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In two British films I recently recalled, I noticed a trend in nicknaming that I'd like confirmation of, by someone familiar with spoken Cockney English.

In the first one, Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels, I believe Barry the Baptist, an entertaining paid enforcer, is called Bazza or Bazzer either by his boss, or by those "two Northern monkeys", I can't remember which.

In the second movie, Layer Cake, I remember a guy, a member of a Cockney English-speaking drug gang, being referred to as Gazza basically throughout the entire movie.

My first question is : Is this a standard rule for nicknaming amongst Cockney English speakers? My second question is: If it's a rule, from what first name does Gazza come? My final question, the one I care about most about, is: If it's a rule, can I get some examples on how this rule would be applied to other names?

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    I don't have any references for a rule, so I won't post this as an answer, but: "Gazza" is Gary; "Bazza/Bazzer" (as you mentioned) is Barry; "Shazzer" is Sharon (see "Bridget Jones' Diary".) I would expect "Mazzer/Mazza" to be a nickname for Mary, but I can't find any examples; I've found a couple of instances of "Lazzer" for Larry, but it doesn't seem to be as common as the first three (B/G/Sh). Also: I don't think I'd classify this pattern as "Cockney"; that's a fairly small subset of London, and these seem to cover all of England. But I'm American, so what do I know?
    – MT_Head
    May 18, 2011 at 6:27
  • Also not found, though you'd expect it from the pattern: "Tazza/Tazzer" for Terry. I have found some guys called "Jazza", but none of them seem to be named Jerry. There may not be a predictable rule...
    – MT_Head
    May 18, 2011 at 6:32
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    @MT_Head: The first vowel in Mary is different from that in Gary/Barry/Sharon, so Mazza is unlikely. I have encountered at least one Mary who was nicknamed Mezza. And by the same token, Tezza would be far more likely for Terry (I've never encountered that, but it wouldn't surprise me at all if I did). I have, however, encountered more than one Jerry referred to as Jezza or Jez.
    – psmears
    May 18, 2011 at 10:03
  • @psmears - Interesting - to an American ear, Mary/Gary/Barry/Sharon/Larry all DO have the same vowel, and Jerry/Terry have the same sound if not the same orthography. All schwa, all the time.
    – MT_Head
    May 18, 2011 at 14:35
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    Also common are the forms Baz, Gaz, Shaz, etc.
    – z7sg Ѫ
    Aug 10, 2011 at 8:24

5 Answers 5

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It's very common, but certainly not specifically Cockney. In fact, one of the most well-known owners of this nickname - footballer Paul Gascoigne, universally known as Gazza - is from Gateshead, in the north-east of England, about as far as it's possible to go from Cockney London and still be in England.

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I'm not sure if it's specifically cockney, but it's a common transformation. It's mostly applied to an "ry" ending:

Gary -> Gazza

Jeremy -> Jezz or Jezza

Mary -> Maz (or Mazza, although that seems to only be applied in jest in my experience).

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Aussies do it as well.

I spend a lot of time in Australia (for my sins - bloody family moved there).

Aussies do it with every name and every thing in general...

Example: g'day Bazza, how ya goin ya goose? Given ya a heads up that me, Davo, Tomo, Stevo, Macka and dazza gonna go tha pub to get blotto tis arvo.

Means: hello Barry, how are you? Letting you know that Dave, Tom, Steve, Mack, Darrel and me are going to the pub for a few beers this afternoon.

I think the heat gets to them after a while. Attempts to communicate with Aussies rarely move past responses of 'yeah' or 'nah', and various uninteligible sounds of approval and/or disapproval that often lead to violence towards other or each other.

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  • Yeah, nah, getting blotto involves more than a few beers (for most people, anyway).
    – nnnnnn
    May 30, 2020 at 8:45
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I heard variations on this a lot while living in the UK from 2004-2013. As near as I could work out a "rule" for it, as some have pointed out, it is most commonly applied to names with the letter "r" separating two vowels; the name is truncated and everything after the r is replaced by either "zz" or "zza". I remember reading an article in Vanity Fair in 1998 by the actor Richard E. Grant who'd been on a film location with Sharon Stone in which he nicknamed her "Shazza". In London in 2005 I worked for a guy named Sheriar (an Indian name) whose British prep school son teased him with the nickname of Shezza. It's definitely not just a "cockney" thing. I also remember in news reports about the unfortunate British murder victim, Meredith Kercher (killed by Rudy Guede in Perugia Italy), that her family referred to her as "Mez". I'm wondering if anyone knows when this trend began, as in what decade? I'm writing a screen play set in the early 1980s, and one of the characters is a British teenager. I'm wondering if I can have her employ this nicknaming style in relation to her new American friend or if it would be anachronistic. I definitely don't remember hearing it myself before the late 1990s. Does anyone have definitive evidence that people were doing it in the 1980s? I wasn't in the UK much in the 80s, for the summer of 1983, for a few weeks in '87, and I think in '89. Still, I do think I would have picked up on it if it was in wide usage at that time. Anybody? Cheers!

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    Hi, Diana, welcome to ELU! I think you will get a better response if you take the second half of this answer and post it as its own question. Use the "Ask Question" link up above. Good luck!
    – 1006a
    May 21, 2017 at 16:04
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Doesn't see like a rule, just something that's done frequently with any name. For instance. Manchester United star Wayne Rooney is known as Wazza amongst some players and fans, so it seems like it can be done for anyone. Maybe it just sounds right with some names than others. Only true English ears could decipher that though.

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    OK answer, not quite worth the downvote someone else gave you, but still, the answer would be improved and worth upvotes if you can find and provide some specific usages from literature or public press for other names.
    – Jay Elston
    Nov 15, 2012 at 1:57

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