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I remember vaguely about a story of a certain sage in the Talmud that would never call anyone by a nickname. Is this just proper moral behavior or is there an actual halachah against giving people nick names?

What are the details of this "halachah" and what is the source in both the Talmud and the Shulchan Aruch (if there is one).

  • Megillah 27b. (Of course, Kiddushin 25a always prompts a chuckle though.) – Double AA Jun 15 '15 at 17:49
  • Hmm ... Korach, among others, referred to Moshe as "Ben Amram". Although I'm unaware there is any Torah prohibition, this was considered disrespectful. Would "Ben Amram" be considered a nickname? – DanF Jun 15 '15 at 17:51
  • The Gemarah uses nicknames for several Rabbanim, no? Elisha ben Avuyah is called "Acher". Aren't Ben Bag Bag Bag and Ben Heh Heh also nicknames? Does this imply that it is permissible? – DanF Jun 15 '15 at 18:05
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    How about Rashi, Rambam, Maharal, etc? Not technically nicknames such as Bob for Robert or Izzy for Yitzcahk, but sorta. – JJLL Jun 15 '15 at 22:51
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We have the Gemara in Megilla 27b mentioning refraining from calling someone by a nickname as a virtue of a Tzaddik. Seemingly, it is nice not to do it but not terrible if you do. Then we have the Gemara in Bava Metzia 58b saying that one who calls his friend a derogatory name won't leave Gehenom — even if the person is used to it already. Probably, the former is about a neutral nickname.

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    Do you have any sources to back up your assertions that it only applies to tzaddikim? – Shoel U'Meishiv Jun 15 '15 at 19:33
  • One might think a nickname is cute the other will think it's "derogatory". Is there a clear definition of what the gemara meant when it said "deragatory"? – Ani Yodea Jun 15 '15 at 19:33
  • @Mefaresh the Gemara days that Rebbe Zakkai have this as a reason why he lived long. These are usually outstanding Mili d'Chasidusa. That is why Tosafos explains why these things were all Muttar. – HaLeiVi Jun 15 '15 at 19:38
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    I didn't see you quote tosafos – Shoel U'Meishiv Jun 15 '15 at 19:40
  • @AniYodea I see that Megilla Tosafos explains that the one in Bava Metzia is about פגם משפחה. Probably something like books.google.com/… – HaLeiVi Jun 15 '15 at 20:10

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