The AtlanticThe Atlantic

An ode to nicknames

By James Parker

10 Mar 2023 · 2 min read

Editor's Note

Do you have a nickname? The Atlantic weighs in on what the names given to us by our friends - and our enemies - really reveal about who we are and suggests that we can even learn from them ourselves.

Here’s what I think about Spare, by Prince Harry.

I think it’s a very interesting book, a feat of psychosensory downloading by the master ghostwriter J. R. Moehringer. But it should have been called Spike. “The Spare”—as in, not the heir—is what members of the Royal Family have allegedly dubbed the brooding prince. “Spike,” however, is his nickname, or his most resonant one. It’s the one used by his more roistering and familiar chums. Spike is who Harry really is. Spike is his punk-rock Etonian ginger essence. Spike, as T. S. Eliot put it in “The Naming of Cats,” is his “ineffable effable / Effanineffable / Deep and inscrutable singular name.”

Sign in to informed

  • Curated articles from premium publishers, ad-free
  • Concise Daily Briefs with quick-read summaries
  • Read, listen, save for later, or enjoy offline
  • Enjoy personalized content