Buck O’Neil, a third baseman in the Negro Leagues, acquired the rather strange nickname of “Nancy” from the great pitcher Satchel Paige. This is how it happened: Mr. Paige was entertaining two women in different rooms of the same hotel, and he mixed up the women’s names. Knocking on one woman’s door, he whispered, “Nancy? Nancy?” The door opened, and standing in the doorway was a woman whose name was not Nancy. She demanded, “Who is this Nancy?” Just then, Mr. O’Neil walked into the hallway. From then on, Mr. O’Neil was called Nancy.
At Dartmouth, Theodore Giesel became editor of the campus humor magazine, Jack O’Lantern. Unfortunately, after he hosted a noisy party the night before Easter, he was ordered to quit the position. Nevertheless, he kept editing the magazine as always — and writing and drawing for it. To keep the college dean from knowing that he was still working as editor, he began to use a pseudonym — his middle name, Seuss. Later, he added “Dr.” to his pseudonym and joked that he had saved his father a small fortune by not going to medical school, yet becoming a doctor.
In 1969, Charlie Brown and Snoopy became the mascots of the Apollo 10 Lunar exploration crew. The lunar module received the nickname “Snoopy,” and the command module received the nickname “Charlie Brown.” When the lunar module and the command module had redocked, the astronauts reported to Mission Control, “Snoopy and Charlie Brown are hugging each other.”
Cincinnati’s Big Red Machine of the 1970s consisted of such great players as Johnny Bench, Dave Concepcion, Ken Griffey, Sr., Tony Perez, and Pete Rose. Many of these players had young sons who played catch together. These sons — including Ken Griffey, Jr., and Pete Rose, Jr. — were known as the Little Red Machine.
During World War I, female members of the Salvation Army served American GIs coffee and doughnuts as they walked along French roads on the way to the trenches. The GIs would say, “Hi, Sal,” whenever they saw one of these women. “Sal,” of course, was short for “Salvation Army.”
Ice skater Dorothy Hamill was nearsighted, and in her competitive days she wore oversized glasses to help her see well enough to do such school figures as a figure eight. Because of her poor eyesight, her fellow performers in the Ice Capades nicknamed her “Squint.”
Among the innovations that the Roman general Marius introduced was having his troops carry their own baggage with them rather than using slow trains of pack animals to carry it. This speeded up the army considerably and gained his soldiers the nickname of “Marius’ mules.”
Mildred Ella Didrikson received her nickname — Babe — because while playing pickup games as a youngster, she hit home runs just like Babe Ruth. In 1932, she won two Olympic gold medals as a track star, and later she won several national and international golf tournaments.
In the 1930s, writer Alice Mary Norton had her name legally changed to Andre Norton because at that time men were able more easily than women to sell their writing. Ms. Norton became the famous author of such fantasies as Witch World and Star Gate.
The real name of famed 1970s figure skater Janet Lynn was Janet Lynn Nowicki, but her name was shortened to make it easier to pronounce. In addition, her coach, Slavka Kohout, felt that Janet was too small a woman to be known by such a big name.
Olympic gold medal-winning figure skater Tara Lipinski is named after the plantation in Gone With the Wind. Her parents had seen the movie on an early date, and her mother named her Tara because of the good things that came from that early date.
Jazz genius Miles Davis paid little attention to audiences, preferring instead to turn his back on them and play while facing his musicians. For this reason, and because of his brooding personality, people sometimes called him “The Prince of Darkness.”
The Montgomery, Alabama, bus boycott started when black seamstress Rosa Parks declined to give her seat to a white person while riding on the Cleveland Avenue bus line. Today, Cleveland Avenue has been renamed Rosa Parks Boulevard.
Amy Tan, the author of The Joy Luck Club, also has a Chinese name, An-mei, which means “blessing from America.” Her parents had emigrated from China and had been in the United States for only a short time before having her.
Being an oceanographer can have its perks. After Eugenie Clark discovered a species of sand diver fish, she named it after her daughter. Her daughter’s name was Niki, and the sand diver fish was named Trichonotus nikii.
Maya Lin, the designer of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial on the Mall in Washington, D.C., is named after the Hindu goddess who is the mother of Buddha. Her middle name — Ying — is Chinese and means “precious stone.”
When Oprah Winfrey was born, her parents wanted to name her Orpah, after a person in the Book of Ruth. However, because of a misspelling on her birth certificate, she received the name that she later made famous.
Aquanaut Sylvia Earle studied under Dr. Harold Humm at Duke University, and when she discovered a new species of red algae that resembled an umbrella, she named it after him: HUMMBRELLA.
When Jackie Joyner-Kersee was born, her grandmother said that when she grew up, she would be the first lady of something. That’s why she was named after then-First Lady Jackie Kennedy.
Composer Jean Madeleine Schneitzhoeffner’s name was so consistently mangled by the French that he had cards made up that stated, “Schneitzhoeffner (pronounced Bertrand).”
When he was a boy, Isaac Newton, who was born on Christmas Day, 1642, carved his name in his wooden desk. The part of the desk bearing his name still exists today.
Thurgood Marshall’s name at birth was Thoroughgood. He changed the spelling when he was in the second grade because he got tired of having such a long first name.
Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved