This article is about the nicknames of William Jefferson Clinton, the 42nd President of the United States.
A fun fact about Clinton, whose original last name is Blythe, was the first incumbent Democratic Party president to be re-elected in 1996 — 60 years after Franklin Roosevelt was re-elected to a second term in 1936.
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Bill Clinton Nicknames
That said, let’s look at President Clinton’s ten most popular nicknames.
Clinton’s first name, William, is often fondly shortened to Bill. This tradition predates Clinton by hundreds of years, though. Many older English names have such letter-swapping nicknames. It was a trend back in the later Middle Ages when English changed and developed rapidly to swap consonants. The language’s orthography was changing, an example being the Great Vowel Shift.
Hence, “Richard” was not just shortened to “Rick,” but to “Dick,” “Edward” became “Ted,” “Robert” became “Bob,” “Margaret” ended up “Meg/Maggie” and then “Peggy,” and “William” was shortened to “Bill” instead of “Will.”
2. Slick Willie
The origins of the nickname “Slick Willie” are a bit unclear. In the game show “Jeopardy,” it is claimed that Arkansas columnist Paul Greenberg, first used the nickname “Slick Willie” for Bill Clinton in 1980. A 1998 Washington Post story by Kevin Merida also dates a first Slick Willie reference to a column published on Sept. 27, 1980. The term is credited to Jess L. Crosser of Calico Rock in a book by columnist Meredith Oakley. However, it has also been regarded as a pejorative referring to Clinton’s alleged sexual misconduct with Monica Lewinsky. We’ll leave the rest to your imagination.
The nickname “Bubba” is quite common among average white people in the American South. Southern males often refer to each other as “Bubba,” an affectionate moniker with a meaning similar to calling someone “brother.”
4. The First Black President
You’re probably wondering if that’s a mistake. It isn’t. Clinton was famously described by acclaimed American novelist Toni Morrison as “The first black president,” a reference to Clinton’s candidacy’s African-American tropes. Her words: “Blacker than any actual black person who could ever be elected in our children’s lifetime. After all, Clinton displays almost every trope of blackness: single-parent household, born poor, working-class, saxophone-playing, McDonald’s-and-junk-food-loving boy from Arkansas.”
5. The Comeback Kid
Everyone loves a comeback story, the last gasp snatch of victory at the precipice of disaster. Clinton is well regarded as “the comeback kid” in popular media, particularly for his exploits in earning a second-place finish in the New Hampshire primary in 1992 and further reinforced the label after both an arduous 1994 midterm election and the Lewinsky scandal during his presidency.
6. The Big Dog
Another nickname for Clinton is “The Big Dog.” A nickname earned outside of the presidency due to his popularity among Americans. Clinton ranks most favorably among former presidents. At some point during Obama’s presidency, Clinton was generally better received than Obama himself.7. Commander in Briefs
Clinton earned the nickname “Commander in briefs” in 1994 at an MTV forum in Washington in front of an audience of 200 young people. After fielding questions ranging from gun control to drug prevention and Bosnia, Clinton was asked an unusual question from 17-year-old Laetitia Thompson.
“Mr. President,” she asked, “the world’s dying to know: Is it boxers or briefs?” Stunned, Mr. Clinton paused and smiled. “Usually briefs,” he replied, adding, “I can’t believe she did that.”
And that, dear reader, is how Clinton became Commander in briefs.
8. Teflon Bill
There’s an actual term, a Teflon President, which describes a president who has a seemingly magical ability to avoid blame. A Teflon president is so charismatic that — like a Teflon pan — nothing unwanted can stick to him. No matter how much dirt his opponents uncover, the voters forgive him for it. Clinton was called “Teflon Bill” for similar reasons. An article in the Chicago Tribune explains why:
“Why is it that Bill Clinton seems to be immune to damage from a political scandal? Since he became president, he has been hit with so many fake scandals that people are used to it. So even if a real scandal came along, no one would notice. People like President Clinton and they don’t like Bob Dole and Newt Gingrich, and people tend to believe whom they like the most.”
9. First Dude
In 2016, Hillary Clinton had a real chance of emerging as President. As a result, she jokingly suggested that there might be a real chance of a contest to determine the official title for her husband, Bill. “Well, we really should run a kind of contest,” she told the ladies of The View. “Some people have said First Gentleman, which, obviously, that fits. Others have said First Mate, which I thought was kind of… Others have said First Dude.”
Although she didn’t win, “First Dude” does sound cool, no?
Clinton’s secret service codename was “Eagle.” The reason behind this moniker remains unclear. Some have speculated that the code name concerned his association with the Boy Scouts. Eagle Scout is the organization’s top rank, a fitting name for someone holding the highest office.
Do you have any other nicknames for Bill Clinton that we may have left out? Let us know in the comments below.
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