A toast to St. Patrick, and get his name right

March 17, 2012|By John E. McIntyre | The Baltimore Sun

On Twitter, @paddynotpatty has had a merry time of it pointing out that the diminutive of St. Patrick is St. Paddy, from the Irish name Padraig, insisting that "St. Patty" is simply wrong. Well, actually, that's only half the fun. The other half has been retweeting the ignorant comments of Americans.

The responses tend to follow the pattern of "His name is Patrick, not Padrick." Of course, since he was a Romano-Briton (and not Irish), if you had asked him what his name was, he would have said Patricius.* "Patrick" is modern English. Old English would have been "Patric," but in Ireland he would most definitely have been Padraig, hence "Paddy" to anyone presuming to be on familiar terms with him. 

Some of the tweets have the belligerent tone characteristic of Internet discourse, along the lines of "This is AMERICA, and we call him Patty," with an intensive for emphasis that I shan't reproduce here. Militant ignorance, not one of our more attractive national characteristics, has been on wide display. Made by God as ignoramuses, like all of us, some of us appear not to have bestirred themselves to improve on the original product**

Odd that people marking a day to celebrate Irishness should be hostile to information about Irish traditions. But then, I expect some of them will mark the Irish national holiday by getting sloshed on Bud Light. 

If Irish heritage means anything to you, remembering that they did indeed preserve civilization in a dark time and subsequently produced some of the most gifted writers in English, take the advice of a mongrel Anglican of Scots-Irish-Welsh-English descent. If your liquor dispensary offers for sale Redbreast, a single pot still Irish whiskey of velvet smoothness and spreading warmth, pony up for a bottle, and lift a glass to Patricius, Patrick, or Paddy, giving him the respect of his own name.


*That's assuming, of course, that he was actually Patricius/Padraig, rather than the fifth-century bishop Palladius, from whom many of the stories about Patrick appear to derive.

**One dear soul insisted in a tweet that the Irish don't call him St. Paddy.

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