Why Is Dick a nickname for Richard

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM
Fri Aug 14 14:16:22 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.<<

Not all Dark Ages tots found the pronuciation of "Richard," etc.  equally
difficult. And not every Medieval mom encouraged the mispronunciations


On Thu, Aug 13, 2009 at 9:29 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 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
> plosives.
> 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
> stuff...
> LH
>  ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

"There You Go Again...Using Reason on the Planet of the Duck-Billed

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

More information about the Ads-l mailing list