Mahmoud Abbas = Abu Mazen?

I have yet to see an explanation for the two names of the Palestinian PM. Is the latter just a nickname, like Old Hickory? Or some title, like “Uncle to the People”? Or simply an alteration of his given name?

Is it a common practice in the area to have two different names, and if so, are there any other well-known examples?

See William Safire’s column “On Language” in this week’s New York Times Magazine. Safire managed to get the Arabic linguistic facts fairly accurate and explained how the kunyah of Abû Mâzin works.

The kunyah is an epithet, a compound in which the first part is Abû (Father of…) or Umm (Mother of…), and the second part is either your child’s real name, or else some figurative quality.

In the case of Mahmûd ‘Abbâs, his son really was named Mâzin.