Nobby
Posted: 04 July 2007 12:23 PM   [ Ignore ]
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In the UK, a human male with the surname “Clark” very often acquires the nickname “Nobby”. Is this the case in other parts of the English-speaking world? And does anybody know the reason for this association of names, and how far back it goes in time?

I don’t know of any other surnames in English which are associated with a particular nickname.

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Posted: 04 July 2007 12:24 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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I’ve known a few Clarks here in South Leftpondia and never heard of any of them being called “Nobby”.

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Posted: 04 July 2007 01:08 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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lionello - 04 July 2007 12:23 PM

In the UK, a human male with the surname “Clark” very often acquires the nickname “Nobby”. Is this the case in other parts of the English-speaking world? And does anybody know the reason for this association of names, and how far back it goes in time?

I don’t know of any other surnames in English which are associated with a particular nickname.

From the wiki on Nobby:

The explanation given for the use of this nickname is that clerks (sometimes prounounced “clark” in certain English dialects) in the City of London used to wear Nobby hats, or top hats.

I’m not sure how much weight to give it. (BTW far simpler to say that ‘clark’ is always the pronunciation in British English.)

Chalky White is another such nickname, but no mystery there.

Oh, and ‘Smudger’ Smith.

Several more here on this Royal Tank Regiment page.

There is another group of nicknames which are classed as ‘inevitable’, especially in the Army.  These include: ‘Smudger’ Smith, ‘Nobby’ Clark, ‘Pedlar’ Palmer, ‘Spud’ Murphy, ‘Dixie’ Dean and ‘Dinty’ Moore.  The derivation of some of these is shrouded in mystery but those for which an explanation can be found:
Spud:  The association is between the Irish name and the main item in Irish sustenance.

Dixie:  The nickname of the famous Everton footballer, W.R. Dean was ‘Dixie’, he scored goals in 39 games in 1927-8 and the name has stuck with Dean(e)

[ Edited: 04 July 2007 01:14 PM by aldiboronti ]
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Posted: 04 July 2007 02:01 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Certainly the reference seems to be to “fast young clerks (Pendennis) in the 19th century, the rising young middle-class types of the time, who imitated in style and dress their betters the “nobs”, and who were thus, or trying to be, “nobby”, adj. Relating to or characteristic of people of some wealth or social distinction; very smart or elegant, fashionable. In later use depreciative (OED).

So the “nobby clerks” ensured anyone named Clark was nicknamed Nobby ...

I’m not so sure about Wikipedia’s theory on the hats, I believe it may have been the whole effect, including canes, side whiskers and so on, that was “nobby”, not just the headgear, but certainly the hat in the song Where Did You Get That Hat is called “a nobby one”, and judging by the illustration at that link a top hat was what was meant ...

Another common surname nickname - Dusty Miller

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Posted: 04 July 2007 02:44 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Here is a list of some naval nicknames. Which, incidentally, suggests that these nicknames are naval in origin. If only I could remember that handy acronym people use around here for naval-gazing etymologies.

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Posted: 04 July 2007 04:18 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Guys named Rhoads/Rhodes are, or used to be, often nicknamed “Dusty” in the US.

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Posted: 04 July 2007 07:43 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Your replies are much more satisfactory than what W. offers (I am not belittling Wikipedia, heaven forfend --- merely giving credit where credit is due). Thanks, all.

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