Pluck O’ The Irish

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day! Are you wearing green? Drinking excessively? Does it really matter?

Since most Americans’ knowledge of Irish history and culture comes from a Lucky Charms commercial, I thought it might be an apt time to examine the real reasons behind the celebratory revels.

So here are 10 things you didn’t know about Saint Pat, Irish history and culture!

1. Saint Patrick was probably born in Roman Britain, about AD 385. He was originally called Maewyn, a name that, even in that historic era, no doubt got his butt kicked at recess more often than not.

2. Saint Patrick did not in actuality drive the snakes out of Ireland. He merely offered them a lift when their car broke down and only drove them down the road to the nearest pub.

3. The shamrock is the traditional icon of Saint Patrick’s Day, replacing the passed-out Leprechaun in popularity because it was too hard to face paint.

4. The Blarney Stone is a bluestone built into battlements of Blarney Castle (near Cork). According to legends, kissing the stone endows one with the gift of gab. The Blarney Stone is not to be confused with the Barney Stone, which was once passed by a large, singing, purple dinosaur.

5. Erin Go Bragh is an Irish phrase meaning “I can’t believe the Yanks are buying this green beer crap!”

6. If anyone ever invites you to “kiss his shillelagh,” you should run. Run away fast.

7. The limerick is a poetic form, with a rhyme scheme of A-A-B-B-A, named after the town of Limerick. (Although many people erroneously believe the five-lined verse started in the town of Nantucket.)

8. One of Ireland’s most famous sons is the writer James Joyce, best known for his landmark novel, Ulysses. Ulysses is a massive novel: 250,000 words in total from a vocabulary of 30,000 words, with most editions weighing in at between 644 and 1000 pages, and divided into 18 chapters, or ‘episodes’ as they are referred to in most scholarly circles. Yeah, Joyce didn’t date a lot.

9. 34 million Americans can trace their ancestry back to Ireland. At any given moment, about 6 million of them are sober.

10. The best time of year to visit the Emerald Isle is the Irish spring. Manly, yes, but I like it too.

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