A Fat Guy By Any Other Name Would Still Be a Dicker

What a dicker.

What a dicker.

I think I just hit a goldmine. It will be a boon, at least, for those who want to make fun of my last name not just in English, but in German as well.

For me, this discovery is the most amusing reschooling in etymology, foreign language, and genealogy that I could ever want. Tonight I felt inspired to look up the German translation for “Dicker,” my last name, after reading my future brother-in-law’s blog post about Andy Dick’s recent arrest. Dick accosted a 17-year-old-girl and urinated in public outside a buffalo wings “emporium,” which sounds like a classy joint for a classy guy. The incident just provides further evidence for what I already know: Having “Dick” as part of your name may correlate with a life of crime (Exhibit A: Mr. Cheney). Before you know it, you not only have profanity on your birth certificate, but you also have a permanent record and “Dick” as the fitting caption beneath your mug shot.

My sister Gill and I are proud of our dad’s German heritage and family. We are also staunch feminists. However, since we were little girls, we have dreamed of the day we could get married and change our name to something a little more….humane. Next January 17, Gill will achieve that dream and become a Burgess. I, on the other hand, expect to relive the playground teasing and the “Is that really your last name?” disbelief as Reschool Yourself takes me into the upper grades. (When substitute teaching 4th grade years ago, I found that the kids were still innocent enough to turn my last name teasingly into “Miss Sticker” or “Miss Tigger,” and nothing more. I just about hugged them.)

I’ve known for a while that “dicker” was a verb in English meaning “to bargain,” since the clever slogan of my grandfather’s old car dealership was “Come dicker with Dicker.” The word apparently has roots in the Latin decuria, meaning a set of ten, particularly hides or skins. (No dowry, eh, Gill?) “A dicker” can also be used as a noun to mean a swap, the actual goods exchanged, or a deal. I hope that Howie Mandel will consider hosting Dicker or No Dicker when his NBC contract expires.

From the American Heritage Dictionary:

dick·er (dĭk’ər)intr.v. dick·ered, dick·er·ing, dick·ersTo bargain; barter.n. The act or process of bargaining.

Dickers love Oktoberfest.

Dickers love Oktoberfest.

While traveling, I met some German boys who chuckled at my last name and asked if I knew what it meant in Deutsche. I was half dismayed, half amused, to hear that it meant “fatter” in proper German, and “fat guy” in slang. Between male genitalia and obesity, my name wasn’t winning any beauty contests.

Tonight I discovered that the Germans had told me only half the story of my name in their mother tongue. See the dictionary entries and my comments in bold below each.

From the German-English dictionary dict.cc:

dicker    stouter {adj}    burlier {adj}    thicker {adj}    porkier {adj} [coll.]    tubbier {adj} [coll.]    fatter {adj} [more overweight]

Thank you, online dictionary, for those helpful synoynms. Middle schoolers everywhere appreciate the extra ammunition.

Dicker    Disney: Butch

The words “butch” and “bulldog” do not improve my self-image.

dicker Bauch {m}    big belly

I prefer “curvy” or “shapely.”

dicker Draht {m}    heavy wire

Pretty tough, like MacGyver. Not bad.

dicker Geldbeutel {m}    fat purse


dicker Gehaltsscheck {m} [ugs.]    big pay cheque [Br.] [coll.]

Now we’re talking. Let’s hope that I’m true to my name in this sense only.

dicker Schal {m}    clothing: scarf


dicker Pullover [von Fischern getragen]    clothing: guernsey (a close-fitting knitted woolen shirt worn by sailors and soccer or Rugby players.

Both fashionable and practical. Brian, as a soccer-playing sailor who is marrying into our family, you may just get a guernsey that says “Teamfähigkeit Dicker” (“Team Dicker” — or “Team Fatty” — in German).

dicker Wälzer {m} [Buch]    weighty tome

Distinguished and knowledgeable, one might venture to say.

(ziemlich) dicker Fisch {m} [ugs.] [fig.]    pretty big fish [fig.]

The Big Kahuna – Ein dicker Fisch    film: The Big Kahuna [John Swanbeck]

English translation: Kind of a big deal.

Blut ist dicker als Wasser.    proverb: Blood is thicker than water.

Yeah, Gill, so even with your new fancy pants British name, you can’t deny your German roots.
Goooooooo (Alaaaaaaf) Team Fatty!

Flickr Creative Commons images courtesy of hollaBackpackers, chrispknight, kpwerker, LuckyL, and nicolas. Butch the Bulldog image courtesy of the Walt Disney Company.

Comments (7)

  1. Darren

    This is hilarious!

    I’ll be sure to distribute leaflets to the students featuring ways to properly mock you. I’ll even throw in tiny pairs of sunglasses missing one lens that they can all put on in unison.

  2. Mom

    When Omi Ursula got our wedding invitation, she said, “Why is she trading in such a pretty name for such an ugly one?”

    I, on the other hand, was excited that people could pronounce “Dicker.”

  3. Ide

    “Come dicker with a Dicker”?!
    HAHAHAHAHAHAHA. That’s awesome.

  4. Ide

    P.S. I, for one, cannot wait to reproduce with a person who has a verb for a last name so that I can bestow hyphenated awesomeness upon my children. So far I haven’t found much better than “Ide-Crank,” which is why I think this may be the one.

  5. Gilliebean

    Ide, if only we could get married. “Ide-Dicker” just has such a nice ring to it.

    Melia, don’t be bitter that I’m marrying into a long legacy of Burgess greatness. I’ll still be part of the “Sisters Dicker,” as Chuck likes to call us.

  6. Pingback: No Dowry » Blog Archive » The Name Game, Part I

  7. Pat Dicker

    Hey Melia, You’re not alone. I’ve carried the name around for 59 years, and hopefully will for a few more. A lot of bloody noses were dished out over that name when I was a kid, but it kind of grows on you after awhile. My family background is Irish/English. The way the Huns and Vikings went about conquering Europe though, who knows, I may be German as well. My e-mail addy is thatpd@cox.net if you would care to contact me. I enjoyed your post. Pat Dicker


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