The Nickname "Doc"

Other than the obvious way (by playing a supporting role in a production of “Snow White”) how does a person earn this nickname?

Being a doctor?

Well, I know two ‘Docs.’ One has the nickname derisively, because he introduces himself as “Dr. Such-and-such” (which is odd, considering that Such-and-such is not his last name). He hates being called ‘Doc,’ and so of course all of us call him that.

The other is a wrestling coach and referee with what I assume is a medical background. He’s one of the most intelligent men I’ve met, and while I’m not exactly sure why he likes being called ‘Doc,’ well, I’ll go along with it.

A guy I used to work with called me Doc, sometimes Doctor. I asked him why. He said I always had the answer to every question he asked me.

Doc as a shortening for the word Doctor is cited as far back as 1840 in etymological sources.

While we think of “What’s up doc?” as specific to Bugs Bunny from 1940, the appelation Doc to mean “a fellow” appears as early in print as 1869.

This from the Random House Historical Dictionary of American Slang.

Corpsmen and medics earned the nickname during their terms of service. I don’t know many young people who have acquired the nickname, so I cannot say how it is earned or even if it is bestowed nowadays.

My father has a Doctorate Degree and people call him “Doc.” A few people also call me “Doc.” I do not have a Phd and can only guess these people think I m smaartt.:stuck_out_tongue:

Doc Severinson, who was the bandleader on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, was originally known as “Little Doc” as a boy. This was to distinguish him from his father, who also known as Doc, because he was a dentist.

Doc Severinson, who was the bandleader on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, was known as “Little Doc” as a boy. This was to distinguish him from his father, who also was known as Doc, because he was a dentist.

The famous pulp magazine hero Doc Savage was a surgeon named Clark Savage, Jr.

This is straying a bit from the question, but it may be of interest that Theodore Geisel originally took to using the name Dr. Seuss when he was a writer for humor magazines such as Judge and the original Life back in the 20’s and 30’s. Seuss was his mother’s maiden name, and he used the “Dr.” because he posed in articles as an expert on various topics such as spelling reform and sex education.

I grew up watching the Virginia Squires of the late ABA.

“Doctor J” Julius Erving received his nickname there. The fans were all encouraged to come “watch him operate”.

In old sail ships the cook was always called “Doctor” or “Doc” but I have no idea of the origin.

I know someone whose actual given name is Doc. Even better, he’s Doc Lastname III, so his father and grandfather must be Doc, too.

Never eat at a place called Mom’s, never play cards with a man called Doc, and never hook up with someone who has worse luck than you do.

The little boy in “The Shining” was called “Doc” by his parents and by Dick Halloran but I don’t remember why. I think it was the Bugs Bunny connection.

So, if you check the Social Security Death Index, you find that there were no people named “Doc” who were born in 1870. Well, they could have been. But they didn’t make it into the index.

Born in 1875, were 4 people who had the given first name “Doc.” There were 8 in 1880. There were 17 in 1890. Etc.

I chose to examine the birthplaces(actually, the state where the social security number was issued) of the 17 who were born in 1890. Here’s the results.


Now, while this only indicates where these individuals obtained their Social Security cards in the 20th Century, people generally didn’t travel as much years ago. And I think one could generalize that the South/West is heavily represented here. Doc just wasn’t a given name on the East Coast.

(I know that’s only 16 total. The 17th was “RR”, whatever that meant. I’m too lazy to look.)

In high school somebody started calling me “doc” for no apparent reason one day. It’s just a nickname nowadays. I used to have fun with it… People would be like Doctor who? Seuss? Martin? Dre? Kavorkian? Pepper?

Fun times.

“Doc” Holliday, of O.K. Corral fame, was so-called because he was a dentist.

In the Stanley Kubrick version of The Shining, Shelley Duvall asks Scatman Crothers how he knew that she called her son “Doc” “like in the Bugs Bunny cartoons”. This is the first tip-off that Crothers is psychic.

The obvious reason of medical training/experience was also generalized to educated men. In some circles, almost any male significantly more educated or “book smart” than the norm can get derisively nicknamed “Doc”. As a college student working for a painting contractor one summer where the entire crew was high-school drop-outs, I was called Doc by one of them. It wasn’t exactly a compliment. I imagine something similar happened in the late 18th-century West.

When I was in High School all the girls called me Doc because, “I made them feel so good.”

As I think about it a little more they may actually have been saying Dork.

I know a “Doc Holliday” who I’m sure is called Doc only because of his last name and has no ties to being a Doctor. Therefore the use doesn’t alway have an association with doctors.