Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Ye Cracke

Fresh from presiding over the destruction of the local Irish-language voluntary sector, Carál Ní Chuilín has found the time to castigate the non-all-Ireland organisations thus de-funded, arguing that:
"The opportunity to be selected as a lead organisation was an open and transparent process open to all existing core funded bodies. Organisations had the opportunity then to merge to make a bid to become a lead organisation."
The Written Answers booklet also includes some interesting responses on Ulster-Scots linguistic spending (hint: one of them's headed "Highland Dancing Classes").

In the Bel-Tel, Ms Ní Chuilín has been discussing a major advertising campaign to promote Irish. Unfortunately, she makes the claim that "crack" is a Gaelic word, despite most academic commentators viewing it as a recent loan from English or Scots (it is notable by its absence from Father Dinneen's dictionary). Indeed, Liverpool even boasts a nineteenth-century pub named Ye Cracke, with the Spenserian spelling underlining the term's thoroughgoing Englishness.

Much as the Blether Region supports Irish, it is of course an unfortunate fact that the strained etymologies spouted by some folk do it a serious disservice. An article hosted at Irish Central entitled "Irish words litter New York City slang", for example, claims that "Gee whiz!" is derived from "Dia uas". In many Irish interjections, of course, Dia is in the vocative and therefore mutated (imagine an Englishman saying the word "year"), while Ó Dónaill lists uas- only as a prefix, the usual form being uasal.  Not only that, but it's painfully obvious that "Gee whiz!" is derived from "Jesus!" (with, perhaps, some reinforcement from "G—!", a coy interjection that, owing to contemporary qualms at taking the Lord's name in vain, peppers Victorian literature).

The article draws on the book How the Irish Invented Slang: The Secret Language of the Crossroads (Counterpunch) by Daniel Cassidy, which has been roundly condemned by serious linguists. Perhaps the most annoying aspect of such claims is the serial refusal to present etymologies plausible to an Irish-speaker (Mr. Cassidy evidently not being one himself). The variant "Gee whilikers" is glossed as deriving from Dia Thoileachas, or "God's will". But ask an Irish-speaker how to say "God's will", and the answer is likely to be something like Toil Dé.

Once again, how annoying that Irish Central has seen fit to publish such claptrap.

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