From Tex-Mex to naked rugby

Yesterday’s morning name was the Mexican Spanish nickname Chuy (for Jesus). I’m pretty sure it got into my head from a friend who recently ate at a Chuy’s restaurant in Texas, so I’ll start with that.

But the real topic is Mexican Spanish nicknames: Chuy or Chucho for Jesus, Pepe for JoséChe for Ernesto, and Pancho or Paco for Francisco, in particular (with a note on the linguist Viola Waterhouse, who was a student of such things). That will take me to Pepe Romero, Che Guevara, Pancho Villa, the linguist Paco Ordóñez, Paco Rabanne (the man and the fragrances), and from there to Nick Youngquest in the buff, which will supply a moment of gay interest.

Chuy’s. From Wikipedia:

(#1) The original Chuy’s on Barton Springs Road in Austin TX

Chuy’s is a Tex-Mex restaurant chain established in 1982, by Mike Young and John Zapp. The company currently has 86 locations and 8 locations … currently under construction, as of July 2017. Chuy’s currently has restaurants in 19 states: Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Texas, Tennessee, Oklahoma, North Carolina, South Carolina, Maryland, Virginia, Missouri, and Ohio.

Chuy’s strives in serving a distinct menu of authentic, made from scratch Tex-Mex inspired dishes. Chuy’s highly flavorful and freshly prepared fare is served in a fun, eclectic and irreverent atmosphere. Each location offers a unique, “unchained” look and feel, as expressed by the concept’s motto “If you’ve seen one Chuy’s, you’ve seen one Chuy’s!”.

Every year on Elvis Presley’s birthday, January 8, most locations host the Elvis’ Birthday Bash, during which an Elvis impersonator visits the restaurant. Chuy’s also annually hosts a Green Chile Festival at its locations, celebrating the harvest of the Hatch Green Chiles from Hatch, New Mexico.

Nicknames. Chuy is a common nickname for Mexican or Mexican-American men named Jesus; Chucho is an alternative. A contributor to Urban Dictionary suggests that in joking contexts, Chuy can also be used as a generic address term for a young Mexican-American man (with Concha as the female counterpart).

I am ignorant of all the sociolinguistic details here. Among other things, I don’t know how much the nickname Chuy is used outside of Mexican and Chicano contexts — in other parts of Hispanophone Latin American or indeed in Spain.

It is clear to me that the other male nicknames I’ll be talking about — Pepe, Che, Pancho, Paco — are more widely distributed, though they are indeed common in Mexico, and the sources most easily available to me are about Mexican Spanish specifically.

[Side note. The sociolinguistics of nicknames, pet names, and address terms is invariably exquisitely complex and hard to study in detail. For a brief discussion, generally the best you can do is a broad-brush account of the variants and their users, such as I’m giving here.]

From a column by “the Mexican” (Gustavo Arellano) in the Dallas Observer on 1/1/09 (a repeat of a column from 2007) about Mexican nicknames, I was pointed to Viola Waterhouse’s “Mexican Spanish Nicknames”, in the 1981 anthology Linguistics Across Continents: Studies in Honor of Richard S. Pittman. VW provided a rich compendium of such names, but without extensive comment on their histories.

A nickname is an abbreviated version of some source name –often, however, extended by hypocoristic morphology (Will for William, and then Willy as an alternative). Nicknames can often be seen as conventionalizations of child phonology (/b/ for /w/ in Bill and Billy), sometimes including echoing of consonants or outright reduplication.

VW’s compendium of Mexican Spanish nicknames illustrates all of these points, plus a strong nickname preference for the Spanish palatal affricate spelled CH (which is the source of the initial consonant in Chuy, a consonant that’s then echoed in Chucho, which also has the masculine-gender theme vowel -o added).

[Etymythological side note. Predictably, someone has come up with an acronymic derivation for Chuy. In a 9/4/14 response to a Quora query about the name (lightly edited for typos here):

Luis Fernando Mata Licón, Being Northern Mexican since I was born.

After searching in Google I couldn’t find any viable source, only forums and one article in a history of nicknames page; they say Chuy means:

Cristo Hijo Unico de Yahveh” (Christ only son of Yahweh). This comes from Jesus Christ and the bible.

For me it seems that the acronym came after the nickname and not before. But I don’t know for sure.

The commenter wisely suspects etymythology.]

[Side note on VW (1918-1997; there’s a brief Summer Institute of Linguistics memorial site for her here). I was previously unaware of her piece on nicknames, knowing her only as the authority on Oaxaca Chontal. From Wikipedia:

Oaxacan Chontal, also called Tequistlatecan, consists of two related but mutually unintelligible languages, Huamelultec (Lowland Oaxaca Chontal), and Highland Oaxaca Chontal. There has been speculation that the languages may be part of the Hokan family of California, or perhaps the Jicaque family of Honduras [but otherwise OC appears to be a language isolate]. The name “Chontal” comes from the Nahuatl, meaning “foreigner” or “foreign”, and is also applied to an unrelated language of Tabasco.

Oaxaca Chontal was VW’s life work.]

[Final note on Chuy: hat tip to Ryan Tamares.]

The nickname Pepe. Another nickname quite distant phonologically from its source, José, though it shows echoing in both its consonant, /p/, and its vowel, /e/. Though Pepe is a common nickname in Mexico, the most famous bearer of the name is Spanish by birth: the classical and flamenco guitarist Pepe Romero. (Romero’s family left Franco’s Spain in 1957, when he was in his teens, to settle in San Diego CA.)

Pepe Romero is of interest here in that he apparently was given the name Pepe as his birth name, thus illustrating another feature of nicknames: that they are sometimes converted to regular names, becoming, in effect, orphan nicknames, parallel to orphan initialisms (both unmoored from their historical sources). So in English we get people whose legal names are Kate. Jack, Meg, Will, and the like.

The nickname Che. As in Ernesto “Che” Guevara, the Argentine revolutionary. Definitely a nickname, but not any kind of abbreviation. Instead, it’s an epithet. From Wikipedia:

Che … is an interjection (i.e. a vocative expression) commonly used in Argentina, Uruguay, and in the Spanish autonomous community of Valencia. In the Southern Cone (especially in Rioplatense Spanish), it is a form of colloquial slang used in a vocative sense as “friend” and thus loosely corresponds to expressions such as “mate,” “pal,” “man,” “bro,” or “dude,” as used by various English speakers. As a result, it may be used either before or after a phrase: “Man, this is some good beer,” or “Let’s go get a beer, bro.” It can be added to an explicit vocative to call the attention, playing the role of “Hey,” for instance: “Che, Pedro, ¡mirá!” or “Hey, Pedro, look!” Che is also utilized as a casual speech filler or punctuation to ascertain comprehension, continued interest, or agreement. Thus che can additionally function much like the English words “so,” “right,” or the common Canadian phrase “eh.”

Che can also be found in some parts of Paraguay, Brazil, Peru, and Bolivia, as a result of their close vicinity to Argentina. In other Hispanic American countries, the term che can be used to refer to someone from Argentina [that is, to convey ‘someone who says che’]. For example, the famous Argentine revolutionary Ernesto “Che” Guevara earned his nickname from his frequent use of the expression, which to his Cuban comrades in the Cuban Revolution was a curious feature of his idiolect.

Apparently, from Che used as a nickname for Ernesto Guevara, some Mexican Spanish speakers have come to use it as a nickname for other men named Ernesto.

The nickname Pancho. An abbreviated version of Francisco, with a lost syllable, /fr/ shortened to /f/, which is then converted to /p/ in child phonology; plus the CH thing again.

From GDoS on the noun Pancho:

[the stereotypical Mexican name] (US) 1 a derog. form of address to an anonymous Mexican man [1962 Terry Southern quote: I think you’ve probably picked the wrong crowd this time, Pancho.]  2 a Puerto Rican [1994 Abraham Rodriguez, Jr. Spidertown If he gets away with that, every li’l pancho be dickin’ me up the ass.]

(I’m not sure if ‘Puerto Rican’ is the best gloss for subentry 2; ‘Latino’ might be better; Mexican ‘Latino’ is quite common in AmE.)

The most famous Pancho is surely the Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa: born José Doroteo Arango Arámbula, he adopted the name Francisco Villa and so became a Pancho.

The nickname Paco. Also for Francisco, but not so strongly associated with Mexico. Two examples here, both from continental Spain.

First, among the many Francisco “Paco” Ordóñezes, a colleague in linguistics, of Catalan origin: Assoc. Prof. of Linguistics at Stony Brook Univ., with an undergrad degree from Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona and a Ph.D. from the Graduate Center of CUNY. From his Stony Brook web site:

Francisco Ordóñez was trained in the study of formal linguistics. His specialization has been the comparative study of the syntax of Spanish, its varieties and other Romance languages such as Catalan, French, Italian and Occitan dialects. His present research involves the study of the syntactic differences of the dialects of Spanish spoken in Latin America and Spain.

(but everyone knows him as Paco).

Then, Paco Rabanne. From Wikipedia:


Francisco “Paco” Rabaneda Cuervo, (more commonly known under the pseudonym of Paco Rabanne) (born 18 February 1934) is a Spanish fashion designer of Basque origin who became known as l’enfant terrible (unruly child) of the 1960s French fashion world.

He started his career in fashion by creating jewelry for Givenchy, Dior, and Balenciaga and founded his own fashion house in 1966. He used unconventional material such as metal, paper, and plastic for his Metal Couture and outlandish and flamboyant designs.

Rabanne is known for his costume designs for such films as the 1968 science-fiction film Barbarella. Françoise Hardy was a big fan of Rabanne’s designs. The popular French singer Mylène Farmer continues to bring the extravagance of Paco Rabanne to her live concerts.

In 1968, he began collaborating with fragrance company Puig, which resulted in the company marketing Rabanne’s perfumes. In 1976, the company built a perfume factory in Chartres, France.

An ad for his INVICTUS fragrance for men:

(#3) With the sportif model Nick Youngquest

From Wikipedia:

Nick Youngquest (born 28 July 1983 in Sydney, New South Wales) is an Australian model and former professional rugby league footballer. [Substantial coverage of his rugby career here.]

… In 2006 Youngquest posed nude for the Naked Rugby League Calendar 2007-08, stirring controversy after his revealing pose – in which one hand is placed partially over his genitalia.

(#4) One of many titillating Youngquest body shots

… In late 2012, Youngquest decided to step away from rugby to pursue opportunities in modeling, appearing in a campaign for Abercrombie & Fitch shot by Bruce Weber. He currently resides in New York City. In 2013, he became the face of the new masculine fragrance INVICTUS by Paco Rabanne.

For obvious reasons, Youngquest has a big gay male following, which he welcomes. In addition, though straight, he’s a visible supporter of LGBT causes.

5 Responses to “From Tex-Mex to naked rugby”

  1. arnold zwicky Says:

    From Brian Kane:

    Interesting side note about the nickname Pancho for Francisco: in Rioplatense Spanish (Argentina, Uruguay), pancho parallels frank as a common name for “hot dog”.

  2. Joseph F Foster Says:

    Back in the late ’70s, we had a Mexican origin neighbor named Porfirio Morales, but everybody in his family called him Pancho, and we picked it up. But a colleague of mine who had done extensive field work in Mexico and was fluent in Mexican Spanish said he had never heard of that as a nickname for Profirio so that was probably a one or one of a few of a kind.

    My nickname among Mexican friends was and is always been Pepe, or informally more formally, Don Jose. I have assumed its orgin had something to do with Italian Giuseppe, the most common nickname for which is, I believe, “Beppe”, with “Peppe” as a less common (possibly regional?) variant. If that connection is indeed the case, what the links would be I don’t know — possibly maritime since the Hispanic contribution to the population of Mexico came primarily from Andalusia. A German nickname for Josef is “Sepp”, pronounced [zep] (no middle or upper German word ever begins with [s]), and I’ve always assumed that came from Italian Giuseppe.

  3. Alon Lischinsky Says:

    I don’t know how much the nickname Chuy is used outside of Mexican and Chicano contexts — in other parts of Hispanophone Latin American or indeed in Spain.

    Essentially never. The only places where Jesús is regularly used as a personal name are Mexico and Spain, and the latter prefers Chús (formed by the same phonological processes of apheresis+affrication, but preserving the final sibilant).

    Pepe. Another nickname quite distant phonologically from its source, José, though it shows echoing in both its consonant, /p/, and its vowel, /e/.

    Not quite. Pepe is not directly from José, but rather from the earlier form Josepe (common until the 17th century).

    • arnold zwicky Says:

      Thanks. I was hoping you’d have some dialectological insights.

      • Alon Lischinsky Says:

        I may have been overly categorical. It appears that Jesús is not unknown as a personal name in Venezuela, and the nickname of choice there is Chuy as well. But I haven’t been able to find attestations in any other country (there are, to be sure, quite a few hits in Uruguayan sources, but those refer to the city of Chuy, the etymology of whose name is uncertain).

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