Patty’s Day, Patty’s Day, Patty’s Day: Say it loud and say it proud

We rarely saw this verbal American atrocity written down until the rise of the internet

Chicago dyed its river green on Saturday, continuing the annual tradition to celebrate St. Patrick's Day. Large crowds gathered to watch the journeyman plumbers pour in the dye to turn the river emerald green.

 

You want some high-end trolling? You want another of those stories that seems deliberately designed to provoke decent people into floods of rage? Huh? Huh? Do you feel tough enough for the most ruthless troll of the season? Here it comes.

Next Friday is Patty’s Day. Yeah, you read that right. There will be Patty’s Day parades in cities throughout the world. If you want to know more, click on #pattysday. Loads of people will be online to discuss Patty’s Day memories, Patty’s Day cuisine and a Patty’s Day drinking game. Again, that event is PATTY’S DAY.

I’m going to venture a mad theory. Until relatively recently there has been little fury about the North American habit of naming our national day for a compressed disc of processed meat. (I mean “Patty’s Day”. Did you not get that?)

We were aware of various vulgar US habits – what did the Chicago river do to deserve such treatment? – but the ugly nomenclature was rarely discussed. It is possible that, with its softened consonants, the American accent concealed the linguistic atrocity from Irish ears.

Sound the same

“Patty’s Day” and “Paddy’s Day” sound much the same when spoken by an Ohioan. The offending version was rarely written down in formal prose. So, a habitually calm Hibernian would be unlikely to encounter it in the novels of John Updike or the political pages of the New York Times.

My mad theory is that we rarely saw it written down until the rise of the internet. The digital ether is now awash with such atrocities. Here it is beside a recommendation for the Old Shillelagh pub in downtown Detroit. There it is being used to promote a T-shirt that bears the logo “Keep calm and Lepre-chaun”. (Does that make any sense? Shouldn’t the first syllable of “leprechaun” at least attempt a rhyme with “carry”?)

Oh, if I can’t find something actually worth being angry about, then I’m going to get really, really angry about this. All other outrages suddenly seem like minor slights.

The words “Patty’s Day” (which, notice, I haven’t written for several paragraphs) now stand as shorthand for the most nauseatingly inauthentic excesses of Irish-America.

In the homeland, Patty is never a shortened version of Patrick; it is a shortened version of Patricia. If you are an American heiress who was once kidnapped by the Symbionese Liberation Army, then you are almost certainly named “Patty”. If you are a chap called Patrick, then you are more likely to shorten that name to “Paddy”.

Patty’s Day in the US has become associated with such stupid inventions as the “Irish Car Bomb”. It is appropriate that a concoction so unfortunately named should be so likely to induce immediate vomiting. Take a glass of stout. Drop a shot glass containing whiskey and Irish cream liqueur into the blameless vessel. Now throw it out the window and order an untainted pint.

Make America Great Again with an ultra-lucky four-leaf clover.
Make America Great Again with an ultra-lucky four-leaf clover.

Fetching mould green

Nothing sums up the Patty’s Day spirit better than the recently launched, seasonal variation on Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” hat. The Patty’s Day edition, in fetching mould green, features the familiar legend on the front and, to the rear, something that purports to be a shamrock.

Unfortunately, the vegetation has four leaves. You don’t need to be a professor in comparative mythology to know that the point of the symbol is that it comes in three sections. Saint Patty used the plant to explain the doctrine of the holy Trinity.

(Which new deity can President Trump have added to the consubstantiation of divine beings? People are saying he is the most divine of all. Who has ever seen the Holy Ghost? Bad. Missing. The Father? Rests on the seventh day. Lazy. Let me tell you I wouldn’t.)

Hang on. Where was I? Oh, yeah. Patty’s Day. Patty’s Day. Patty’s Day. One of the best ways to detoxify offensive language is to reclaim it as your own.

Let’s not get carried away. The Americans aren’t exactly oppressing us here. None of us suffers much when a man from Boston eats corned beef and cabbage while listening to When Irish Eyes Are Smiling. But they are annoying us, and that is a first-world problem worth exaggerating.

A year ago I began using “Patty’s Day” in all online references to the coming celebration. The experience felt enormously liberating. You pass through an unholy transgression and emerge cleansed on the other side. It’s like walking on hot coals without the risk of blisters.

By ironically subverting the words, they can no longer cause me hurt or discomfort. The pain is over. So say “Patty’s Day”. Write #pattysday at the base of your tweets. Send Patty’s Day cards.

Patty’s Day. Patty’s Patty’s Day. We’re free.

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