Thanks, Ankiel. Seriously.
April 3, 2009 8:54 PM   Subscribe

I have a serious question about adopting a "tricky" nickname. Yes, that one.

Hi, I'm Richard. I've been Richard my whole life but for a brief period in high school and college, when I went by Rich. I discovered that I don't like that nickname much at all and most people use my full name, which I strongly prefer to Rich.

I am contemplating using the nickname Dick and I would appreciate comments, advice, warnings and testimonials, primarily about this particular nickname but more generally about the challenge of using a new nickname for someone who's used his given name nearly his entire life.

I'd specifically appreciate learning of any visceral, strongly negative reactions that people might have, based on the fact that the word is also a nickname for a penis, the perception (which is, in my experience, accurate) that this nickname is seldom associated with men my age (I am in my mid-30s), the lingering tarnish of Richard Nixon, or any other negative connotation or drawback that might be associated with the nickname Dick.

How did this come about? I work with several older colleagues and clients and a few insist on calling me Dick, even after repeated introductions as Richard. Somewhat to my surprise, I've found that I like the sound of it. I'm not unhappy with being called Richard, just intrigued by the possibility of going by Dick. It's less formal than Richard and simply sounds better to me than any of the other nicknames for Richard out there.

Sports fans reading this question may already know that 30-year-old professional baseball player Rick Ankiel is also contemplating adopting the nickname Dick. I'm grateful for having read that article, because doing so prompted me to write this question.

I'd imagine that many people would continue to call me Richard, and that would be fine. I'd probably use the new nickname in a business context, at least initially, and see how it went before considering a change elsewhere.

If you'd prefer a throwaway e-mail to a reply in this thread I've set up
posted by anonymous to Grab Bag (50 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
You'll have to practice correcting people who introduce you wrong. "Mary, meet Richard." "Hi! Call me Dick." Additional preparation may also involve learning some quick ultra-puerile jokes to throw back at any sniggerers. But really, man, do what you want. People are people and are gonna react in any number of unaccountable ways. As long as you're comfortable with you, going by Dick shouldn't be a problem.
posted by carsonb at 9:03 PM on April 3, 2009

I like the name because it's familiar but has been out of fashion long enough that it's not over-used. But you may want to take this You Don't Know Dick test to see if there are any associations with famous Dicks that could make it a less attractive choice. (Admittedly, it's a bit of a cheat, as many of these guys were known as Richard, but it's still pretty thorough.)
posted by maudlin at 9:06 PM on April 3, 2009

As long as your last name isn't Weiner (I do know a Dick Weiner, who pronounces it "Winer-er" and that does not make it any better), go for it.
posted by radioamy at 9:12 PM on April 3, 2009

I like it because, as maudlin notes, it's familiar yet old-fashioned. And I personally dig the subversive connotation.

Nobody's going to be too thrown off if your business card says "Richard" and then you answer the phone or introduce yourself at an in-person meeting as "Dick". And since you're comfortable being called Richard anyway, it seems like no big deal.

Some people may think you're kidding though.
posted by padraigin at 9:13 PM on April 3, 2009

When I was a bit younger, I started working with a community group (theater). One of the older members had this nickname. It caused me too much embarrassment to say his name, so I never really spoke to him. It was awkward when we had to work on a scene together; fortunately, I was generally awkward, so no one asked me what was wrong.

A few years ago, he started going by Richard.

Other than that, it's kind of a cool name, and has a 1950's retro feel that's quite the thing nowadays, I understand. Just, if you want overly sensitive younger people to feel comfortable addressing you by name, you might want to have an alternate nickname that everybody knows.
posted by amtho at 9:16 PM on April 3, 2009

Elementary school, a classmatemate named 'Dick DeLong'. First day of class, roll-call (last name, first name), giggles!
posted by raildr at 9:27 PM on April 3, 2009 [4 favorites]

If you like the sound of Dick, have you thought of Rick?
posted by barnone at 9:44 PM on April 3, 2009 [3 favorites]

I once knew a Richard who went by Chard.
posted by Violet Hour at 9:45 PM on April 3, 2009 [5 favorites]

One of my friends, a former colleague, successfully made this transition. He has a big, fun, confident and independent personality. He has fun with it, and I think the key to making it work is that everyone totally acknowledges the double-entendre. He welcomes jokes about the name and makes them on himself. He prominently labelled many of his supplies, name badge, etc., with "Dick" or "Dick's tools" or the like. It sounds odious I know, but actually it's amusing and it works for him on all levels. The advantage is that it is distinctive, since it's not used that much anymore, but "Rich"es are everywhere.

Come to think of it, I have two friends who had the nickname applied to them, but only one of them really adopted it (the one above). For the other, it was nothing more than a way for his friends to joke around with him. So it may only stick if you really commit to it and make a point of its being way more than OK with you.
posted by Miko at 9:46 PM on April 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

Oh, my friend Dick is also about 40.
posted by Miko at 9:47 PM on April 3, 2009

One (perhaps minor) thing to consider: some non-native-English-speakers may be confused by a nickname that bears no logical connection to your actual name. Daniel --> Dan is pretty easy to deduce, but Richard --> Dick might leave some feeling the way I feel when I read old Russian novels. Depending on your job, it may be worth considering.
posted by you're a kitty! at 9:49 PM on April 3, 2009

How do you feel about people yelling "DICK" at you?

If you're good with that -- if it makes you smile or laugh, if you can accept the jokes as accolades, then, by god sir, you are a Dick!
posted by eriko at 10:27 PM on April 3, 2009 [3 favorites]

I'd say the people old enough to not snicker like schoolboys will be fine, and those mentally young enough to already are saying that and snickering when you aren't around.

So if you like it, go right ahead. I'd dig it if I knew a Dick. It annoys me much more when someone with a common nickname insists on using the full formal one anyway. Like a William actually wanting to be called that instead of Will or Bill.
posted by ctmf at 11:05 PM on April 3, 2009

When my daughter was about 6, she found out someone's name was Dick and she was incredulous! "HIS NAME IS DICK?!?!" She snickered about that, for sure! My vote? Go for it. Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead.
posted by davoid at 12:19 AM on April 4, 2009

radioamy and raildr have already pointed some extreme examples out, but I think whether it works depends on your last name.

"Dick Johnson" - bad. double entendre.
"Dick Smith" - bad. Not a double entendre, it just makes "Dick" the most memorable part of your name.
"Dick Jones" - same problem.
"Dick Chavez" - fine.
"Dick Prentiss" - fine.
"Dick Davenport" - awesome.

P. S. "Rick" is halfway between "Rich" and "Dick" and has none of the negative connotations.
posted by mmoncur at 12:43 AM on April 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

Maybe a minor consideration, but ... I worked at a cafe, and when we had a long line, we'd ask for customers' first names, right them down on their drinks, and shout out their names when their drinks were ready. One of the customers gave his name as "Dick," but then he had to say, "Wait, no, you'd better write down 'Richard.'" Think about it.
posted by Jaltcoh at 12:57 AM on April 4, 2009 [2 favorites]

Dick sounds fun and retro. Make sure you find some guys named Tom and Harry to hang out with
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 1:22 AM on April 4, 2009 [5 favorites]

I think Dick is a little uncomfortable, personally, and I'm not prudish. It's just so harsh sounding- I would feel like I was being mean to you if I hollered for you, and a little shy to call you loudly in public. I like Rick much better.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 1:36 AM on April 4, 2009 [4 favorites]

I have known many Richards who have chosen to go as Dick. The two that stand out are Richard Head (a friend of my parents, who was once on Letterman as having the worst name in America) and Richard Daley. Dick Daley is a stage manager at one of the theaters I work at regularly. Given the general poke fun attitude of theater, we've spent many long hours coming up with bawdy middle names for Dick Daley.

I guess my point is: consider your last name.
posted by mollymayhem at 1:54 AM on April 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

I think it would take balls to be a Dick.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 2:12 AM on April 4, 2009 [5 favorites]

On the bathroom wall in boarding school: "Dick Malley* before he dicks you!"

* -- Dean of Students.
posted by ericb at 3:17 AM on April 4, 2009

Seriously? You've got to embrace it. My fiesty 60-something year old Brooklyn-born uncle Dick totally and unconditionally has no problem with being called Dick, and I think is more amused than bothered by any connotations the name might raise. If you're going to go by Dick in this day and age, you have to do it wholeheartedly, with enough vigor and chutzpah that people can get over it. You should only be Dick if your personality is one where running with the nickname will work for you. Otherwise, I agree with the people who think you should call yourself Rick.
posted by graymouser at 3:21 AM on April 4, 2009

mollymahem: You actually know someone named Dick Head? That's incredible.
posted by crazylegs at 3:56 AM on April 4, 2009

I had a good friend in college called Dick (I'm 33). It wasn't a big deal.
posted by gaspode at 5:13 AM on April 4, 2009

Except for being called "Dickie" by an absolutely stunning classmate in the 7th grade, and occasionally "Dick" by people who nickname everyone, I was "Richard" solely for 60 years, when I became, to my closest friends (particularly my grandchildren), "Rico." "Rico" has the merit that if someone calls out "Rico!" they're almost definitely calling you.
posted by RichardS at 5:20 AM on April 4, 2009 [5 favorites]

My mom's little brother Richard came home from school one day and announced that he was now to be called Dick. So, my leather-clad, tattoo-covered, scary long haired biker uncle? Uncle Dickie. From the day I was born 'till the day he died. And it was awesome.
posted by riane at 5:46 AM on April 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

It isn't that 'Dick' makes me think of a penis that would stop me, it is 'Dick' used to mean an asshole that I would want to avoid.
posted by InkaLomax at 6:31 AM on April 4, 2009 [8 favorites]

Depends on how your wear it. If you wince and get angry about the name, it won't work. If you have fun with it and wear it with pride, you'll do fine.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:03 AM on April 4, 2009

Tricky Dick Nixon is the first one that jumps to mind, but that was so long ago, it seems like ancient history. Dick Cheney, otoh, is still a recent negative association for a lot of people, so you may experience unpleasant visceral reactions from that.

I'm on the fence on this one: on one hand, I admire the retro Mad Men-esque appeal of the name, on the other, I have to admit, I have a strong negative gut reaction to it. You didn't mention what you do for a living, so it's hard to say whether such a name change would be ill-advised or not. Dick in accounting would be much easier to swallow than Dick the cub scout leader.
posted by LuckySeven~ at 7:26 AM on April 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

Do it. You know you want to.
posted by oddman at 7:33 AM on April 4, 2009

right --> write ... argh
posted by Jaltcoh at 7:49 AM on April 4, 2009

i have an uncle richard, who always went by dick for the first, say 20 years of my life. then he tried to change it to rich or richard, and it sounded weird. i always think of him as dick, and it's just his name. nothing tee hee hee about it. though rich sounds forced.
posted by apostrophe at 8:52 AM on April 4, 2009

I had an Uncle Dick! He was born in 1937, though, so he had been a Dick long before Nixon's fall from grace, and before people referred to uncouth assholes as "dicks".

I prefer "Rick" for lots of reasons, including that it doesn't mean "uncouth asshole" in the vernacular. Also "Rich."

A friend of mine was "Dick" when I met him in college (he is the opposite of an uncouth asshole, though) but his wife started calling him "Richard" and now we all call him "Richard".
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:51 AM on April 4, 2009

My name is Dick, or Richard which ever. I'm 53. I liked my name growing up. Later it seemed a little awkward at times. Had a girlfriend who insisted on calling me Rick, never got used to it. Eventually evolved to letting new acquaintances call me Richard which is fine. That's how I sign my name and is on official forms and stuff. It does sound a little formal, but as an older person that doesn't seem inappropriate. I'm glad to see that there is a "Retro" resurgence of the name. I say do it, we Dicks need to stick together.

I went to school with a guy named Dick Butts.
posted by Fortnight Bender at 9:58 AM on April 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

The fact that you are coming here to ask about it, suggests you're not comfortable enough with the nickname to pull it off.

And, aside from that, I think it is in poor taste to pick your preferred nickname out of a sense of irony. I kind of get the feeling that you're thinking this is cute and retro and funny.
posted by jayder at 10:06 AM on April 4, 2009

Hmmm, something I didn't realize until people pointed it out here is that "Dick" sounds just right with a last name that starts with a D, but doesn't flow so naturally with other names. That doesn't mean it's a bad choice with other names, just that it explains why I've always thought my state Senator's name kind of rolled off the tongue.
posted by MsMolly at 10:13 AM on April 4, 2009

Well, one of the math teachers in my high school was Dick Kuntz. It helped that he was one of the 'cooler' teachers and everybody liked him.

Personally, I kind of think that switching nicknames at 30 is kind of, well, strange. Especially if you've been at your particular employer for any sort of extended period of time. It might be different if you were starting afresh at a new job and nobody knew you as Richard and you came in under the clean slate of "Dick".

FWIW, I tend to associate the word 'dick' with somebody who is behaving like an asshole, rather than a penis, though that would probably be the second thought.
posted by dancinglamb at 10:31 AM on April 4, 2009

My father-in-law goes by Dick. He is the first Richard I personally know who goes by that nickname, and I will admit that it took a little while until I didn't feel awkward calling him that. (Didn't help that he and I didn't particularly hit it off when I first met him, though now we get along fine.)

Now that I'm Over It I've met a few other guys who go by Dick in social or professional contexts and it's not a prob.

My husband is named after his father and goes as Rick. Has ever since he was a little boy, I'm told. I like that nickname too!
posted by Sublimity at 10:54 AM on April 4, 2009

Another vote here for "go for it," as long as you're prepared to laugh off any people's discomfort.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 11:35 AM on April 4, 2009

mollymahem: I totally remember seeing Richard Head on Letterman! They had a whole bunch of people with funny names. Another favourite was a woman named Justa Duck.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 12:55 PM on April 4, 2009

In real life, my name is Richard. In my early years my father (and only my father) called me by the nickname in question; at some point he realized it made me uncomfortable and he switched to Rich. I tell people the only unauthorized nicknames are Ricky, Dicky and Dick, and given the choice I'd prefer Enrico (but only if you roll its "r" when you say it).
posted by Rash at 1:07 PM on April 4, 2009

My brother went to "Dick" at about age 28 or 30, and reports no trouble. He waited just long enough for his idiot pals to mature a bit. He's 35 now.

My dad has been Dick for about 50 of his 70 years, and reports no trouble either.

Side note: neither my mom nor I refer to either of them as "Dick" - they're both "Rich" to us.

Enjoy your Dickitude.
posted by tristeza at 1:19 PM on April 4, 2009

I'd go for it, except for the Cheney associations. But I have to say, if one of my friends changed their nickname to "Chard?" I'd never stop making fun of them.
posted by Space Kitty at 1:54 PM on April 4, 2009

I used to work with a guy named "Dickie." No one ever made a penis/Nixon joke about his name. I like it better than "Dick," as it sounds more jaunty and calls up images of 1950s kids wearing faux turtlenecks.
posted by turducken at 1:56 PM on April 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

Consider going by "Dik." Slightly different vibe.

Decide what *you* like and stand your ground.
posted by Morrigan at 2:50 PM on April 4, 2009

I have always loved this nickname, I think you should go ahead.
posted by thebrokenmuse at 4:36 PM on April 4, 2009

Dix is better than Dick, in my opinion.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 5:05 PM on April 4, 2009

Oh, yeah, and most of my brother's friends call him "Tricky" anyway, he's had that nickname from way back in the day.
posted by tristeza at 5:24 PM on April 4, 2009

I was named "Richard" because my parents wanted a name that would be spelled (and mostly said) the same way in French and English.

I completely ignore anyone who calls me "Dick". That has gotten me in a little trouble, but that's how it works. Anyone who tries to insist calling me a name that isn't my name gets corrected.

You can do whatever you want. Many famous and/or successful men have been called Dick.

It all comes down to this: You can be a Dick if you want to.

[ j/k :) ]
posted by Drasher at 8:14 PM on April 4, 2009

My dad is a Dick, My grandfather is a Dick, and my one uncle is a Dick. my first name is Richard but I go by my middle name, but that's just what I've always been called, not a conscious choice to avoid the penis slang. Perfectly good name, My family is full of Dicks.
posted by jrishel at 6:33 AM on April 6, 2009

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