Some nicknames are obvious. Michael leads to Mike, Nathan leads to Nate, Katherine leads to Kate. Others, however, are a bit mysterious. Take Richard, for example. How in the heck did that moniker produce “Dick” as a popular nickname? And what about Jack (Jonathan), Hank (Henry), and Sally (Sarah)? Believe it or not, there’s a method to the madness. Here’s what I found out.
The Straight Dope explains that Dick became a nickname for Richard during the Middle Ages. In those days, abbreviations were common in names. (“Ric” for Richard, for example.) Eventually, Ric became Rick and rhyming nicknames evolved from that. Hence, Dick, as well as Hick. This also explains “Bob” from Robert, “Bill” from William, “Ted” from Eddie, etc.
My grandfather was named John, and I never understood why everybody called him Jack. An article from Associated Content explains that “during medieval times, the name John was altered slightly in the Germanic tongues to Jankin or Jackin. Out of that, we get the nickname Jack.” The same basic premise is true of Henry becoming Hank.
Of course, women can also have non-obvious nicknames. My wife’s grandmother was named Sarah, but she always went by Sally. The piece from Associated Content theorizes that this may have come from a mispronunciation way back in history. The nickname may have been “based on the medieval English attempt to pronounce the Norman trilled “r.” Apparently it can sound like an “l.” And out of that, a nickname was born
Those are just a few famous nicknames. What are some other unusual ones? Got any examples? And, even better, got any answers? Please leave a comment below.
Thanks for reading,
Mike (short of Michael)
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