Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Paddy -v- Patty, and the joy of acceptance

I'd bet good money that there are no actual Irish people, in Ireland, who refer to the 17th of March as 'Patty's Day'. Maybe there are some blissfully unaware that anyone at all does this. But you only only need to check out the twitter feed at the end of Paddy, Not Patty to see that they do, oh they do. 

This, understandably, frustrates a lot of Irish people. I'll admit, that the first time I found out, I spent some time, Canute-like, on Twitter, politely asking people not to do that. I don't think it helped. This feeling spawns some excellent art:


But it probably doesn't achieve much. I realised, recently, that I'm much happier just accepting that we're talking about two different holidays. St. Patrick's Day, also known as Paddy's Day, an Irish celebration, and Patty's Day, and Irish-American derivative holiday. It's okay everyone, their thing is not our thing, they can have it.

The main reason behind seems to be a noble enough one. They don't want to say 'Paddy' because it's a slur. I know that for us that's super weird, because it's not a slur here, it's just a name. The name, in fact, for the patron saint of our country. The 2nd most popular name for 52 year old men in the country. But that's here. That's us. It isn't there. They don't know what it's like to be Irish. But we don't know what it's like to be Irish-American. We don't know what it's like for Irish to be just your culture and heritage any more than they know what it's like to also have it be your nationality. If calling it Paddy's Day hurts people, why should we try to make them?

On a tangentially related note. I recently learned that Mammy is a racist term in America. I was shocked. I called my mother Mammy until I was old enough to call her Mam. I still do, occasionally, when joking or wheedling. Likewise my son with me. I'm bothered when anyone calls me his Mum or his Mom. That's not who I am. I'm his Mammy. Knowing what I know now I'll be careful with that term if I'm over there. But I won't stop using it here. They have their thing, we have ours.

And really, in the end of the day, I think it's time to sit back and accept this, 'cause we're not going to win this one:


  1. I suspect a big part of this is that "Patty" and "Paddy" are homophones in a lot of US accents, combined with the fact that to the uninitiated, "Patty" looks like a more logical contraction of "Patrick". So people hear what sounds to their ear like "Patty", know it's short for "Patrick", and it never even occurs to them that it might be "Paddy". And then of course they're *actually* saying "Patty" but until they put it in writing, no-one can tell that they're Doing It Wrong, and so it spreads.

    Similar effect to having "another think coming" vs "another thing coming" - people can go their whole lives not realizing they're actually saying different things to each other, because they sound the same.

  2. Someone on /r/Ireland found that the searches for Paddy's Day are in ascension, while Patty's Day is in decline. They anticipated that, by 2018, the term would be gone. If Google Searches accurately predict cultural zeitgeist.

  3. I really, really hope the "Patty's Day" thing truly is in decline as KB says; much as a lot of Americans tell you "I'm Irish!" - it's just a bastardised sense of 'culture'. It may be a homophone thing, likely is, but doesn't mean we can't aid in educating them.

    Let them celebrate it, as long as it's "Paddy's Day!"

    1. Oh, and love the cartoon! :D

    2. While I agree that I'd prefer Irish Americans didn't call themselves Irish (that word already means a thing guys!), I think it's very unfair to call differences between their culture and ours 'bastardisation'. Cultures evolve, and if you separate people from a culture into two groups they're going to evolve away from each other. The changes that exist now happened on both sides of the Atlantic.

  4. Historically speaking Paddy's Day is an Irish derivative of an American holiday.