Tag Archives: a bhodaigh

Squeal, Kid, Buddy

Time and again, Cassidy simply ignored easily understandable English derivations in favour of Irish explanations which are highly improbable or completely factitious.

For example, Cassidy denied that the word squeal, as in “he squealed to the cops”, has anything to do with the noise that a panicking animal makes. He derived it from scaoil, an Irish verb which means release, and can mean to divulge a secret, as in the phrase scaoil sé a rún. However, it is worth noting that squeal is often used as an intransitive verb – you can say “he squealed” and not “he squealed something”. With scaoileadh, you couldn’t do this. It requires an object. The fact is that when people borrow words, they generally use them in the foreign sentence in just the same way as they would be used in the original language. As far as I’m concerned, squeal is self-explanatory in English, and there is no need to regard it as loan from Irish or any other language.

Another silly one is kid, which Cassidy derives from the term of endearment, a chuid. A chuid does exist, but so does the English word kid meaning a young goat, and as far as I can see, this is a much better candidate. It fits far better with the way that the word is used in English (i.e. it is a noun meaning children, not primarily a term of endearment).

And then there is buddy, which is generally regarded as being a childish version of brother. This seems logical to me. Cassidy will have none of it. He dismissively says that all American dictionaries ‘inexplicably’ derive buddy from brother. He prefers a derivation from Irish bodach, which means ‘a clown, a churl, a strong lusty youth’.  I will freely admit that the phrase a bhodaigh is given by Ó Dónaill as ‘my lad’ but it is hardly a common phrase and the ‘brother’ explanation seems to me much more sensible.

The fact is that where there is a word in an English sentence which seems to have a reasonable derivation in English, it is not bigotry or intolerance to accept that English derivation in preference to a borrowed word or phrase. After all, it is quite clear that Irish has contributed very little to the English language, in spite of Cassidy’s assertions. The Irish were systematically bullied and starved and cajoled into regarding their language as inferior. When they came to the States and Canada, they wanted to learn English and forget where they came from. We have no right to condemn them for this. Where they came from was hunger and poverty and they wanted to get something better for their children, even if it meant turning their back on their heritage.