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Nicknames have a long history, evidenced in the name of the Anglo-Saxon King Ethelred the Unready through to those attached to modern political figures, such as the Iron Lady and Phony Tony.
Nicknames are given, not adopted. Hence most of them are uncomplimentary, like Tricky Dicky (Nixon) and Slick Willy (Clinton). Madiba is an honourable exception. A fruitful current case concerns François Hollande, the newly elected president of France and his consort or partner or companion or mistress, Madame Valérie Trierweiler.
Within a few days, she overplayed her hand by sending a malicious Tweet sabotaging the political chances of Hollande’s first partner and mother of his four children. The furore has still not died down. “La Grande Gaffe de France” was just one headline, while her name was satirically modified, both to “Tweetweiler” and even “Rottweiler”.
Hollande, who campaigned as “Mr Normal”, has been given the nickname of Flanby, a wobbly caramel pudding, and the intrigues in the Élysée Palace (where the lady is now installed) compared to Dallas and to a soap opera.
The weekly televised satirical puppet show Les Guignols, more ruthless than ZANEWS, shows Hollande dithering and floundering between the two women.
l Geoff Hughes is professor emeritus, Wits University.