The Top 5 Greatest Presidential Nicknames

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If you hear someone talking about the nicknames of American presidents and think of handles like Honest Abe, the Gipper or Old Hickory, then we think it’s time for a reality check. Most famous presidential monikers are largely retroactive, used to describe men long after their terms in office (if not their lives) have passed. While in office, the president tends to acquire plural nicknames, and few of them are flattering or noble. In fact, most often they are downright insulting, if not even slanderous. To phrase that another way, most presidential nicknames are awesome.

5 Slick Willy

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The 42nd President went by many names. Bill. William Jefferson Clinton. Bubba. Mr. President. And so on, the list is a long one, but really there is one nickname that we think is head and shoulders above the rest, and it’s “Slick Willy.” Why? Because Clinton was just so damn… slick! Nothing stuck to that guy! Today, he is one of the world’s most respected elder statesman, a man of influence and eminence everywhere he goes. Just a decade and a half ago, he was not only carrying on an affair or two, but was also staring right into the camera and lying about it. If that’s not slick, nothing is.

4 Uncle Jumbo

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OK, we know it’s kind of poor form to poke fun at someone based on their weight, but it’s not like we made up this excellent sobriquet for Grover Cleveland. And the fact is… the man was rather jumbo-sized. We think the best part of this name is the fact that it totally shuts down any chance for a rational argument. Think of it: “Hey,” shouted Grover, “show a little respect! I was the only President to serve two non-consecutive terms in office!” “Yeah, good job, Uncle Jumbo.”

3 Tricky Dick

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Now granted, this nickname could have been a great one for Clinton, too, had only his given name been Richard. But don’t worry, Nixon fully earned this less-than-flattering epithet. And here’s the best part: contrary to popular belief, Nixon didn’t earn the Tricky Dick name after the infamous Watergate break-in and the eponymous scandal, but in fact got the nickname more than a decade earlier based on “dirty tricks” such as mudslinging and political maneuvering during a 1950 race for a California senate seat.

2 The Great Humanitarian

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The fact that Herbert Hoover managed to both earn The Great Humanitarian as a nickname and then, shortly after, to have impoverished, blighted neighborhoods nicknamed Hoovervilles is one of the greatest ironies of the early 20th century. Hoover earned his nickname not while President, but rather while heading the American Relief Administration in the early 20s. Under Hoover, the ARA channeled money and food aid to a famine-plagued Russia, saving the lives of millions of people. He also oversaw the development of the American heartland thanks to a dam and levee building initiative (example: The Hoover Dam). But just a few short years after all these great works, during his single-term presidency, the global economic collapse left many Americans starving and destitute, and the name came back to haunt Hoover, this time dripping with sarcasm and outright scorn.

1 Bulls#!t Johnson

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LBJ wins it hand down. Sure, he was often called Bull Johnson in politer society and in the papers and whatnot, but everyone knew the real nickname for Lyndon was Bullshit Johnson. He earned this title during his college years thanks to his tendency toward boasting and exaggeration, and his penchant for BSing along with anyone he thought could be used to his advantage. Wonderfully for all of us, the handle stuck well after his school days. Frankly, the nickname rolls so smoothly off the tongue you almost forget it’s an insult. We’re almost jealous of old BS LBJ.

Steven John is a published novelist and competitive pole vault champion. (The latter is not true.) His writing runs the gamut from speculative fiction to essays fueled by a mix of mirth and derision. He has never been to Lisbon but, statistically speaking, is probably taller than you.

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