Tag Archives: Turtle Bunbury

When historians tweet …

I am not a big fan of Twitter. I am sure it is good for something, and I certainly don’t agree with George Clooney that its users are all moronic. No, it’s just that the limit of 140 characters means that it’s hard to say anything of real value or interest unless you talk in haikus or epigrams.

However, there’s another reason not to use Twitter, the false impression it gives of it being a disposable medium, a set of one-off, casual comments framed in an ongoing conversation. Unfortunately, nothing is like that on the internet. Nothing. Your casual, off-the-top-of-your-head popinions, your empty-headed twitterings are there for all to see, unless you choose to delete them (and even then, I bet someone, somewhere has cached the tweets concerned.)

I recently noticed that several people with a background in history have gone on Twitter to recommend an imbecilic article on IrishCentral by Brendan Patrick Keane about Cassidy’s book.

Brian Donovan (a Trinity history graduate), of Eneclann, a company specializing in Irish genealogy material (and also big in FindMyPast), posted this on Twitter in August 2015 with a link to Keane’s dim-witted and ridiculous article:

Good piece on the Irish origins of New York slang. Another “so long”= slán.

No Brian, not even close. Not even WRONG. Is this how good at history the folks at Eneclann are?

And Turtle Bunbury, an oddly-named freelance Irish historian, was obviously feeling too unwell to do all the boring work of researching this stuff (like a true Bunburyist) before he posted a link in 2014:


From a 2010 report by Brendan Patrick Keane. 

I have gone into Brendan Patrick Keane’s article in depth on this blog before, but I’ll just give you a few gems from it to show why no intelligent historian should be recommending it.

This article claims that bailiwick comes from the Irish baille [sic – it should be baile], meaning home. It doesn’t, of course. It comes from the Norman-French word for a bailiff plus the English wick. Dia thoileachas isn’t a real phrase, and isn’t the origin of Gee Whillickers. Swanky doesn’t come from the Irish somhaoineach, as swank is a cognate of German schwanken, meaning to sway. (The idea is of someone strutting proudly or arrogantly.) Snooty is from a Scottish version of snout, not from snua ard, which (if it even existed) would mean high complexion. Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera …

Now, I know that IrishCentral shouldn’t have published this insulting rubbish in the first place, but the people at IrishCentral aren’t historians … or indeed, real journalists. IrishCentral isn’t a serious news site and doesn’t provide real facts. It’s just a bit of tabloid fake-Oirish green froth, and people like Donovan and Bunbury should be a lot more careful about recommending trash like this to other people if they wish to retain any credibility at all as historians.

After all, you may be regarded as a genuine historian now, but remember that checking your sources before commenting is very important, because you’re only a couple of serious lapses like this away from being a talking head on Ancient Aliens.

Don’t say you haven’t been warned.