Tag Archives: kid

Cassidese Glossary – Kid

For some time now, some of my on-line friends have advised me to provide a version of CassidySlangScam without the invective aimed at Cassidy and his supporters. In response to that advice, I am working on providing a glossary of the terms in Cassidy’s ludicrous book How The Irish Invented Slang with a short, simple and business-like explanation of why Cassidy’s version is wrong.

The word kid, meaning a young goat, entered the English language a long time ago from Old Norse. It acquired the meaning of child in informal contexts around the year 1590.

Daniel Cassidy, in his work of false etymologies, How The Irish Invented Slang, claimed that the word kid comes from the Irish word cuid. In order to make a case for this, he homes in on several meanings of the word cuid that suggest a link with endearment and children:

“Cuid (pron. kid, cuid, kidj), n., share, part, portion; a term of endearment, love, affection. A chuid (pron. a khid), my dear; mo chuid de’n tsaoghal (pron. mo khid den tael), all I have, my darling; a chuid inghean (pron. a khid inyian), his daughters; a chuidín (pron. a khidín, a khijín), my little dear. (Dineen, 281, 282; Foclóir Póca, 326.)”

In fact, cuid is one of the most widely-used words in the Irish language. It is not pronounced like kid, as you can hear in the sound files on focloir.ie which are given in the three main dialects of Irish, Ulster, Connaught and Munster:

https://www.focloir.ie/en/dictionary/ei/bit#bit__3

You can also find a full description of its uses here, as given by Ó Dónaill:

https://www.teanglann.ie/en/fgb/cuid

As you can see, cuid can be used in phrases like mo chuid éadaigh (my part of cloth, my clothes), ith do chuid (eat your portion, your food), a gcuid airgid (their part of money, their money), a cuid Gaeilge (her part of Irish, her Irish). It can even mean sex, as in the phrase Bhí cuid aige di (= He had it off with her).

English kid does not derive from the Irish word cuid, which, apart from one phrase (a chuid) has nothing to do with affection or love. The English word kid meaning child derives from the English word meaning a young goat, as any sensible person already knew.

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.