The clerk at Walmart giggled as she put my “Kiss Me I’m Irish” T-shirt in the bag.

“Around St. Patrick’s Day, people who are in no way Irish crack me up buying these shirts.”

My husband hung his head. He knew what was coming.

I couldn’t help it. I had to do it. I mean, she set herself up and I can be an imp sometimes.

“I know what you mean,” I responded, “but I really am Irish. My great grandfather was a Scots-Irishman named McClain.”

After she turned beet red, I let her off the hook with a hearty laugh, “most people don’t see it at first, but I assure you that my hair turns red in the summer.”

It’s true. I am part Irish, but it seems that I lost that hyphen somewhere. You know, the Irish-American hyphen. I’ve had my other hyphen for quite some time, the African-American one (thank goodness because the hyphen replaced a really ugly word) and the rest of me (the Native American) did not come with a hyphen. Wonder why that is?

I got to thinking – are hyphens just fences, and if so are they there to protect or divide us? Should we lose our hyphens and maybe become just Americans without any hyphens?

  • Do good hyphens make good neighbors?
  • Hyphen chasing
  • Honorary hyphens

Do Good Hyphens Make Good Neighbors?

Culture is the glue that holds societies together.

Unfortunately, I didn’t learn about my Irish hyphen until I was an adult. Seems that Great-Grandpa McClain would be described by some hyphens that polite people shouldn’t use and Grandma didn’t talk about him at all.

My cousin Karen (who hyphenates her maiden and married name) researched our family history for a college project and discovered our Irish roots.

Grandma also didn’t talk much about her Native (no hyphen) American background. I gathered because she told me one day that she grew up in Shawnee Town, IL, that we must be part Shawnee but perhaps Illini. Either way Grandma never said, she just told us that she was part half Indian (which is what they were called in her day) and left it at that.

Which brings me to the hyphen that I DO know – the African-American part of me. This is the heritage that I grew up with (part of which says that children don’t pester adults with questions that they don’t want to answer.)

That hyphen gave me and my children our cultural identity, our food, our music, our values, our history. It is part of who we are.

Our hyphens join us together with others of the same hyphen. Our hyphens give us a sense of belonging.

They are fences to protect us and keep us together. They can be good fences as long as they are not used to keep the neighbors out.

Hyphen Chasing

Every good fence should have a gate, a way to let others in.

I am a hyphen chaser. I love to experience and explore other cultures. It is so much fun.

That is one reason that I love my adopted home of Denver, CO. We have lots of hyphens here to explore.

Most of my friends have different hyphens than I do. It makes parties much more interesting. They have always opened their hyphenated gate and treated me to their food and culture.

I have an Italian (hyphen) American friend who is the only person I know with a bocce set (sort of a combination of marbles and bowling played on the lawn.)

My Serbian (hyphen) American friend was Yugoslavian when I met her makes a mean perogi (a ravioli stuffed with mashed potatoes and cheese although I learned that it can be stuffed with anything, including fruit.)

My Korean (hyphen) American friend is helping me with my Zen garden and my Mexican (hyphen) American friend is giving me much needed help with my Spanish.

They all open the gates to their hyphens whenever I come knocking.

Honorary Hyphens

I’m always invited to hyphenated weddings, hyphenated parties, hyphenated houses of worship. I have so much fun and learn so much in so doing. Most of the time, my hyphenated friends give me an honorary hyphen for the day. I have been Chinese, Japanese, Puerto Rican, Polish, Russian, Peruvian, Brazilian, Syrian, Lebanese, more hyphens than I really can count.

Hyphens are so much fun. People should cherish theirs.

I am glad that America is a land of hyphens as long as we don’t let those hyphens divide us.

We should never forget that the second part is the most important part of our identity – hyphen American. We are all under the same red, white and blue flag.

Since today is St. Patrick’s Day, I am going to enjoy my Irish hyphen and try to catch a Leprechaun.

Maybe I’ll even find a four (hyphen) leafed clover.

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About living4bliss

Mental Health Food is the place to stop to get your bliss on everyday. I give tips, hints and sometimes a little silliness to help you navigate the challenges of life. We have a great community of positive bloggers that keep the bliss going all day every day. Make sure to visit their blogs, too. Mental Health Food is a product of Believing Life Is Setup for Success, Inc. (B.L.I.S.S.) in Thornton, CO. We have been in the business of teaching success since 1991. We provide workshops, consulting services and now videos that help people just like you start and maintain successful businesses and personal lives using what you already have. Enjoy a daily dose of Mental Health Food; nourishment for the mind.

18 responses »

  1. scousepov says:

    Great post! I suppose we all have to lose the hyphen in the end, as most of us could trace our relatives back through many countries; It would end up taking us an hour just to say our surnames! 🙂 I come from Liverpool where the majority of us are of Irish decedent as it’s so close, but it’s so funny that half the world claim to be of Irish decent 🙂

  2. Dave says:

    I am p-e-r-f Without the hyphen, I’d be almost perfect but as it is, I’m Polish-English-Russian-French. I’m very mixed up.

  3. Dave says:

    Of course, it goes without saying…. after all the hyphens are over, I’m American.

  4. I think the mere fact that each of us is different, makes us all the same.

  5. I have a lot of my own hyphens and have borrowed a lot from my friends as well. I really enjoyed reading this article.

  6. THAT was absolutely BRILLIANT, Saundra!!

    I agree with what you said: Most importantly, we are all HUMAN!!

    • living4bliss says:

      Being American while keeping your heritage and cultural roots is important. Some people want to abandon their roots but I enjoy mine and will keep them forever.

  7. rampike says:

    good points:) this is something that people probably don’t ever think about!

  8. Two bloggers nominated me for the Very Inspiring Blogger Award yesterday, and asked me to pass the award on to other inspiring bloggers. Your blog immediately came to mind. I love it! You are nominated once again for the Very Inspiring blogger Award. What do all of these awards tell you? You are making a difference in the lives of others, and it can’t get much better than that! Keep up the good work, my friend. To view the award, go to

    • living4bliss says:

      Oh WOW. I don’t know what to say except thank you so very, very much.

      I will be passing this award along next Saturday so that I have enough time to give it the consideration that it deserves.

      In the meanwhile, I will proudly hang in on my blog along with your link.

      Thank you so much again and I am honored that you enjoy my blog.

  9. I really enjoyed your post and congratulations are definitely in order for all of your wonderful awards! Keep up your most inspiring blogging! 🙂

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