Why was Bill Clinton called Bill ?

I especially saw this in newspapers. Surely ‘Bill’ is a nickname. I can understand it in general conversation, but in newspapers should he not be called William Clinton?
I have often seen Bush described as ‘Dubya’ for some inexplicable reason, but in a newspaper he is 'President George W. Bush.

He went by Bill as his name. Dubya is just a nickname. Bill will always be Bill. Just like Jimmy. Why don’t we call Grover Stephen? Because he went by Groover.

Gov. John Ellis Bush (R-FL) is always referred to as “Jeb Bush”. Former vice-president James Danforth Quayle (R-IN) is always referred to as “Dan Quayle”.

I also find it odd, but it seems to be a common thing in the US. Remember, in the US populism seems to be an important political force. It’s a plus for politicians to give off the feeling that it would be fun to have a beer with them.

Moderator’s Note: This doesn’t seem like a Great Debate here. I don’t know if it has a strictly factual answer, but General Questions seems like the best place to start off.

Jimmy Carter had to fight in court to get his name on some ballots as “Jimmy” rather than “James”.

I seriously doubt any newspaper article ever referred to William Jefferson Clinton, President of the United States, simply as “Bill”, even on a second reference. He was, however, referred to as “Bill Clinton” rather than “William Clinton” (as governor, as a presidential candidate, and as President of the United States) because that’s how he calls himself. Some people prefer to go by a diminutive of their name or a nickname, and some don’t. As already noted, some U.S. politicians may have a preference for going by some sort of nickname because it seems “folksier” and makes them seem “closer to the People” and so on.

(The governor of my state is actually named George Ervin Perdue III, but he’s universally known as “Sonny”–“Governor Sonny Perdue said today that he would veto the Truth in Nicknames on Ballots act…” One could speculate that a calculation was made that more people in rural Georgia will vote for a guy named “Sonny” than they would for a guy named “George Ervin Something III”; but in fairness I would guess he’s simply been called “Sonny” all his life, except maybe when he was in serious trouble with his Mama, in order to distinguish him from George Ervin Perdue II–nicknames for juniors and IIIrds are pretty common for that reason.)

On second thought, it seems to be common in many English-speaking countries to refer to politicians as nickname + last name. Prime Minister “Tony” Blair of the UK, former Prime Minister “Kim” Campbell of Canada… It really depends on how they refer to themselves, I’m sure there are examples of the same in Australia.

As for George Walker Bush, maybe his own nickname is just too embarrassing. Maybe it’s “Junior” or something. Hmmm… “Today, on USS Abraham Lincoln, President Junior Bush delivered a stirring address to the American nation concerning the war in Iraq.”

Spain isn’t an English-speaking country, but our esteemed, non-English-speaking President is usually known as “Zapatero”, aka ZP (initials of the campain slogan, Zapatero Presidente).

Why? His name is José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero. So, he should be referred to as el Señor Rodríguez, right?

Well yeah, but José Luis is a very common firstname and Rodríguez is a very common lastname (which also has the unfortunate meaning of “a husband who’s stayed behind while his wife and children go on vacation {and who may be looking for some fresh booty}”), so he’s been called Zapatero since he started kindergarten. When he meets someone, he introduces himself as “Zapatero”. His wife calls him Jose (with the stress wrong).

Why shouldn’t a person be able to choose what he’s called?

He can to a certian degree. But the former PM of New Zealand wanted his name David Russell Lange said as “long-ee” IPA: lɔŋi). My family always thought that was odd.

That might be odd if he was the first Lange in his family who wanted it pronounced that way, but I suspect that generations of his family had been “Longee”.

It is a fairly common name around the western world. I have never heard anyone famous or not pronounce it that way. My family always called him Lang never long-ee

And then, in Venezuela, there is Hugo Chavez. It is standard suck up to call him “Mi Comandante” (My commander). The opposition calls him “Mico Mandante” (pronounced exactly the same as the previous but meaning Ruling Ape)

The reason we call him Bill Clinton is the same as we call the UK PM Tony Blair. It’s not a nickname - it is the name that he chooses to go by, and so to all intents and purposes it is his name, and it’s only polite to use it. Nobody refers to him as “Anthony Blair” unless they’re using his full birth name “Anthony Charles Lynton Blair”, usually for ironic effect.

I go by a shortened form of my first name. That’s what I tell people my name is - I certainly don’t think of it as a nickname, and I’d be puzzled if people insisted on calling me by my full name.

I like to use B. J. Clinton myself, after the oral sex in the oval office incident.

They do: standard newspaper style (which carries over to broadcast media) says you spell and pronounce a person’s name the way he wants it pronounced. Cecil discusses the issue here: http://www.straightdope.com/classics/a2_264b.html

Colophonic? Colophonecian Colonphone?

Colonel Obadiah Phonecious IV, since you ask. :wink:

I think I don’t understand Spanish last names. Why is Rodriguez his last name and not Zapatero? What is Zapatero?

“Dubya” was his family nickname – a slurred version of his middle initial – to avoid confusion between him and his father.

This morning on my way to work I stopped by the post office near my home to buy some stamps, and for the first time I noticed a dedication plaque in the building’s lobby. In 1993, the building was “christened” or some other damn thing in a ceremony graced by the presence of “President William Clinton.”

I rarely see it put that way. Normally it’s either “Bill Clinton” or the whole banana: “William J. Clinton” or “William Jefferson Clinton.” I double-checked it, precisely because it looked odd to me.