His own share is charity to the fool.

Note: This oxymoron is also loosely translated as the Hiberno-English expression “feeding the dog his tail.” It is an absurdity used to lampoon circular arguments and those who make them. In the Irish, it has the subtle recursive property of imputing that the person making such a specious argument is, of course, a fool. The fool is saying that something he gave himself is charity. It is a most uncharitable rejoinder.

The sting of this week’s seanfhocal hinges on the idiomatic expression “dá chuid,” which is a contraction of “de a chuid” (literally: from his share). Ancient Celts where a communal people who operated as a tribe or clann. All members of the clann contributed to the wealth of the clann, from the farmers, to the warriors, to the druids. Each was therefore deserving of a share.

Hence the Irish word for share, portion, or part, ‘cuid’ is used in many expressions, especially those involving possession. There are no possessive pronouns in Irish, e.g., there is no direct Irish word for ‘mine’ or ‘yours.’ The Irish equivalent for ‘mine’ is ‘mo chuid’ while ‘yours’ is ‘do chuid.’ So, technically, this seanfhocal uses ‘a chuid’ to mean ‘his,’ the possessive pronoun, not the possessive adjective ‘his’ as in ‘his books.’ Possessive adjectives in Irish also require the use of ‘cuid’ when modifying certain nouns, . . . ach sin scéal eile.

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