The day the Irishman was born, his mother watched the St. Patrick’s Day parade from her room in the Rotunda Hospital overlooking O’Connell Street and the Parnell monument. I’d love to be in Dublin for this parade, although they say some of the best St. Patrick’s Day parades in the world are here in the States: Boston, New York, Chicago, and Savannah, Georgia. (Who’d a thunk it?)
One thing we Yanks can’t seem to get right, though, is the spelling of Patrick’s nickname. Browse any greeting card display, for example, and you’re bound to see this: Happy St. Patty’s Day!
No, no, no.
It’s spelled Paddy. That’s the diminutive of Pádraig, which is Gaelic for Patrick. Here’s a website that gives you all the acceptable “wee versions” of Patrick, as well as a scrolling monitor of “eejits” who are using the unacceptable version on Twitter—just in case you’d like to call them out on it. 🙂
Unfortunately, Paddy has too often been used as an ethnic slur in reference to an Irishman. (Paddywagon, for example, of American origin, refers to a police van, either because so many Irishmen became policemen in American cities, or—and here’s the slur—due to the high crime rate among Irish immigrants in the nineteenth century. You can look for it even in the lyrics of children’s songs, like “This Old Man”: Wikipedia tells us the term paddywack was used from at least the early nineteenth century to describe an angry person, specifically a “brawny Irishman.”)
Interestingly, Paddy can just as easily be an affectionate term for that same Irishman; it just depends on who’s saying it and how it’s said. Nonetheless, if you find yourself in Dublin on the grand day, you (with your American accent and all) should probably be circumspect.
The route for the Dublin St. Patrick’s Day Parade is 2.5 kilometers (about a mile and a half) long and leads from Parnell Square on the city’s Northside down O’Connell Street, over the River Liffey via O’Connell Bridge into Westmoreland Street, past Trinity College at College Green, and on to Dame Street. It then turns left at Christchurch Cathedral into Lord Edward Street, Nicholas Street, and Patrick Street before finally finishing at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. If you can’t make it in person, you can stream it live here.
Wherever you find yourself on March 17, though, just remember—it’s Paddy, not Patty. And stay away from that green beer.
(This post originally ran on my professional blog, Read>Play>Edit.)