Why Is Dick a nickname for Richard

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Thu Aug 13 16:01:35 UTC 2009

At 11:42 PM +0800 8/13/09, Russ McClay wrote:
>Hey, my dad was called Dick so I was curious.
>Here's something I found. Any comments? lol

If this is a real question and you're seeking a real answer, as
opposed to those below, I'd look for explanations based on
articulatory phonetics and acquisition (and maybe a bit of
markedness). [r] is learned relatively late by children, so a
neighboring "easier" sound is substituted:  if the child retains
voicing and articulatory position (alveolar) but changes manner of
articulation, the [r] turns into [d].  Affricates are tricky too, so
[k], voiceless velar stop, replaces [C], voiceless palatal affricate
(in lieu of a palatal stop).  Similarly, for "William", [b] is
mastered before [w], they're both voiced bilabials, so the former is
called on to replace the latter.  And enough kids were doing this to
result in the hypocoristics becoming standardized.  At least that
seems more reasonable than any of the below.


>* * *
>Q: Why is Dick a nickname for Richard?
>A: a man named richard from the 40s or 50s nick named dick because
>he was a Detective named Richard aka DICK RICK
>The name Richard is very old and it's true origins may well be
>lost in the depths of time past. 'Richeard' is a name from Old
>English where 'Ric' meant ruler and 'heard' meant hard. In those
>days of yore, before word-processors, everything was written
>down and abbreviations became common and agreed upon. Also in
>the 13th century rhyming slang became popular so Richard becomes
>Rich and eventually Rick which rhymes with Dick. Much like
>William - Will - Bill.
>'Dick' eventually, like 'Jack', came to mean all men as in
>"every Tom, Dick, or Harry". Shakespeare uses "every Tom, Dick,
>or Francis" in Henry IV Part I.
>I know a guy named Richard, and he was a total dick.
>The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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