Picky, Picky: April 2005 Archives

Etymology Today


In a column on catholicculture.org, Jeff Mirus ponders the nicknames being given to the new Pope and the wishes people hold for him:

For example, the nickname B-16 reflects the beliefs of some that Pope Benedict XVI will be a strong disciplinarian because of his long tenure as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Do you buy that explanation? I'm skeptical.

Like quite a few other folks, I started calling the new Pope "B16" right away, but it had nothing to do with military planes -- I think that's the reference Jeff has in mind.

He may be dating himself with it: after all, thirty years ago, "B" followed by a number was likely to be the name of a plane, a veteran B-52 or a much-debated B-1. But now, even with a war winding down, aircraft just aren't at the top of everyone's mind.

"B16" is just an obvious and affectionate nickname: it follows the label applied to his predecessor "JP2". Some of you may remember that the globe-trotting Pope was tagged early on as "J2P2", a pop-culture play on the resourceful and occasionally mysterious robot R2D2 of Star Wars. As the film's prominence faded, the shorter "JP2" became more common.

"B16" may be nothing more than a simple abbreviation, but it is the occasion for a little levity, as it sounds like the name of a vitamin, if it's not an out-of-order Bingo call.

What? Who?

On life and living in communion with the Catholic Church.

Richard Chonak

John Schultz

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