The e-mail from the Obama campaign found the right target: Dave Hunt, lifelong Democrat from Upper Manhattan and owner of an Irish saloon, had contributed to President Obama’s 2008 victory drive.
Now, just in time for St. Patrick’s Day, barackobama.com was peddling “O’Bama” T-shirts, playing on the president’s wee trace of Irish blood and his joke on a visit to Ireland last year that he had “come home to find the apostrophe that we lost somewhere along the way.”
But Mr. Hunt, an owner of Coogan’s in Washington Heights, noted something wrong with the message on the T-shirt itself: below the “O’Bama” was a large four-leaf clover. The shamrock, symbol of Ireland, is a three-leaf clover.
“That is my particular pebble in my shoe, when four-leaf clovers are interchanged with three-leafs,” said Mr. Hunt, 62. “People do it all the time. But if they were going to go to the trouble to do a T-shirt with the O and the apostrophe — which I think is very clever – someone on the staff should have gone to the trouble of finding out how many leaves to put on the clover.”
According to tradition, St. Patrick himself used the three-leaf clover to illustrate the Holy Trinity. Christopher Cahill, executive director of the American Irish Historical Society said that while that might be apocryphal — “basically everything associated with St. Patrick is essentially legend,” he said — the shamrock, derived from seamróg, meaning “little clover,” is properly depicted with three leaves.
A four-leaf clover, lucky as it may be, is “not the normal symbol for Ireland,” Mr. Cahill said, and as a St. Patrick’s Day token would be “kind of off.”
Last Friday night, Mr. Hunt sent an e-mail whence the solicitation came. “Please,” he wrote, “a shamrock is three leaves not a Four leaf clover!!!” He received an auto-reply thanking him and directing him to other areas of the Web site.
He did not order the shirt.
A spokeswoman for the Obama campaign, when questioned about the logo on Wednesday, asked for documentation of its cultural incorrectness and promised to check it out.
As of Wednesday afternoon, the site was also selling O’Bama pint glasses with the same four-leaf clover logo.
Notwithstanding his annoyance, Mr. Hunt said that if a full one were placed before him, he would not send it back.
“There’s not a glass that I would refuse to drink from,” he said.