Tag Archives: Twit of the Month

July’s Twit of the Month – Eamonn McCann

In June, my inaugural Cassidyslangscam Twit of the Month was Jeffrey St. Clair, an ‘investigative reporter’ who was comprehensively hornswoggled by Cassidy’s puerile bullshit. In that post, I mentioned a clapped-out media ganch (ganch= a Hiberno-English expression for someone who talks too much) from Derry. For July’s Twit of the Month, I have chosen the aforementioned media ganch, Eamonn McCann of Derry.

This is part of an article McCann wrote on HotPress:

When I wrote here two years ago of Danny’s insistence that “jazz” derived from the Donegal-Irish “teas” (heat), the dominant reaction was derision.

But no-one has since been able to challenge Cassidy’s prodigious research, tracing the term back to post-Famine Donegal, then to “jass”, first used by an Irish-American sports writer of a “hot” pitch in baseball in 1913, and then in evolution to define a form of “Dixieland” music.

In the past year, the New York Times has carried a feature-page filled with testimonials to the solidity of Danny’s research. Academics and writers have accepted the validity of his thesis – that Irish is the source of much American slang.

This is complete crap and it certainly provides no evidence for the claims made. I mean, what research? There are dozens of theories about the origins of the word jazz, which first occurred in a musical context in 1912. Here’s a brief selection of them:

From the word jasmine, because jasmine oil was used in brothels and became associated with sex.

From Creole brothels where jezebels (prostitutes) worked.

From Creole patois jass “strenuous activity,” especially “sexual intercourse.”

From a black entertainer called Jas (James).

From a black entertainer called Chas (Charles).

From a Chicago musician called Jasbo (Jasper) Brown.

From jaser, a French word meaning conversation or intercourse, in various senses.

From the French word chasser, to hunt.

From a variant of jasm, a slang term dating back to 1860 that means ‘pep, energy’ and is related to jism for semen.

From various African languages, words like Mandingo jasi, ‘to become unlike oneself’.

From deas, the Irish for nice.

Cassidy’s claim that the word comes from teas is no more likely than any other claim on the list, and considerably less likely than most. (We also have to take into account that Cassidy believed the word teas was pronounced jass in Donegal – it isn’t, in any dialect of Irish. The difference between teas and deas is as phonemic as the difference between tip and dip or bad and pad in English.) Then Danny Cassidy ‘gusted into the musty world of etymology like a blast of ozone into smog’, as McCann puts it. In reality, of course, the forums of etymology were a bracing open space with continual discussion and debate, an ozone-rich place where nonsense was blown away by gales of common sense. Cassidy, the bearer of a rich urban smog of fanciful nonsense, didn’t last long when he tried to present his rubbish to etymologists. He withdrew himself from any forum he had joined but continued to believe he was right, in spite of all the criticism.

The New York Times article contained no ‘testimonials to the solidity of his research.’ This particular piece of brain-dead pseudo-journalism was simply an interview with Cassidy in a bar where he spouted some of his nonsense. Since the publication of his book, no specialist in the fields of linguistics or Irish studies has endorsed his work. None of his etymologies has been accepted by academia and not because of any anti-Irish bias. It is simply because his etymologies are all shite.

We should also point out that when Eamonn McCann calls Cassidy Danny, this is because he had known him for twelve years at the time he was writing the article. He got to know him when Cassidy was making one of his documentaries and McCann was a talking head on the film. That’s why McCann is taking everything Cassidy said as the truth – not because any of it is true, but because Cassidy was a crony of his. However, I probably wouldn’t have bestowed my Twit of the Month Award on McCann if it weren’t for the following piece, which is not only very stupid but also deeply dishonest.

The Oxford English Dictionary reckons that lunch “perhaps evolved from lump, on the analogy of the apparent relation between hump and hunch, bump and bunch.” Scholarly, eh? Danny’s truer story comes with a tour of 19th century Irish bar-rooms in New York and San Francisco: “Lunch is the plural Irish noun lóinte (pron. lónche) meaning ‘food, victuals, rations, ‘grub’ – from ‘Middle Irish lón, Old Irish lóon; (it is) cognate with Old Breton lon.” (Mac Bain’s Gaelic Etymological Dictionary; Dineen, 675; Ó Dónaill, 800.)

Sounds definitive to me.

Of course, if you look up what the OED really has to say about the vexed and tricky origins of lunch and luncheon, it is a lot longer and more complicated than the eighteen words given above. It’s a fact that lunch was used for a lump of bread or cheese over four hundred years ago in English. It is also a fact that there was a word nuncheon which meant a light meal in the afternoon, and that this is the probable origin of luncheon and that some people think the end was knocked off luncheon giving lunch, and that the modern use of lunch has nothing to do with the older word meaning a lump. If you’re really interested, there’s a link here which explains it all:

http://www.wordorigins.org/index.php/site/comments/lunch_luncheon/

As for Cassidy’s ‘Irish’, it is (as usual) a total distortion of the facts. While Cassidy copied most of the etymological details out of McBain’s Etymological Dictionary, he missed things out and put things in. No dictionary defines lón as ‘grub’, of course. Its meaning was originally ‘fat, lard’, I suppose because people needed to store fat for the winter both as food and lighting fuel. It then came to mean provisions (not exclusively food) and indeed lón cogaidh or armlón mean ammunition in modern Irish. Lón was sometimes used in the plural as lónta or lóinte, but the English etymologies for the English word lunch are far more convincing, even if they are somewhat confusing. Only an anti-intellectual dimwit with a huge chip on his shoulder would call Cassidy’s claims definitive and dismiss the scholarship of the OED.

And that, really, is where McCann has earned his Twit of the Month Award. The word definitive means that something is resolved with authority. Not only is Cassidy’s spiel distorted and devoid of any original research and any merit, the OED treatment of these words is comprehensive and scholarly. It’s also complex and difficult to follow, as the truth very often is. (As McCann found out on the Nolan Show, where he made Diane Abbott look polished.) The idea that Cassidy’s simplistic and twisted account of the facts is in any way comparable to the OED or to any other real scholarly account of etymology is just nonsense. Worse than that, Cassidy was a ‘professor’ who didn’t have any degrees and didn’t speak any Irish and the only reason McCann is supporting him here is because they were mates.

This is the holier-than-yous Eamonn McCann, who constantly excoriates the privileged and their cronyism. However, in this case, he shows that he is just as willing to forget the facts and support a pal because of cronyism, even if that pal betrayed all socialist principles by becoming a professor with only fake qualifications and betrayed the Irish language by pretending to be an Irish scholar without knowing any of the language. And that’s not even taking the allegations of Cassidy’s sexual harassment of his students into account. Still, perhaps, it was ’emotionally true’, even if it was really a pack of lies.

With all this in mind, I am delighted to bestow my July Twit of the Month Award on Eamonn McCann, pompous clapped-out media ganch and unashamed pal of Daniel Cassidy. It is richly deserved.

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