Each week The Sun's John McIntyre presents a moderately obscure but evocative word with which you may not be familiar — another brick to add to the wall of your working vocabulary. This week's word:
Adam started us in the naming business, according to Genesis, and human beings have been keen to name objects, animals, other human beings, concepts, and themselves ever since. Many of us have, in addition to our formal birth names, one or more casual names, or nicknames. Nickname we have from the Middle English an eke name, eke meaning "additional."
We not only have multiple names, but also multiple names for naming. In addition to nickname, which is fairly neutral, we have moniker, which carries a little of the raffish tinge of its origin as a hobo or criminal term; pseudonym, disguised name, which is literary; and appellation which is formal.
One of the sweetest is sobriquet (pronounced SO-bruh-kay), from a French term meaning "to chuck under the chin." It has an affectionate tone and is often applied to performers.
Example: From Charles Dickens's Oliver Twist: "Known by the sobriquet of 'The Artful Dodger.' "
Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun