- What is a “nickname”? How did it originate?
- Is it a common thing to give nicknames? How does it happen?
- What great men have had nicknames?
- Is it a good or a bad practice?
The old English word “eke” means “also.” So a nickname was an also-name, that is an additional name give to person. We find, from the eariest days, a tendency to describe a person by some other title than his own name, or to give a name which would show some quality which he possessed, some occupation which he followed, and so to distinguish him from others with the same proper name. To take a great example, we find that in the Bible, Jesus is sometimes described as “the Carpenter,” or “the Nazarene” the first showing his occupation and the second, his place of birth.
Sometimes, in course of time, a nickname became a proper name. There are men called Armstrong in England and this was certainly because some ancestor in the past was strong of arm. The name of Smith arose from the occupation of a blacksmith. Similarly Clark, Baker and Cook, which started in professions, are now proper names, and a man whose fore-fathers came from Qandhar or Bokhara is called Qandhari Bokhari. A Scotsman living in England is often called “Scotty” by those living around him; an Irishman is called *Paddy,” and a Welshman “Taffy.”
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History abounds in examples of nicknames bestowed on great men. The great Emperor Napoleon was known to his men as “The little Corporal,” because he had originally served in that ránk when he was a common soldier. Again the Duke of Wellington, the conqueror of Napoleon at Waterloo, was known to all as “The Iron Duke.” A nickname often originates in the Russian peasants in the old days used to call the Czar, “Little Father,” Mazarin, a great French statesman, was noted for his very crafty and cunning mind, and so was often spoken of as “The fox.”
College students often give other nicknames; not always dignified. One student who had very ugly features was called “Caliban” by his college mates, because there is a monster of that name in Shakespeare. Another who was fond of feats of strength was called “Tarzan.” In the same class were the “Mouse” and Rabbit,” in Oliver Twist, a cunning boy went by the name of “The Artful Dodger.”