Why Is Dick a nickname for Richard

Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Thu Aug 13 18:10:24 UTC 2009

Oxford Dictionary of Proper Names? American Name Society? My old
buddy, Patrick Hanks? Onomastics?


On Thu, Aug 13, 2009 at 1:39 PM, Laurence Horn<laurence.horn at yale.edu> wrote:
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> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at YALE.EDU>
> Subject:      Re: Why Is Dick a nickname for Richard
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> At 12:22 PM -0400 8/13/09, Baker, John wrote:
>>         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
> But I think you still need to bring in ease of pronunciation to
> explain the *direction* of the substitutions.  "Wen" rhymes with
> "Ben", but I doubt you get changes in that direction, or "Wabs" for
> "Barbara"/"Babs".  Or "Rave" and "Ran" for "Dave" and "Dan".  And
> this is sheer speculation, but perhaps "Bob" (instead of "Dob") for
> "Robert" might be anticipatory influence from (or assimilation to)
> the upcoming [b].
> While as Arnold notes the OED doesn't do proper names, surely
> *someone* has written a book (or at least a dissertation) on this
> stuff...
> LH
>>-----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.
>>>* * *
>>>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
>>The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
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