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Michael O'Doherty: All in a nickname

Out in a bar last weekend, I got recognised and stopped by a well-wisher, wanting to compliment me on my weekly musings.

The point being not his misplaced admiration, but the way he addressed me. "You're MOD, aren't you?" was his opening gambit, using my nickname (okay, acronym to be precise) that has been established only in the past year or so in this newspaper. And so for the first time I must name-check Dee, the editor of HQ, (as she does every week with me) as it is she that first insisted on referring to me thus, a label that now seems to have stuck.

Truth is, I've never had a nickname. Once, when I played for Merrion Cricket Club in the 90s, the then nickname-master-general, Paul 'Mitts' Hourihane, decided it was time I got one. After all, the team was comprised almost entirely of them -- Mitts, Nark, Flogger, Spiffy, Cools, Pampers and The Beast. But after weeks of trying to come up with one, he gave up. The problem being, I guess, that I'm a bit nondescript -- no particular physical or personality traits stand out, other than the inescapable fact that at some stage in the future, I'm going to offend you.

To explain how obscurely formed these labels were, let me give you the etymology of Dibble. John's drink of choice was the lager Harp, which morphed into Harpic, which became toilet cleaner, abbreviated to TC, which are of course the initials of Top Cat (the cartoon-strip figure), whose best-known other member was Inspector Dibble. So with blinding logic, John was forever known as Dibble.

For years, I knew of a player only as BJ which, yes, did stand for Blow Job. I think his real name is Ian. At a memorial service for a member of the famous Middle League Cup Winning Merrion team of 1993, I bumped into a team-mate, whom I hadn't seen in years, and for a horrible moment couldn't remember his name. Then it came to me -- Fish Pie -- and the rest followed (Oliver Rye -- Fish Pie. Yep, sometimes it was that simple ... )

I've always been tickled by the nicknames given to people, especially criminals. Every self-respecting drug dealer in Ireland is no-one 'til they've been labelled 'The General', 'The Guv'nor' or 'The Don'. In many cases, these nicknames are unnecessarily kind and ego-inflating, and you get the feeling that those with labels which suggest power and authority carry them around like a badge of honour. I would have thought criminals would command less respect amongst their associates if the media labelled them something embarrassing like 'King Rat' and 'The Tosser'.

But more often than not, the nicknames are accurate, and we'd be well advised to take them to heart. Never trust a man called Tony 'King Scum' Felloni. Never get into a boxing ring with James 'Bonecrusher' Smith. And absolutely, positively never let your husband meet Elle 'The Body' Macpherson.

So when Sandra Bullock, who had initially laughed off rumours that her husband Jesse James was having an affair, discovered the nickname of the woman in question -- Bombshell -- how her heart must have sunk. Michelle 'Bombshell' McGee... From that moment on, poor Sandra must have realised she never had a chance ...

Michael O'Doherty is the publisher of the VIP magazine group