A public announcement for St. Patrick's Day: It's Paddy - not Patty

You might be slurring your words anyway but start like you mean to go on

James Vincent
Friday 14 March 2014 17:01
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St. Patrick's Day coat pins adorn the jacket of Dennis Dunn of New York as he watches the 251st annual St. Patrick's Day Parade in New York, March 17, 2012.
St. Patrick's Day coat pins adorn the jacket of Dennis Dunn of New York as he watches the 251st annual St. Patrick's Day Parade in New York, March 17, 2012.

Some would say that Saint Patrick’s day has already been slandered enough through various forms of leprechaun-costumed commercialism, but other brave souls are determined to draw a line in the sand and say ‘this far but no further’.

In this light we’d like to offer the following public announcement: it’s Paddy not Patty.

If you like to use the nickname for Patrick, the 5th century British missionary who bought Christianity to Ireland and (supposedly) booted out the snakes then it’s Paddy you need, a name itself that originates from the Irish Pádraig.

As Marcus Campbell, the one-man crusade behind the ‘Paddy not Patty’ website and the Twitter feed of the same name, says “There isn’t a sinner in Ireland that would refer to a Patrick as “Patty”. It’s as simple as that.”

It’s not quite clear when the ‘Patty’ mistake came about, but it’s probably some mixture of the fact that the ‘Patty’ and ‘Paddy’ sound nearly identical in an American accent; because Patrick, the anglicised version of Pádraig, can be shortened to ‘Pat’; and because ‘Paddy’ has been used as a slur for the Irish and people are trying to be polite.

The use of ‘Paddy’ as a slur most likely emerged during the 19th century when anti-Irish racism was rampant in both Britain and the US. The Irish were demonised as violent alcoholics, with Irish immigrants accused of stealing native’s jobs. For this reason it is definitely not okay to call a random Irish person ‘Paddy’ – unless, of course, it is their name, and they like you.

Other points of St Patrick’s day etiquette include avoiding cocktails named ‘Irish Car Bombs’. These are made from stout, whiskey and Baileys and although the name is popular in the US, don’t use it in the UK and don’t even joke about it in Ireland. If you’re at all confused as to why this is a bad idea, you should remind yourself of what happened on Bloody Friday.

Similarly (but not so obviously in bad taste) is a Black and Tan – a beer cocktail made from half pale beer and half dark beer. In Ireland this is called a Half and Half as the ‘Black and Tans’ was the name given to the brutal, torturing and straightforwardly murderous auxiliary police force created by Winston Churchill to maintain British rule in Ireland.

With these historical notes in mind, getting ‘Patty’ and ‘Paddy’ confused is probably not the worst mistake you could make (especially considering how prone to mispronunciation we Brits apparently are) but all the same, if you’re going to turn a day of national celebration into an excuse for drinking green-tinged beer, then at least get the name right.

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