From “The Donald” to “Mr. Brexit,” America’s president-elect is a man of a thousand nicknames. After this week’s turmoil on the transition team, the Secret Service might consider calling him “The Indecider.” But Donald Trump is hardly the only world leader with a clever moniker. Here are a few of the world’s best presidential and prime ministerial nicknames.
Nigeria. Americans impatient to learn the names of Trump’s new Cabinet members might take a lesson from Nigeria: it could take a while. President Muhammadu Buhari won himself the name “Baba Go Slow” for taking months to appoint his Cabinet (he did make one quick decision, naming himself oil minister). But Buhari owned it, telling a crowd, “I am going to go slow and steady.” Maybe that will work for Trump.
China. Worried about the appearance of a cult of personality, this spring, Chinese censors moved to ban a popular nickname for the country’s president: “Big Daddy Xi.” Why so? Beijing is in the midst of an extremely sensitive political transition as Xi Jinping remakes the Politburo ahead of his expected second term. Critics suggest he is consolidating power as the new Mao.
North Korea. Also reportedly banned in China this year: “Kim Fatty III,” a popular nickname for the North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un. His government apparently complained, resulting in the name being scrubbed from the Chinese internet.
Germany. The nickname “Mutti” or “Mommy” was originally thrown at Chancellor Angela Merkel as an insult, but she and her voters have embraced it. Her supporters, used to her calming presence in Germany and Europe more broadly, have been worried lately that the third-term leader would take on a new name as federal elections approach next year: ex-chancellor. But according to the latest reports, Mutti Merkel is here to stay.
Italy. As an outsider, Italy’s Matteo Renzi earned the name “The Scrapper” for his promises to throw out a broken political system. Now that he’s prime minister, Italians are about to learn just how much he merits the name. The country votes in December on a referendum to reform the government. If Renzi loses—he has wavered on whether he will resign if the vote fails—he himself may be thrown out.
Canada. Another sign that China rules the world these days: it gives all the best nicknames. The latest goes to the last liberal left in North America: Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. His die-hard support of free trade took him to China recently, where his efforts earned him the nickname “Little Potato,” which sounds like “Trudeau” in Mandarin.
Russia. Vladimir Putin may have more nicknames than Donald Trump. In his time in the KGB, he was rumored to be called Pale Moth. His smooth skin has lately won him the epithet Botox. George W. Bush, of course, called him Pootie Poot. But in American politics these days, Russia’s covert disruption of the electoral process ought to earn him a new one: Puppet Master.
United Kingdom. Britain is a little lacking in the creativity department when it comes to nicknames. The most recent former prime minister, David Cameron, got called variations of “Dave.” After a brief flirtation with “Bloody Difficult Woman,” based on an attempt to appropriate an insult, Britons have largely settled on a rehashed nickname for Cameron’s successor, Theresa May: Just be glad she's not getting called “Mrs. Brexit.” Three marriages are enough for The Donald.
This article has been adapted from Matt Peterson’s weekly newsletter for Eurasia Group, Signal.
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