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What’s In a Name? Some of Roll Call’s Favorite Lawmaker Nicknames, Past and Present

By Jason Dick and D.A. Banks

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JASON DICK:We’re gonna talk about nicknames today. Some of the more powerful people in Congress have had nicknames. Joe Cannon, the former Speaker of the House, had a couple of them. He was “Uncle Joe” for those who were feeling warm towards him, because he was a paternalistic figure. And then there was “Czar Cannon,” which came from his rather heavy-handed way of organizing the House and making things go the way he wanted them to. Another speaker that had a nickname that really stuck in popular culture was Thomas P. “Tip” O’Neill. Obviously, you can get “Tip” from combining parts of his name — but also, there was a baseball player from Canada in the late 19th century-early 20th, Tip O’Neill, who is regarded as sort of the Babe Ruth of Canadian baseball. Tom DeLay, the former House Majority Leader and a House Whip, had one of the more colorful nicknames that also reflected his approach to keeping his caucus together: He was The Hammer. Arlen Specter, the late Republican-turned-Democratic senator from Pennsylvania, had a reputation for being a little bit of a prickly personality. And the moniker “Snarlin’ Arlen” seemed to stick. Although you were very brave if you mentioned that in his presence… C.A. “Dutch” Ruppersberger, who is a Baltimore-area congressman and a Democrat, was born Charles Albert Ruppersberger. His parents were told when he was born: “That’s one big Dutchman that you’ve got there!” He eventually legally changed his name so that Dutch was a part of it. Mimi Walters? Mimi was not her given name, that’s Marian. Somewhere along the line, it became shortened to Mimi. Earl “Buddy” Carter, who’s a Republican congressman from Georgia, said he basically just doesn’t like the name Earl, so he just went with his childhood nickname, which was Buddy. One of my great uncles is named Earl — I won’t take offense at that. Then there are the Treys — there are two Treys. Trey Gowdy, a Republican congressman from South Carolina, was born Harold Watson Gowdy III. I can totally understand wanting to shorten that a little bit. Trey Hollingsworth, Republican compatriot, is from Indiana. He also goes by Trey, he’s also a third: Joseph Albert Hollingworth III. Cathy McMorris Rogers, a Republican congresswoman from Washington State, is also the fourth-ranking Republican in the House. And she’s just referred to as CMR. DWS? It’s largely the same thing with Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who was previously the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee. Maybe my favorite historical congressional nickname? “Vinegar Bend” Mizell was a major league baseball player, a pitcher with the Cardinals and the Pirates. He eventually got elected to Congress and served three terms. Wilmer “Vinegar Bend Mizell” was born in Vinegar Bend, Alabama.

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