Tag Archives: Stephen Taylor

Twits of the Month – Internet Experts

This month’s twits are a broad category rather than an individual, though I will refer to individuals who belong to this class as well. The category is that of Internet experts. By this, I don’t mean people who are experts on the Internet or its use. I mean people who have appointed themselves as experts on topics like etymology and who go around ‘helpfully’ adding information and reviews about the subject on public forums and sites like Amazon and Goodreads. Here’s an example, a man called Brian McCarthy who gave Cassidy’s ridiculous book a glowing review and a four star rating on Goodreads. Whatever changed his mind, he then wrote the following as a comment:

Further to my review – the book has a lot of conjecture (as do dictionaries) so you can’t assume it’s all correct. Some say it’s enjoyable fiction or even 100% false. You can’t prove it one way or the other but if you have an open mind you can learn from it.

I need hardly point out that comparing the outright fantasies in Cassidy’s book to the (generally) intelligent speculations of lexicographers is stupid. However, the thing that most annoys me here is the idea that ‘you can’t prove it one way or the other’. Why can’t you prove it one way or the other? I’ll return to that question below.

There are lots of people like this, and they come from all walks of life. For example, on Quora, we find the following from a retired academic with a number of degrees, Dr Robert Jeantet (https://www.quora.com/Where-did-the-term-Holy-cow-originate-from):

When one thinks of expressions as “gee whiz”, “gee whillikers”, “darn”, or even “holy cow”, it is easy to trace them to New York slang of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Their origin, however, escapes the learned minds of most classically-trained linguists who do not know Irish Gaelic. Fortunately some fluent speakers of Gaelic have been able to explain the origin of these terms, including “holy cow”. I quote below from Daniel Cassidy’s book, “How the Irish Invented Slang”.

On the same thread, there is a comment from someone called Stephen Taylor, who styles himself an ‘amateur etymologist’, who also takes all Cassidy’s claims like Holy Cow from Holy Cathú and Gee whillikers from Dia Thoil(l)eachas and Gee Whiz from Dia Uas as genuine.

Now, I’m sure these are decent people and well-intentioned (though not all the people on line who support Daniel Cassidy’s dross are nice or well-intentioned people, by any means), but they do deserve to be criticised. Why? Well, there is enough bogus shite out there on the internet already. The idea that things cannot be proven so all you can do is decide what you want to believe is a cop-out. When you encounter claims from people like Daniel Cassidy or Graham Hancock or Erich von Daniken, you need to check all the facts carefully and make a decision accordingly.

Let’s just take the example of Holy Cow. You can easily find accounts of the genuine explanations here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holy_cow_(expression).  You can also look up Irish dictionaries here (https://www.focloir.ie/ga/dictionary/ei/Dia) where you will find that there is no evidence for the existence of the phrases Dia Thoil(l)eachas, Dia Uas, Holy Cathú or Holy Mac Ríúil. They are completely fake phrases, invented by Cassidy to sound like the English targets. The Irish for God’s will is Toil Dé, not Dia Thoil(l)eachas. Cathú means temptation, not grief (though grief is an obscure subsidiary meaning) and there is no evidence it’s ever been used in an exclamation. And the phrase Mac Ríúil doesn’t exist at all.

Of course, Cassidy claimed that these were real phrases. He offered no evidence. No explanation for why nobody else had ever made the connection between these phrases and the Irish equivalents. No explanation why the only references to these ‘Irish’ phrases on Google are to Cassidy and his book (unlike real Irish phrases like Dia ár sábháil).  And Cassidy had a proven record of inventing things, randomly grabbing terms like Ku Klux Klan, Gunga Din, Abracadabra and Bailiwick to claim them for Irish. (Though he had dropped three of these particular fantasies by the time he came to write the book.)

In other words, I think people like McCarthy and Jeantet and Taylor should just ask themselves this simple question. If there were a law against spreading bogus information, if you could end up fined or in jail for doing it, would you still enthusiastically click that button, or would you do five minutes of research before helping to increase the amount of fake nonsense in the world? If the answer is the latter, perhaps you should be doing that anyway.

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Amadáin na Míosa – Saineolaithe an Idirlín

Is catagóir leathan iad amadáin na míosa seo in áit duine nó daoine ar leith, cé go ndéanfaidh mé tagairt do dhaoine ar leith a bhaineann leis an aicme seo chomh maith. Is é an chatagóir atá i gceist ná saineolaithe Idirlín. Ní saineolaithe ar an Idirlíon nó ar úsáid an Idirlín atá i gceist agam, ach daoine a cheap iad féin mar shaineolaithe ar ábhair ar nós na sanasaíochta agus a bhíonn ag roinnt a gcuid ‘eolais’ ar an tsaol ar fhóraim agus ar shuíomhanna poiblí mar Amazon agus Goodreads. Seo sampla amháin, fear darb ainm Brian McCarthy a thug léirmheas iontach dearfach agus rátáil ceithre réalta do leabhar amaideach Cassidy ar Goodreads. Cibé rud a chuir air teacht ar athchomhairle, scríobh sé an méid seo a leanas mar thuairim ar a léirmheas:

Further to my review – the book has a lot of conjecture (as do dictionaries) so you can’t assume it’s all correct. Some say it’s enjoyable fiction or even 100% false. You can’t prove it one way or the other but if you have an open mind you can learn from it.

Ní gá dom a rá gur rud bómánta é na fantaisiochtaí gan chiall i leabhar Cassidy a chur i gcomparáid leis na buillí faoi thuairim (a bhíonn ciallmhar, den chuid is mó) a dhéanann lucht na bhfoclóirí. Ach an rud is mó a chuireann isteach orm anseo ná an tuairim nach féidir é ‘a chruthú bealach amháin ná bealach eile’. Cén fáth nach dtig leat é a chruthú bealach amháin ná bealach eile? Fillfidh mé ar an cheist sin thíos.

Tá a lán daoine den chineál seo ann agus is dream an-éagsúil iad fosta. Mar shampla, tá an píosa seo a leanas le feiceáil ar Quora, le hiarléachtóir a bhfuil roinnt céimeanna aige, an Dr Robert Jeantet (https://www.quora.com/Where-did-the-term-Holy-cow-originate-from):

When one thinks of expressions as “gee whiz”, “gee whillikers”, “darn”, or even “holy cow”, it is easy to trace them to New York slang of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Their origin, however, escapes the learned minds of most classically-trained linguists who do not know Irish Gaelic. Fortunately some fluent speakers of Gaelic have been able to explain the origin of these terms, including “holy cow”. I quote below from Daniel Cassidy’s book, “How the Irish Invented Slang”.

Ar an chomhrá chéanna, tá tuairim ó dhuine éigin darb ainm Stephen Taylor, a thugann ‘sanasaí amaitéarach’, air féin agus a ghlacann teoiricí amaideacha uilig Cassidy i ndáiríre, rudaí mar Holy Cow ag teacht ó Holy Cathú, Gee Whillikers ó Dia Thoil(l)eachas agus Gee Whiz ó Dia Uas.

Anois, is dócha gur daoine deasa na daoine seo, agus nach bhfuil siad ag iarraidh bheith mioscaiseach (cé nach daoine deasa dea-chroíocha iad gach duine a thacaíonn le Cassidy agus a chuid raiméise ar line, ná baol air), ach sílim féin go bhfuil cáineadh tuillte acu anseo. Cad chuige? Bhal, tá go leor amaidí amuigh ansin ar an idirlíon cheana féin. An dearcadh nach féidir rud ar bith a chruthú agus nach féidir rud ar bith a dhéanamh ach cibé rud is mian leat a bheith fíor a roghnú, níl ansin ach séanadh freagrachta. Nuair a fhoilsíonn daoine ar nós Daniel Cassidy nó Graham Hancock nó Erich Von Daniken rudaí amaideacha, ní mor duit na fíricí a chinntiú go cúramach agus cinneadh a dhéanamh dá réir.

An frása Holy Cow, mar shampla. Ní deacair cuntas a fháil ar na mínithe cearta anseo: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holy_cow_(expression)   Agus is féidir leat foclóirí Gaeilge a aimsiú anseo (https://www.focloir.ie/ga/dictionary/ei/Dia). Sna foinsí sin, gheobhaidh tú amach nach bhfuil fianaise go raibh frásaí ar nós Dia Thoil(l)eachas, Dia Uas, Holy Cathú nó Holy Mac Ríúil riamh ann. Tá said go huile agus go hiomlán bréagach, rudaí a chum Cassidy ionas go mbeadh siad cosúil leis na frásaí Béarla ó thaobh fuaime de. Is é Toil Dé an Ghaeilge atá ar ‘the will of God’, ní Dia Thoil(l)eachas. Ní chiallaíonn cathú brón (cé gur fochiall den fhocal é sin) agus níl fianaise ar bith ann gur baineadh úsáid as riamh mar uaillbhreas. Agus níl an frása Mac Ríúil ann ar chor ar bith.

Ar ndóigh, mhaígh Cassidy gur fíorGhaeilge a bhí sa raiméis seo. Níor thug sé fianaise ar bith dúinn. Níor mhínigh sé cad chuige nach ndearna duine ar bith eile nasc idir na frásaí seo agus a gcomhfhrásaí a d’aimsigh seisean i nGaeilge. Níor mhínigh sé cad chuige nach bhfuil tagairt ar bith do na frásaí ‘Gaeilge’ seo ar Google ach tagairtí do Cassidy agus don leabhar bhómánta aige (ní hionann agus fíorGhaeilge ar nós Dia ár sábháil). Agus bhí nós na cumadóireachta ag Cassidy. Bhí bréagbhunúis ‘Ghaeilge’ cumtha aige do leithéidí Ku Klux Klan, Gunga Din, Abracadabra agus Bailiwick. (Cé go raibh trí cinn de na fantaisíochtaí áirithe seo dearmadta aige faoin am ar scríobh sé an leabhar.)

Lena rá ar dhóigh eile, sílim gur chóir do dhaoine mar McCarthy agus Jeantet agus Taylor an cheist shimplí seo a chur orthu féin. Dá mbeadh dlí ar na leabhair in éadan eolas bréige a scaipeadh, dá dtiocfadh leat fíneáil nó téarma príosúnachta a fháil as sin a dhéanamh, an mbeifeá sásta cliceáil ar an chnaipe bheag sin go fóill, nó an ndéanfá cúig nóiméad taighde roimh chur leis an méid amaidí ar an idirlíon? Más é an dara ceann é, b’fhéidir gur chóir duit sin a dhéanamh cibé.