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Another crack at 'bogus Irish' craic after stirring Gael force storm

By Nelson McCausland

Published 25/02/2016

Caral Ni Chuilin
Caral Ni Chuilin

My column last week on the 'bogus Irish' word 'craic' produced a big response, both positive and negative. Indeed, it was probably the biggest reaction to any column I have written for this newspaper.

I don't tweet, but I am told that Sinn Fein Culture Mnister Caral Ni Chuilin was tweeting about it, and even her party colleague Phil 'foot in the mouth' Flanagan MLA was as well.

It seemed to have touched a raw nerve in the ranks of Sinn Fein, although that was not my intention.

I wrote the column simply to set the record straight, but much of the response was furious and frenzied.

There was certainly a very strident reaction on the Write Back page in this newspaper.

This ranged from the one word sentence 'Moronic' to the more considered response from Micheal O'Cathail, who doesn't like the Irish word 'craic', but acknowledged that it came from the traditional Ulster-Scots word 'crack'.

However, he then went on to argue that the Scots and Ulster-Scots word crack came from the Scottish Gaelic 'cracas'.

I hadn't heard that suggestion before, so at that point I referred to Alexander MacBain's Etymological Dictionary of the (Scottish) Gaelic Language and found that, in fact, the opposite is true.

MacBain states that the Scottish Gaelic cracas came from the Scots crack.

So, there it is now. The traditional word crack, which is used in Scots and Ulster-Scots, came from the Old Scots crack and appears as far back as the 14th century.

Many years ago the Scottish Gaels absorbed the Scots word crack into Scottish Gaelic as cracas and then, in the 1970s, the Irish Gaels turned it into the bogus Gaelic craic.

My detestation of the word craic is, of course, shared by many others, and the Irish traditional musician Dr Fintan Vallely has made his position very clear.

He said: "The spelling 'craic' causes serious nausea among intelligent people.

"The glib spelling of the word was invented in the 1970s."

That introduces another word into the lexicon of descriptions: nauseous.

So, why was there such a reaction from Sinn Fein politicians and others? Why were they so angry and abusive?

Perhaps it is because this single word illustrates and exposes one of the most negative aspects of Irish Gaelic nationalism - their resolute determination to turn all of us into 'Gaels'.

Many people will not be familiar with the name David Patrick Moran (1869-1936), an Irish cultural nationalist who is generally known as just DP Moran.

I have only heard his name mentioned in conversation on two occasions in my life, and the first was many years ago when a young Sinn Fein councillor named Mairtin O Muilleoir used it in a committee room in Belfast City Hall.

Moran dedicated himself to the creation of an 'Irish Ireland', or a 'Gaelic Ireland'.

He wrote: "The foundation of Ireland is the Gael and the Gael must be the element that absorbs."

I was surprised to hear his name mentioned, but I suspect his influence still lingers.

And that brings us to the Sinn Fein cultural strategy.

Caral Ni Chuilin initiated and used public money to pay for advertising hoardings, television advertisements and newspaper advertisements telling us all that every time we say crack we are really saying craic and speaking Irish.

No, Caral, we're not. And simply repeating it time after time in expensive advertisements doesn't make it true.

The code of the Advertising Standards Authority states that advertisements should be "legal, decent, honest and truthful".

Well, these advertisements were actually dishonest, although I doubt if the Advertising Standards Authority will want to enter into a detailed investigation of the etymology of the bogus Irish craic.

There are many other issues I might have written about this week, but with such a frenzied reaction from Irish cultural nationalists, I felt it was right to set the record straight again.

Nelson McCausland MLA is chair of the Assembly's culture, arts and leisure committee

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