Ironic Nickname

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Veronica: Easygoing Veronica Mars, that's what the kids at school call me.

Keith: ... You know how fat men are sometimes called 'Tiny'?

Nicknames and other forms of names hung upon a person by others can be a strange thing. They can be random names, or they can be shortened forms of full names, or they can suggest something about the person, like the Hulk. And then there's the case where the nickname deliberately does not describe the person.

The most famous one is probably the name "Tiny". Any guy called "Tiny" will invariably be eight feet tall with more muscles than a Mr Universe contest. The same is true for "Shorty" or "Pipsqueak" or any variation on a name or nickname implying "very small."

Very popular in Australia, where a bald man will be called "Curly" and a redhead "Bluey." Also popular in the Chicano (Mexican-American) culture, where a rotund man will be called "El Flaco" ("The Skinny Man"), a light-skinned woman will be called "La Negra" ("The Black Woman"), etc.

A subtrope of Non-Indicative Name. See Ironic Name for when the given name, not the nickname, is ironic. For something similar applied to pets and animals, see Fluffy the Terrible and Deathbringer the Adorable.

Examples of Ironic Nickname include:


Advertising[edit | hide | hide all]

  • A cereal commercial with a monkey mascot has a friend giraffe called Shorty.
  • There was a game based on pool, but using a much smaller table; the ad showed Don Adams, in a parody of The Hustler, challenging a very fat master pool player named - Wisconsin Skinny.

Anime and Manga[edit | hide]

  • Officer Hiromi Yamazaki of Patlabor is roughly 6'3" 250 odd pounds (about 2 meters and 100 kilos). In fact he's too big to pilot most of the mecha (can't fit in the cockpit). He's also a gentle soul (with a Gender Blender Name) who would have been a fisherman like his father, if he didn't get seasick. Half-pint Genki Girl officer Noa Izumi refers to him as Hiromi-chan using the diminutive usually reserved for cute girls and pets.
  • Likewise, Bleach's Kenpachi Zaraki, is NOT the sorta man to be called Ken-chan/Kenny (that is, not by anyone besides Yachiru).
  • When Gatchaman came to America as Battle of the Planets, portly Ryu Nakanishi was renamed Tiny Harper.
  • One Piece:
    • Don Quixote Donflamingo believes in a new era without dreams.
    • Similarly, Fleet Admiral Sengoku "The Buddha" is an Chessmaster tactical genius, who is not especially nice. However, he does turn into a giant statue of Buddha.
    • More typically, Oars Jr. is nicknamed "Little Oars" by his crewmates.
  • Marie Mjolnir's nickname is the 'Crushing Weapon', which one would have thought fits with her surname and the understandable presumption that her Weapon form is a big hammer. Not only is said form that of a tonfa, but her specialty is speed ('Izuna' increases the speed of her meister through electricity... somehow). Though she can still hit really hard.
  • Death Note has two examples of this if you take the successor's codenames as nicknames. Mello is violent and short-tempered, while Near is stoic and autistic.
  • Smile in Occult Academy is a rather surly guy who pretty much never smiles.

Comic Books[edit | hide]

  • Happy Sam Sawyer was never happy nor did he ever smile. But Nick Fury is a smart ass.
  • The Kindly Ones in The Sandman. Which is actually a historical nickname for the beings in question (or at least one of the many trios of mythological crones Gaiman conflated into his characters). It is a pretty common practice in many cultures to refer to scary supernatural beings by friendly-sounding names to avoid angering them. See The Fair Folk for another example.
  • Watchmen:
    • Big Figure is actually a midget.
    • "The Comedian" was once a wisecracker who wore a jester's costume in his youth. The name because ironic later, when he became an unstable, cynical nihilist.
  • In the Iron Man comics, Happy Hogan is named thus because he was originally drawn with only one expression. It didn't stick.
  • Sharpshooter Maximilian "Twitch" Williams in Spawn got his nickname during his academy days "because he doesn't, ever".
  • In the Blood Bowl comic, "Tiny" McFearsome of the Chaos All-Stars is actually a subversion - they call him tiny because he's the runt of the litter. You should see his brothers!
  • Tif et Tondu: The hairy one is the one whose name suggests baldness and vice versa.
  • Matt Murdock picked up the nickname "Daredevil" in school—because he was very cautious and averse to physical activity and sports.

Film[edit | hide]

  • Sent up (ha) in the Starsky and Hutch movie, where they conclude that a guy is not the Tiny they're looking for on the grounds that he's too tall to be actually tiny, and not tall enough to be an ironic naming.
  • In Snatch, Brick Top's hair is grey. Also, Gorgeous George is rather unattractive.
  • In The Departed, the character Frenchie is actually from Britain. His last name is "French," however, so this is combined with Non-Indicative Name.
  • Madagascar: In the sequel "Escape 2 Africa", Alex finally reunites with his lost parents when he and his friends find themselves in Africa after a failed plane ride back to New York. During a ceremony, Alex (who unbeknownst to him thinks its a dance-off) must fight and defeat another lion as a rite of passage into the pride as alpha lion. Alex's father's scheming rival, Makunga, tricks him into parring with a lion named "Teetsi". When the time comes for the rite of passage, Alex does indeed choose Teetsi, who turns out to be something like the Incredible Lion Hulk, and defeats him in one blow.
  • Doubling as a Real Life example, Curly Howard of The Three Stooges is completely bald.
  • In Oliver and Company, the gang's Dumb Muscle is named Einstein.
  • Little John in Robin Hood: Men in Tights. He helpfully informs Robin not to be fooled by the name: "In real life, I'm very big."
  • In Muppet Treasure Island, the last two pirates in the roll call scene are "Big Fat Ugly Bug-Faced Baby-Eating O'Brien" and "Angel Marie". O'Brien is a deep-voiced lady pirate, and Angel Marie is a big ugly Muppet monster.
  • Alameda Slim, the main villain of Home on the Range, is actually a large man. Lucky Jack isn't exactly lucky.
  • In Alfred Hitchcock's The Secret Agent, the Hairless Mexican is neither hairless nor Mexican. However, in the novel Ashenden, on which the film was based, the character actually was a hairless Mexican.
  • Blondie of Sucker Punch, played by Vanessa Hudgens, and Sweet Pea, a sardonic pessimist who hardly smiles.
  • In Top Gun, Commander Heatherly's callsign "Jester" is almost certainly an example of this, given that he's played by Michael Ironside.
  • In Maleficent, the title character affectionately calls Aurora "Beastie", a term which dates back to when Aurora was a toddler and Maleficent was half-heartedly trying to convince herself she hated the girl as much as she hated her father—while seeing to it she got fed and occasionally saving her life.

Folklore[edit | hide]

  • Little John—the nickname given to John Little by Robin Hood because of his size. Depending on the particular interpretation of the Robin Hood legend, he could be more than 185 cm (6 feet) tall and weigh over 90 kg (200 pounds) -- in an era when many men would have been around 160 cm (5 feet 3 inches) and weighed perhaps 55 kg (125 pounds). Lucky for Robin that Little John was one of the good guys...
    • This concept is parodied in Blackadder, in which Edmund puts together a group of men, including a midget named Jack Large. Edmund offers him the nickname of Large Jack, only for Jack to not get the point at all. When Edmund offers to call him Little Jack instead, Jack immediately assumes his size is being made fun of and threatens to kill Edmund.
    • Also spoofed in Robin Hood: Men in Tights where after introducing himself, John remarks "But don't let my name fool you, I'm actually quite tall in real life."
      • There is actually a non-ironic meaning behind this. "Little John" in medieval England is rather like "John Jr." today.
    • Little John adamantly insists that he's "proportionate" in the 2010 film.

Literature[edit | hide]

  • 1984. The Ministry of Truth (where the past is rewritten), The Ministry of Love (torture and brainwashing), The Ministry of Peace (in charge of the armed forces), and The Ministry of Plenty (rationing).
    • Strictly this is official propaganda, but the truth is well enough known to make it irony.
  • Discworld:
    • In Reaper Man, during his tenure as a mortal, Death befriends a group of old men in a small farming community, including a fellow known as Gabby Wheels, who (as can be expected, from this trope) never says anything.
    • Similarly, Short Street in Ankh-Morpork is, in fact, the longest street in the city.
    • For one family in Lancre, the Ironic Nicknames are their actual names. A mother somehow got the idea that if girls were named for virtues (Charity, Harmony, etc.), boys should be named for vices, thus leading to a family of brothers including Bestiality Carter and Larceny Carter. Needless to say, all the names, both virtues and vices, are Non Indicative Names.
    • Ankh-Morpork's Complete Monster last king known for his predilection for torture is known as Lorenzo the Kind, a darkly humorous reference to his other well-known trait, being "very fond of children".
  • In C.S. Lewis' That Hideous Strength, the National Institute of Co-ordinated Experiments is not NICE at all.
  • In Robin McKinley's novel Beauty, the titular character's real name is Honor, but as a child made the comment that "I'd rather be Beauty," and the nickname stuck. Ironic in that while her two elder sisters are extraordinarily beautiful, Beauty herself is extremely plain, awkward, and gangly. She fits her nickname better later on, however.
  • In the Odd Thomas novels by Dean Koontz, Odd is friends with a writer named Little Ozzie. Little Ozzie is over 450 pounds, and only named "little" because his father, Big Ozzie (who is fifty pounds lighter than his son) is still alive.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire has several of these. Small Paul and Giant are huge and short, respectively. Brienne the Beauty and Pretty Meris are both ugly. Raff the Sweetling is a really horrible person. The Tickler is a Torture Technician. Subverted, however, by Sam "the Slayer," who believes that his nickname is intended to be mocking until a friend points out that, unlike other ironic nicknames, Sam's is actually true.
  • Jack London's book White Fang features a character called "Beauty" Smith. The author's descriptions of the character are, shall we say, less than favourable.
  • In The Dresden Files, Harry's typical response to anything ridiculously huge is to name it "Tiny." This has included both a gruff bigger than an elephant and an undead Tyrannosaurus.
  • In Isaac Asimov's Lucky Starr books, the protagonist's Sidekick is called Bigman. He's 5'2", and sensitive about height jokes. (Oddly enough, Bigman seems to be his legal middle name—maybe his parents were compensating for something?)
  • Subverted in the X Wing Series. The pilot "Runt" is pretty big and considerably stronger than a human, but that nickname followed him from his homeworld. For his species, he's practically a midget.
    • He 'is' a midget, it's stated that his species are almost never starfighter pilots because they don't fit in the cockpit, and even Runt is a little cramped.
  • In The Last Dragonlord and Dragon and Phoenix, the youngest Dragonlords are traditionally called "Little One" regardless of size. One of them, a woman the size of a child, delights in calling the youngest one "Little One" to the point of rarely using his name to his face. He's about seven feet tall. On meeting the next two successive youngest Dragonlords, she is relieved to see that both of them are still taller than her.
  • All the King's Men features the burly political operative Tiny Duffy, whose commitment to extending traditional Louisiana politics' cronyism to Willie Stark's administration once causes Stark to evict him from his office with a shotgun.
  • Ironic Nicknames are practically mandatory in the Brigands MC.

Biker names were usually ironic. Little George was the size of a house, Fats as thin as a rake and Teeth had nothing but squishy gums and a couple of brown molars at the back.

  • In Les Misérables, Fantine names her little girl Euphrasie in a moment of romantic inspiration, but soon she calls the babe "Cosette" all the time (which means, basically, 'pampered' or 'indulged' in French). Then she leaves her child with the Thenardiers, who verbally and physically abuse the child, starve her, and force her to work for her keep—all the while still calling her "Cosette," little Indulged. And Cosette becomes the name by which she is known her entire life, except in the most official moments.
  • The Wayside School series has this with the three Erics. Basically, there's three kids named Eric in the main class. One, Eric Bacon, is a skinny guy, one, Eric Fry, is an excellent athlete, and one, Eric Ovens, is a fairly nice guy. Bacon is called "Fatso", since Fry is bulky and Ovens is pudgy. Fry is called "Butterfingers" and is constantly forced on right field, because Bacon is weak and Ovens is clumsy. Since Bacon and Fry have insulting nicknames, they're irritable jerks, which leads to Ovens being called "Crabapple." It's a little surreal, honestly.
  • Flight of the Intruder brings us Razor, so named because of his Porn Stache, and Cool Hand, who when he's not flying, suffers from stress-related palsy.
  • Leslie Thomas' detective Dangerous Davies is so named because he's considered harmless by most local villains.
    • In one story, Dangerous investigates the background of a very short man called Lofty. This turns out to be a subversion, because the little guy had stolen the identity of the real lofty who was a six foot two beanpole.
  • In the Dragaera series, one the gangsters working for Vlad was nicknamed "The Healer". This is a reference to an incident in which he approached a recalcitrant debtor with a club and said something like "I see your head is whole. How about I heal it for you?"
  • 'Pudge' in Looking for Alaska, called such because he's skinny.

Live Action TV[edit | hide]

  • Dexter featured Little Chino, a huge man who actually survives Dexter's murder attempts. Twice. During one of them, he rips through enough tape to subdue a normal man, and the last time he's taken by Dexter you see none of him except for parts of his face, due to Dexter never making the same mistake twice.
  • An episode of Walker, Texas Ranger featured the team investigating several hackers. One guy was named "Tiny" (or something), and the guy sent to talk to him ended up being beaten up by a huge behemoth of a guy. In contrast, a guy named "Big Hack" was... a midget.
  • In Veronica Mars Season Two, there is a janitor nicknamed Lucky. They nicknamed him that because he went to Iraq and was injured (which could mean he was lucky in not dying or unlucky in getting injured in the first place). Even more ironically, he ends up going off his rocker, starting a school shooting with a gun filled with blanks, and then gets shot dead by a security guard in an episode entitled "Happy Go Lucky."
  • This trope applies to the nickname of Detective Constable "Dangerous" Davies, protagonist of The Last Detective series of mysteries and is discussed in the episode titled Lofty (see the Literature section above).
  • In the TV mini-series Oktober the goons from the multinational pharmaceutical company pursuing the protagonist belong to its "Ethics Division".
  • In an episode of Cheers, a "Tiny" comes in and sits at the bar near Cliff, who, upon learning of his nickname, points out the concept behind it. "Tiny" tells him, "You're Smart!" Cliff takes it as a compliment, until "Tiny" points out that that's his Ironic Nickname for him.
  • Bones:
    • In one episode, Temperance learns that her paramour (who seems unwilling to have sex with her) is nicknamed "Peanut." Turns out he's embarrassed about his giant penis.
    • Also, Temperance itself is something of an ironic name: one of the Seven Cardinal Virtues (very Christian, which she isn't), it has to do with being mindful of others and one's surroundings (she's not), practicing self-control (she's calm, to be sure, but she really doesn't know when to shut up), and being abstemious and moderate (while she doesn't drink that much, her sex life can hardly be seen as abstemious or moderate...not in a negative way, but definitely immoderate). Her birth name, changed by her unrepentantly criminal parents, was Joy.
  • Used in The Wire, Season 4. Herc is looking for a gangster named Little Kevin (who is in reality tall and overweight), and has the man in question up against a wall. When asked if he is Little Kevin, Kevin replies, "Do I look little to you?" Herc then lets him go, and decides to apprehend everyone under 5'10 and 180 lbs as possible candidates.
  • "Sweet" Dee on It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, who is anything but.
  • On Top Gear, James May's "Captain Slow" nickname is now rather ironic since he's had the opportunity to take two different Bugatti Veyrons (record-setting fastest production cars) to their top speeds.
    • This trope was actually invoked in the Top Gear vs D-Motor episode. May was "Captain Slow", and Richard Hammond was "Lofty".
    • May has also dubbed Jeremy Clarkson "the world's most practical man" on occasion.
  • Young Mr. Grace from Are You Being Served. So called because despite being ancient, he's nonetheless still younger than his brother.
  • Eureka has a large insectoid robot nicknamed "Tiny".
  • Monk had a character named Fat Tony, a gangster who Sharona gets a crush on. He was a fat as a kid and grew up incredibly fit but he's still called "Fat."

Sharona: Why can't you just call him Big Tony?
Gangster: We already have a Big Tony.
Sharona: Who?
Gangster: ... Big Tony.

  • Smiler from Last of the Summer Wine who was always downbeat. And when he does smile (mostly to laugh) it is very, very creepy
  • In Sons of Anarchy, Happy is extremely serious as well as the club's most ruthless killer. He embraces his nickname by tattooing smiley faces into his chest for every kill he makes.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Spike doesn't like being called "William the Bloody" because it actually referred to his bloody awful poetry.
  • On The X-Files, Mulder's nickname at the FBI is "Spooky." Doesn't seem that ironic until you learn that his work on with the supernatural isn't how he got the nickname. Before the X-Files, he was an amazing profiler for the Violent Crimes Section, so amazing it was "Spooky."
  • In Game of Thrones, Gregor Clegane's Torture Technician is called "the Tickler."
  • In Chappelle's Show's "Player Haters" sketches, the ugliest hater (he has an award for it and everything) is called Beautiful. That said, he's a preening narcissist who seems to believe his nickname describes him perfectly.
  • In Boardwalk Empire, we have Chalky White, who leads Atlantic City's black criminal element.

Professional Wrestling[edit | hide]

  • Some ring names fits this depending on the wrestler.
    • Joan “Chyna” Laurer… the ring name implies that she’s fragile like “fine china”, never mind the fighting ability the former bodybuilder was able to show. There was a reason she served as a bodyguard.

Video Games[edit | hide]

  • Tiny Tiger from the Crash Bandicoot games is massive.
  • The pilot of SSV Normandy was called "Joker" because he never smiled in flight school. Amusingly, the irony is something of an Informed Attribute by the time of the game's events, as Joker tells...well, jokes, in every conversation you have with him.
  • In Beyond Good and Evil, the man who fronts for the IRIS Network is a blind man named "Peepers." He even has an eye on the front of his shirt.
  • Secret of Evermore's Ancient Rome/Egypt mishmash world has Tiny. Guess what he looks like. (Hint: he has a mohawk.) Hell, they even lampshade it in his introduction (provided you see him before the Coliseum fight):
  • The instruction manuals and some other side materials for Army Men will often refer to Colonel Grimm as "'Happy' Jack", and then (sometimes within the same sentence) mention his depression over how long the current war has dragged on.
  • In Backyard Sports, Dante Robinson is called "Stretch" even though he can't stretch at all because he's really short.
  • Wing Commander's Chris "Maverick" Blair got the call sign as an ironic take on his by-the-book flying. Todd "Maniac" Marshal on the other hand, did not.
  • More of an Ironic Title: all of the named Prophets, most notably Truth.
  • Mouser from Super Mario Bros. 2? It's an evil mouse that throws nightmare bombs. Look up however what 'mouser' actually means... a cat trained to catch mice.
  • Little Eddie, the first boss of MadWorld, is the second or third largest boss in the game, easily 15 feet tall and covered in rock hard muscle. Commentator Kreese Kreeley doesn't understand why they call him that when he's so big, leading Howard "Buckshot" Holmes to explain in detail the very concept of irony to him.
  • Tiny, the Stone Golem in the popular Warcraft III map Defense of the Ancients. Sure, he starts off (true to his name) as a tiny golem, but levelling up his Ultimate Ability increases his size (and damage) while lowering his attack speed.
  • Tiny Kong. In her first appearance she was Dixie Kong's little sister and really was tiny, but then she hit puberty. Now she's one of the taller Kongs.
  • Luigi means "famous hero". Hero? Most definitely. Famous? Not a chance.
  • A Fire Man is a rescue worker trained to extinguish fire. Fire Man from the Mega Man series on the other hand, is a robot who starts fires.
    • Proto Man's Japanese name is "Blues", even though his suit is mostly gray and red. The name is a reference to the musical genre of Blues and not to the color blue.
  • In The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, there is an orphanage runner, "Grelod the Kind". She's anything but, and her sobriquet is meant as an ironic insult by the townspeople of Riften. She's so mean that should she die, not only does the orphans she ostensibly cares for all cheer her death, but it is not regarded as a crime, no matter the means of death.
  • "Trusty" Patches from Video Game/Darksouls. He is perfectly trustworthy...when you've got a weapon in range of his head.

Web Comics[edit | hide]

  • Ysengrin from Gunnerkrigg Court is referred to by one of his underlings as "the Very Nice Man." Ysengrin, the borderline-psychotic wolf-tree. Yeah...
    • Obfuscating Psychosis? He's actually shown to be reasonably nice and significantly intelligent and caring, provided you're not an enemy.
  • In Sluggy Freelance a very fat guy and a very short guy host the "Broadman & Midget" radio show. Turns out the short guy's Broadman (real name Brouderman) and the fat guy's Midget (a.k.a. Mike Midgetski). They both seem completely unaware of the irony.
  • In Beyond the Canopy, Pedro has a several-stories-tall robot named Tiny Tin. (Though Pedro may be referring to the robot's ability to fold up into a handheld size, in which case it's not ironic at all.)

Web Original[edit | hide]

Western Animation[edit | hide]

  • Avatar: The Last Airbender: Pipsqueak and the Duke. Guess which one is the Gentle Giant and which one is the little kid. Go on, guess.
  • Despite being a carpenter by trade, Handy from Happy Tree Friends has stumps for arms. The name winds up being both descriptive and ironic.
  • In the Hanna-Barbera series Top Cat, the dimmest member of TC's gang is named Brain. The Latin American Spanish dub managed to make it more hilarious by renaming him "Demostenes", after the Greek philosopher.
  • The three Erics in the Wayside School series all have different nicknames... specifically, unflattering nicknames that invariably describe the other two.
    • In most of those cases, it was because the kids believe that, because a nickname describes the other two Erics, it must describe the third.
  • Tiny, a female Tetramand (Fourarm's species name) in Ben 10.
  • The Rustler Alameda Slim from Disney's Home on the Range isn't exactly, and Lucky Jack is a jackrabbit who lost his foot, which are believed to bring good luck.
  • In Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends episode "Who Let The Dogs In?", Bloo's friends all find a whole litter of abandoned puppies and begin naming them. Finding the whole thing ridiculous, when Bloo is given the rights to name of of them, he named him Stupid. Turns out, Stupid's pretty much the smartest of the imaginary puppies, being the one who can talk.
  • In a Robot Chicken sketch about Big Jim, Zorak mentions the reasoning for the name.
  • One of Mordecai and Rigby's coworkers in Regular Show is a fat little guy called Muscle Man. This is a special case because he likes to work out (and at one point turns to protein supplements as a comfort food) and his daily tasks are very physically taxing.
  • Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog has Rocket... the sloth.

Real Life[edit | hide]

  • Tom "Tiny" Lister, an actor who is also a very big, very muscular, very cross-eyed, very, very Scary Black Man.
  • Tiny Ron, a seven-foot-tall actor who's had a number of bit Hollywood roles (probably most notably Maihar'du in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine).
    • In Police Squad!, he's so tall, his head won't even fit in the camera frame.
  • 1970s NBA player Nate "Tiny" Archibald was 6'1"--not tiny in the general population, but small compared to most NBA players.
  • In Australia up til recently, it was fairly common for friends of a redhead to nickname him/her Bluey.
  • MLB relief pitcher Heathcliff Slocumb at some point picked up the nickname "Smoke 'em." He really couldn't.
  • Arguably, Napoleon Bonaparte, whose nickname of "Le Petite Corporal", is partly the reason for The Napoleon trope page, while he himself was 5'7", which was the average height of a Frenchman. Though his gentry was mostly taller than him (many of them stood at 6').
  • Since pro wrestling is scripted, any "vicious" nicknames are usually meaningless. Then came "Canadian Crippler" Chris Benoit...
  • The famous Roman orator, statesman and historian Publius Cornelius Tacitus. His cognomen "Tacitus" means "silent".
  • One of Sonny Barger's lieutenants in the Hells Angels leadership was a hulking brute called Tiny.
  • Curly of The Three Stooges was bald.
  • As was the Curly in the 1970s Harlem Globetrotters.
    • In Futurama, his counterpart is called Curly Joe after the Stooge's replacement.
  • The pirate Henry Every was supposedly nicknamed Long Ben (the man's exact name is not exactly clear), the Long part because he was fairly short.
  • While it was not ironic when it was first named, the "Pont Neuf" ("New Bridge") is now the oldest bridge in Paris.
  • 1960s Australian Rules Football strongman (i.e. thug) "Delicate" Des Dickson.
  • Abbye "Pudgy" Stockton was an attractive, muscular strongwoman.
  • 1960's and 1970's NASCAR racer DeWayne Louis "Tiny" Lund was 6'5' and weighed about 270.