GOOD

The Arizona senator and presidential candidate's perennially productive prefix

The media loves Barack Obama's name-especially Slate, which published a book collecting terms such as Obamanomics and Barackcracy.


There is one area of wordplay, however, where John McCain has a clear advantage, at least for his snickering, scribbling online detractors: nicknaming. While Obama's name is a nifty, new building block for word-coining, McCain's handle lends itself to the nyah-nyah-iest word category of them all, thanks to the svelte syllable Mc.

All nicknames have low maturity content, but that doesn't make them insignificant. They're often a minor cure for what ails us. Even a sun-soaked optimist with crack-colored glasses sometimes feels powerless to make a dent in the crapola and "leadership" of our time; a nickname is a tiny but satisfying spitball shot at the face of an arch-nemesis. One nickname-solicitor testifies to the mood-altering, boat-floating balm of a good nickname-or a dozen. We each get one vote, but thank Zeus, the web affords us thousands of words.

Putting aside maverick, McCain's most popular nickname is probably McBush, a name stuffed with the fear that he embodies a third Bush term. This Brangelina-style moniker would have seemed preposterous back in 2000 when McCain and Bush were having at each other like two wombats in a Wonderbra, but McCain's support for many of the Bush administration's policies now makes the term seem apt. McBush references are blooming all over, in sentences like this one (from a letter to the editor in the Erie Times-News), "Any American who wants four more years of blundering abroad while we stay insecure at home should vote for McBush this fall."

McBush is just the McTip of the iceberg. There are rhymes and near-rhymes: McLame, McSame, McShame, McPainful, and McMore-o-the-same. There are jabs at his Paleolithic age: McGeezer, McCoot, McCodger, McOld, McCrotchedy, McOneFootInTheGrave, McNursingHome, McCrazyOldCoot, and, my personal favorite, McGetOffMyLawn.

The McNickname fad no doubt owes a debt to golden-arches-flavored words like McJob and McMansion, but the Oxford English Dictionary traces these mocking monikers back to McSanta and McTeller (for a bank clerk) in 1948 and 1949, respectively. More recently, the Mctrend has hit both the small and big screens with Grey's Anatomy studwaffle Derek Shepherd's nickname Dr. McDreamy (which led to McSteamy, McLife, McDog, and McVet, plus occasional verbs like McVomit) and Superbad's McLovin-that sexy hamburger of a nerd-gone-awesome, who gave a prolific prefix even more street cred.

Even McCain can fall victim to the Hollywood-approved branch of the phenomenon. Battlestar Galactica fans have had many a chuckle over McCain's spooky, intergalactically disturbing resemblance to another crusty war veteran: Colonel Saul Tigh. This separated-at-birth situation spawned McTigh and McCylon.

Some McNicknames parody McCain's attitude towards women (McPig, McSexist), his policy stances (McFlipFlop, McWarmonger, McHypocrite, and the positive, depending on your perspective, McReagan), and, finally, his union with Sarah Palin (McPalin, McSarah, McBaracuda, McMilf). Want more? There's a metric maverick-ton here.

Whereas many nicknames leave McCain's first name unmolested, others bare resemblance to Tipsy McStagger, an iconic name that turned up in the 1991 "Flaming Moe's" episode of the The Simpsons. (See: Grampy McShame and Greybeard McCodger.)

Even with all this, we can't quite declare John McCain the Michael Phelps of nicknames. That honor goes to our current commander-in-chief, or The Decider, whose status as a nickname magnet is almost untouchable. So all hail Commander Cuckoo-Bananas, Darth Invader, Spurious George, President I'm-so-buff, Pretzeldent, Flight-suit-in-chief, Busholini, Dim Son, and Shrubya!

Respect must be paid. Even to Smirky McChimpster.