The first writing tool I ever learned came from my city editor Mike Foley: “Get the name of the dog.” What he could have added, but didn’t: “…and get the dog’s nickname, too.”
When it comes to characters in stories, nicknames are as important as names – maybe more important. Behind every nickname there is a story.
Let’s begin with the Oxford English Dictionary’s etymology and definition of “nickname.” The Anglo-Saxon work “eke” means “also”; the phrase eke-name, then, means “also name” or “another name.” When you add the indefinite article, you get “an eke-name” and over time the “n” switches over, giving us “a neke-name” or finally “a nickname.”
The definition in the OED: “A name or appellation added to, or substituted for, the proper name of a person, place, etc., usually given in ridicule or pleasantry.” This is followed by historical uses of the word in literature, including this sentence from 1710 in which Joseph Addison writes in The Tatler of a peculiar physician: “He unfortunately got the Nickname of the Squeaking Doctor.” (More about this doctor later.)
We once had a grey cat named Voodoo. Read more