Patrick’s Day: A Reminder

St. Patrick’s Day will soon be upon us, and though I have written about this before, I feel it’s incumbent upon me to remind you (as was posted in the Dublin Airport last year):

March 17 is Saint Patrick’s Day,
St Patrick’s Day, Patrick’s Day,
St Paddy’s Day, or Paddy’s Day.


St Patty’s Day or Patty’s Day.
Not this year. Not last year. Not ever.

            Please also be reminded that when you belly up to the bar, you should not order an Irish Car Bomb or a Black and Tan. These refer to horrible moments in Irish history. People died, y’all. My Irish friends don’t find these drink names amusing, and you shouldn’t either. ’Nuff said.


Clonmacnois 2003.

Clonmacnois 2003.

No Green Beer—And No Black and Tans, Either*

Back in March 2012 just ahead of St. Patrick’s Day, the shoe giant Nike launched two new beer-themed shoes. (Because, you know, beer is what I think of when I think of tennis shoes. Seriously. Makes perfect sense.) One of the shoes was called “The Guinness” (it was black with a brown swoosh).

The other was called “The Black and Tan.”

Oh sure, we Americans know this as a drink—a blend of a pale ale and a dark beer, usually Guinness. But in Ireland that drink is known as a half and half. That’s because the phrase black and tan has a different connotation in Ireland.

The Black and Tans—so called due to the mismatched color of their uniforms, hurriedly thrown together from the tan pants of leftover army uniforms and black shirts from police uniforms—were a paramilitary group brought in by the British to suppress the revolution in Ireland in 1920–1921. Most were hardened World War I veterans; many were thugs. They became infamous for their brutality—burning villages to the ground, for example, and murdering civilians, particularly Catholics.

It was not that long ago, and the Irish remember.

The Black and Tans were notorious, they were hated, and the name itself remains a pejorative, in Ireland, for the British. (It should be noted the unrestrained violence of the Black and Tans alienated public opinion in Great Britain, too, all the way up to the king.)

And none of this is a secret.

For Nike to name an expensive shoe the Black and Tan shows a level of insensitivity that’s hard for me to fathom. One critic said it was comparable to call the shoe the al-Qaeda. What were they thinking? No one all along the line of approvals gave a thought to google the phrase? This sort of search is standard operating procedure when naming a new product. We have the technology, folks.

The company subsequently apologized. But it is no stranger to controversy—just google Nike + sweatshop or +child labor or +Beatles or +Chinese dragon and you’ll see what I mean. It was forced to remove a T-shirt line that featured double entendres for drug use. This makes me wonder if it’s all carefully calculated. Nike sales grew steadily through 2011 and 2012. Is it true there’s no such thing as bad publicity?

* Similarly, don’t order an Irish Car Bomb on St. Patrick’s Day (or any time, really). Imagine naming a drink—say, a Bloody Mary with 2 stalks of celery—a “Nine-Eleven.” Car bombs happened to real people, they were acts of terrorism, and any way you look at it, it’s a slur. Green beer is bad enough.

This post ran on my other blog back in 2012.

St. Patrick’s Day!

One of the largest St. Patrick’s Day parades in the United States is held in Savannah, Georgia. Who knew? But it seems many Irish settled in the area in the eighteenth century. And by 1824, the local Hibernian Society had organized the first parade.

St. Patrick’s Day is a big deal in Savannah—and it’s been that way for 188 years. In fact, the Hostess City edition of this Irish-American holiday tradition is one of the biggest in the country, putting it on par with do-it-big cities such as Chicago, New York and Boston. This city of about 140,000 grows by about 500,000 green-clad visitors every March 17—all coming to watch floats, high school bands, Shriners, bagpipers, Clydesdale horses, military representatives and musicians showing off their finest Irish spirit.

This article in the AAA Auto Club South has some fun information about this very Southern St. Patrick’s Day celebration. And for more information, check out the official website. (Be patient: the time is nigh and the site may be overloaded.)

There’s no parade where I live. But I’ll pin on my little “I’d rather be in Ireland” button and carry on as if there were. 🙂

It’s Patrick’s Day. Paddy, Not Patty. Please.

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.)