What's In A Nickname?

Readers try to pin a label on Michael Phelps. We'll see if any of them stick.

September 02, 2004|By KEVIN COWHERD

EVEN THOUGH Michael Phelps is on some kind of post-Olympics swimming tour at Walt Disney World - boy, you talk about a busman's holiday; can't this guy stay out of the chlorine for five minutes? - he should be aware of a stunning development here at home.

He should know that the readers of The Sun admire him greatly and eagerly accepted the challenge made in this space 10 days ago to come up with a suitably grand nickname for the world's greatest swimmer.

And he should know that they failed miserably.

OK, maybe "failed" is too strong a word for what happened here.

Let's face it: Coming up with a gem of a sports nickname - a "Mean" Joe Greene, a William "The Refrigerator" Perry, a "Thorpedo," the nifty nickname bestowed on Australian superstar swimmer Ian Thorpe - is no easy task.

But of the hundreds of nicknames for Phelps that rolled in via e-mail - from as far away as Malaysia and the Philippines, proving we really are a global village when it comes to wasting time on the Internet - one word and one word alone comes immediately to mind for most of them.

And that one word is: lame.

Yes, it's my sad duty to report that the toast of Athens, the winner of six gold medals and two bronze medals, the smiling, selfless young man who captured the imagination of viewers the world over, will remain nickname-less here, at least in the near term.

But let's get right to the ugliness, shall we?

Predictably, many readers felt compelled to tinker with an alliterative play on Michael Phelps' first and last names, with rather dismal results.

Brian Kaiser of Bel Air proposed "Flying Fish" Phelps, while Sig Seidenman of Baltimore opted for the more stylized "Phlying Phish" Phelps. Eloise Shawen of Riderwood submitted "Phlash" Phelps, as did a woman who identified herself as "Dorothy Phelps," adding parenthetically: "no relation."

(Sure, Dorothy. Wink, wink. Say hi to Mike for us when you see him at the buffet today.)

"The Phin" and "The Fin" were volunteered, respectively, by Tom Evans of Fallston and Cheryl Balassone of Elkridge. Charles F. Sifford of York, Pa., and Jordan Gaines of Elkridge each went with "The Phish."

Dan Heimbach offered "Mighty Mike" and MaryBeth Norman suggested "Metabolic Mike." Amanda Mohr weighed in with "Medal Man."

Then, out of the blue, the alliteration lurched in an even more alarming, Jurassic Park direction when Janet Payton tossed out this one: the Towson Pterodactyl.

Hoo, boy. Sifting through this mass of repetitive, saliva-spraying f- and t-sounds, I could feel a small, nagging headache coming on, a headache that would soon grow much worse.

Because then there were the dozens of submissions from female readers who were apparently quite taken with Phelps' chiseled upper body and the daring way in which he wore his Speedos, seemingly one dive away from Full Monty status.

The aforementioned Cheryl Balassone and Caroline Fitzsimmons each proposed "Low Rider," with Fitzsimmons feeling moved to explain - needlessly, it seemed to me - "because he wears his Speedos so-o-o-o-o-o low."

Yes, we, um, get the picture, Caroline.

Sabine Oishi of Baltimore cut to the chase and proposed "Hips," "in view (literally) of the generous amount of said body parts displayed ... "

Ann Burdette of Ellicott City was even more blatant, proposing "The Physique." "His physique is unique," she wrote, inexplicably lapsing into rhyme, "amply displayed in those low Speedos ... "

Whew. Is it me, or is it getting warm in here?

Then there was Caroline Purcell of Hampstead, who went full-tilt boogie on the lust angle by proposing - you can't make this stuff up - "Provocatively-Peeking-Pelvis Man."

"While you men may be focusing on his athletic prowess," Ms. Purcell wrote, "us women have noted his, er, physical attributes."

Caroline, that sound we hear ... is that a cold shower running?

Finally, there was Angelia Wang from California dispensing with all pretense of interest in Phelps' swimming technique or medal count by submitting "Flamin' Phelps."

Gee, why?

"Because he's so hot!"

Down, girl, down.

(Unfortunately, maybe the funniest nickname of the hundreds submitted - which also played off the pin-up boy angle - can't be printed here because of its risque nature. A hint: It rhymes with the title of an old Jethro Tull album. It was sent in by Toni Greenberg and was so riotously funny that it had people here howling. Someday, if we're having a few beers, I'll tell you what it was.)

Some of the submissions, quite frankly, were so bizarre they could only be listed under a separate category known as "Huh?"

Joe Blair of Baltimore felt Baltimore's young swim sensation should be called - stay with me here - "Bam Stroker," "since Michael Phelps, like Dracula, causes women to swoon in his presence. ... "

Ohhhh-kay.

And Cynthia McGinnes somehow felt "The Archangel" was a good nickname for young Mr. Phelps.

Why exactly did she feel this way? Aside from the scriptural reference to Michael the Archangel?

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