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Snout the door 'Piglet' hogs the spotlight as Merriongate texts land Leo & Co in the Pooh

The Pooh hit the fan for Leo & Co


Dr Katherine Zappone and Leo Varadkar.

Dr Katherine Zappone and Leo Varadkar.

Dr Katherine Zappone and Leo Varadkar.

'Pigletgate' got me thinking a lot about nicknames this week, and our peculiarly Irish relationship with them.

Social media went into meltdown on Wednesday night after Leo Varadkar released his texts relating to 'Merriongate'.

The texts between the Tánaiste and the former Minister for Children Katherine Zappone were presumably supposed to draw a line under the controversy surrounding her appointment as UN Special Envoy in July.

But the thread, which started innocuously enough with 'Hi Leo, from the Piglet!', only landed the Cabinet in a whole new pile of Pooh over who knew what and when, and more importantly, why anyone would call themselves after a small anthropomorphic pig.

The Temple Bar wine bar that she was, in fact, referring to has been snout the door ever since.

Still, in a world where you can be a 'Mutti Merkel', 'Sleepy Joe' or 'Little Rocket Man', who can blame people for assuming the American-Irish politician had simply embraced a Dáil Éireann nickname after once wearing a pink jumper to work, not least after Mick Wallace infamously labelled the ever-glamorous Mary Mitchell O'Connor 'Miss Piggy' in 2011.

From the 'Teflon Taoiseach' right through to 'Leo the Leak', Zappone certainly wouldn't be the first Irish politician to secure a sobriquet, although, of all the animals of Hundred Acre Wood, surely she's more of an 'Owl', famed for his reading glasses and portentous speeches, than a 'Piglet'.

Derived from the compound word 'ekename', or 'additional name', nicknames date right back to the early 1300s, so you'd think they'd have become a bit more creative by now.

But, I've crunched the numbers, and there isn't a village in the country that doesn't have at least five Noddies, two Froggies and the obligatory Snotser, with those who play GAA 92 per cent more likely to be known by something other than what's on their birth cert.

Just ask Bomber, Hopper, Telly, the Gooch…

Actual experts say that, despite mostly being played for laughs, nicknames carry more weight than birth names, because they say something about the person to whom they are attached, rather than the person who has attached them.

So I was pretty disappointed while listening to Ryan Tubridy this week to discover that Cecelia Ahern's eldest daughter's nickname for the presenter, 'Hobbidy', had nothing to do with Middle Earth, and him having excessively hairy feet or eating two breakfasts, but simply that the 11 year-old had struggled to pronounce 'the Toy Show man's' name when she was younger.

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If you're lucky, you'll get to choose your own like Muhammad Ali, who crowned himself 'The Greatest' - and, let's face it, who was going to argue - or, eh, Luke Ming Flanagan, who told how he once vowed to take the name of the Flash Gordon villain should he ever run for politics.

More likely, in Ireland, as a recent laugh-out-loud Twitter thread by @janky_jane (christened 'Super Mario' while wearing a red beet in Waterford) shows, you'll arbitrarily just get lumped with one some day - and be lucky to escape having it etched on your headstone.

I'm still saved in my colleagues' phones as 'Retro' after producing a packet of Custard Creams in Sunday World HQ more than three years ago.

As #pigletgate proves though, things can always get worse - at least they weren't Ginger Nuts.

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