For the last two year’s you have been reading my blogs – or at least seeing my byline while skipping over the blog—and probably wondering how exactly to pronounce that strange name. Well, in honor of St. Patrick’s Day, I am going to welcome you into my personal nightmare.
My name is about as Irish as you can get. I mean Padraic Maroney is one step away from getting your own box of Lucky Charms. According to family lore, I had red hair until my first haircut. From that point on it grew back blonde. During the summers you can still see the ginger tint comes out. Thankfully, I didn’t grow up to be a leprechaun.
Legend has it that my mother took my name from a television miniseries called “The Manions of America.” It starred Pierce Brosnan, who my mother loves, and is about Irish immigrants or eating potatoes or something along those lines. One of the characters had the name Padraic. They liked the sound of it and, because friends of theirs had claimed dibs on the name Nicholas, this is what they settled on. (FYI – those same friends ended up going with the name Austin when they finally had a child, many years after I was born).
Here’s where things get tricky though. My mother said she looked the name up in a book of Irish baby names. Despite hearing the name in the movie, my parents never really knew how to pronounce it. Since it’s a derivative of Patrick, that’s just what they went with. When Google was invented, I searched the official pronunciation, which led to an argument with my mother. She had convinced herself how it was supposed to be pronounced and refused to believe Google.
We should maybe stop at this point to also note that my siblings all have run of the mill names – Joe, Josh, and Molly. They are all spelled and pronounced normal. I was the only one who won the name lottery.
I was none the wiser about any of this until I entered kindergarten. My teacher had to have surgery and was out for an extended period of time and the substitute started on my birthday. It was very ominous; I should have known it was a sign of future things to come in my life. The lights were all off and we all sat in the middle of the room. My teacher had a big, high-backed leather chair that she used, and in which the substitute was now sitting in. I don’t remember being able to see her face, almost like she was a Bond villain or something – but that could just be my memories taking poetic license.
Anyway, she starts with, “So, I hear we have a birthday today.”
I timidly raised my hand.
That’s when it happened. She tries reading my name from the roster and just completely butchers it before finally asking me how to say my name. It wouldn’t be the last time either. The start of each school year would lead to a similar event. One teacher in high school read my name as “Patricia” and then argued with me when I said that wasn’t correct. She was confused and want to know why I wasn’t a girl. I told her she would have to take that up with my parents.
After that, I began just answering to anything that started with a “P” by default. But it’s not even just people who read my name who have a problem comprehending it. It’s also when I meet people and tell them that my name is “Patrick” and then they see how it’s spelled. It always led to a long conversation about the origin of my name and how it’s really pronounced.
About 10 years ago or so, I finally had enough and came up with the BRILLIANT idea to just use my middle name to avoid all of the chaos that having an unusual first name brought me. My middle name is Jacob, so I figured Jake would be okay. I mean who could find an issue with that… well, it turns out timing is everything.
Right around the time that I started introducing myself as Jake was the time when the “Twilight” movies were blowing up with Taylor Lautner playing a werewolf named Jacob. But much more damning than that was the Jake from State Farm commercials. Seriously, for a good 5-6 years, I couldn’t go a day without someone asking if I was from State Farm. Just as it all died down, State Farm had to re-introduce the commercials for a new generation!
My family is still confused as to why I don’t use my first name, except on legal documents. It was only in the last year or so that my mother even came around and wasn’t upset about it. I’ve tried to explain that it wasn’t meant as a slight to anyone, but rather just for my own sanity. But in trying to make my life easier, I guess the real lesson that I learned is that there is no way to escape your name. No matter the reason, it’s part of who you are.
Padraic Maroney hails from upstate New York, suffering from middle child syndrome. His writing career began after moving to the Philadelphia suburbs while in high school. He wrote for The Bucks County Courier Times’ Reality section, written by local teenagers, and has the distinction of writing a weekly gossip column for a college newspaper at a school he didn’t even attend! His love of pop culture led him to intern at Teen People, where he met Janis Gaudelli, and realized he could turn being a millennial into a career. Since then he’s alternated between writing and marketing, but always focused on Millennials and everything they bring to the table. Padraic is a lover of shenanigans, 80s music, and the movie “Scream.”