Another Irish question

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By Mary Kay O'Grady

blogger

Not only am I growing old, but my name is being phased out. I wonder if other people whose names also begin with O followed by an apostrophe, as in O'Grady, are having my experience with their surnames.

About ten years ago I began to notice that when I had to spell my name in a store or such, the person taking the info would often give me a blank look when I said "apostrophe." As a former English teacher, I shuddered.

It's only gotten worse. I usually don't give a quick grammar lesson, because it will only result in embarrassment for both of us.

Furthermore, when I fill out a form online, it often gets tossed back to me saying that it can't accept my name. So I get rid of the apostrophe and it usually goes through. It will get tossed back again, however, if the spelling doesn't agree with what they had on file from some other time.

My driver's license is Ogrady, but the Oak Park Library accepts O'Grady. My Medicare card is Ogrady, but my Blue Cross-Blue Shield insists on Mary K O Grady, and I usually have to explain that I am the same person as the one on my Medicare card, YOU'VE JUST FILED ME UNDER G!

Once when I entered the country after 9/11, the name on my passport didn't agree with my driver's license and I had to get out of line and haul my luggage around to get it straightened out. I think the security guy did it on purpose. Seriously, the photos on both documents are almost identical. Maybe he was English.

I've noticed it's fashionable for some young parents to throw an apostrophe willy nilly into their child's name. It makes for a bit of panache, but the computer will eventually take care of that, I'm sure.

O, by the way, O is a word all by itself, part of a patronymic. The apostrophe that usually follows the O actually comes from a misunderstanding by English-speaking clerks in Elizabethan time, who interpreted it as a form of the word "of." It must be so. I found it on the computer.

Please understand that I am not a member of the "professional Irish," a term my family used to refer to those who made a career of promoting their nationality, their parish, their brushes with alcohol poisoning on St. Patrick's Day, and Notre Dame. By the way, the thing I like best about Ireland lately is that they've broken their ties to the Vatican over the sexual abuse issue.

So, my fellow "where's my apostrophe?" sufferers, what shall we do about this? We could protest, but it's cold out. We could write letters, but to whom? I know, let's talk it to death! How about O'Sullivan's in Forest Park?

Reader Comments

7 Comments - Add Your Comment

Comment Policy

epic lulz  

Posted: December 10th, 2011 11:49 PM

Occupy Apostrophe!

Ed McDevitt from River Forest  

Posted: December 10th, 2011 1:18 AM

O'come on. You can't feel that o'ppressed. But anyway, MK, my prescription drug plan provides a phone service which calls to inform us of shipments and such. The robovoice used to identify us as the "Em Cee Devitt" family. I felt like I should be hosting a TV show. As for Dan, "Haley" is, as far as the Irish name historians are concerned, an English "toponymic," derived from a place. Further evidence of this can be read at http://goo.gl/v7rja. Enough. It's 1 O'Clock. I'm to'bed. Ed McDevitt

Patricia O'Shea  

Posted: December 8th, 2011 12:08 PM

I feel your pain. I married into this name and as much as I love my husband, it's a pain in the rear. Not only the computer systems either lack of or inconsistent handling of the apostrophe, but the fact that my husband considers our last initial to be OS. I can't get monogrammed anything! Never mind having the initials POS which bring to mind many other combinations of words...argh.

Eilene McCullagh Heckman from Chicago, Illinois  

Posted: December 8th, 2011 12:04 PM

I had just as many problems with "em-cee-capital cee" growing up.

Aging Disgracefully from Oak Park  

Posted: December 6th, 2011 11:46 AM

The officials on Ellis Island did a number on a lot of ethnic names.

Dan Haley from Wednesday Journal  

Posted: December 6th, 2011 10:46 AM

Family legend has it that Haley is the short form of O'Healy but the evidence is scant. However, I have the experience of having my last name suddenly become a ragingly popular first name. Half of all girl children are now named Haley. So now I order Chinese and they ask my name. "Haley," I say. "What's your last name?" they ask. Totally weird.

Dave Coulter  

Posted: December 6th, 2011 10:35 AM

Interesting...I read somewhere once that my surname possibly once had an O' in front of it - circa 13th century. Stories and accounts over 700 years old I take with a grain of salt, but the idea of an apostrophied surname seems exotic! Say....does that tavern have a saltshaker?

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