Fact Check: Is it ‘St. Patty’s Day’ or ‘St. Paddy’s Day’?

DCNFKush Desai, DCNF

Many Twitter users have claimed that St. Patrick’s Day should only be shortened to “St. Paddy’s Day,” not “St. Patty’s Day.”

“#PaddynotPatty,” an Irish Times Business journalist tweeted.

“Patty is not Paddy, which is short for Padraig,” the official Twitter handle of the Pittsburgh St. Patrick’s Day Parade said.

“A timely reminder before St. Patrick’s Day. #PaddynotPatty,” a cartoonist remarked.

Verdict: True

“Paddy” is arguably more appropriate because it is derived from the original Irish Gaelic equivalent of Patrick – or Pádraig.

Fact Check:

Millions of people across the U.S., Ireland and elsewhere celebrate on March 17 every year to commemorate the life of St. Patrick, a historical figure credited with bringing Christianity to Ireland. The holiday name often gets shortened in marketing materials and casual conversation to St. Patty’s Day.

Advocates of Irish heritage point out, however, that Patrick – and thus its diminutive, Patty – is the anglicized name of the patron saint of Ireland.

This is in some ways fitting because St. Patrick was actually born in fourth century Roman Britain as Maewyn Succat. Not a very religious person in his youth, Succat embraced his faith after being kidnapped and held as a slave in Ireland for around seven years. After escaping back home, Succat is said to have taken on the Latin name Patricius when he was ordained.

Patricius went on to spread Christianity among the Irish, creating a legacy that also popularized his name – which is, in Irish Gaelic, Pádraig.

Irish heritage advocates argue, accordingly, that St. Patrick’s Day should only be shortened to St. Paddy’s Day to reflect the Irish variant of the name and thus keep true to the holiday’s roots in Irish history and culture.

Many also argue that referring to the legendary Catholic icon as St. Patty is inappropriate, if not disrespectful. The term “patty,” for instance, can refer to cuts of meat, and the nickname Patty can be short for the feminine name “Patricia.”

The advocacy effort for usage of St. Paddy over St. Patty extends beyond Twitter. A Dublin-based creative agency, for example, created a Google Chrome extension that automatically corrects instances of “St. Patty” on web pages to read as “St. Paddy.”

Yet even the phrase St. Paddy’s Day is not without controversy. Some find this diminutive offensive; the term paddy was an ethnic slur in the 18th and 19th centuries for Irish and Irish-American people who had been stereotyped in popular culture.

Just how offensive of a term paddy is in contemporary times is a topic of debate. Usage of the term has become more acceptable, especially when referring to St. Patrick’s Day or someone actually named Patrick or Pádraig.

St. Patrick’s Day as a whole, moreover, has emerged as a broader celebration by Irish and non-Irish alike of Irish culture – including facets like Guinness beer, whose average daily consumption spikes from 5.5 million pints to 13 million pints each St. Patrick’s Day.

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