11 Classic Nicknames (And the People Who Hated Them)
By Jason Plautz
We've all been given a nickname we weren't too fond of. These public figures can relate.
1. Muscle Hamster
Tampa Bay running back Doug Martin picked up his unique "Muscle Hamster" nickname while in college at Boise State. According to , a teammate called Martin's girlfriend, who was a gymnast, the name.
So I stood up for her, like, 'Hey, man, she's not a muscle hamster!' And he said, 'You're a muscle hamster, too.' So they called us the muscle hamsters."
The name stuck with him after someone mentioned it to ESPN. And despite proclaiming publicly that he doesn't want to use it, calling it the "worst nickname ever," Martin just can't shake it.
It's not hard to understand where Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle's nickname came from. Weighing in at more than 300 pounds (although he lost 80 after a health scare), Arbuckle said that the nickname had dogged him since elementary school. He would insist that off-screen, everyone call him Roscoe and would brusquely respond to being called Fatty by saying "I got a name, you know." Other nicknames attributed to him included "The Prince of Whales" and "The Balloonatic."
3. Big Baby
In 2010, then-Boston Celtics player Glen Davis publicly said that he was looking to drop his "Big Baby" moniker and pick up something new. It's said that he got the nickname during pee-wee football when Davis, too big to play with his peers, started crying among his older teammates. Davis, however, has said that the nickname has been with him from day one, claiming to have been 14 pounds at birth. Either way, the nickname has stuck despite his efforts to change it and he's seemed to have embraced it. Davis' official website? IAmBigBaby.com.
4. Vanilla Ice
Robert Van Winkle only gained fame by rapping under the name Vanilla Ice, which contributed to his hit "Ice Ice Baby." But Winkle didn't actually like his nickname when his friends first pinned it on him. In an interview with Salon, he said the name came about when he was the only white person in a breakdancing group he danced in as a teen. Everyone else called him Vanilla and when he objected, they just said it more until he was stuck with it.
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5. Betty Bebop
When singer Betty Carter first joined Lionel Hampton's band in 1948, she was using the stage name Lorraine Carter. Impressed with her scatting ability, Hampton nicknamed her "Betty Bebop." But Carter said that she was actually furious about the name, because she didn't want to be confined to bebop performance and she was worried bebop musicians had a reputation for being irresponsible. But the name stuck and Carter eventually gave in and took on the "Betty" part for good.
Caligula may be famous as a tyrant, whose tenure as Roman emperor is defined more by his own extravagance than his accomplishments. But the origins of his name are far less intimidating. As a child, Gaius Caesar would accompany his father, Germanicus, on military expeditions. He was outfitted with small boots, "caligulae" in Latin, in the camps to match the rest of the soldiers. That led to his nickname, which he was said to have despised.
7. Baby Face
Standing at just 5 foot 4 and with a youthful face, George Nelson (real name: Lester Joseph Gillis) couldn't have argued much with his "Baby Face" alias. He was given the nickname by gang members during his teens and despite his best efforts was never able to lose it. His unhappiness with the name was played up to great effect in O Brother Where Art Thou, where he was portrayed as bipolar and slipped into depression at the mention of "Baby Face."
8. Pretty Boy
Another gangster who was unhappy with his nickname, Charles Arthur Floyd preferred to be called "Choc," because he was so fond of Oklahoma's Choctaw beer. But after a victim of one of Floyd's robberies described him as a "Pretty Boy," that name took hold with the media (another story says that a prostitute gave him his nickname).
9. El Nino
When Spanish soccer player Fernando Torres first started playing professionally for Atletico Madrid at age 16 (he had been in the club's youth system for years), he picked up the nickname "El Nino," or "The Kid." He later revealed that he disliked the nickname, because he thought it showed that nobody else in the clubhouse had bothered to learn his real name. In fact, in a later interview he said that he often felt alone in the locker room and thought he might have been threatening to the older players. He seems to have taken to the name—his 2009 autobiography was titled Torres: El Nino: My Story.
In a 2009 interview with David Letterman, pop star Madonna revealed that she actually doesn't like her alias of Madge—and she left England just so she wouldn't have to hear it again. Even though her ex-husband Guy Ritchie insisted that it was short for "Her Majesty," Madonna said the name could also mean "like a boring, middle-aged housewife."
Edison Arantes do Nascimento first picked up his legendary nickname "Pele" in grade school, although stories differ on how it came about. When classmates started using it, Pele thought it might be an insult—he was even suspended for two days for punching a classmate who used the name. He later found out that it had no real meaning (it does translate to "miracle" in Hebrew) and he adopted it for good.