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View full lesson: http://ed.ted.com/lessons/birth-of-a-nickname-john-mcwhorter
Where do nicknames come from? Why are Ellens called Nellie and Edwards Ned? It's all a big misunderstanding from the early days of the English language, a misunderstanding that even the word nickname itself derives from. John McWhorter tracks the accidental evolution of some familiar diminutives.
Lesson by John McWhorter, animation by Lippy.