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View Full Version : Why was Bill Clinton called Bill ?


blinkingblinking
12-22-2006, 03:51 AM
I especially saw this in newspapers. Surely 'Bill' is a nickname. I can understand it in general conversation, but in newspapers should he not be called William Clinton?
I have often seen Bush described as 'Dubya' for some inexplicable reason, but in a newspaper he is 'President George W. Bush.

Ammonius Saccus
12-22-2006, 03:59 AM
He went by Bill as his name. Dubya is just a nickname. Bill will always be Bill. Just like Jimmy. Why don't we call Grover Stephen? Because he went by Groover.

Hypnagogic Jerk
12-22-2006, 04:00 AM
Gov. John Ellis Bush (R-FL) is always referred to as "Jeb Bush". Former vice-president James Danforth Quayle (R-IN) is always referred to as "Dan Quayle".

I also find it odd, but it seems to be a common thing in the US. Remember, in the US populism seems to be an important political force. It's a plus for politicians to give off the feeling that it would be fun to have a beer with them.

MEBuckner
12-22-2006, 04:00 AM
Moderator's Note: This doesn't seem like a Great Debate here. I don't know if it has a strictly factual answer, but General Questions seems like the best place to start off.

Liberal
12-22-2006, 04:01 AM
Just like Jimmy.Jimmy Carter had to fight in court to get his name on some ballots as "Jimmy" rather than "James".

MEBuckner
12-22-2006, 04:11 AM
I seriously doubt any newspaper article ever referred to William Jefferson Clinton, President of the United States, simply as "Bill", even on a second reference. He was, however, referred to as "Bill Clinton" rather than "William Clinton" (as governor, as a presidential candidate, and as President of the United States) because that's how he calls himself. Some people prefer to go by a diminutive of their name or a nickname, and some don't. As already noted, some U.S. politicians may have a preference for going by some sort of nickname because it seems "folksier" and makes them seem "closer to the People" and so on.

(The governor of my state is actually named George Ervin Perdue III (http://georgiaencyclopedia.org/nge/Article.jsp?id=h-2801), but he's universally known as "Sonny"--"Governor Sonny Perdue said today that he would veto the Truth in Nicknames on Ballots act...." One could speculate that a calculation was made that more people in rural Georgia will vote for a guy named "Sonny" than they would for a guy named "George Ervin Something III"; but in fairness I would guess he's simply been called "Sonny" all his life, except maybe when he was in serious trouble with his Mama, in order to distinguish him from George Ervin Perdue II--nicknames for juniors and IIIrds are pretty common for that reason.)

Hypnagogic Jerk
12-22-2006, 04:30 AM
On second thought, it seems to be common in many English-speaking countries to refer to politicians as nickname + last name. Prime Minister "Tony" Blair of the UK, former Prime Minister "Kim" Campbell of Canada... It really depends on how they refer to themselves, I'm sure there are examples of the same in Australia.

As for George Walker Bush, maybe his own nickname is just too embarrassing. Maybe it's "Junior" or something. Hmmm... "Today, on USS Abraham Lincoln, President Junior Bush delivered a stirring address (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mission_Accomplished) to the American nation concerning the war in Iraq."

Nava
12-22-2006, 05:19 AM
Spain isn't an English-speaking country, but our esteemed, non-English-speaking President is usually known as "Zapatero", aka ZP (initials of the campain slogan, Zapatero Presidente).

Why? His name is José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero. So, he should be referred to as el Señor Rodríguez, right?

Well yeah, but José Luis is a very common firstname and Rodríguez is a very common lastname (which also has the unfortunate meaning of "a husband who's stayed behind while his wife and children go on vacation {and who may be looking for some fresh booty}"), so he's been called Zapatero since he started kindergarten. When he meets someone, he introduces himself as "Zapatero". His wife calls him Jose (with the stress wrong).

Why shouldn't a person be able to choose what he's called?

blinkingblinking
12-22-2006, 06:07 AM
Why shouldn't a person be able to choose what he's called?

He can to a certian degree. But the former PM of New Zealand wanted his name David Russell Lange said as "long-ee" IPA: lɔŋi). My family always thought that was odd.

Richard Pearse
12-22-2006, 06:41 AM
That might be odd if he was the first Lange in his family who wanted it pronounced that way, but I suspect that generations of his family had been "Longee".

blinkingblinking
12-22-2006, 06:58 AM
That might be odd if he was the first Lange in his family who wanted it pronounced that way, but I suspect that generations of his family had been "Longee".

It is a fairly common name around the western world. I have never heard anyone famous or not pronounce it that way. My family always called him Lang never long-ee

Sapo
12-22-2006, 07:00 AM
And then, in Venezuela, there is Hugo Chavez. It is standard suck up to call him "Mi Comandante" (My commander). The opposition calls him "Mico Mandante" (pronounced exactly the same as the previous but meaning Ruling Ape)

Colophon
12-22-2006, 07:05 AM
On second thought, it seems to be common in many English-speaking countries to refer to politicians as nickname + last name. Prime Minister "Tony" Blair of the UK, former Prime Minister "Kim" Campbell of Canada... It really depends on how they refer to themselves, I'm sure there are examples of the same in Australia.

The reason we call him Bill Clinton is the same as we call the UK PM Tony Blair. It's not a nickname - it is the name that he chooses to go by, and so to all intents and purposes it is his name, and it's only polite to use it. Nobody refers to him as "Anthony Blair" unless they're using his full birth name "Anthony Charles Lynton Blair", usually for ironic effect.

I go by a shortened form of my first name. That's what I tell people my name is - I certainly don't think of it as a nickname, and I'd be puzzled if people insisted on calling me by my full name.

kanicbird
12-22-2006, 08:35 AM
I like to use B. J. Clinton myself, after the oral sex in the oval office incident.

RealityChuck
12-22-2006, 08:49 AM
Why shouldn't a person be able to choose what he's called?They do: standard newspaper style (which carries over to broadcast media) says you spell and pronounce a person's name the way he wants it pronounced. Cecil discusses the issue here: https://academicpursuits.us/classics/a2_264b.html

Doctor Jackson
12-22-2006, 09:04 AM
I go by a shortened form of my first name. That's what I tell people my name is - I certainly don't think of it as a nickname, and I'd be puzzled if people insisted on calling me by my full name.

Colophonic? Colophonecian Colonphone?

Colophon
12-22-2006, 10:11 AM
Colophonic? Colophonecian Colonphone?
Colonel Obadiah Phonecious IV, since you ask. ;)

Zsofia
12-22-2006, 10:35 AM
Spain isn't an English-speaking country, but our esteemed, non-English-speaking President is usually known as "Zapatero", aka ZP (initials of the campain slogan, Zapatero Presidente).

Why? His name is José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero. So, he should be referred to as el Señor Rodríguez, right?

Well yeah, but José Luis is a very common firstname and Rodríguez is a very common lastname (which also has the unfortunate meaning of "a husband who's stayed behind while his wife and children go on vacation {and who may be looking for some fresh booty}"), so he's been called Zapatero since he started kindergarten. When he meets someone, he introduces himself as "Zapatero". His wife calls him Jose (with the stress wrong).

Why shouldn't a person be able to choose what he's called?
I think I don't understand Spanish last names. Why is Rodriguez his last name and not Zapatero? What is Zapatero?

MLS
12-22-2006, 10:44 AM
I have often seen Bush described as 'Dubya' for some inexplicable reason, but in a newspaper he is 'President George W. Bush.
"Dubya" was his family nickname -- a slurred version of his middle initial -- to avoid confusion between him and his father.

brad_d
12-22-2006, 11:07 AM
This morning on my way to work I stopped by the post office near my home to buy some stamps, and for the first time I noticed a dedication plaque in the building's lobby. In 1993, the building was "christened" or some other damn thing in a ceremony graced by the presence of "President William Clinton."

I rarely see it put that way. Normally it's either "Bill Clinton" or the whole banana: "William J. Clinton" or "William Jefferson Clinton." I double-checked it, precisely because it looked odd to me.

Mk VII
12-22-2006, 11:13 AM
In Spanish it is normal for a child to take the father's surname, unless it is a very common name, in which case the mother's surname is tacked on as well, e.g. the playwright Federico García Lorca

Elendil's Heir
12-22-2006, 11:15 AM
Re: Dubya, MLS is correct. And he's not a "Junior," since his full name is George Walker Bush and his dad, POTUS 41, is George Herbert Walker Bush.

Why so many aw-shucks first names for dudes like Bill Clinton, Al Gore, Bob Dole and Tony Blair? Sheer populism. Just about every politico in a democracy wants to seem likeable and approachable to voters.

Elendil's Heir
12-22-2006, 11:17 AM
As to Spanish surnames, the Master speaks: https://academicpursuits.us/classics/a1_389b.html

Thudlow Boink
12-22-2006, 11:39 AM
For what it's worth, Clinton's autobiography is credited to "Bill Clinton" (and Carter's books to "Jimmy Carter").
Why don't we call Grover Stephen? Because he went by Groover.He went by Groover? Really? I didn't know he was a hippy. Groovy! :cool:
Why so many aw-shucks first names for dudes like Bill Clinton, Al Gore, Bob Dole and Tony Blair? Sheer populism. Just about every politico in a democracy wants to seem likeable and approachable to voters. On the other hand, IIRC Abraham Lincoln hated to be called Abe, "Honest Abe" political slogans notwithstanding.

Bridget Burke
12-22-2006, 11:42 AM
Why so many aw-shucks first names for dudes like Bill Clinton, Al Gore, Bob Dole and Tony Blair? Sheer populism. Just about every politico in a democracy wants to seem likeable and approachable to voters.

Did Bill, Al, Bob & Tony use their full names before they entered politics? Or did they just continue with the names they'd used most of their lives?

Otto
12-22-2006, 11:54 AM
And occasionally a politician will use an opponent's full name to stir up a little anti-populism. During the 1988 presidential campaign, George HW Bush insisted on referring to Pete DuPont as "Pierre" (his real first name) during debates to make DuPont sound like a ferriner.

Zsofia
12-22-2006, 12:05 PM
In Spanish it is normal for a child to take the father's surname, unless it is a very common name, in which case the mother's surname is tacked on as well, e.g. the playwright Federico García Lorca
So Rodriguez is his dad's name, right? I just don't see why it's unusual for him to go with Zapatero since that's indeed his last name - if you do take your mother's name to tack onto your next-to-last-name, then you don't go by it? It's just for, like, differentiating you from all the other people with a common name, in the same way that a little kid with a common first name will be known by the name and his/her initial?

Acsenray
12-22-2006, 12:10 PM
I also find it odd, but it seems to be a common thing in the US. Remember, in the US populism seems to be an important political force. It's a plus for politicians to give off the feeling that it would be fun to have a beer with them.

From personal experience, this nickname-preference thing is much stronger among Brits than among Americans. Most Americans I know might habitually go by a nickname or a diminutive, but they don't generally avoid their full, legal names. However, on a handful of occasions I've dealt with Brits, if they go by a diminutive, they stick by it powerfully. I was once speaking to a British "Mike" on the record for an article. He refused even to confirm that his legal name was "Michael." I've never had that experience with an American. They might say, yeah, it's really "Michael," but I prefer you print it as "Mike."

Elendil's Heir
12-22-2006, 12:18 PM
...On the other hand, IIRC Abraham Lincoln hated to be called Abe, "Honest Abe" political slogans notwithstanding.

That's true. He usually preferred just being called "Lincoln," and usually signed things as "A. Lincoln." Come to think of it, Theodore Roosevelt didn't like being called "Teddy" much.

mlees
12-22-2006, 01:24 PM
I asked a buddy of mine why he called himself Bill, instead of Will.

He just shrugged. "Just the way it's always been."

Data says: "One is my name. The other is not."

Hypnagogic Jerk
12-22-2006, 02:16 PM
Spain isn't an English-speaking country, but our esteemed, non-English-speaking President is usually known as "Zapatero", aka ZP (initials of the campain slogan, Zapatero Presidente).
That's interesting, Nava. I specified "English-speaking countries" because the large majority of non-anglophone politicians that I know are referred to by their legal names, at least when it's printed in the paper or in similar places. Right now I can only think of one exception (other than Zapatero): Premier Jean Charest of Quebec is actually legally John James Charest. I believe he's used "Jean" his own life, though, and it's just another version of his first name, not a nickname or diminutive form.

Acsenray
12-22-2006, 02:31 PM
So Rodriguez is his dad's name, right? I just don't see why it's unusual for him to go with Zapatero since that's indeed his last name - if you do take your mother's name to tack onto your next-to-last-name, then you don't go by it? It's just for, like, differentiating you from all the other people with a common name, in the same way that a little kid with a common first name will be known by the name and his/her initial?

The Latino tradition is <first given name> <second given name> ... <nth given name> <father's father's family name> <optional hyphen> <mother's father's family name>.

Officially, everyone has a double-barreled family name. For casual purposes, the first (paternal) half of it is the important half and when in a hurry you drop the second part, not the first part-- So Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz is "President Castro," not "President Ruz." Similarly Jose Daniel Ortega Saavedra.

Alive At Both Ends
12-22-2006, 02:31 PM
I was once speaking to a British "Mike" on the record for an article. He refused even to confirm that his legal name was "Michael." I've never had that experience with an American. They might say, yeah, it's really "Michael," but I prefer you print it as "Mike."He might well have been named "Mike" at birth. I don't know about the USA, but in the UK it's not uncommon for a diminutive to be the actual legal name, registered as such on the birth certificate.

Acsenray
12-22-2006, 02:39 PM
He might well have been named "Mike" at birth. I don't know about the USA, but in the UK it's not uncommon for a diminutive to be the actual legal name, registered as such on the birth certificate.

And I'm aware of this possibility, but he strangely refused to specify this. Here, people say "My legal name actually is just 'Mike' " or "It's 'Mike' on my birth certificate." Very easy to clear up. This Mike was like the Seinfeld date who just shook her head. I think I even asked something like "So is 'Mike' your legal name?" and he refused to answer clearly.

Captain Carrot
12-22-2006, 07:27 PM
Data says: "One is my name. The other is not."
What was he called other than "Data"?

Dr. Lao
12-22-2006, 07:35 PM
I think it was "Data (short a sound on the first a)" if I recall correctly.

Mister Rik
12-22-2006, 07:56 PM
During the second season of ST:TNG, Doctor Pulaski kept pronouncing his name "Datta" instead of "Dayta".

As to politicians, I'm pretty sure that my local congressman is not really named "Doc (hastings.house.gov/)"

A former Washington congressman was known as "Scoop" Jackson (hastings.house.gov/):

Jackson was nicknamed "Scoop" by his sister in his childhood, after a comic strip character that he is said to have resembled.

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