Wanna rob a bank? You might get a nickname out of it.
Wanna rob a bank? You might get a nickname out of it.

Nicknames for bank robbers are right on the money

In these economically challenging times, have you ever thought about robbing a bank?

If you have, it's likely your first two questions might be, "How much money can I get?" and second, "Will I get caught?" Actually, the second question is more important than the first. But a third question may very well determine if you do end up getting caught. And that question is, "How nickname-able are you?"

For years, people in law enforcement and the FBI have known that the odds of catching a bank robber improve dramatically if they assign a nickname to the assailant. How it works is pretty simple. Bank robbers who are given a nickname can generate instant media coverage, and instant public awareness, which can often times accelerate capture and arrest. It's a lot easier to find the "Mr. Magoo Bandit" than a guy named Scott Larson, or someone nicknamed "The Geezer Bandit" who was recently featured on America's Most Wanted.

As I understand it, FBI agents get together with local and state police across the country, to discuss bank robberies and other unsolved crimes that they believe aren't getting adequate publicity. So what they do is identify leading suspects with nicknames to grab the general public's attention — which in turn can add bit of levity to their daily grind of crime solving.

Eventually, these nicknames appear on wanted notices that are then sent to news media outlets. Believe it or not, then the FBI also posts them on Facebook.

Some of the more well-known bank robber nicknames in U.S. history include "Pretty Boy" Floyd and "Baby Face" Nelson, as well as "Slick" Willy Sutton. Nothing like a good Depression in the 1920's to motivate people to start robbing banks.

More recently, there has been a lot of bank robber nickname visibility in Colorado. It seems as though Colorado is one of the top bank robbery states, averaging 150 a year. In the past year or so, the FBI's Rocky Mountain Safe Street's Task force has nabbed "Super Sleuth" and "Tom Thumb" and "The Shaggy Band…

Native American nicknames are abundant.
Native American nicknames are abundant.

American Indian nicknames: from "Prairie Flower" to "No Finger"

Unless you've been living under a rock for the past number of years, there has been an almost unending number of stories about sports and the issue of team mascots with offensive or pejorative nicknames.

This national debate has taken particular hold at the University of North Dakota with its school called the Fighting Sioux. More locally, the Wisconsin Indian Education Association is in opposition to granting a one-year extension to the Mukwonago School District to change their Indian-related identity.

Important context, but that is not what this week's blog is about.

For most of my adult life, I've had great admiration for the American Indian, and I still do a lot of reading about them. Without ever having smoked a peace pipe, and never having slept in a teepee (even though I will someday), I've always innately valued their deep and sacred respect for creation and "Mother Earth" and have also been fascinated by their naming conventions as well as penchant for giving nicknames.

So the specific impetus for this week's blog comes from my recent reading of The New York Times bestseller "Empire of the Summer Moon." If you haven't read it, get it. It is simply a book about the rise and fall of the Comanches, the most powerful tribe in American history.

In the mid-19th Century, President Ulysses S. Grant's vaunted "Peace Policy" toward the remaining American Indians was going nowhere fast. General Sherman decided it was time to kick butt and take some nicknames, so he engaged the Civil War hero Ranald Slidel Mackenzie to clean up the mess, a guy who graduated first in his class from West Point in 1862.

As the book states, "Because his had was gruesomely disfigured from war wounds, the Indians called him 'No Finger,' or 'Bad Hand.'"

Ironically, and little did the Indians know, having Mackenzie arrive on the high plans of Oklahoma would soon mean they would be dealt a very bad hand.

The book is replete with other nickname references. Th…

Would you want people to call you "Donut?"
Would you want people to call you "Donut?"

International nicknames take the cake

Ever think about the possibility of nicknames in other countries and cultures? Probably not. But only a myopic dingbat would think that there is something uniquely American about nicknames. And here are two examples from other countries. One is from Mexico, the other from Thailand.

One of my Twitter connections was born in Mexico, and is now living in the United States. She actually lived in the Milwaukee area for awhile. She sent me this tweet last week, after looking at the nickname website, and it reminded me of just how international nicknames are.

Lisette said verbatim, in her tweet, "...my dad called me 'pitufina' (smurfette in Spanish) and 'prieta' which means 'dark-skinned' so no, no good (nicknames). Lol."

Well there you go.

Edgewood High School in Madison has a relationship with a school in Thailand that involves exchange students. There is a brother and sister from Thailand currently attending Edgewood High, living with a family in the Madison area.

The boy's nickname, for real, is "Donut" and his sister's nickname is "Cake." Sounds like a perfect recipe for a bakeoff. And likely far easier names for fellow students to deal with than their legal birth names from back home.

Fair enough, but why?

Seems that when mom was pregnant with the boy, she craved donuts, and when little sis came along, the craving shifted to cake. Makes perfect sense in this imperfect world.

And, as I have come to quickly learn, nicknames are a very significant part of the culture in Thailand.

According to Wikipedia:

"Thais universally have one, or occasionally more, short nicknames (Thai: ชึ่อเล่น play-name) that they use with friends and family. Often first given by friends or an older family member, these nicknames are typically one syllable (or worn down from two syllables to one). Though they may be simply shortened versions of a full name, they quite frequently have no relation to the Thai's full name and are often humorous and/or nonsense wor…