What does the word tawdry have in common with the name Ned? Care to hazard a guess?
Ned is, in a way, a misunderstanding. According to folk etymology, the name derives from the common usage of Mine Edward as an affectionate form of address. The usual nickname Ed gradually became Ned, as the N sound carried over to the beginning of the name.
Tawdry is an adjective meaning “showy but cheap.” For example, Mitt Romney seemed to find George Santos’s behavior at the State of the Union Address tawdry. He reproached the beleaguered Congressman in the Capitol last night for trying to hog the limelight instead of modestly sitting in the back row.
This unpleasant word tawdry derives from the lovely name Audrey. It takes its initial consonant from the word Saint. Saint Audrey’s lace was sold as cheap ribbon necklaces in the English town of Ely, where Saint Audrey was the patron saint. Pilgrims purchased them in the town fair long after they went out of style, and they were considered gaudy and cheap.
Say Saint Audrey a few times and you’ll hear tawdry, just as chanting mine Edward eventually sounds like my Ned. The nickname Nell supposedly derived similarly–from mine Eleanor or mine Ellen.
The word nickname itself has a similar etymology! The original word, ekename, first appeared around 1300, with eke meaning “an added on piece.” Ekename, with its initial vowel, would be preceded by the article an. You would refer to Ned, for example, as “an ekename.” The final N of an became attached to the word following. By the 1600s, ekename had become nickname.
Do you have a nickname? Do you like it, or do you consider it tawdry?