Some people might think that the following piece is in poor taste, dealing as it does with the funeral oration for Cassidy delivered by his crony Peter Quinn. However, I intend to carry on because I do not think the dead deserve any more respect than they deserved when they were alive and Quinn’s oration contains so much poisonous anti-intellectual bullshit that it is really asking for it. Here’s part of what Quinn had to say:
Musician, writer, activist, Danny was the single greatest scholar I ever met – the truest intellectual – putting to flight and to shame that monstrous regiment of impotent academic hacks and time-servers who, with all their Ivy League credentials and foundation grants and university chairs, failed to uncover what Danny did with a single, frayed, dog-eared dictionary that he’d inherited.
How the Irish Invented Slang is a monumental achievement!
It will endure, no matter the bluster and bull of the Dictionary Dudes.
Despite the huffing and puffing of all the king’s horses and all the king’s men (or the queen’s, for that matter), the paladins of the OED will never again put together an honest version of their tome until they acknowledge the work of Danny Cassidy.
The arrogance and the hypocrisy of this piece is staggering. If Cassidy was a great intellectual, then what is it that makes a great intellectual? Laziness? Megalomania? Incompetence? Running away with insane thoughts and refusing to provide any evidence for your mad conjectures? Quinn rails against the ‘monstrous regiment’ of academics with their Ivy League credentials and university chairs. Yet Cassidy went to Cornell University, which last time I heard was Ivy League. He was even a member of a fraternity with whatever naked mud-wrestling, groupthink and cronyism that entails. And while nobody has ever made public what grade of degree he got, my guess would be a fairly poor one. Yet somehow he was able to walk into a job as a professor and sit down in his comfortable university chair, without having to get a doctorate, or conduct valid research, or publish papers, unlike all of those whom Quinn arrogantly dismisses as time-serving academic hacks.
Quinn’s peroration continues. It’s like listening to a North Korean news item on the death of Kim Jong-Il. Apparently, Cassidy was vastly smarter than anyone else in the academic world and using a dog-eared pocket dictionary and his burning intelligence he completely revised the linguistic history of the USA. Of course, according to Quinn, the Dictionary Dudes won’t admit this because their work is dishonest while Cassidy’s work is the real thing.
The fact is that Cassidy was the most butt-naked emperor ever to flaunt his shriveled credentials to the general amusement of academia and the general admiration of fools. I have no objection to Quinn saying that Cassidy was a friend to social justice, or a great companion, a fine musician, brilliantly witty company, an excellent salsa dancer, or possessed of a curious talent for farting Annie Laurie through a keyhole. All these may or may not be true but I am in no position to argue about them. What I object to – very strenuously – is the ludicrous idea that he made any contribution of any value to the world of linguistics or Irish studies, because it is blindingly obvious that this is not the case.
The dictionary makers are real scholars who work hard. Anyone who doubts this should find a full copy of the Oxford English Dictionary in a library and see how much detailed work and scholarship is involved on every single page of that book. Then take a look at How The Irish Invented Slang and see what a shoddy and half-arsed job Cassidy made of his so-called ‘research’.
Finally, there is a very interesting line in Quinn’s piece which suggests to me that Quinn’s subconscious was more ambivalent about Cassidy than his conscious mind. In another obituary for Cassidy, Quinn began with a quotation from W.B. Yeats. In this oration, he talks about ancient Egyptian mythology and half-human, half-animal figures. He then uses a very distinctive phrase, that Cassidy was a deeply spiritual man of passionate intensity and resonant laughter.
One of the most famous poems in world literature is Yeats’s The Second Coming, a vision related to his theories about history running in two-thousand year cycles. The Christian cycle is running out and something new, antithetical to Christianity, represented in the poem by a sphinx-like figure, is ‘slouching towards Bethlehem to be born’.
And one of the signs of this is that ‘the best lack all conviction, while the worst, are full of passionate intensity.’
According to Quinn, Daniel Cassidy was also full of passionate intensity. Could it be that Quinn’s subconscious was trying to send him a subtle warning that behind Cassidy’s passionate intensity, there was nothing but an arrogant, opinionated liar with no capacity for self-doubt and that by supporting Cassidy, he was making a king-size noodle of himself?