Why Is Dick a nickname for Richard

Fri Aug 14 01:29:34 UTC 2009

        I don't know if you can push the "ease of pronunciation"
argument too far.  For starters, note that Rick, Rob, Will, and Ed are
all found.

        I thought that there were more than these four examples
(including Hob/Robert), but these are all that immediately come to mind.
For what it's worth, all of the given names are disyllabic, have the
accent on the first syllable (as is common with names in English), and
do not begin with plosives, while all of the nicknames are monosyllabic
and (except for Hob, which is less commonly used) do begin with

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 1:40 PM
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


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

More information about the Ads-l mailing list