Wednesday, June 11

Random Thoughts on Nicknames

I've always been intrigued by nicknames, particularly when a given nickname is a variation of a person's last name. This seems to be the height of sobriquet lassitude.

One example I remember from my youth is Hilary Hinton "Zig" Ziglar, a salesman and motivational speaker who I would occasionally see when I was a child and spent a great deal of time watching television with my grandmother. "Your attitude, not your aptitude, will determine your altitude" is one of his sayings that I remember. At the time I was too young to know what aptitude meant, but I had been frequently reminded that my attitude needed adjusting.

That reminds me of another nickname from those days. A man named Loyd C. Sigmon worked in Los Angele radio in the 1950's. Mr. Sigmon would monitor traffic information from the California Highway Patrol and when a problem developed he would notify all the radio stations in the area. This became known as a "SigAlert" and he became known as "Sig" Sigmon. The stations would then transmit the SigAlert to their helicopter traffic reporters who would include it in their next report. 

I'm not sure what determined how high these helicopters flew in order to see the traffic patterns, but I'm sure Mr. Ziglar would have suggested it was their attitude.

I wonder if “Zig” Ziglar and “Sig” Sigmon were ever introduced at a party? 
“Zig, meet Sig."
 "Sig, say hello to Zig.”

Don't confuse this naming convention with people whose actual first names are a variation of their last names. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie would be an example of this, or musician Robbie Robertson. Again, I think this shows a certain lack of parental aspiration.

I have to give the parents of singer Kristoffer "Kris" Kristofferson credit, though. They pretty much hit the name/nickname trifecta.


There are some people whose first names and last names are the same. Sirhan Sirhan is a notorious example, but when I was studying poetry in college my buddies and I always got a chuckle out of Ford Madox Ford and William Carlos Williams. Later we found out Ford Madox Ford had changed his name from Ford Hermann Hueffer. 

That got a bigger chuckle.

Many well known people would probably benefit from a well formed nickname.

Abraham Lincoln, for example, is familiar as our 16th President. His best known nicknames are "The Great Emancipator" or "Honest Abe". But really "Ladies and Gentlemen please welcome Abraham 'The Great Emancipator' Lincoln..." just sounds wordy and awkward.

"Linc" Lincoln sounds much better. With a name like that he could be an insurance salesman or car dealer.

"Come on down to 'Linc' Lincoln's Mile of Cars..."

And what about George "The Father of His Country" Washington? Descriptive, yes, but it hardly rolls off the tongue.

However "Wash" Washington? That's a name any motivational speaker could be proud of. 

"Please welcome our guest speaker at this year's Make Yourself Happen Now conference, 'Wash' Washington..." 
Vladimir "Diabolical manipulator of global crises" Putin sounds so dire and threatening. But "Poo" Putin?  He might be a third baseman. 

Or A Bear of Very Little Brain.


All this is probably a waste of valuable blog space, but I'm not the only one who has written on this subject.

"What's in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet."

That's what "Shake" Shakespeare has to say. 

And with a cool name like that, well you just gotta believe him.


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