A ragged colt often made a powerful horse.
Note: Parents everywhere are always worried about how their offspring will turn out. This week’s seanfhocal, of course, is meant to soothe those fears, especially for a child whose prospects appear limited. In English, a father may be mollified about the appearance of a daughter’s braces with a reference to the story of the ugly duckling that turned into a swan. A troubled mother with a son having difficulty in school may hear how Albert Einstein’s teachers thought he was slow, or how Thomas Aquinas was called a “dumb ox” in his youth. Unfortunately, children usually grow to become those difficult creatures known as teenagers. To make it worse, in Irish one becomes a teenager (déagóir) sooner than in English, ag a haon bliana déag d’aois.
Note also: This week’s seanfhocal has used the Irish suffix ‘-(e)ach’ to make an adjective out of a noun. ‘Giobal’ is a first declension noun that means ‘rag’. Add the suffix ‘-ach’ and you get ‘gioblach’, a first declension adjective meaning ‘raggy’ or ‘tattered’. Similarly, ‘cumas’ means ‘ability, capacity, talent’, while ‘cumasach’ means ‘able, capable, powerful’. We add ‘-ach’ when the last consonant of the noun is broad. We add the suffix ‘-each’ when the last consonant in the noun is slender, e.g., ‘cruit’ (hump) becomes ‘cruiteach’ (hump-backed). In essence, then, the Irish suffix ‘-(e)ach’ acts like the English suffix ‘-ish’, e.g., the English noun ‘book’ becomes the adjective ‘bookish’.