Video-Fix: Birth of a Nickname

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A nickname is ‘an informal name for someone or something, especially a name that you are called by your friends or family, usually based on your real name or your character’.1

Now despite what the title may say, this video is not actually about how different nicknames came to be (that’s a video for another time!), but about the history of the ’N’ in front of some nicknames and words. If you’ve watched or read Game of Thrones, you know that the character ‘Eddard Stark’ is nicknamed ‘Ned’ – but why isn’t it ‘Ed? Where does that extra ’N’ come from? Likewise, whilst ‘Nick’ is a common nickname for someone called ‘Nicholas’, what does the ‘Nick’ in ‘Nickname’ stand for?

The additional ’N’ actually comes from one big linguistic misunderstanding which has also affected many other words. In this week’s Video-Fix, John McWhorter, linguist, professor, and host of the Lexicon Valley linguistics podcast, traces the history of the rogue ’N’.

  1. Cambridge Dictionary Online. Definition of “Nickname”. [Online]. Available at: https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/nickname [Accessed: 17/08/2020].

Janna Mack pictureInterview by Janna Mack. From Luxembourg, she has degrees in Linguistics, Education, and Translation from Glasgow University.