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Words, April 1



A retired Army colonel running for the U.S. Senate wanted to use his military title on the ballot. He was told by the secretary of state's office that a military title can't be used as a prefix on an Arkansas ballot. Only elective offices can be used as prefixes — “Sen. Blanche Lincoln.” The candidate said his military title was also used as a nickname, and he proposed a ballot listing of “Conrad ‘Colonel' Reynolds.” Again, no soap. Candidates can use a nickname on the ballot, but they can't use a professional or honorary title as a nickname. Nicknames approved for this year's ballot include Porky, Bubba and Two.

I started thinking about political nicknames over the years. There've been a number of Bubbas and Buddys in the legislature and an occasional Doc. I remember a Sody (from “soda pop”) too. Maurice “Footsie” Britt served a couple of terms as lieutenant governor. A Medal of Honor winner, Britt had lost an arm in World War II, but the nickname preceded that, going back at least as far as his pre-war football-playing days. He was never called “Wingy,” as was a certain one-armed jazz trumpeter.

One Arkansas politician did use a physical disability as a nickname. C. G. “Crip” Hall was a longtime secretary of state. After he died, his wife ran and won as “Mrs. Crip.” I doubt we'll see the like of that again.

“Head Lice: It's everybody's problem.” Should that be “Head Lice: They're everybody's problem”? It depends on how you read the sentence, I suppose – head lice as a condition or head lice as a bunch of bugs. I've never known a politician who ran as “Lousy,” although I can think of several the name would have fit.

Chris Barrier writes: “Every election season at least one candidate produces yard signs, billboards, etc., urging us to ‘Elect Enoch Clinch For File Clerk.' I suppose the crafters of those materials do not have human or electronic copy checkers to eliminate needless (and incorrect) words. They should.”

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