Etymology Today


In a column on, 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.


Personally, I prefer the nickname "German Shepherd". Very comforting, in contrast to the "Rottweiler" references.

I like "German Shephard" also. Still, I really like the name "Papa Ratzi".

I'd never heard the nickname "J2P2". Does anyone else find it coincidental that JP2's papacy temporally coincided so closely with the first two Star Wars Trilogies?

Yep.. coinciding sure is pretty coincidental.. ;-)

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Richard Chonak

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This page contains a single entry by Richard Chonak published on April 26, 2005 10:33 PM.

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