Nouriel Roubini Battles "Dr Doom"

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If you predict global financial catastrophe and are proven right, sometimes you have to pay the price in the form of an ominous moniker. Economist Nouriel Roubini, widely credited with anticipating the recent financial crisis, was christened "Dr. Doom" by no less an authority than the New York Times. The notorious nickname has helped Roubini become a global economic rockstar, recently seen partying with models in St Barts.

But now the good doctor is looking for a change. He recently expressed displeasure with "Dr. Doom," and proposed an outlandishly terrible alternative: Dr. Realism.


Roubini may understand financial meltdowns, but he doesn't seem to get the simple economics of nicknames: They have to be earned, and can't be discarded on a whim, especially when they're good. The name of the original Dr Doom, a Marvel Comics supervillain, was described by creator Stan Lee as "eloquent in its simplicity -- magnificent in its implied menace."

Putting Roubini's meddling aside - and assigning yourself a nickname is a major faux pas - if he wants to rebrand himself, he shouldn't do a half-baked job. No one is ever going to mention Dr. Realism outside of the sentence "This economist known Dr. Doom is trying to call himself Dr. Realism." His choice is a veritable lesson in nickname don'ts. To wit:

-- Do not choose something boring. You don't want your nickname to quietly sum you up; you want bling. And Dr. Realism is the nickname equivalent of a tweed jacket with a matching sweater vest. Roubini might as well call himself Dr. I-Told-You-So. (Actually, that's not bad.)

-- Do not think small. Even "The Realist" is definitely an improvement, or "The Pragmatist." A mere Ph.D. isn't going to cut it, especially compared with the vivid original.

--Do not take nickname advice from CNBC viewers.This should be self-explanatory. Ask Maria Bartiromo how much she likes being called "Money Honey."

It's easy to see where Roubini is coming from: Who wants to be perpetually known as the bearer of bad news? But nicknames are not to be trifled with by their bearers, and attempts to do so will inevitably backfire. And as much as Roubini may detest the handle Dr. Doom, I'm sure he won't consider "The Doctor Formerly Known as Doom" an improvement.

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Menachem Kaiser is a Fulbright Fellow in Lithuania.

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