There’s No Such Thing as St. Patty’s Day

published Mar 13, 2018
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As we approach March 17, consider this your friendly reminder: It’s St. Paddy’s Day, not St. Patty’s Day. Please edit your parade banners, bar flyers, leprechaun hats, and social media posts accordingly.

A Little History for You

The holiday celebrates the life of St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland who was credited with bringing Christianity to the Irish. If you must use the diminutive, use Paddy with two Ds, not Ts. Paddy is derived from Pádraig, the Irish name for Patrick; Patty is derived from Patricia.

It’s unclear how the misunderstanding came about, but it may have to do with Pat being the English nickname for Patrick, the anglicized version of Pádraig. Calling the saint Pat is acceptable if you must, but Patty is the nickname of a different name all together.

Before you point out that there are no Ds in Patrick, consider other names such as Edward, Henry, or Catherine, whose traditional nicknames — Ned/Ted, Harry/Hank, Kate — are not so easily explained.

Another reason for the naming confusion could be that in a North American accent, Paddy and Patty sound exactly the same.

A Plea from the People of Ireland

In 2017 the newspaper Irish Examiner published a PSA (in good humor) urging other nations to stop wishing people a happy St. Patty’s day. A few years earlier, Dublin Airport posted a similar notice on Facebook, reminding us all that it is St. Paddy’s, never St. Patty’s.

And since 2010, there’s been a Paddy, Not Patty website spreading the message about the appropriate nickname for the famous Irish saint. The associated Twitter feed @paddynotpatty is made up of retweets of people, companies, and news outlets who incorrectly shorten St. Patrick’s name. Merriam-Webster is a follower if that gives any weight to the online crusade. You can even purchase T-shirts on Amazon to further the “Paddy, Not Patty” cause.

Last year, creator of Paddy, Not Patty, Marcus Campbell, tweeted this: “Happy St. Patrick’s Day. If you’re in any doubt, just spell it out. He was a saint, not your mate.”

And while we’re at it, the four-leaf clover is not the same as a shamrock. A shamrock is a three-leaf clover and, as history goes, the leaves were used by St. Patrick to illustrate the Holy Trinity. Whether or not that’s true, the shamrock has been a symbol of Ireland since the 18th century.

Luckily, there are emojis for both the shamrock and the four-leaf clover, so no need to improvise there. And now that we’ve been set straight on Paddy versus Patty, we’ll get the hashtag right when we Instagram our green beers. (That tradition befuddles the Irish as well, but will be harder to break.)

How do you spell it: St. Paddy’s or St. Patty’s?