Nicknames – its all about human connection

According to Wikipedia: A nickname is a substitute for the proper name of a familiar person, place or thing – commonly used for affection.

It is a form of endearment and amusement.

According to a study by Bellevue university, Nebraska, men give nicknames to each other as a way of being affectionate without compromising masculinity. “It’s a man’s interpretation of what being friendly is like” says prof Cleveland Kent Evans.

There are LOADS of famous nicknames just to name just a few:

Golden Balls – David Beckham (in an interview in 2008, his wife Victoria revealed this was his nickname after managing to turn his career round after a disastrous world cup sending off in 1998)

The ROCK – Dwayne Johnson (Named after his father who was called Rocky)

Stormzy – Michael Ebenazer Kwadjo Omari Owuo Jr. (In an interview with Capital Xtra, Stormzy was asked about his name and he responded that he has many God Given Nicknames including Big Mike, The Problem, Stiff Chocolate and Wicked Skengman but Stormzy stuck and he’s not sure why)

Scarface – Al Capone

Ginger, Sporty, Scary, Posh and Baby – Spice girls

Sting – Gordon Sumner (Lead singer of the Police always wore a black and yellow jumper)

The Iron Lady – Margaret Thatcher (a Nickname that became associated with her uncompromising politics and leadership style)

Then there is the endless list of Sportsmen with nicknames: Magic Johnson, Shoeless Joe Jackson, Hitman Hearns, The Juice – OJ Simpson, The Brown Bomber – Joe Louis, Tiger Woods – Eldrick Woods, Iron Mike – Mike Tyson.

And lets not forget Rock star nicknames: Slash, Meatloaf, Pink, Ozzie Osbourne and the rappers who have taken this to another level: 50 cent, Two chains, ASAP Rocky and Jay Z.

In Viking societies, many people had heitiviðrnefni, or kenningarnöfn (Old Norse terms for nicknames) which were used in addition to, or instead of the first name. In some circumstances, the giving of a nickname had a special status in Viking society in that it created a relationship between the name maker and the recipient of the nickname, to the extent that the creation of a nickname also often entailed a formal ceremony and an exchange of gifts known in Old Norse as nafnfestr (‘fastening a name’).

Slaves have often used nicknames, so that the master who heard about someone doing something could not identify the slave.

In Australian society, Australian men will often give ironic nicknames. For example, a man with red hair will be given the nickname ‘Blue’ or ‘Bluey’. A tall man will be called ‘Shorty’, an obese person ‘Slim’ and so on.

In England, some nicknames allude to a person’s origins. A Scotsman may be nicknamed ‘Jock’, an Irishman ‘Paddy’ (alluding to St Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland) or ‘Mick’ (alluding to the preponderance of Roman Catholicism in Ireland), and a Welshman may be nicknamed ‘Taffy’. Some nicknames referred ironically to a person’s physical characteristics, such as ‘Lofty’ for a short person, or ‘Curly’ for a bald man. Traditional English nicknaming – usually for men rather than women – was common through the first half of the 20th century, and was frequently used in the armed services during World War I and World War II, but has become less common since then. REF:

Nicknames give us a way of lightening the mood. When we have a great relationship with people and feel genuine affection towards them, we feel that we can call each other a nickname. It shows how much we like them.

At OX Seven we have:

Will Grashoff – Boss, Gaffer

Adam Williamson – Willy

Dan Beecher – Danny B, Danny Boy

Dominic Blossom – Digi Dom

Mollie Abrey – Molls, Mollie Magic –  ( I call her Mollie Magic because every little thing she does is magic”)

Richard Pryor – Richo

Steph Morgan – Newbie

Me – Ronnie (only people I like are allowed to call me Ronnie – close friends and family and now any of my workmates (now that I am quite fond of them and I am through my 3 month probation)

Guys especially seems to like nicknames. I listen to my husband’s pub talk and in our last local he had Big Dave, Little Dave and Angry Dave. In the village we live now, he has Butcher Dave (who works there) and Butcher Dave (who owns the Butchers) and Suntan Dave – that’s a lot of Daves! He is called Cov Carl, his mate is Brummy Steve and another is Irish Sean.

A short name or nickname is a sign of intimacy, trust, and friendship.

In recruitment we spend a lot of time building rapport with our clients and candidates. But how do we know when it is okay to call that person by their short name or Nickname? Once we have built enough rapport, so certainly not on your initial contact.

According to research by Jon Steinberg, shortening your name or having a nickname is all about having that human connection.

These can often be critical attributes in the building of a successful organization. Whereas a long and formal name creates a barrier, a short one can break down walls. Jon Steinberg wrote a report about what the top 50 CEOs had in common. It wasn’t Harvard, it was having a Nickname!

Read the full report by Jon Steinberg, former Buzzfeed President and founder of Cheddar:


Will Grashoff

Managing Director

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