Irish Gaelic

Wilson Gray wilson.gray at RCN.COM
Sat Jan 29 04:02:27 UTC 2005

Well argued, Jonathan, and I agree with you. I'm assuming that Prof.
Cassidy is truly fluent in at least literary Irish Gaelic and one
dialect. But I can only assume that. If he would say something like,
the word "teas" is pronounced [however] and means "whatever" in
literary Irish Gaelic (Society for the Resuscitation of Irish,
Dictionary1999, p.1033). However, in dialect D, spoken in area A, from
which a large portion of the Irish-American population originated, this
string has the pronunciation "chazz" or even "jazz" and has the
meaning, "a type of syncopated music" (O'Whoever, Irish Folksong, 1901,
p.137). Or, failing that, something like, when I was a kid in Brooklyn,
my grandparents used to sing a particular song. When I asked about it,
they said whatever.

I could go for that. But not Irish seol, pronounced shell and pisce,
vocative (a) phisce, pronounced fish: English shellfish. I have to ask,
are both words from the same dialect? And what dialect of Irish is
that, so that we can know that what you say are the pronunciation and
the meaning are correct? Is your spelling the traditional one or the
modern one? What is the approximate date? etc. etc.

Somewhere in my junkyardish office cum library, I have a pamphlet that
shows that the use of spoken Irish in what is now the United States was
not unknown in the 18th century. And there's the Irish signatory of the
Declaration, Charles Carroll of Carrollton, whose brother, John, a
Jesuit, was the first American Catholic bishop. Every word of Cassidy's
etymologies could be correct, but he doesn't provide enough info for
people not well-trained in Irish to be able to tell.


On Jan 28, 2005, at 8:36 PM, Jonathan Lighter wrote:

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> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Jonathan Lighter <wuxxmupp2000 at YAHOO.COM>
> Subject:      Re: Irish Gaelic
> -----------------------------------------------------------------------
> --------
> Simple assertion does get us nowhere.  If - and I speak as a
> celtolinguistic moron - the word is phonetically, semantically, and
> socially plausible as an English etymon, it's another semifinalist
> with some plausibility.
> Ideally, we'd like to have an unmistakable citational antedating with
> the Irish spelling or an approximation of it in an Irish context
> saying something like "playin' 'at divil's ceas music de whole night
> t'rough!"  That kind of citation shows up in the OED frequently,
> though not, obviously, in this case.
> Jerry Cohen has seriously called into question the idea that "jazz"
> was applied to the music by people, presumably in or around N.O., who
> were familiar with the sexual sense of the word. The fact *seems* to
> be that "jazz music" was applied first to "Livery Stable Blues" and
> similar pieces as played by "The Original New Orelans Jazz Band" in
> Chicago.  Of course other N.O. musicians were playing even bluesier
> music at the same time, but my limited research seems to support
> Jerry's conclusion that this early generation of black "jazzmen" went
> right on calling their music "ragtime," which was certainly one of its
> prime ingredients.  In those long dead days before ubiquitous
> mass-media publicity, there was no pressing need to "repackage" the
> music as something brand-new. It was just extra-bluesy ragtime with a
> few other ideas, and guys like Jelly Roll had been playing it for
> years. By 1918, its newest aficionados were routinely calling it
> "jazz."
> If a pre-1912 cite ever appears, esp. outside of San Francisco, the
> entire linguistic picture might very well change. The musical picture
> hasn't and wouldn't.
> Jazz < ceas ?  I don't know.  At least there is some plausibility
> there. For the moment.
>  If Cassidy is in error about the Irish prununciation or meaning,
> well, that's another story.
> JL
> Wilson Gray <wilson.gray at RCN.COM> wrote:
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> Sender: American Dialect Society
> Poster: Wilson Gray
> Subject: Irish Gaelic
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> I by no means claim much more than almost a reading knowledge of Irish
> Gaelic - well, I recognize when I see it, but I have studied it
> formally with a native speaker of the Munster dialect who is a
> professor of Irish at UC Dublin and I have a few problems with some of
> Prof. Cassidy's claims, some of which seem to be unsupported.
> E.g. what are the circumstances under which "teas" can be given a
> citation pronunciation that corresponds, however roughly, to an English
> word spelled "jazz" or "jass"? In the Munster dialect, this string has
> the pronunciation [t,aes], in which [t,] is a sound like the "soft" "t"
> of Russian, [ae] represents "aesc," and [s] is the "-ss" of "mess." And
> if the "t" of "teas" is soft to the point of shifting to "ch" in Prof.
> Cassidy's dialect, then how does the "l" of "uile" escape this shift to
> move in the opposite direction and receive the hard pronunciation of
> "ila," presumably [il@], and not the soft pronunciation of "ilyih"
> [il,I]?
> I'm willing to grant that "teas" could, or even would, be heard as
> [Caes]. But how do we get to "jass" or "jazz" from there? Not by merely
> stating that that's what happened, surely?
> -Wilson Gray
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