Turns Out Dick Is Really Interesting.

Have you ever wondered how “Dick” became short for “Rick”?

Probably not. But it turns out that the reason, if the following video is accurate, is interesting.

I have two questions for the historical linguists in the room. First, is there a name for this rhymification effect? Is is common? Is it confined to certain regions or cultures? Is it linked to Cockney in some way?

OK, that was a lot of questions, but really, all the same question. My second one is simpler: Where does the phrase “Swinging dick” come in? It is a Britishism for, I think, Square Mile money managers and investors. According to something I saw on TV once.

Comments

  1. #1 Eric Lund
    August 25, 2016

    It is a Britishism

    It’s also used on this side of the pond, most frequently applied to the Wall Street counterparts of the City boys, but it’s somewhat more general, as I understand it. I don’t know which direction the expression crossed the Atlantic.

  2. #2 Greg Laden
    August 25, 2016

    One of those terms that is difficult to get anywhere with using Google.

  3. #3 Philip
    London
    August 26, 2016

    “Big Swinging Dick” for those who make a big impact in financial trading came into common use after Michael Lewis cited it as normal trading floor language in his book Liar’s Poker, about Saloman Brothers, published in 1989.

  4. #4 Greg Laden
    August 26, 2016

    Philip: Nice.

    Also in Liar’s Poker, the term “geek” is used as the opposite of a Big Swinging Dick, apparently, though the word geek goes back much earlier and with different meanings.

  5. #5 Doug
    Canada
    August 26, 2016

    I wonder then how Spotted Dick (a British pudding) came about. In any case Richard Nixon was truly a dick 😉

  6. #6 CherryBombSim
    August 26, 2016

    Often, if there is a shift in the initial consonant to get the nickname, the consonant changes to a plosive. Richard > Rick > Dick, Edward > Ted. If the initial consonant is already a plosive, it does not usually change in the nickname. Thomas > Tom. J doesn’t usually change, either. It’s not a rule, but it is pretty general.