In July 2001, Jennifer Lopez dropped what may prove to be most successful album of her career: J.Lo. While the quadruple-platinum album -- with hits like "Love Don't Cost A Thing" and "Play" -- heralded Lopez' arrival as the predominant hyphenate celebrity of the Oughts (so far, at least), it also sparked a new trend in nicknames. For the title of her breakthrough disc, Lopez used a variation on nicknames given to her by her fans. "It was really a kind of homage to them," she said in an 2002 interview. "So when I made the second album, it seemed like a really cool thing to do."
And awfully easy. Although others did it before Lopez, she has made the practice of combining one's first initial with the leading syllable of their last name to create a new moniker. And since J.Lo's release (the album and the name), the practice has become very popular. Since the phenomenon has yet to be named, I propose that this styling be named for her. Thus, "Lopezian nickname."
Abbreviating one's given name to form nicknames and stage names first became commonplace with the rappers and emcees of the Old School Rap era. The mid- and late-80s are littered with rapper's initialed (LL Cool J, Easy-E, Eric B.) and truncated (Dr. Dre, MC Ren) first and last names. Perhaps the best example of a Lopezian nickname from this period is the stage name used by rapper Mohandas Dewese (p/k/a Kool Moe Dee), which is an inversion on the system later used by Lopez.
Outside of the hip hop community, this nicknaming process failed to see much use. Then in 1996 a young baseball prospect in the Seattle Mariners organization made the jump to the big club. That player was Alex Rodriguez. Rodriguez, at the time a virginesque 20 years old, blew the baseball world away with his "five tool" mix of fielding, hitting (contact and power), baserunning and throwing. In that year, he led the A.L. in batting average, runs scored, total bases and doubles, he won the A.L. Silver Slugger Award, he was named to the All-Star team and was edged out for the A.L. MVP award by Juan Gonzalez in one of history's closest races. Rodriguez' play inspired Seattle broadcaster Dave Niehaus to abbreviate his name -- "Rodriguez" being a common surname in professional baseball -- to ARod™. The name caught on nationwide, leading superagent Scott Boras to trademark the ARod™ name in August 1996.
It may be a stretch to say that Rodriguez paved the way for Lopez to use her nickname, but he did legitimize it for athletes. All Lopez did was to popularize the method, and to prove that any idiot can do it. It's easy to see by the ubiquity of Lopezian nicknames that have shown up (thanks, Stuart Scott... asshole) in the last two-and-a-half-years, that the fad has hit the mainstream.
Now, virtually any athlete who shows up on SportsCenter regularly will get a Lopezian nickname, providing that their given name falls within some guidelines. None of these have been spelled out before, so I will attempt to provide a service to all the fledgling rappers and shortstops out there and codify them. Examples using celebrity names will be provided to help clarify in most cases.
- Punctuation -- Some people (Lopez) use a period, some forgo punctuation (Rodriguez). Other possibilities include hyphens, apostrophes (for that definitive Vulcan look) or colons. As far as I'm concerned, it's your nickname, so you can adorn it as you see fit.
- Spelling -- The first letter may be initialed or spelled out phonetically. This means that Gene Simmons == GSim and Gene Simmons == GeeSim are valid constructs.
- W -- As "W" is the only letter in English whose name has more than one syllable (and therefore makes ingainly nicknames, we'll defer to the only existing Lopezian nickname to address this problem. ESPN columnist Ralph Wiley has been using his nickname "R-Dub" in his Page2 online columns for over a year. This gives us this elegant solution: Walt Whitman != Doubleyoo.Whit; Walt Whitman == Dub.Whit.
- Zee/Zed -- Use whatever's used more often where you live. Outside of North America use "zed," in the U.S. use "zee," and in Canada use "zed" (unless in the presence of Americans, when using "zee" will save you a painful explanation.)
- Foreign languages -- Speakers of languages other than English may substitute letter names from their languages providing that the letter name is a single syllable. If she wanted, Nia Vardalos == N'Var or Nia Vardalos == Nu-Var. It depends on whether Vardalos wants to be a Romulan ambassador or a car wax.
- Liasion consonants -- Liasion consonants (those that bridge between the first and second syllables of the last name) may be dropped or retained, depending on preference. Therefore, Noah Wyle == N.Wy or Noah Wyle == N.Wyl
- Mc/Mac -- Tracy McGrady sets the standard here, as "T-Mac" rolls off the tongue much more easily than "T-Mick". I'd only suggest the "-Mc/-Mick" ending for pasty Irish boxers.
WHO SHOULD USE THIS SYSTEM
- People with long and hard-to-spell surnames -- Have pity on the journalist and abbreviate your names, ye Mientkiewiczs, Tuiasosopos and Garciaparras!
- People with hyphenated surnames -- This means you, Courtney Thorne-Smith and Rebecca Romijn-Stamos.
- People with common surnames -- But just one of you per first initial!
- People in need of ghetto cred -- J.Lo. Also, I'm sure the sign above Bubba's office in Harlem read "B-Clin, Esq. and P.I.M.P.".
WHO SHOULD NOT USE THIS SYSTEM
- One syllable surnames -- Why bother? Harrison Ford != H-Ford.
- Surnames beginning with vowels -- As most English letter names end in vowels, this construct is awkward when dealing with last names that also begin with vowels. Michael Andretti != M-And
- First and last names resulting in a foul-sounding combination -- Sometimes, a person's Lopezian nickname sounds worse than their given name, or sound like words with negative connotations. For instance, Christina Aguilera != Cee-Ag as it sounds like "sea hag." Best to stick with "Xtina."
- Nicknames that sound like another person's name -- For instance, Dennis Kucinich != D.Kuc as it sounds too much like Dean Koontz.
- Nicknames that already belong to someone more famous -- Recently, ESPN asked Andy Roddick if he was upset that he couldn't be "ARod™" (he was). By the same token, I cringed during the 2002 NBA playoffs when a sportscaster referred to Todd MacCulloch as "T-Mac".
- The old, uncool and/or really, really white -- This should be self-explanatory. This means that Hillary Rosen != H.Rose. (Note: exceptions can be made for people who are kitschy-cool, meaning Al Roker == A-Roke.)
Known uses of Lopezian nicknames
Here is a brief list of known examples of Lopezian nicknames, in use either by journalists or the nameholder themselves. (Please /msg me with any exclusions.) The list is roughly chronological.
- ARod™, Alex Rodriguez, baseball player
- J.Lo, Jennifer Lopez, actress/singer
- C.Webb™, Chris Webber, basketball player
- T-Mac, Tracy McGrady, basketball player
- I-Rod, Ivan Rodriguez, baseball player
- KMart, Kenyon Martin, basketball player
- J-Lew, Jamal Lewis, football player
- D-Fish, Derek Fisher, basketball player
- J-Will, Jason Williams, basketball player (also uses the non-Lopezian variant "J-Dub")
- A-Gonz, Alex Gonzalez, baseball player
These nicknames are similar to the Lopezian formula, but stray slightly. They, however, do deserve mention...
- Kool Moe Dee, Mohandas Dewese, rapper
- R-Dub, Ralph Wiley, sportswriter
- K-Rod, Francisco Rodriguez, baseball player
http://www.allmusic.com/index.html -- All Music Guide
http://www.thehoya.com/sports/120503/sports11.cfm -- "Today's Nicknames Just Don't Have the Same Ring"; Thomas Ryan; The Hoya; December 5, 2003
http://www.arodcentral.com/biography.htm (cached copy) -- Arod Central
http://tess2.uspto.gov/bin/gate.exe?f=searchss&state=qtjtum.1.1 -- USPTO Trademark Electronic Search System
http://www.salon.com/people/col/reit/2002/05/13/npmon/ -- "They always start to crack"; Amy Reiter; Salon,com; May 13, 2002
http://www.mlb.com/NASApp/mlb/tex/team/tex_player_bio.jsp?club_context=mlb&playerid=121347 -- MLB.com Alex Rodriguez bio