Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

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 nat' Boxův, the nickname nat' QUTIQgaon, 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, since we cannot but regard his Eavdos Mevércos ódQs WHÙS AxinNeus-ávez evdgwv 'AyQuemw, and other passages of the same kind, not even excepting the thundering cognomen which is tacked-on to his Jupiter, Zeus üfi Epeuétus, 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 of 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 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 formation, 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 SecretaryMr. 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, addressed 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, until 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 whistling. 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 nature, 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 per formed, but from those which he has not : in short, contratiety is its distinguishing character, and absurdity its principal merit.Antiquity will supply us with several admirable specimens. Ptolemy murdered his 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, Gerius," it is a bitinig 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 låtely 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 acquaintànce, 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 résemblance he bore to the renowned Æsop, he flew into the most violent paroxysis of rage when he was pointed at by some little impertinents, as the Apollo Belvidere.

But this sort of nickname is not used inerely as the instrument of wit, or the weapon of ill-nature; it assuses 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 “ Mæćenas," with all the mournful earnestness 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 "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. The Poet” is net' &ŽOXYv; “the poet,” because he is supereminently poetical: and “ All the Talents" is nät' evTIDORÓW; “ All the Talents," because he is the veriest blockhead upon the face of our Etonian hemisphere.

It will be needless to enumerate 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-mentioned class claims our attention, from the comprehensive range of its operation. It is not applied to the mental foibles or personal defects of a single object; it does not attack the failings of a solitary individual ; it wastes not the lash of censure on an isolated instance of absurdity,--but it inflicts a wound upon thousands in a moment, and stamps the mark of ridicule upon numberless victims. The Quizzes, the Prigs, the Marines, the Chaises, are, antongst our alumni, well-known examples of the nickname General.

But we have too long lost sight of the main object of our present lucubration, which was, the recommendation of this art to

my

our fellow-citizens, as a commendable, though much-neglected study. When we say much-neglected, we mean not that nicknames have ceased to be the rage, and are falling into disuse (for certainly there never was an age in which they spread more luxuriantly); but we allude to the lamentable decay of imagination and ingenuity in their formation. If we look back to ancient times, we shall find, that, in those days, nicknames were derived from the same sources as in the present age; they had their origin from natural defects, from personal deformities; yet how amazingly do the cognomina of antiquity exceed in elegance and taste the nicknames of more modern date. How wonderfully are the Chicken, the Shanks," the “ Nasey," of Etonian celebrity surpassed by the « Pullus," the “Scaurus," the “ Cicero," of Roman literature. It is a disgrace upon the genius of our generation, that, at a time when other arts have arrived at such a high perfection that our age may almost be considered the Augustan age of the world, the art of nicknames should have totally lost the classical polish for which it was in the olden time so eminently remarkable, until it has sunk into the vehicle of vulgar abuse, neither adorned by wit nor chastened by urbanity.

These considerations have induced us to give our most serious attention to the advancement and improvement of the art. We are confident that our researches in this line of literature have not been misapplied; and our readers will surely agree with us, when they reflect on the manifold utility of the study, when properly cultivated. There is so little variety in English Christian names, that, where friends are in the habit of using them, great mistakes must naturally take place. A şirname, as Charles Surface observes, “is too formal to be registered in Love's calendar." A nickname avoids alike the ambiguity of the one, and the stiffness of the other; it unites all the familiarity of the first with all the utility of the second. Besides this, the nickname is a brief description of its object ;-it saves a million of questions, and an hour of explanation : it is in itself a species of biography. Homer, when he gives to his Juno the pickname of “ Bull's-eyed," expresses in a word what a modern rhymer would dilate into a Canto. :

For the rescuing of nicknames from the obloquy into which they have fallen, we have collected a large assortment of them, which we are ready to dispose of to applicants at a very low price. We have in our stock appellations of every description, the Classical, the Familiar, the Theatrical, the Absurd, the Complimentary, the Abusive, and the Composite. By an application at our publisher's, neco nicknames may be had at a moment's notice,

_The wit and the blockhead, the sap and the idler, shall be fitted with denominations which shall be aliķe appropriate and

« AnteriorContinuar »