Tag Archives: Twitter

Mayday Your Nipples With Google Translate

One of the stupidest things I have seen in the press recently was an article by Newton Emerson about the Irish language. Newton (who normally talks a fair amount of sense) obviously knows nothing about languages. He claimed in the article that with automatic translation, nobody needs translators any more.

Hmm. This is, to say the least, a pile of horse feathers. Irish is a difficult language. If Máirtín Ó Muilleoir, arguably the most prominent champion of the Irish language in Stormont, can make a complete hames of the language in a prominent position on his Twitter feed – the phrase ‘Bí thusa an t-athrú’ is equivalent to saying ‘Tá mé polaiteoir’ or ‘An bhfuil tú an múinteoir?’ and he also misspells the word for opinions – then someone with no knowledge of the language using Google Translate is bound to come up with something ludicrous.

I’ve just seen this Google Translate gem on Twitter: Bealtaine an ádh ar an Shine na hÉireann ar tú an lá seo Fhéile Pádraig. It’s supposed to mean ‘May the luck of the Irish shine upon you this Saint Patrick’s day.’ It really means something like ‘Mayday the luck on the nipple of Ireland on you this day Festival of Patrick.’

Ó, m’aintín mheadhránach! (That’s a crap translation of Oh, my giddy aunt …)

Three Kinds of Lies

There are three principal kinds of lies among the ‘etymologies’ in Cassidy’s ridiculous book How The Irish Invented Slang.

Plagiarism

As we have said before, there are many entries in Cassidy’s book which are plagiarised. Dozens of expressions were already in the public domain before they appeared in Cassidy’s book (though most of these are also fanciful and unlikely to be correct.)  In most cases, the Great Fraud didn’t acknowledge where he got them. Examples: longshoreman from loingseoir, ballyhoo from bailiú, snazzy from snas, smashing from is maith sin, slug from slog, etc.

Single words

In many cases, Cassidy found individual words in English and English slang. He then hit the Irish dictionaries and tried to find words which were a vague match for his English words. So, suppose Cassidy had decided that the term to drink a toast to someone doesn’t have anything to do with toasted bread. So he hits the dictionary and finds the word tost, meaning silence. Well, you propose a toast and of course, everyone is silent while they’re drinking. So it’s from the Irish tost meaning silence.

However, Cassidy often changed his story. (Slum was originally from saol lom, according to Cassidy but in the book it’s from ‘s lom é.) So, suppose he was looking through a dictionary and happened to notice the word tóstal, meaning assembly, muster, array or pageant. And suppose Cassidy decided that this, not tost, is a better origin of toast. So, he writes a ‘dictionary definition’:

tóstal – assembly, muster, pageant; a public display (of respect etc.)

and then adds a few dictionary references, so that a casual observer might assume that this was taken verbatim from a dictionary. Of course, the really impressive bit, about the public display of respect, would be a complete fiction invented in California by a man who didn’t speak any Irish. (In reality, I made this example up using Cassidy’s ‘methodology.’)

Phrases

Of course, if Cassidy had been restricted to plagiarism and words which accidentally have a phonetic similarity and some similarity of meaning, his book would have been little more than a pamphlet. Most of his ‘etymologies’ were phrases.

Here’s how it works. Cassidy finds the word bamboozle and decides it must be Irish. So, he hits the Irish dictionaries and looks for something that corresponds to it. Of course, there’s no suitable Irish word. So, this pretentious dimwit – who doesn’t speak any Irish at all – cobbles together a ‘well-known phrase’ in Irish. First, he finds the word bamba, which means tiresomeness or frustration. So far, so good. But what about the oozle? So, he looks in the dictionary and finds uasal, which means noble, but also has a subsidiary meaning of ‘fairy’. Great! In ‘Irish’, bamba uasal is a phrase meaning frustrated by the fairies, thwarted by supernatural forces.

Of course, it doesn’t mean that. It doesn’t exist. I just made it up ten minutes ago as an example of how Cassidy’s mind didn’t work. There are hundreds of similar expressions in Cassidy’s book: uath dubh; gus óil; gruaim béil; gearr-ól úr etc. etc.

I note with great sadness that people are still spreading this nonsense. For example, a couple of weeks ago, someone called Glopweiller (or Daniel Patrick Galvi) put a reference to Cassidy’s dumbass theory about the origins of dude on Twitter. There is a lot of talk at the moment about the post-truth world we live in. The fact is, it’s only post-truth if we decide to let that happen, by ignoring the facts and not checking them. I suggest we make that an additional New Year’s resolution – to check every fact, however trivial, before passing it on and contributing to the morass of ignorance out there.

Teach Yourself Pomposity

Recently, I have criticised Michael Patrick MacDonald, an Irish-American writer, who supported Daniel Cassidy and his crazy theories and attacked real scholars and lexicographers (“racist OED lapdogs”) for disagreeing with him and his friends. I have nothing to say about MacDonald’s activism or indeed about his books. He may be a great man and a great writer. He may be as big a fraud as Cassidy himself. I don’t know and I can’t be bothered finding out. All that interests me here is his support for the liar Daniel Cassidy (who was apparently a personal friend of his). 

The other day, I noticed another comment on Twitter from MacDonald which irritated me almost as much as his “racist lapdogs.” 

Can I say this? University is stupid. Kill your memorized “radical” language and walk free, connect. 

And below that:

A month in belfast, Jo-burg, east NY, and one will learn the history of the world & post colonial theory for plane fare. 

Now, there are several reasons why this is stupid and objectionable. For one thing, this man doesn’t seem to have any university degrees. He works in a university as a writer in residence, but that’s not the same as having a background in academia. Of course, there are criticisms to be made of academia, but they sound better coming from people who’ve actually proven themselves within that system. They certainly sound ridiculous coming from someone who mistook Daniel Cassidy for a serious scholar. As has been pointed out many times before, autodidacts (people who teach themselves in an informal and unstructured way) tend to be massively confident. And in many cases, as in the case of Cassidy, this is not because they have weighed up all the facts and can confidently identify which are correct or incorrect: rather, it is because they are simply ignorant of anyone else’s viewpoint apart from their own, so it seems OBVIOUS to them that their own opinion must be right. 

As I said above, it’s possible to criticise academia for a lot of reasons. It probably does serve to sharpen class divisions, and in recent years it has become very managerial and money-driven. However, it is also, like democracy, the worst system apart from all the others. The methods of academia are about establishing the facts, anchoring speculation in observable truth, not allowing bigotry and groupthink to undermine the international community of scholars and the work they produce.

The alternative is the malicious dross you can find in any bookshop, shit about ancient aliens building Newgrange and how the Sumerians discovered America and how various royal families of Europe are descended from Jesus’s girlfriend, and how the cadences of modern American speech descend from the crude bilingual patois of Irish speakers. In other words, there is a choice between building human knowledge throughout the generations by checking facts and eliminating error, or just believing any old shite that suits your world-view, from White Supremacism to 9/11 ‘Truth’, from Nazis living on the moon to the extreme numptiness of Young Earth Creationism. 

The search for and the accumulation of knowledge is important. It’s not a class thing. It’s not a national or racial thing. It’s a human thing. It’s one of the most important parts of what we are as humans, and anyone who dismisses it as casually as MacDonald is a fool.

Here, MacDonald shows us again that he doesn’t give a toss about academia or the search for knowledge. However, there is another stupidity in the tweets above. (Amazing how much crap some people manage to squeeze into 140 characters …) So a trip to Belfast will automatically broaden your mind and teach you about history and colonialism? What about all those people who’ve never spent much time out of Belfast and they still get exercised about their little fleg protests? I’m sure there are plenty of bigots in Jo’berg as well. Travel doesn’t automatically broaden the mind, and some people would probably be better staying at home and reading a good book by a genuine academic rather than going abroad to confirm their prejudices. When I read the nonsense in MacDonald’s tweet, I immediately thought of that lovely old Irish poem about pilgrimage written in the margin of a 9th century text:

Teicht do Róim:
mór saído, becc torbai!
in rí chon·daigi hi foss,
mani·m-bera latt, ní·fogbai.

Here’s a rough translation:

Going to Rome: great the pain,
and all for very little gain.
The King you were looking for at home,
if you don’t bring Him with you, you won’t find in Rome.

 

Comhar

In a tweet in December 2014, Michael Patrick MacDonald was once again demonstrating his naivety by commenting in relation to the word comhar, which apparently he learned from Cassidy. In reply to someone who gave the real meanings of the Irish word, he said: “Besides whatever dictionary meaning. It’s a long standing ideal of cooperative society.”

In another article on the band the Dropkick Murphys, dated 2012, he also quotes his friend Cassidy about this word:

“Comhar (pron., co’r), n., co-operation; alliance, reciprocity, mutuality; companionship, a cooperative society; cómhar na gcómharsan (pron. co’r na go’ r-arsan), system of reciprocal labor among neighbors, companions, friends, etc.; cómhar na saoithe (pron.co’r na seeh’e), the companionship and society of artists and scholars.”

In fact, Cassidy (and MacDonald) grossly overstated the importance of this word and its centrality to Irish culture. It is mostly used in phrases like ‘ag obair i gcomhar lena chéile’ (working in partnership with each other) or “dhíol mé an comhar leis” (I paid him back for the favour). While it is sometimes used on its own (it is famously the name of an Irish-language magazine) these uses are quite rare. If it really had such a central importance in Irish culture, why has no Irish anthropologist or sociologist (to my knowledge) ever written an essay or an article on it? Where did Cassidy get the idea that it was so important?

The answer is, of course, that Cassidy looked in the dictionaries and found entries describing comhar as mutual work, partnership and cooperation, and the rest came from his imagination. You see, Cassidy claimed to be a socialist (not that his behaviour gave any hint of genuine socialist principles), and so he romanticised Irish by pretending that a kind of peasant communism was built into the very fabric of the language. Of course, there was some degree of collectivism and mutual self-help in Ireland, just as there was in every peasant society but the idea that Irish people lived by the (proto-communist) principle of comhar just as Sicilians followed the code of omertá is just nonsense.

The tweet from Michael Patrick MacDonald is really quite funny. An American who doesn’t speak any Irish is pontificating about the importance in Irish culture of the word comhar, and saying to someone else that it’s quite OK to ignore the dictionary definitions produced by real Irish scholars (Besides whatever dictionary meaning. It’s a long standing ideal of cooperative society). The person who told him about its importance was another American, Daniel Cassidy, who didn’t speak any Irish or know anything at all about the language either! What a joke!

The claim is a pure fake, like everything else derived from the late Daniel Patrick Cassidy and spread like a plague of ignorance by his cronies.

More on Michael Patrick MacDonald

Before Christmas, in a blog post called Fact or Fun, I mentioned an incredibly stupid tweet from the Boston writer Michael Patrick MacDonald, a crony of Cassidy’s. A Twitter user called Coiste Focal Nua (=New Word Committee) said that Cassidy’s book was regarded as ‘academic fraud’, whereupon Michael Patrick MacDonald wrote:

Never was academic. Bigger than that. It raises serious questions about the racist OED lapdogs.

Coiste Focal Nua replied:

No it does not. He made almost everything up. Here is a reliable enough list http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_English_words_of_Irish_origin

MacDonald replied with another stupidity:

That’s a ridiculous list. One of the most loquacious ethnicities in U.S. contributed a handful of words to American slang?

Of course, this is the same old nonsense we have had from every supporter of Cassidy. No specific words are mentioned. No evidence is provided. There just must be more words than that because Irish people talk a lot. Coiste Focal Nua replied with this:

Most probably. Go n-éirí leat le foghlaim na Gaeilge. (May you be successful in learning Irish.)

MacDonald’s reply was another typical piece of lame-brained nonsense:

good luck studying American social history & culture.

This is a standard response from the Cassidy-lovers. We’ve seen the same pompous rubbish from Sean Sweeney, amongst others. Apparently, there are certain arcane and obscure aspects of Irish-American culture which we non-Irish-Americans know nothing about and this is why we don’t accept Cassidy’s claims, not because they’re lies. It’s a foolish argument and it’s also incredibly condescending. I mean, what are these aspects of Irish-American culture which confirm Cassidy’s arguments? What exactly are we Irish so ignorant of?

Wow, so you mean that all those people who left Ireland, they went to America? Really? I thought they all went to Greenland, or Botswana. I know all my relatives lived in Boston and New York but I thought that was just us! So, they came over to the USA. And they lived in slum houses. Not castles … or mud huts … or houseboats? OK, slum houses. And they found jobs? They worked? Why did they work? Oh, I see, they would have starved to death if they didn’t. Never thought of that. But some of them didn’t work. They became criminals. Right. That means they broke the law? Hmm. This is getting complicated. Mind if I take notes?

The fact is, of course, that the number of Irish speakers in the community, the jobs they did or the social class they belonged to are entirely irrelevant. They mean nothing.

Cassidy’s crazy theories fall flat on one question and one question only. Are there hundreds of words in American slang which have no known origin and which resemble Irish phrases and words? And the answer to this is a resounding NO. Cassidy invented almost all the Irish phrases in the book, he lied about the definitions of the Irish words, he ignored alternative explanations. When you strip away all the rubbish, all that’s left is a handful of words and phrases like slew, galore, shebeen and sourpuss, which were already clearly labelled as words of Irish origin in the dictionaries.

The fact is, no aspect of American social history can increase the number of slang words which have matches in the Irish language. No aspect of social history can make Cassidy’s Irish better or his absurd phrases more like the real thing. No aspect of social history can make Cassidy less of a fraud and more of a scholar.

So MacDonald, wise up and stop talking nonsense! The only reason you’re supporting this shite is because Cassidy was a friend of yours. He wasn’t a friend of mine and he wasn’t a friend of the Irish language or the Irish people. And as long as you continue to support this American con-man who treated our language and culture with such obvious contempt, neither are you.

Fact or Fun?

While I don’t intend to blog on a regular basis in 2016, I have decided to start the New Year with a post about a question which has been bothering me for some time. Basically, there are two attitudes towards Cassidy’s fake ‘research’ among those who support him. One is that Cassidy didn’t claim to be a serious academic researcher and that his book was just a bit of fun. The other, opposing view, is that Cassidy’s work is of immense value and significance and that it ‘throws down a gauntlet’ to the prevailing academic view of Irish influence on English.

Why is this issue worthy of a post? Well, firstly, there are some clowns like Donnacha DeLong and Michael Patrick MacDonald who actually try to maintain both of these contradictory views at once! According to DeLong, Cassidy’s work is simply a set of suggestions humbly offered to the public for their consideration with much of it clearly labelled as speculative, yet at the same time Cassidy was pushing at an imaginary ‘locked door’, which presumably means that the world of academia and the dictionary makers were the ones who locked the door to prevent Irish derivations from gaining access. Of course, the truth is, they’re quite willing to accept Irish derivations when words genuinely have Irish derivations, like shebeen and sourpuss. What they don’t do is accept lunatic off-the-wall derivations without any evidence, and why should they?

An even stupider statement of the same ilk is found on Twitter, where Cassidy’s chum(p) Michael Patrick MacDonald answered an intelligent critic who described Cassidy’s book as ‘academic fraud’ with the words: ‘Never was academic. Bigger than that. It raises serious questions about the racist OED lapdogs.’

So, it’s not academic. But it challenges the running dogs of English imperialism at the OED. Just not with facts or evidence, apparently. It’s bigger than that. (Have you been taking lessons from Dylan Avery, Michael?)

You see, if Cassidy’s work was just a joke, then it isn’t entertaining, or interesting, or worth reading, because it’s a very unfunny joke. Either Cassidy’s derivations are the Irish origins of English phrases (which they aren’t) or the literary quotes and stupid comments and anti-intellectual jibes in How The Irish Invented Slang are just a random collection of nothings thrown together by one man’s crazy obsession.

And if Cassidy’s book isn’t just a piece of ‘amusing’ fluff without any real substance, if it is a genuine challenge to the academics, then why doesn’t it play according to the rules of academia? I mean, academic methodology isn’t random, any more than the selection process for professors is random.

If Cassidy wanted to challenge the dictionary dudes, there were certain things he needed to do. The first and most indispensable of these things was to learn Irish. And in spite of Cassidy’s claims that places like New York were awash with Irish even in the twentieth century and that his grandparents spoke Donegal Irish (though none of them came from Donegal – his one Irish-born grandparent came from Monaghan), Cassidy seems to have never engaged with the Irish language in any manner, shape or form until he was in his late fifties. It is bizarre that a man who spoke no Irish thought it was OK to invent phrases by picking words out of the dictionary and throwing them together with a blithe disregard for how the language is actually used. However, Cassidy was a nut-job and that’s why it seemed perfectly fine to him.

Anyway, because he also discussed Scottish Gaelic, Cassidy would have needed a working knowledge of Gaelic too. Plus a knowledge of slang and non-standard English and of the sources available for those subjects.

Not only that, but in the world of linguistics, there are thousands of articles and books available on the subject of language contact. Just try putting in keywords like ‘language contact’ and ‘loanword’ on Google and see how many references come up. The fact is, whole books have been written about the way that vocabulary is borrowed when languages come into contact. For example, it will come as no surprise to anyone who has ever thought about it that nouns are borrowed most frequently and that this is a universal of language contact. (Rather than random bits of phrases like ‘n-each’!) A knowledge of this literature would also be an essential for writing an academic book about the influence of one language on another.

Is this reasonable? I hear some people say. Cassidy would have had to have devoted most of his life to acquiring the skills necessary to write the book. Yeah, like tens of thousands of people in academia, he would have had to have done more than scratch at the surface and blether. People do spend their whole lives acquiring a knowledge of a particular field. If someone wanted to write an academic work about quantum physics or pure mathematics, you would expect them to know everything about the basics of the subject and virtually everything about the particular topic they are specialising in before setting pen to paper. Most people think there is no special skill involved in linguistics (because most people know jack shit about linguistics) but believe me, you can’t walk into any field of academic study and make a valid contribution without either being a total genius (which Cassidy certainly wasn’t) or having done the necessary work first.

Which brings me to another thing Cassidy didn’t do. When anyone sets out to write a dissertation or a book or a long article in any field of academia, the first thing they do is a literature review. This doesn’t mean they read a novel and discuss it. It means that they find out what has been written about their area of study, examine it, look for strengths and weaknesses, assess the current state of knowledge in the field. They do this because you don’t want to spend three years working on reinventing the wheel. They also do this because true learning tends to progress incrementally on the basis of what other people have already done rather than through massive sudden paradigm-shifts like the one claimed for and by Cassidy. And they also do it because if you don’t do it, you could be repeating claims or ideas which have already been made by other people, leaving you open to allegations of plagiarism. Cassidy failed to do this, of course, and there are many, many claims made in Cassidy’s book which have already been made by others: longshoreman coming from loingseoir; uncle in ‘say uncle’ coming from anacal; shanty coming from seanteach; snazzy from snasach. In fact, anything even slightly believable in Cassidy’s book was already out there. Only the flagrant rubbish is original.

What else didn’t Cassidy do? Well, one obvious thing is to give equal and fair respect to all of the potential origins. To give an example we have had recently in connection with that pompous twit Sean Sweeney, there are many different claims for the origin of the slang term ‘so long’. Some suggest it comes from Arabic (or Urdu or Malay) salaam, or from shalom in Hebrew, or from slán in Irish, or from German adieu so lange or from Scandinavian equivalents like Adjø så lenge (where the so lange and så lenge mean ‘for now’). Rather than research the term thoroughly and give the full range of potential explanations, Cassidy applies a racist and ad hominem approach. Basically, according to Cassidy, all non-Irish non-Catholic English-speaking lexicographers are liars and any explanation which does not involve an Irish origin should be airbrushed out of the record. (Including Terence Dolan’s 2004 Dictionary of Hiberno-English, which mentions the slán theory but dismisses it as improbable.)

However, there is an even more fundamental flaw in Cassidy’s methodology. In one unintentionally funny comment on a review of the book, Donnacha DeLong says that ‘This is how research in this area happens, someone speculates and then others investigate and either verify or falsify what they’ve done.’ Really? That’s how it happens? So, I suggest that twerk comes from the Irish ‘tairg’ meaning ‘offer, proffer, move, put forward, express readiness to’ and then I just sit around waiting for someone else to point out that twerk originates in the southern USA in the last twenty years and that it is far more likely to be somehow related to words like ‘work’ and/or ‘twitch’ and that tairg basically means offer and doesn’t sound like twerk anyway? So, Donnacha, you think academic linguists just sit around with an empty schedule and a belly full of swan waiting for other people to do their job for them? The fact is, Cassidy and only Cassidy was responsible for the shite he wrote. It was his job, as it’s the job of every academic (even a fake one like Cassidy), to sift the bollocks from the bullseyes and write something which is a reasonable stab at the truth before anyone else even gets a sniff of the manuscript.

Cassidy failed to do what needed to be done, because he was incompetent, crazy as a soup sandwich, lazy as a piper’s little finger, stupid as a kish of brogues, useless, totally unqualified and completely lacking in any of the skills necessary to be an academic of any kind.

Hopefully my next post will be on my Liebster Award nominations and some information about my favourite subject – me!

 

 

Murchadh na dTvuíteann’

I am not very keen on new technology. I don’t like telephones, mobile or immobile, and I have never tweeted in my life. However, I notice that a certain Murchadh Mór, who tweets in Irish, has recommended cassidyslangscam on his twitter account with the words “An-bhlag faoin mbobarún Cassidy”.

I am grateful to him for this – every little helps! But the wording of his tweet got me thinking. That word bobarún is a nice one. It means a fool, a twat, a booby. Although I don’t speak the same dialect as Murchadh, bobarún is perfectly clear to me. If Cassidy were right, why don’t New York taxi drivers shout ‘bobberoon!” at each other out of their cab windows? Or ‘playkyah!’ or ‘ommadawn!’, or ‘lah jeea!’ Irish is a perfectly expressive language and there are plenty of genuine Irish expressions which could so easily have been borrowed.

However, for whatever reason, almost no Irish expressions were borrowed, least of all the made-up, clumsy expressions which nobody ever used and which nobody would understand given by Cassidy in this book. That’s why this blog is so full of contempt for Cassidy, and that’s why Murchadh Mór calls Cassidy a bobarún. Because Irish speakers can immediately recognise that Cassidy’s claims about Irish are childish bullshit.