Dicks Greenleaf, Cavett, Van Dyke, Clark and Butkus

Today we round out our trifecta of posts on great nicknames—or, more specifically, on their decline in modern American culture—with an ode to conventional.

An ode… to Dick. And Fats and Tiny and Slim, all of whom seem to have gone the way of the milkman.

As best we can tell, it all started going downhill for nicknames in the 1990s, the dawn of new-age parental narcissism, when mothers and fathers successfully convinced themselves that they weren’t having a baby, but rather a very special baby – precisely not “any ol’ Tom, Dick or Harry.” Offspring this remarkable required adjectives for names—which gave way to adverbial superlatives, nonsensical polysyllabic nouns and so on. As it turns out, nothing is short for “Evanescence.”

The irony, of course, is that Tom, Dick and Harry were pretty remarkable. They ran unions and fought in multiple wars and created national parks. More importantly, though, they were neighborly. The Dick next door used to replace your fan belt. Now, it seems, he’s just a dick next door.

It’s time we embrace conventional nicknames rather than eschewing them for Eschew’s sake. (Let’s start by calling Eschew “T-bone.”)

—C.B.S.

CONTRIBUTORS

  • C. Brian Smith