Tag Archives: Montserrat

A Reply to Jah

I have had a brief message from someone using the username Jah in relation to my piece on Irish and Jamaican Slang:

Hi, I am doing research for my dissertation and came across this article. While somewhat insightful, it comes across as very harsh and angry- almost disgusted at the idea that there could be Irish influences on Jamaica (whose second largest ethnic group is Irish). Either way I would love to have a chat regarding your thoughts on the connection between the two- not merely linguistically and some of your research sources. Thanks!

While I am very busy, I will give you a few minutes of my valuable time to explain my position and correct a couple of wrong assumptions in your message. Firstly, if there is any disgust in my piece (and there probably is), it was directed at the late Daniel Cassidy and his flagrant lying. However, I think we can reasonably assume that Daniel Cassidy knew as much about Jamaica as he did about Ireland, so any argument on these matters should simply ignore Cassidy and look at other sources.

Secondly, you are wrong to think that I find the idea of links between Irish culture and Jamaican culture annoying or unlikely or unacceptable.. We know that there was a lot of emigration from Ireland to that part of the world, as you say, and in theory, I have nothing against the idea that there might be an influence. What I’m saying is that there is simply no evidence in terms of vocabulary, grammatical structures or indeed, anything else!

One thing that really does disgust me (because I hate people like Cassidy and his supporters) is lazy and irrational thinking. As I said in my piece, I have looked for evidence of Irish influence on Jamaican English and I didn’t find any. Many words have been suggested, like ganzi, or banikleva (various spellings). Take those two examples. Geansaí is the Irish for a jumper but this is because it’s a recent borrowing of a dialect version of Guernsey and this is also the origin of the Jamaican term. Banikleva does come from bainne clábair but this was English of Irish origin rather than Irish – it was found all over the English-speaking world (as bonnyclabber) in the eighteenth century with the meaning of curdled milk. Which is why, when people say, ‘there are loads of examples’, it doesn’t impress me, because it there are, I want to know what they are and whether they really are examples of Irish influence.

As I said, even in Montserrat, which has a very strong Irish influence, there is relatively little trace of the Irish language in Montserrat versions of English. The article I gave a link to quotes the word mensha as meaning a young female goat, which is clearly the Irish word minseach, meaning a nanny-goat. This in itself is a fascinating survival and it hints at the linguistic riches that a researcher might have found in Montserrat a hundred years ago. However, the researchers weren’t there and neither is the evidence. Not for Montserrat, not for Jamaica, not for Barbados or anywhere in the Caribbean.

So, my question to you is, what are you going to write in your dissertation? How can you write about a phenomenon that simply doesn’t exist?

More on Caribbean Slang

I had a message recently from someone called mat_leith (Mat Leith? Mat from Leith? Who cares!)  in relation to my post on Irish and Jamaican slang. In that post, I discussed how few traces the Irish language left on Caribbean slang (though I am quite prepared to accept that Irish was spoken by some people in the Caribbean and America, both black and white). Here’s his message:

Your actually a retard there are atleast half a dozen patois words with clear irish origions

Yeah, I’m a retard, as is the academic whose work I quoted. I mean, why respect Professor John Wells’ opinion just because he’s a linguist with a BA from Cambridge, an MA and a PhD from UCL, fluency in a Celtic language (Welsh) and decades of experience, as well as being in a very long-term relationship with a guy from Montserrat?

I wouldn’t bother answering this nonsense at all but it does give me a chance to reiterate my position on when people deserve a reply and when they don’t. So, to all the deluded trolls and arrogant dumbasses like Mat out there, people who continually fall into the abyss of ignorance that lies between what they know and what they think they know, let me just make myself clear. I am not interested in your opinions. If you’re just going to send me a message to tell me how smart you are (even if you can’t spell you’re or origins), don’t bother. If you have any genuine evidence to offer (such as what the five or six words of Irish origi(o)n in Caribbean English are), then please supply it so that I can refute it or agree with it. If not, go and waste someone else’s time.

 

Irish and Jamaican Slang

I recently came across an interesting little comment from a certain Bob Fagan, who ran into Cassidy in an empty classroom in New College of California in 2005 or 2006. As Fagan says:

When I heard he was Professor of Irish Studies, I asked him if he had ever heard the theory that much Jamaican/reggae slang comes from Gaelic words that had entered their language centuries earlier, when Irish immigrants and indentured servants settled in Jamaica. Forgetting about his papers, he walked up to the blackboard and for the next ten minutes, wrote down every Jamaican slang term I threw at him, and figured out its Gaelic origins. It was obvious to me that this was a man in love with language, with teaching, as well as with learning. It was an unexpected, brief but truly delightful and memorable encounter.

I would love to have been a fly on the wall listening to Cassidy bullshitting that day. There is, of course, no evidence for Irish influence on Jamaican slang. A quick search on Google fails to turn up even one clear instance of an Irish or Gaelic slang term used in Jamaican patois. Even Montserrat, which has a much stronger claim to direct Irish connections, has almost no Irish influence on its speech patterns. (This source mentions one word which is found in Montserrat which is not found elsewhere and has a clear Irish origin, but generally finds the evidence of an Irish influence on the speech of Montserrat very underwhelming: http://www.phon.ucl.ac.uk/home/wells/brogue.htm)

I wonder what kind of rubbish Cassidy produced as he ‘figured out’ the Gaelic origins of these words for Bob Fagan that day. I’ll have a guess. No doubt, according to Cassidy, jah (in the real world, a shortened form of Jehovah) came from the Irish Dia (God), pronounced jeea. And I think he could well have suggested that irie, meaning good or excellent, comes from éirí, meaning rising or succeeding, though nobody has ever said “Tá sé éirí” in Irish.

Or perhaps (because Cassidy really didn’t know any Irish at all and I’m sure couldn’t have come up with even ludicrous fake Irish candidates without access to a dictionary) he just invented a load of random nonsense, plucking fake Irish words out of his arse to impress a total stranger. Because that’s what hateful ignorant narcissists like Cassidy do, invent a load of lying nonsense in a desperate, needy attempt to impress strangers, then leave the messes they create for other people to clear up.