Ole and Lena and Paddy Went Into a Bar . . .

Okay, it's nitpicking and grammar nerdish of me, but I can't help it. It isn't "St. Patty's Day," people. If you must be informal, it's "St. Paddy's Day."

Since March 17 falls on a Saturday this year, I suspect the consumption of green beer may hit record levels. Which around here isn't necessarily a bad thing. We've had such a dry winter that we can use all the moisture we can get.

Despite all the celebrations in honor of his day, about the only things most of us know about St. Patrick are that his birthday was on March 17 and that he is crediting with driving all the snakes out of Ireland.

Both of these are wrong. Most of us have probably suspected the truth about the snakes, which is that, Ireland being an island and all, there were never any snakes there in the first place.

But since March 17 is St. Patrick's Day, it's logical to assume, as I did until I looked it up just now, that this was his birthday. Nope. It's actually the anniversary of his death. The day seems to be accepted by scholars, though there's some confusion about the year, which was somewhere in the late fifth or early sixth century.

He was a real person, though, a missionary and an archbishop. As a Christian, he was committed to eradicating Druidism and other beliefs that he would have considered the worship of false gods. No doubt he wouldn't appreciate his name being plastered all over the place accompanied by pictures of leprechauns. What he would think of all the green beer, of course, is another question.

I think it's great to celebrate the Irish on St. Patrick's Day, even for people who are as Norwegian and as Lutheran as Ole and Lena. There's nothing wrong with wearing green and sporting buttons that say things like, "Kiss me, I'm Irish." Maybe it even does a little to make up for the days when the more common sentiment would have been "No Irish need apply."

But the man was an archbishop, for goodness sake. (At least one can hope it was for the sake of goodness.) In his lifetime, he would have been called "Father Patrick," or maybe "Your Grace." I doubt that his parishioners ever slapped him on the back and called him "Paddy."

And even if they had, they—or at least the few of them who were literate—surely wouldn't have spelled it "Patty."

Happy St. Patrick's Day.

Categories: Words for Nerds | 1 Comment

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One thought on “Ole and Lena and Paddy Went Into a Bar . . .

  1. Frank

    Corned beef is not a purely Irish dish. It was adopted by Irish-American immigrants as a cheap alternative to bacon. They found the Jewish people were buying this cheaper meat and adopted it as their own. Never the less, Ginny and I will have our corned beef, cabbage and potatoes again, as we do every year. Besided, the stores feature corn beef specials every year , along with cabbage. Being part Irish, I deck myself in Green. Thanks for a delightful informative column again, Kathy. Erin Go bragh!

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