Tag Archives: owen kelly

A Reply To Owen 2

In my last post, I criticised a message from a certain Owen Kelly, who trotted out the same boring, hackneyed nonsense used by every other Cassidy supporter. In this message, Kelly suggests that the Irish invented a new version of their language in America: “It could have been used to mean it back in the day but only in the Irish-American circles. Most of his slang definitions were supposed to have originated here in America but were based on localized and parochial use of the Irish language by earlier Irish immigrants and their non-Irish associates. Not necessarily mainstream and most likely never in use in Ireland. This might explain why it would not have been heard among Irish people in Ireland.”. I have given this some further thought and it seems to me that there are a number of points which need to be questioned.

Firstly, supposed by whom, exactly? Cassidy did not claim this himself. He never said that the material given in his book was a new version of Irish specific to the States and unrecorded. In fact, he tells us again and again that this is ‘what an Irish speaker would say’. For example, he says of the word cooze that ‘cuas is a neutral anatomical term in Irish.’ Not was – is. He even claimed (though not in the book) that he checked his ‘research’ with Irish speakers. Presumably, these putative (and probably imaginary) Gaels were supposed to be live modern Irish speakers, not long-dead criminal inhabitants of Hell’s Kitchen contacted using a Ouija board. So, people like Owen think we should take Cassidy’s claims seriously. But because Cassidy’s Irish phrases don’t make sense in real Irish, these people have decided that they are in a totally new American version of Irish. In other words, they have decided to shift the goalposts and claim things that Cassidy himself didn’t.

Secondly, these claims show a deep lack of respect for Irish. After all, according to these people, Irish was such a lame language that it simply wasn’t good enough to provide decent phrases for concepts like idiot, or grumble, or nonsense, or hundreds of others, so Irish speakers in the US were supposedly forced to invent a new version from scratch. I don’t accept any of this. Irish has plenty of good, expressive words and phrases like amhas, amadán, seoinín, glagaire, leá dia, scraiste, bobarún. Why wouldn’t at least some of these have been borrowed instead of or as well as this putative new-fangled dialect of the language?

And even if you choose to accept this nonsense about the new-fangled Irish dialect of America with its bizarre words and phrases like n-each and uí bhfolaíocht án, can you reasonably expect other people to accept it, people like scholars and linguists and dictionary-makers? Why should they, when there isn’t a shred of evidence for its existence? The Cassidy-lovers keep pretending that the lexicographers and scholars are the ones who haven’t done their job properly. The truth is that Cassidy was a joke as an academic. Any lexicographer or linguist or historian who put any of Cassidy’s unsupported claims into a scholarly work of reference would be failing to do their job properly, and failing massively.

It is nearly ten years since this ridiculous book was first published. To me, it is completely inexplicable that people are still pretending that there is anything worth arguing about here. Cassidy didn’t get it right. He wasn’t a genius. He wasn’t even possessed of basic, ordinary competence. This book is simply trash and anyone who tells you otherwise is either stupid, a lunatic or a con-man. Take your pick!

A Reply To Owen

I have had a comment relating to the word ‘cooze’ from a Cassidy supporter called Owen Kelly. This is an American slang term which makes its appearance first after the Second World War. There is no agreement about its origin, but Wikipedia states that words in Kurdish and Arabic with the meaning of vagina are similar in sound to cooze, and also that Danish has a slang term kusse with the same meaning. The Wikipedia entry suggests that the word might have been brought back by American GIs returning from North Africa after the war.

Cassidy’s claim is that the word comes from Irish cuas, which means a nook or recess and which Cassidy claims means vagina. As I have shown, there is no evidence that the word cuas ever had the meaning vagina in any dialect of Irish.

Owen’s opening comment is to ask why cuas couldn’t have been used by Irish speakers in America in this way, even if it isn’t found in Ireland with this sense. My answer is that, as Yiddish speakers say, yes, and if my grandmother had balls she’d be my grandfather.  OK, there is an infinitesimally small chance that cuas might have been used in this way, and might have lain dormant in some small community for a hundred years before becoming common after the Second World War. However, linguists and lexicographers don’t like explanations which involve two what-ifs and a maybe, and neither do I. After all, if you don’t think any evidence is needed, where do you stop? For example, the French word for thigh is cuisse. What if some obscure and unrecorded French dialect used this as a word for vagina, and what if this was brought to New Orleans, and maybe it became common in American English after the War as cooze …  In other words, methodology which can be used to prove anything ultimately proves nothing.

Owen goes on to say that he has read Cassidy’s book (well, I would hope so, if he’s commenting on it) and that most of it is convincing. This is not an argument. It is an opinion. He gives no information about his knowledge of Irish or lack of it, or why he believes himself to be qualified to make this judgement and most importantly, he makes no attempt to square this with the information provided on this blog or given by other critics of Cassidy.

I have probably covered about half of the claims made by Cassidy here. So, did I get it wrong? How? And if I didn’t, does Owen seriously think that I got my analysis right but everything else in Cassidy’s book which I haven’t (yet) covered is correct? As I have said to other people who have expressed the same opinions, if you want to defend Cassidy, then you’ll have to deal in specific information, not vague opinions.

Finally, Owen repeats the hoary old chestnut about the tendency of the Anglo world to discriminate against the Irish, as if that somehow confirms Cassidy’s argument. Even if you accept that this kind of discrimination occurs in academia, is there any evidence to suggest that it extends to preventing people knowing about word origins? I mean, do the origins of obscure words really matter so much to the powers that be? Is any nation really going to be so keen to assert their ownership of words like cooze and wanker?

The fact is, there is no evidence of dictionary makers in England or in America discriminating against Irish or Gaelic words. There are dozens of Irish words in the dictionaries which are accepted by the lexicographers, words like puss and shebeen. Why did these supposedly biased lexicographers accept these while rejecting the vast majority of Cassidy’s claims? The answer is very simple. There is evidence for puss and shebeen being Irish. There is simply no evidence for the majority of Cassidy’s claims. Cassidy didn’t know any Irish and his work was botched and completely without value.

In short, I’m fed up repeating myself for the benefit of people who can’t be bothered reading the posts here properly or presenting an intelligent argument. I mean, which part of phrases like ‘con-man’, ‘compulsive liar’ and ‘complete ignorance of the Irish language’ do these people not understand? I am not going to provide a platform for vain and intellectually lazy people to make absurd claims about the supposed merits of Cassidy’s work. In future, any such comments will simply be deleted UNLESS they deal with specific facts rather than vague generalisations.

After all, if the fools who believe in Cassidy’s absurd ideas want to express their ignorance in public, there are plenty of places where they can do that, or they can found their own blog where they can repeat the same old nonsense over and over again without having to touch base with reality at all. As for this blog, it is about telling the truth and shaming Daniel Cassidy and that’s how it’s going to stay.