T-Paw is a nickname given to Tim Pawlenty, the Republican governor of Minnesota. The nickname is used by Tim Pawlenty himself, and is also common enough that it is used in the mainstream media. Since Tim Pawlenty is already mentioned as a possible, if not probable, candidate for the Presidency in 2012, the name 'T-Paw' comes up fairly often in the media. But this writeup is not about Tim Pawlenty. This writeup is about his nickname.
I don't know exactly when and how Tim Pawlenty morphed into T-Paw. Was it a spontaneously accolade given to him by the jovial citizens of Minnesota? Or did some highly paid group of marketing consultants create it with the help of focus groups? Or somewhere in between? But lets look at the obvious fact about the name "T-Paw". It was formed by taking his first initial and the first syllable of his last name, and putting them together, in a fashion that was first brought to mainstream fame with the renominalizing of Jennifer Lopez as J.Lo, in the first few years of the current decade. Before Miss Lopez popularized this particular formula, the usage of initials and abbreviations in various forms was a hallmark of hop-hop culture, at least at its penumbra. However, Jennifer Lopez, despite her claims of still being Jenny From The Block, was strongly mainstream both in her fanbase and in the content of her acting and singing careers.
Why am I talking about the career of an over-hyped starlet? Isn't that disrespectful when I am nominally talking about someone who is a prestigious politician? The answer is that while Jennifer Lopez popularized the usage of this particular shortening almost ten years ago, it was already somewhat old, and she turned it into a cliche, attaching a genuine urban phenomena to the publicity campaign of a mainstream pop singer. So for T-Paw to be T-Paw in 2010 shows that he is a decade behind a trend that was already played out when it entered the public consciousness.
Which makes sense. Before, I used the word "genuine urban phenomena". Now, if the reader is to take out a pen and pad and write out the first fifty things to come to mind when they hear the words "genuine urban phenomena", none of those items will probably be "kinda bland Republican governor of Minnesota". I was actually going to write a bit of serious work about cultural appropriation, and with the love/hate relationship that middle America has with black America...how it likes the flash and the innovation and the metaphorical and literal sexiness...just as long as it is kept at a safe distance. But that is really a much longer essay. The main point is that Tim Pawlenty's attempts to give himself some verve by adopting a naming convention that was already strip-mined for coolness by a middling talented singer/actress ten years ago will probably be quite futile. In other words, the obvious is true: Tim Pawlenty is no cooler as "T-Paw".