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“ Lusco qui possit dicere . lusce.'”
The invention and appropriation of Nicknames are studies which, from want of proper cultivation, have of late years very much decayed. Since these arts contribute so much to the wellbeing and satisfaction of our Etonian witlings-since the younger part of our community could hardly exist if they were denied the pleasure of affixing a ludicrous addition to the names of their seniors,
we hope that the consideration of this art in all its branches and bearings, will be to many an amusing, and to some an improving, disquisition.
The different species of nicknames may be divided and subdivided into an endless variety. There is the nickname direct, the nickname oblique, the nickname natěžoxjv, the nickname nær avridaoiv, and a multitude of others, which it is unnecessary here to particularize. We shall attempt a few remarks upon these four principal classes.
The Nickname Direct, as might be expected, is by far more ancient than any other we have enumerated. Much has been argued upon the elegance or inelegance of Homer's perpetually-repeated epithets; for our part we imagine Homer thought very little upon the elegance or inelegance of the expressions to which we allude, είnce we cannot but regard his Ξανθος Μενέλαος-σόδας ωκυς Αχιλ, λεύς άναξ ανδρών Αγαμεμνων, and other passages of the same kind, not even excepting the thundering cognomen which is tacked-on to his Jupiter, Zeùs UVBREMÉTys, as so many ancient and therefore inimitable specimens of the nickname direct. This class is with propriety divided into two smaller descriptions ; the nickname Personal, and the nickname Descriptive. The first of these is derived from some bodily defect in its object; the latter from some excellence or infirmity of the mind.
The nicknames which were applied to our early British kings generally fell under one of these denominations. William Rufus and Edward Longshanks are examples af the first, while Henry
Beauclerc and Richard Cour de Lion afford us instances of the second.—We cannot depart from this part of our subject without adverting to the extreme liberty which the French have been accustomed to take with the names of their kings. With that volatile nation, “ the Cruel," " the Bald,” and “ the Fat," seem as constantly the insignia of royalty, as the sceptre and the crown. We must confess, that, were it not for the venerable antiquity of the species, we should be glad to see the nickname personal totally discontinued, as in our opinion the most able proficient in this branch of the science evinces a great portion of ill-nature, and
1 very little ingenuity. The merit of the nickname Oblique consists principally in its incomprehensibility. It is frequently derived, like the former, from some real or imaginary personal defect; but the allusion is generally so twisted and distorted in its forination, that even the object to whom it is applied is unable to trace its origin, or to be offended by its use. The discovery of the actual fountain from whence so many ingenious windings and intricacies proceed, is really a puzzling study for one who wishes to make himself acquainted with the elementary principles of things. In short, the nickname oblique resembles the great river, the Nile : its meanders are equally extensive; its source is equally concealed. We have a specimen of this species in the appellation of our worthy Secretary. Mr. Golightly made a pleasant, though a sufficiently obvious hit, when he addressed Mr. Richard Hodgson by the familiar abbreviation of Pam. We should recommend to the professors of the nickname oblique, two material, though much neglected, requisites--simplicity and perspicuity; for, in spite of the long and attentive study which we have devoted to this branch of the art, we ourselves have been frequently puzzled by unauthorized corruptions both of sound and sense, and lost amidst the circuitous labyrinth of a far-fetched prænomen. We were much embarrassed by hearing our good friend, Mr. Peter Snaggs, ad dressed by the style of “ Fried Soles," until we remembered that his grandfather had figured as a violent Methodist declaimer in the metropolis ; nor could we conceive by what means our old associate, Mr. Mathew Dunstan, had obtained his classical title of Forceps, outil we recollected the miraculous attack made by the tongs of his prototype upon the nasal orifices of his Satanic antagonist.
The third species is derived from an implied excellence in any one specified study. It is known by the sign “ The.” Thus, The Whistler, in Tales of My Landlord, is so called from his having excelled all others in the polished and fashionable art of whist, ling. When we call Mr. Ouzel “ the blockhead,” we are far from asserting that he is the only blockhead among our wellbeloved companions, but merely that he holds that title from undisputed superlative merit; and, when we distinguish Sampson Noll by the honourable designation of “ The Nose," we mean not to allege that Mr. Noll is the only person who challenges admiration, from the extraordinary dimensions of that feature, but simply, that Sampson's nose exceeds, by several degrees of longitude, the noses of his less distinguished competitors. . We know not, however, whether the species which we are discussing is not rather to be considered a ramification of the first, than a separate class in itself; for it unavoidably happens that the two kinds are frequently confused, and that we know not under which head to arrange a name which is of an ambiguous nalure, and may be referred with equal propriety to either definition.
The fourth and last kind is promiscuously derived from sources similar to those of the three preceding ; but in its formation it entirely reverses their provisions. We all know that a grove was called by the Latins “ lucus ;"-a non lucendo,--that the Præses of the Lower House of Parliament is called by us, “ Speaker,” because he is not allowed to speak. Such is the system of the nickname which is at present under consideration; it is applied to its object, not from the qualities which he possesses, but from those which he does not; not from the actions which he has performed, but from those which he has not : in short contrariety is its distinguishing character, and absurdity its principal merito Antiquity will supply us with several admirable specimens. Ptoleny murdered bis brother, and was called “ Philadelphus.” The Furies, to say the best of them, were spiteful old maids, and they were nicknamed “ The Benevolent.” In our times it is certainly in more general use than any other class ; nor is this to be wondered at, when we consider the extraordinary neatness of irony which is with great facility couched under it. It has been well observed by some French author, whose name has escaped our memory, that if you call Vice by her own name, she laughs at you; but if you address her by the name of Virtue, she blushes. To give a plainer illustration,—if you say to Ouzel-Blockhead, it is an unregarded truth; if you cry out to him, Genius, it is a biting sarcasm. Nothing, indeed, can be imagined more malignantly severe than this weapon of irony, exercised with skill and pointed with malevolence; no satire is more easy to the assailant, and more painful to the assailed, than that which gives to deformity the praise of beauty, and designates absurdity by the title of Absolute Wisdom.
We lately had the honour of reckoning among our nearest and dearest friends Dr. Simon Colley, a gentleman who was as estimable for the excellent qualities of his mind, as he was ridiculous from the whimsical proportions of his body. Must we give a description of our much-lamented friend ? If the reader will collect together the various personal defects of all his acquaintance,-if he will add the lameness of one to the diminutive stature of another,-if he will unite the cast of the eye which designates a third, to the departure from the rectilineal line which beautifies the back of a fourth, he will then have some faint idea of the bodily perfections of Dr. Simon Colley. The Doctor was perfectly conscious of his peculiarities, and was frequently in the habit of choosing his corporal appearance as the theme of a hearty laugh, or the subject of jocular lamentation ; yet the sound sense and cultivated philosophy of our respected friend was not proof against the unexpected vociferation of a well-applied nickname ; and although his favourite topic of conversation was the personal resemblance he bore to the renowned Æsop, he flew into the most violent paroxysms of rage when he was pointed at by some little impertinents, as the Apollo Belvidere.
But this sort of nickname is not used merely as the instrument
of wit, or the weapon of ill-nature ; it assumes occasionally a more serious garb, and becomes the language of flattery, or the adulation of hypocrisy. In this form it is of great service in dedicatory epistles and professions of love. When Vapid entreats Lord — to prefix his name to a list of subscribers, he whines out the praises of his “ Mæcenas," with all the mournful earnest- , ness with which a criminal exalts the clemency of his judge ; but the manner in which he chuckles at the munificence of his patron over a beef-steak at the Crown and Cushion, prove very evidently that Vapid is a hypocrite, and that “ Mæcenas” is a nickname. And when Miss Pimpkinson, a maiden lady with 40,0001., smiles upon the adoration of Sir Horace Conway, a fashionable without a farthing, she little dreams that “Venus,” which is her title in the boudoir, is only her nickname at the club.
Having now presented our friends with a cursory sketch of these four principal classes, we shall sum up the whole by offering to the reader a specimen in which we lately heard the four kinds admirably blended together. “ Toup,” cried “ All the Talents," tell Swab' that I have a thrashing in store for "The Poet."" “ Toup” is the nickname Oblique, borne by its possessor in consequence of some supposed relation between the longitude of his physiognomy and the Longinus of the erudite Toupius. “Swab” is the nickname Direct, applied to a rotund gentleman. Poet” is nat' EoXÀv; “ the poet,” because he is supereminently poetical : and “ All the Talents” is nat' aytigaoiv; “ All the Talents," because he is the veriest blockhead upon the face of our Etonjan hemisphere.
It will be needless to euumerate the many minor classes of this important subject; it will be needless to dwell upon the nickname Classical, the nickname Clerical, the nickname Military, and the nickname Bargee; as we believe that no specimen of these is to be found which may not be ranked under one of the preceding descriptions. There is, however, one great and extensive species remaining, to which we shall here give only a brief notice, as we may possibly, at some future period, devote a leading article to its consideration, we mean the nickname General. This last-men