Why Is Dick a nickname for Richard

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM
Thu Aug 13 16:43:14 UTC 2009

What the professor means is...

Many kids learning to talk have a hard time pronouncing R (as in Richard),
so they substitute D if they find that easier.  Same thing for K, which may
be easier for an infant to say than CH. So the "Rich" of "Richard" comes out
as "Dick."

In the same way, for some tots, B is easier to say than W, and they learn to
say it sooner. So the "Will" of "William" comes out as "Bill."

And here's what I think too:
It's been going on for centuries, and moms and dads thought it was so cute
that they began saying the baby-talk versions themselves when talking
to their little bundles of joy.  The bundles quickly got the idea that they
were "Dick" as well as "Richard," and "Bill" as well as "William" or "Will."

So blame the parents.


On Thu, Aug 13, 2009 at 12:22 PM, Baker, John <JMB at stradley.com> wrote:

> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
> -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       "Baker, John" <JMB at STRADLEY.COM>
> Subject:      Re: Why Is Dick a nickname for Richard
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
>        I'm not sure what to make of the original post, but I think any
> real answer does need to take account of the fact that some traditional
> nicknames are rhyming short forms of the full given name, such as
> Dick/Richard, Bob/Robert, Bill/William, and Ted/Edward.
> John Baker
> -----Original Message-----
> From: American Dialect Society [mailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] On Behalf
> Of Laurence Horn
> Sent: Thursday, August 13, 2009 12:02 PM
> Subject: Re: Why Is Dick a nickname for Richard
> 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.
> LH
> >* * *
> >
> >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.
> >
> >http://wiki.answers.com/Q/Why_is_Dick_a_nickname_for_Richard
> >
> >Russ
>  >
> >------------------------------------------------------------
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> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
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