XXVI Открытая конференция студентов-филологов в СПбГУ

Nicknames of American Presidents: Onomastic Models and Motivation Behind the Names

Арина Алексеевна Першина
студент 3 курса
Санкт-Петербургский государственный университет

Ключевые слова, аннотация

Nicknaming has long underpinned American political discourse. This study seeks to trace the trends dominating presidential nickname morphology and motivation. The time-sensitive approach employed allows for drawing distinctions between enduring and epoch-limited language models. The analysis of 290 nicknames provides insight into the sociocultural criteria behind nicknaming. The paper likewise registers a clear shift to the use of pejorative units in modern US political discourse. 


Keywords: political discourse; nicknames; morphology; motivation; culture codes.

The paper seeks to identify the models dominating both contemporary morphology and motivation in US presidential nicknames. It likewise provides an overview of the trends deemed most pronounced throughout history. Additionally, the research allows for broader conclusions consistent with the dynamic of modern political discourse. With nicknames being increasingly recognized as a means of exploring foreign cultures and national discourse, the study is of scientific value as an attempt at conducting a two-fold analysis of nicknames — at synchronic and diachronic levels.
The study relies on multiple methods. Those include targeted sampling, morphological and pragmalinguistic analyses, statistical and comparative approaches.
Proper names are inextricably tied to society [Nikonov, 1974]. Whether intended or not, proper names are a product of norm-based, culture-oriented decisions. Seemingly individual, human names often follow collectively pre-established patterns. Nicknames are defined as «informal expressive-evaluative names used in conjunction with or instead of proper names» [Yermolovich, 2005: 255]. V. V. Abramenkova [Abramenkova, 2009] shows nicknames to be culturally charged. Complex in nature, informal names assume three functions: attaching the label of belonging, singling out individuals, and promoting behavioral or precautionary sanctions.
While D. I. Yermolovich distinguishes three morphological nickname models, V. V. Dyachenko [Dyachenko, 2007] delineates a more fragmentary hierarchy comprising eight patterns.
Drawing on a self-assembled corpus of media-outsourced US presidential nicknames, the study presents a set of examples in full agreement with existing models. It also calls for a slight expansion of the examined classifications to include six idioethnic formulas. Though novel in content, the models develop within the bounds of established nickname morphology. It is thus safe to postulate the inertia of onomastic play with form.
The paper accentuates six recurrent morphological models that have withstood the test of time and fashion: the Doer model (The Decider), secondary naming (Caesar), metaphor-based methods (Sphinx), the placename-based model (Kansas Cyclone), compounds (Long Tom), and the King / President / Boss / Veto Model (Twitter King). A motivation-forward analysis highlights politics (No Drama Obama), anecdote (Give 'Em Hell Harry), physique (His Rotundity), and military feats (Unconditional Surrender Grant) as the four most likely sources of inspiration.
Succinct cultural codes, nicknames are axiologically loaded tokens that reflect the current criteria of societal assessment. Created in the cradle of politics, they absorb the tenets of political discourse and betray its fads. The present pragmalingustic dynamic signals a shift to pejorative tropes. In morphological terms, it records a slide toward simplicity and concision.

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