Tag Archive for Patrick

St. WHO’s Day?

Be careful what you wish today.  Many people blithely say “Happy St. Paddy’s Day,” not realizing that those can be fighting words.  In Britain, “paddy” is a slang term—a derogatory one—for a person of Irish birth or descent.  If an Englishman wants to cut down a person, he’ll call him a “Paddy.”  Some of that usage ended up in America, too.  Also, some people in America either lived themselves or had relatives who lived through English mal-treatment in Ireland and, therefore, resent the term “Paddy.”

True, “Paddy” in the late 1900s was a pet form of the Irish name “Padraig” (not “Patrick”).  In that spirit, many Irish call themselves by that nickname.  But it’s like nicknames for Blacks, Hispanics, and other groups: you can call each other that, but NOT if you’re an outsider.

You don’t know an Irish person’s feelings about the name, and you don’t want to perpetuate a term that some people find offensive.  PLUS, the day IS supposedly honoring a saint.  So I invite everyone to do what I’m doing, wishing one and all a

                           Shamrock HAPPY ST. PATRICK’S DAY! Shamrock

Remember for next St. Patrick’s Day

People are careful not to use the “N” word for African Americans or the “W” word for Italians or the “S” word for people of Hispanic and Italian backgrounds or the “W-back” term for people of Mexican heritage.  So why do they feel it’s natural and funny to refer to an Irish person with the “P” word?  “Paddy” (also “Patty”) is just as much a racial slur.  It’s a British term used historically to put the Irish in their place.  Thus the “Paddy Wagon,” as though most criminals the British police picked up were Irish.  The word comes from “St. Patrick” or the common Irish name “Padraig” (also spelled “Patty”) but is far more than a simple name on the tongues of a prejudiced person.

The term is often used in fun or as a term of endearment.  And the Irish will often call each other that–just like Blacks call each other “N” among themselves.  But to use it indiscriminately, especially among people you don’t know, is insensitive at best and, at worst, inflammatory.

Next year, remember to wish everyone a Happy ST. PATRICK’SD Day.