It’s astonishing how many famous people, dead and alive, have nicknames. This applies to royalty, military personnel, entertainers, sports personalities, people in government and in the arts.
Nicknames are often derogatory—Bloody Mary (Mary I of England), Ivan the Terrible (Czar Ivan IV), The Poison Dwarf (Josef Goebbels), Tricky Dicky (U.S. President Richard Nixon), Scarface (Al Capone), The She-Wolf of France (Isabella, wife of Edward II of England), The Accursed (Genghis Khan), and Lyin’ Brian (Brian Mulroney).
Three monarchs considered insane, Ludwig II of Bavaria, Charles VI of France, and Donald II of Scotland, were known respectively as Ludwig the Mad, Charles the Mad, and Donald the Mad.
Attila the Hun was nicknamed The Scourge of God.
Our recent prime minister, Stephen Harper, didn’t garner any compliments nickname-wise. At the same time, no identifiable nickname of any kind clings to him although The Economist labeled him The Automaton and others called him Robo-Harper and Mini-Bush.
Lester Pearson was Mike, while John Diefenbaker answered to Dief the Chief. Pierre Trudeau was known by his initials, PET. His son, Justin, appears to be Selfie or The Selfie P.M. However, Justin’s nickname could change as time advances.
Depression-era Prime Minister, R.B. Bennett, was called Bonfire. Joe Clark was always referred to as Joe Who? Jean Chretien called himself The Little Guy from Shawinigan, an appellation that stuck.
Leaders from elsewhere haven’t escaped nicknaming. So we have Honest Abe (Abraham Lincoln), Uncle Joe (Joseph Stalin), Ike (Dwight Eisenhower), The Iron Chancellor (Otto von Bismarck), Der Führer (Adolf Hitler), Richard the Lion-Hearted (Richard I of England), and The Little Corporal (Napoleon).
Elizabeth I was called Good Queen Bess as well as The Virgin Queen. Her father, Henry VIII, was Old Coppernose.
Elizabeth II is nicknamed Lillibet. Lillibet apparently arose because Princess Margaret couldn’t pronounce ‘Elizabeth’ when they were children.
A few famous people are better known by their nicknames than by their real names. J.B. Hickok will forever be called Wild Bill. And who would ever refer to William Cody by any name other than Buffalo Bill? Most people don’t even know Bing Crosby’s name is actually ‘Harry,’ or that Fats Domino is ‘Antoine.’
Boxer, Joe Louis, was The Brown Bomber, and a famous Blue Bomber was Indian Jack Jacobs. Also, who could overlook Maurice Rocket Richard?
Some nicknames have been so universally adopted we get their reference instantly. This is true of The Lady with the Lamp (Florence Nightingale), The Bard of Avon (William Shakespeare), The Ayreshire Poet (Robert Burns), and Bogey (Humphrey Bogart).
Other such sobriquets need further identification. The Immortal Tinker is John Bunyan, Old Tomorrow is John A. Macdonald, The Great Conciliator is Wilfrid Laurier, and The Queen of Crime is Agatha Christie.
Are you surprised to hear that the Devil has more than 150 nicknames? A few are The Destroyer, The Evil One, The Great Dragon, Old Hob, Old Scratch, The Antichrist, The Beast, Father of Lies, Prince of Darkness, The Great Serpent, and The Fallen Angel.
If your nickname isn’t listed here, you need to get famous.