query: sarcastic antonymic nicknames

Suzanne Kemmer kemmer at RICE.EDU
Wed Nov 25 13:42:33 UTC 2009

There are many similar cases of pet names going the other way:
Some people name their cute little guinea pigs "Spike", which 
usually suggests a mean dog.  The name seems to only highlight
the cuteness!

'Sarcasm' doesn't apply in many of the examples cited by posters.
There is often humor in contrast and the violation
of expectations. But I think the concept of sarcasm
implies some degree of negativity or meanness; some 
degree of contempt.  It's true there may be meanness in some cases of bestowing
such egregiously antonymic names. The original 
bestowal is humorous due to the apparent contrast of name
and thing;  but if the name picks out an unfortunate characteristic 
then it could be mean. But any
meanness in intention in antonymic naming
seems incidental to the phenomenon. 

I don't know if "ironic antonymic nicknames" is a better
rubric but to me it fits better than "sarcastic". 


On Nov 25, 2009, at 1:41 AM, Jan Rijkhoff wrote:

> Dear David,
> Quite a few people call their pet turtle 'Fluffy'.
> Best, Jan
> Jan Rijkhoff
> Associate professor, Dept. of Linguistics, Aarhus University
> Building 1410 (Ringgade), Bartholins Allé 16, 3.
> DK - 8000 Århus C, DENMARK
> Phone: (+45) 8942 6550   *   Fax (+45) 8942 6570
> E-mail: linjr at hum.au.dk
> Home page: http://person.au.dk/en/linjr@hum
> Downloadable files: http://fc.hum.au.dk/~linjr@hum.au.dk/
> Directions: http://www.au.dk/en/hum/lingvist/map.htm
> David Gil <gil at EVA.MPG.DE> writes:
> Dear all,
> ....
> So the purpose of this query is to try and map out the cross-linguistic distribution of Sarcastic Antonymic Nickames: a thin person called "fatso", somebody with long hair referred to as "baldy", a stupid person known as "prof", etc.  I would greatly appreciate any real live examples you might be familiar with of such Sarcastic Antonymic Nicknames: in your own native language or in languages you have worked on; among your own circle of acquaintances, or in texts you have collected, or even cases that are generally known (public figures, fictitious characters in novels, movies, etc.), or whatever.  I would also be really interested in claims to the effect that a certain language does *not* have Sarcastic Antonymic Nicknames, though of course such negative claims are much harder to support.
> ...
> Thanks,
> David Gil

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