“Paddy” (often used with “Paddy wagon”) is a racial slur for an Irish person just as “Nigger” is for a black person or “Kike” is for a Jew or “Chink” for a Chinese person, etc.., It comes from the drunk wagons that used to take those who were publicly drunk to jail to “sleep it off”, and it is incorrectly and widely believed that most of these alcohol abusers were Irish immigrants or their descendants.”
It just so happen someone used the word “Paddy wagon” on”Live from the Land of Hope & Dreams with Dave Marsh” on Sirius radio on November 20th as we talked about OWS arrest. The term “Paddy” was quickly exposed as racist. Then on Monday (21 November) one of the young protesters unknowingly used the word saying he was ready to be arrested and taken away in the “Paddy wagon.” Many of the people around me at the protest commented on the nature of the word and our feeling that the young protester didn’t fully know the origin or meaning of the term.
Immediately after the event I posted a definition of the term on facebook (21 Nov. 11). Below is the discussion thread on the word. I felt the discussion was one that warranted saving and sharing.
Kwame Zulu Shabazz & Stephanie McCarthy did most of the heavy lifting.
Read thru the thread and you might just learn something new. FYI about some of the people on the thread – Shabazz is a Harvard Ph.D now teaching at Winston-Salem State University. Ms. McCarthy lives in Paris, where she has resided since 2001; and lived in France since 1999. She teach English as applied to the Humanities in a university in Paris.
Pamela Willis Watters hmmm….I had no idea! Thanks, Kevin
Miriam Harris really interesting–thank you.
Maria Holt Wow! Learn something from your page everyday…
Kevin Gray Yeah, it just so happen someone brought it up on the Sirius show yesterday as we talked about OWS arrest and tonite one of the young protesters unknowingly used the word.
Frank Moliterno Interesting.
Maria Holt Oh that’s def not a good look…(referring to young man’s gaff)
Kevin Gray Just young.
Kwame Zulu Shabazz Bro. Kev. I did a quick check on the etymology of “paddy wagon,” and there is actually not a consensus on its meaning. And, according to the source I read, PW likely originates from the fact that many police officers who drove police wagons were Irish.
If accurate, then PW is not derogatory. The derogatory use comes later when African Americans begin to use “paddy” to describe all whites, regardless of ethnicity. But, again, we should be clear that “paddy wagon” and “paddy,’ seem to have two different connotations–one neutral and the other bad.
My other quibble, is that whatever its meaning you seem to imply that paddy and nigger are equivalents–that calling an Irish person paddy is just like calling a black person nigger. But the history of the relative treatment of Africans and Irish people don’t bear that out. kzs
//”Irishman,” 1780, slang, from the pet form of the common Irish proper name Patrick (Ir. Padraig). It was in use in black slang by 1946 for any “white person.” Paddy wagon is 1930, perhaps so called because many police officers were Irish.//
Bob Shanbrom Good call, Kevin.
James Armand Chionsini Jr. WOP for Italians used to mean ‘without papers’
Kwame Zulu Shabazz And its not exactly clear to me that the African American use of the term “paddy” was, in every instance, derogatory. It seems to me that it was/is often simply a variant of “white.” kzs
Kevin Gray @Bro Kwame- Absolutely! Efia (Nwangaza) mentioned another thing to me tonite when the young man used the term (and he was speaking about being ready to be taken away in the “Paddy wagon”). She offered that many slave catchers were Irish. Hadn’t checked into that one yet. But certainly the term “negro-round-up” which today is the neighborhood sweeps via profiling has its roots in the history of the term.
Kwame Zulu Shabazz Yessir, in fact, last year, I posted something on “paddy wagon” songs and the link to slave catchers. I will see if I can dig it up. kzs
Kevin Gray Well, now, white is white, and race trumps class under white supremacy, so in that respect a black using the word during the time when such slang was part of the everyday vernacular may have been “flipping it” – [“you may be white but you’re just a paddy” just as -“you may be white but you’re just a po’cracker” which plays the class card.
Kwame Zulu Shabazz Yeah the songs im thinking of were called “patty rollers” another name, as you note, for slave patrols. Not exactly sure if it has any connection with the Irish but will check it out to tomorrow cuz it getting late. im in my office and i gotta…umm…roll :O) Continue reading →