassidy’s book was already out there. Only the flagrant rubbish is original.

What else didn’t Cassidy do? Well, one obvious thing is to give equal and fair respect to all of the potential origins. To give an example we have had recently in connection with that pompous twit Sean Sweeney, there are many different claims for the origin of the slang term ‘so long’. Some suggest it comes from Arabic (or Urdu or Malay) salaam, or from shalom in Hebrew, or from slán in Irish, or from German adieu so lange or from Scandinavian equivalents like Adjø så lenge (where the so lange and så lenge mean ‘for now’). Rather than research the term thoroughly and give the full range of potential explanations, Cassidy applies a racist and ad hominem approach. Basically, according to Cassidy, all non-Irish non-Catholic English-speaking lexicographers are liars and any explanation which does not involve an Irish origin should be airbrushed out of the record. (Including Terence Dolan’s 2004 Dictionary of Hiberno-English, which mentions the slán theory but dismisses it as improbable.)

However, there is an even more fundamental flaw in Cassidy’s methodology. In one unintentionally funny comment on a review of the book, Donnacha DeLong says that ‘This is how research in this area happens, someone speculates and then others investigate and either verify or falsify what they’ve done.’ Really? That’s how it happens? So, I suggest that twerk comes from the Irish ‘tairg’ meaning ‘offer, proffer, move, put forward, express readiness to’ and then I just sit around waiting for someone else to point out that twerk originates in the southern USA in the last twenty years and that it is far more likely to be somehow related to words like ‘work’ and/or ‘twitch’ and that tairg basically means offer and doesn’t sound like twerk anyway? So, Donnacha, you think academic linguists just sit around with an empty schedule and a belly full of swan waiting for other people to do their job for them? The fact is, Cassidy and only Cassidy was responsible for the shite he wrote. It was his job, as it’s the job of every academic (even a fake one like Cassidy), to sift the bollocks from the bullseyes and write something which is a reasonable stab at the truth before anyone else even gets a sniff of the manuscript.

Cassidy failed to do what needed to be done, because he was incompetent, crazy as a soup sandwich, lazy as a piper’s little finger, stupid as a kish of brogues, useless, totally unqualified and completely lacking in any of the skills necessary to be an academic of any kind.

Hopefully my next post will be on my Liebster Award nominations and some information about my favourite subject – me!

 

 

Donnacha DeLong

 

Some of the people you find supporting Daniel Cassidy’s nonsense would surprise you. Some of them don’t immediately seem like cranks. One such person is Donnacha DeLong, a journalist and former worker with Amnesty International. For a while, he was also the President of the National Union of Journalists. He was raised in Dublin and attended a Gaelscoil. From his tweets, it seems that he does have some fluency, though his Irish is far from perfect.

For some reason, DeLong has posted in support of Cassidy in several places. In December 2011, he was posting this comment on a review on Amazon.uk:

Cassidy makes clear in the book that he’s speculating about many of the suggestions he’s making. This is how research in this area happens, someone speculates and then others investigate and either verify or falsify what they’ve done. To reject the entire work because you can falsify some (or even most) of his suggestions is unfair and, if as you say, it’s preventing scholars doing further work on the topic, that’s ridiculously unscientific.

The reviewer gave him short shrift. Then more recently, he rushed to the defence of Brendan Patrick Keane’s terrible article on IrishCentral when it was savaged by intelligent people on the comments page:

This is simply not true. Cassidy put a huge amount of research into parts of the book – the parts on jazz, on poker, on nonsense verse – were based on proper documentary research. And it’s not as if he didn’t signpost his guesswork. I’d guess that no more than 40% of the list is credible as an explanation – agus is gaelgeoir mé. He was trying to start something, get others to do the kind of research that they simply hadn’t bothered doing for years. And I think he managed to push the locked door just enough. Slagging him off inaccurately serves no-one. 

Grant Barrett, veteran campaigner against Cassidy’s rubbish, was quick to answer:

You’ve been defending this terrible book and unscholarly research for years. What’s your stake in this? Why are you more interested in Daniel being right than you are in furthering a correct understanding of the Irish and Gaelic influence on English?

As Barrett suggested, there are several main points here which need to be challenged. Firstly, how did Cassidy ‘signpost his guesswork’ or make clear that he was speculating? The book is completely free of any suggestion that Cassidy might have got it wrong. The OED, Merriam-Webster, these people were, according to Cassidy, making ridiculous stabs in the dark, while Cassidy’s own derivations were accurate and correct. If Donnacha deLong or anyone else can find a quote which sounds as though Cassidy is expressing the slightest doubt about his own work, then please post it here. As I’ve said before on this blog, as far as I can see, Cassidy’s book is a humility-free zone.

Secondly, according to DeLong, Cassidy did valid research.  Cassidy put a huge amount of research into parts of the book – the parts on jazz, on poker, on nonsense verse – were based on proper documentary research.  With respect, this doesn’t seem to be the case. What kind of research did Cassidy do? Did he find evidence that his Irish phrases existed? No. And to the best of my knowledge, he never did any research on nonsense verse (which means verse like Jabberwocky). What DeLong means here is nonsense refrains, and that includes the nonsense about Fillfidh mé uair éirithe and his other crazy nonsense about dogies. You would need to be pretty stupid to give any kind of credence to that.

Another is the question of how much of Cassidy’s book is in any way probable. Anyone who has followed this blog will realise that my estimate is much less than ten per cent, including many which are certainly of Irish origin like shebeen, which are already in the dictionaries. How DeLong gets 40% is beyond me. Such a figure is ludicrous. Cassidy’s book is full of weird made-up Irish phrases which simply could not have existed. As I have said, it seems that DeLong does have some fluency in Irish, though the fact that he can’t spell Gaeilgeoir is telling. However, like Grant Barrett, I am convinced that there is something here that we are not being told. I believe that DeLong must have links with Cassidy, or with Counterpunch, or with one of Cassidy’s cronies. There is simply no reason for a person who knows any Irish to support a book like this.

And finally, DeLong repeats the old chestnut that Cassidy was trying to change attitudes and that he succeeded:  He was trying to start something, get others to do the kind of research that they simply hadn’t bothered doing for years. And I think he managed to push the locked door just enough. Slagging him off inaccurately serves no-one.

 This is absurd.  Firstly, it makes me wonder, how do you know this? Are you privy to information about Cassidy’s intentions that the rest of us aren’t? I have not seen any article or anything in the book which suggests that this was Cassidy’s aim. Cassidy presents his book, his rubbishy, childish travesty of a book, as reality. This is the way that many very stupid people have chosen to take it. And meanwhile, it has had no effect at all on research into the Irish influence on English. Personally, I find DeLong’s argument inexplicable in someone describing themselves as a journalist. The figure of 40% is ridiculous, but that is DeLong’s figure and it means that according to him, at least 60% of this book is wrong. Would you buy a book on Irish history, or the Bosnian crisis, or Islam, which was 60% nonsense?!! No. And why would you buy this book if it’s less than half correct?

In conclusion, I don’t pretend to understand what DeLong thinks he’s doing here.  I believe that he is somehow linked to Cassidy and has some ulterior motive for being so positive about this nonsense. However, even if I am wrong about this, I am not wrong about Cassidy or the inadequacy of his scholarship. In relation to Cassidy, DeLong is, as we say in Irish, ag iarraidh an dubh a chur ina bhán orainn – trying to persuade us that black is white. If DeLong wants to claim to be a journalist, then he needs to learn the most basic principles of the craft, principles like being sceptical and being willing to murder your darlings. Until he’s prepared to do that, he’s only playing at being a journalist.