Ode to the O’s – On the demise of Irish names


In the 1800’s, if an Irish name hadn’t been anglicized, in both spelling and pronunciation, before reaching the shores of North America, it might be on arrival. Hence names like Ó Conehobhair and Ó Raghallaigh became O’Connor and O’Reilly. Now names are being changed again due to standardization.

Take Mary Pat O’Reilly. Birth certificate indicates first name is Mary Pat, last name is O’Reilly. Her passport lists the same. The differences start with her California driver license which lists a last name of OREILLY. Her AAA card leaves the space but drops the ‘ listing O REILLY and a shortened first name of MARY P. Even her Aer Lingus ticket to Dublin is incorrect listing MARY PAT OREILLY.

On-line forms instruct you to enter your legal name but the systems cannot handle a wide array of legal names. In the age of tighter and tighter security, will there come a day when airport security denies Mary Pat access to the gate as the name on her passport is not an exact match to her ticket? When the extent of automation expands, that is a likely scenario.

And let’s not forget the other names like McDonough and MacNamara that are slowly being ruined by the systems that can’t handle lower case letters. Join me in writing letters of protest to all the organizations and companies that use computer programs that force all names to be upper case, that don’t allow spaces in first and last names, that omit diacritical marks from all spelling.

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