Nicknames and other forms of names hung upon a person by others can be a strange thing. They can be random names, or they can be shortened forms of full names, or they can suggest something about the person, like the Hulk. And then there's the case where the nickname deliberately does not describe the person.
The most famous one is probably the name "Tiny". Any guy called "Tiny" will invariably be eight feet tall with more muscles than a Mr Universe contest. The same is true for "Shorty" or "Pipsqueak" or any variation on a name or nickname implying "very small."
Very popular in Australia, where a bald man will be called "Curly" and a redhead "Bluey." Also popular in the Chicano (Mexican-American) culture, where a rotund man will be called "El Flaco" ("The Skinny Man"), a light-skinned woman will be called "La Negra" ("The Black Woman"), etc.
A subtrope of Nonindicative Name. See Ironic Name for when the given name, not the nickname, is ironic. For something similar applied to pets and animals, see Fluffy the Terrible and Deathbringer the Adorable.
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A cereal commercial with a monkey mascot has a friend giraffe called Shorty.
Anime & Manga
Officer Hiromi Yamazaki of Patlabor is roughly 6'3" 250 odd pounds (about 2 meters and 100 kilos). In fact he's too big to pilot most of the mecha (can't fit in the cockpit). He's also a gentle soul (with a Gender-Blender Name) who would have been a fisherman like his father, if he didn't get seasick. Half-pint Genki Girl officer Noa Izumi refers to him as Hiromi-chan using the diminutive usually reserved for cute girls and pets.
Although that is usually more an indicator of the speaker than the person they're referring to- lots of young girls call their older brothers, who could be insanely manly and fully adult, "onii-chan" because THEY'RE cute girls. Noa fits that bill rather well.
Likewise, Bleach'sKenpachiZaraki, is NOT the sorta man to be called Ken-chan/Kenny (that is, not by anyone besides Yachiru).
Fleet Admiral Sengoku "The Buddha" is an chessmaster tactical genius, who is not especially nice. However, he doesturn into a giant statue of Buddha.
More typically, Oars Jr. is nicknamed "Little Oars" by his crewmates despite being twice as large as normal giants.
Early on in the series, Luffy makes the off-handed discovery that the Grand Line is sometimes referred to as "Paradise". Considering that every other scrap of information given about the ocean around that time was is that it's a Death World of the highest order, and that it lives up to that reputation later, when the story actually gets there, it seems like an example of this. However, several hundred chapters later, the nickname is brought up again as its origin is revealed: it was given by pirates who have explored the New World, another stretch of ocean that's basically the Grand Line's Badass big brother. Even more physics-defying madness and far more dangerous pirates that makes the Grand Line look like, well, paradise by comparison.
Soul Eater has Marie Mjolnir. Her nickname is the 'Crushing Weapon', which one would have thought fits with her surname and the understandable presumption that her Weapon form is a big hammer. Not only is said form that of a tonfa, but her specialty is speed ('Izuna' increases the speed of her meister through electricity... somehow). Though she can still hit really hard.
Death Note has two examples of this if you take the successor's codenames as nicknames. Mello is violent and short-tempered, while Near is stoic and autistic. This was an accident as Near's and Mello's names were mistakenly switched by the editor. The codenames were originally Meaningful Names
Smile in Occult Academy is a rather surly guy who pretty much never smiles.
One of the many gangsters in Black Joke is a black gangbanger called Smart Ice. He really is pretty brainy and on the up-and-up, but according to the translators' notes, the English word "smart" is often used in Japan to mean "slender", which Ice is anything but. Even though he's operating out of Japan, he doesn't seem to be aware of the irony.
Kroesus from Bamse got this nickname as a joke as he never had money. He eventually became the richest man(actually, vole) in town, making the Ironic Nickname fitting.
Happy Sam Sawyer was never happy nor did he ever smile. But Nick Fury is a smart ass.
The Kindly Ones in The Sandman. Which is actually a historical nickname for the beings in question (or at least one of the many trios of mythological crones Gaiman conflated into his characters). It is a pretty common practice in many cultures to refer to scary supernatural beings by friendly-sounding names to avoid angering them. See The Fair Folk for another example.
Sharpshooter Maximilian "Twitch" Williams in Spawn got his nickname during his academy days "because he doesn't, ever".
In the Blood Bowl comic, "Tiny" McFearsome of the Chaos All-Stars is actually a subversion - they call him tiny because he's the runt of the litter. You should see his brothers!
Tif Et Tondu: The hairy one is the one whose name suggests baldness and vice versa.
Matt Murdock picked up the nickname "Daredevil" in school — because he was very cautious and averse to physical activity and sports.
Pvt. Elliot Taylor was called "Lucky", because he was always clumsily bumping into trouble. Eventually he stepped on a land mine; you might say he was lucky to have survived, but considering he was turned into a slow-witted, mute Frankenstein's Monster for the Creature Commandos, not really.
In The Authority, the biggest, most muscular of Kev Hawkins' SAS buddies is naturally called "Tiny".
Hack/Slash's "Super Sidekick Sleepover Slaughter" arc features a group of teenagers who decide to become superheroes. One of them, Daisy, becomes the Fearless Flamingo — an intentional bit of irony, as she's cowardly, insecure, chubby, and shy (i.e., anything but fearless and nothing like a flamingo). Funnily enough, she becomes fearless over the course of the story, but abandons the Flamingo identity to become Sister Nightmare thereafter.
In Sylvia The Sylveon, Vapor, one of Sylvia's brothers. While he does want the evolution from which his name derives, it's not the one he gets.
Films — Animated
In Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa, Alex finally reunites with his lost parents when he and his friends find themselves in Africa after a failed plane ride back to New York. During a ceremony, Alex (who unbeknownst to him thinks its a dance-off) must fight and defeat another lion as a rite of passage into the pride as alpha lion. Alex's father's scheming rival, Makunga, tricks him into parring with a lion named "Teetsi". When the time comes for the rite of passage, Alex does indeed choose Teetsi, who turns out to be something like the Incredible Lion Hulk, and defeats him in one blow.
Sent up (ha) in the Starsky & Hutch movie, where they conclude that a guy is not the Big Earl they're looking for on the grounds that he's not big enough for it to be an accurate name, and too tall for it to be ironic. When first suggesting it's an ironic thing, Starsky mentions knowing a seven foot tall guy on the Vice squad called Tiny. Incidentally, the real Big Earl turns out to be a pretty tall dude.
In Snatch, Brick Top's hair is grey. Also, Gorgeous George is rather unattractive.
In The Departed, the character Frenchie is actually from Britain. When asked if his real name is Mr. French, Costello states that it is not.
Subverted with Mr. Sulu in Star Trek III when a security guard insults him by calling him "Tiny." Sulu certainly is much shorter than the security guard, but it doesn't stop him from completely kicking the guy's ass. "Don't call me Tiny."
Heroin Bob from SLC Punk! was named as such because he wouldn't touch drugs and was afraid of needles.
Manumana in Necessary Roughness is a huge Samoan whose name means "runt of the litter." Subverted in that it's actually not ironic — apparently the other men in his family are even bigger than him.
The prisoners in Mean Machine include the short, skinny Massive and the large, strong, and noisy Mouse.
In Red Tails, "Pretty Boy" is a German ace pilot with a long, ugly Dueling Scar on his face. Two things of note: One, he would be pretty if not for the scar, and two, Lightning gave him the nickname before he ever saw his face.
All of the Airmen have nicknames, and most of them are appropriate — Joker cracks wise, Junior is very young, and Lightning is flashy. Easy, however, is a tightwad who doesn't seem to know how to relax.
In Revenge of the Nerds 2, an Alpha Beta member called "Tiny" insists his name is ironic, but only gets laughed at by his friends. He later tries to give himself the overcompensating nickname "The Meat".
It's a reverse nickname! You know, like they call red-headed guys "Blondie" and right-handed guys "Lefty"!
There's an odd example in the movie Cyborg Cop 2, with the drug lord Fats. He's not fat, but he's also not especially skinny. Even so, other characters talk about him as though he were a huge fat guy — you get the feeling that either Fats lost a lot of weight recently or they couldn't find a fat guy to play the part and nobody bothered to change the script.
Little John. Depending on the particular interpretation of the Robin Hood legend, he could be more than 185 cm (6 feet) tall and weigh over 90kg (200 pounds) - in an era when many men would have been around 160 cm (5 feet 3 inches) and weighed perhaps 55 kg (125 pounds). Lucky for Robin that Little John was one of the good guys...
In Reaper Man, during his tenure as a mortal, Death befriends a group of old men in a small farming community, including a fellow known as Gabby Wheels, who (as can be expected, from this trope) never says anything.
Similarly, Short Street in Ankh-Morpork is, in fact, the longest street in the city.
Ankh-Morpork's last king known for his predilection for torture is known as Lorenzo the Kind, a darkly humorous reference to his other well-known trait, being "very fond of children".
In Robin McKinley's novel Beauty, the titular character's real name is Honor, but as a child made the comment that "I'd rather be Beauty," and the nickname stuck. Ironic in that while her two elder sisters are extraordinarily beautiful, Beauty herself is extremely plain, awkward, and gangly. She fits her nickname better later on, however.
In the Odd Thomas novels by Dean Koontz, Odd is friends with a writer named Little Ozzie. Little Ozzie is over 450 pounds, and only named "little" because his father, Big Ozzie (who is fifty pounds lighter than his son) is still alive.
A Song of Ice and Fire has several of these. Small Paul and Giant are huge and short, respectively. Brienne the Beauty and Pretty Meris are both ugly. Raff the Sweetling is a really horrible person. The Tickler is a Torture Technician. Little Walder is much larger than his cousin Big Walder. Subverted, however, by Sam "the Slayer," who believes that his nickname is intended to be mocking until a friend points out that, unlike other ironic nicknames, Sam's is actually true.
Jack London's book White Fang features a character called "Beauty" Smith. The author's descriptions of the character are, shall we say, less than favourable.
In The Dresden Files, Harry's typical response to anything ridiculously huge is to name it "Tiny." This has included both a gruff bigger than an elephant and an undead Tyrannosaurus.
In Isaac Asimov's Lucky Starr books, the protagonist's Side Kick is called Bigman. He's 5'2", and sensitive about height jokes. (Oddly enough, Bigman seems to be his legal middle name—maybe his parents were compensating for something?)
Subverted in the X-Wing Series. The pilot "Runt" is pretty big and considerably stronger than a human, but that nickname followed him from his homeworld. For his species, he's practically a midget. It's stated that his species are almost never starfighter pilots because they don't fit in the cockpit, and even Runt is a little cramped.
In The Last Dragonlord and Dragon and Phoenix, the youngest Dragonlords are traditionally called "Little One" regardless of size. One of them, a woman the size of a child, delights in calling the youngest one "Little One" to the point of rarely using his name to his face. He's about seven feet tall. On meeting the next two successive youngest Dragonlords, she is relieved to see that both of them are still taller than her.
All the King's Men features the burly political operative Tiny Duffy, whose commitment to extending traditional Louisiana politics' cronyism to Willie Stark's administration once causes Stark to evict him from his office with a shotgun.
Biker names were usually ironic. Little George was the size of a house, Fats as thin as a rake and Teeth had nothing but squishy gums and a couple of brown molars at the back.
In Les Misérables, Fantine names her little girl Euphrasie in a moment of romantic inspiration, but soon she calls the babe "Cosette" all the time (which means, basically, 'pampered' or 'indulged' in French). Then she leaves her child with the Thenardiers, who verbally and physically abuse the child, starve her, and force her to work for her keep — all the while still calling her "Cosette," little Indulged. And Cosette becomes the name by which she is known her entire life, except in the most official moments.
The Wayside School series has this with the three Erics. Basically, there's three kids named Eric in the main class. One, Eric Bacon, is a skinny guy, one, Eric Fry, is an excellent athlete, and one, Eric Ovens, is a fairly nice guy. Bacon is called "Fatso", since Fry is bulky and Ovens is pudgy. Fry is called "Butterfingers" and is constantly forced on right field, because Bacon is weak and Ovens is clumsy. Since Bacon and Fry have insulting nicknames, they're irritable jerks, which leads to Ovens being called "Crabapple." It's a little surreal, honestly.
Leslie Thomas' detective Dangerous Davies is so named because he's considered harmless by most local villains.
In one story, Dangerous investigates the background of a very short man called Lofty. This turns out to be a subversion, because the little guy had stolen the identity of the real lofty who was a six foot two beanpole.
In the Dragaera series, one the gangsters working for Vlad was nicknamed "The Healer". This is a reference to an incident in which he approached a recalcitrant debtor with a club and said something like "I see your head is whole. How about I heal it for you?"
Tiny, the titular dog of a children's series who's actually huge.
Live Action TV
Dexter featured Little Chino, a huge man who actually survives Dexter's murder attempts. Twice. During one of them, he rips through enough tape to subdue a normal man, and the last time he's taken by Dexter you see none of him except for parts of his face, due to Dexter never making the same mistake twice.
An episode of Walker, Texas Ranger featured the team investigating several hackers. One guy was named "Tiny" (or something), and the guy sent to talk to him ended up being beaten up by a huge behemoth of a guy. In contrast, a guy named "Big Hack" was... a midget.
In Veronica Mars Season Two, there is a janitor nicknamed Lucky. They nicknamed him that because he went to Iraq and was injured (which could mean he was lucky in not dying or unlucky in getting injured in the first place). Even more ironically, he ends up going off his rocker, starting a school shooting with a gun filled with blanks, and then gets shot dead by a security guard in an episode entitled "Happy Go Lucky."
This trope applies to the nickname of Detective Constable "Dangerous" Davies, protagonist of The Last Detective series of mysteries and is discussed in the episode titled Lofty (see the Literature section above).
In the TV mini-series Oktober the goons from the multinational pharmaceutical company pursuing the protagonist belong to its "Ethics Division".
In an episode of Cheers, a "Tiny" comes in and sits at the bar near Cliff, who, upon learning of his nickname, points out the concept behind it. "Tiny" tells him, "You're Smart!" Cliff takes it as a compliment, until "Tiny" points out that that's hisIronic Nickname for him.
In one episode, Temperance learns that her paramour (who seems unwilling to have sex with her) is nicknamed "Peanut." Turns out he's embarrassed about his giant penis.
Also, Temperance itself is something of an ironic name: one of the Seven Cardinal Virtues (very Christian, which she isn't), it has to do with being mindful of others and one's surroundings (she's not), practicing self-control (she's calm, to be sure, but she really doesn't know when to shut up), and being abstemious and moderate (while she doesn't drink that much, her sex life can hardly be seen as abstemious or moderate...not in a negative way, but definitely immoderate). Her birth name, changed by her unrepentantly criminal parents, was Joy.
Used in The Wire, Season 4. Herc is looking for a gangster named Little Kevin (who is in reality tall and overweight), and has the man in question up against a wall. When asked if he is Little Kevin, Kevin replies, "Do I look little to you?" Herc then lets him go, and decides to apprehend everyone under 5'10 and 180lbs as possible candidates.
On Top Gear, James May's "Captain Slow" nickname is now rather ironic since he's had the opportunity to take two different Bugatti Veyrons (record-setting fastest production cars) to their top speeds.
This trope was actually invoked in the Top Gear vs D-Motor episode. May was "Captain Slow", and Richard Hammond was "Lofty".
May has also dubbed Jeremy Clarkson "the world's most practical man" on occasion.
Young Mr. Grace from Are You Being Served?. So called because despite being ancient, he's nonetheless still younger than his brother.
Eureka has a large insectoid robot nicknamed "Tiny".
Monk had a character named Fat Tony, a gangster who Sharona gets a crush on. He was a fat as a kid and grew up incredibly fit but he's still called "Fat."
Sharona: Why can't you just call him Big Tony? Gangster: We already have a Big Tony. Sharona: Who? Gangster:... Big Tony.
Smiler from Last of the Summer Wine who was always downbeat. And when he does smile (mostly to laugh) it is very, very creepy
In Sons of Anarchy, Happy is extremely serious as well as the club's most ruthless killer. He embraces his nickname by tattooing smiley faces into his chest for every kill he makes.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Spike doesn't like being called "William the Bloody" because it actually referred to his bloody awful poetry.
On The X-Files, Mulder's nickname at the FBI is "Spooky". Doesn't seem that ironic until you learn that his work on with the supernatural isn't how he got the nickname. Before the X-Files, he was an amazing profiler for the Violent Crimes Section, so amazing it was spooky.
In Chappelle's Show's "Player Haters" sketches, the ugliest hater (he has an award for it and everything) is called Beautiful. That said, he's a preening narcissist who seems to believe his nickname describes him perfectly.
In Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, the Mirror Universe version of Miles O'Brien is called "Smiley." He's a very unpleasant and unhappy man who never smiles. That his nickname is ironic is a coincidence — Mirror Sisko simply didn't like the name "Miles" and altered it slightly.
Once Upon a Time: The exiled giant Antoine gets handed a Dwarf pickaxe, which are magically inscribed with the name of the Dwarf it belongs to. The name that appears? "Tiny." Then again, he actually was small compared to most giants, who called him "Tiny" long before the pickaxe did.
On Psych. In "Black And Tan: A Crime of Fashion", "Black and Tan" are the pseudonyms used by Shawn and Gus to infiltrate a fashion show. However, Shawn (a deeply tanned Caucasian) is "Black" and Gus (an African-American) is "Tan". How dare you assume otherwise?
The pilot of SSV Normandy from Mass Effect was called "Joker" because he never smiled in flight school. Amusingly, the irony is something of an Informed Attribute by the time of the game's events, as Joker tells...well, jokes, in every conversation you have with him since he no longer feels the need to prove himself.
Secret of Evermore's Ancient Rome/Egypt mishmash world has Tiny. Guess what he looks like. (Hint: he has a mohawk.) Hell, they even lampshade it in his introduction (provided you see him before the Coliseum fight):
In Backyard Sports, Dante Robinson is called "Stretch" even though he can't stretch at all because he's really short.
Wing Commander's Chris "Maverick" Blair got the call sign as an ironic take on his by-the-book flying. Todd "Maniac" Marshal on the other hand, did not.
More of an Ironic Title: all of the named Halo Prophets in Halo, most notably Truth.
Little Eddie, the first boss of MadWorld, is the second or third largest boss in the game, easily 15 feet tall and covered in rock hard muscle. Commentator Kreese Kreeley doesn't understand why they call him that when he's so big, leading Howard "Buckshot" Holmes to explain in detail the very concept of irony to him.
Tiny, the Stone Golem in the popular Warcraft III map Defense Of The Ancients. Sure, he starts off (true to his name) as a tiny golem, but levelling up his Ultimate Ability increases his size (and damage) while lowering his attack speed.
Donkey Kong Country: Tiny Kong. In her first appearance she was Dixie Kong's little sister and really was tiny, but then she hit puberty. Now she's one of the taller Kongs.
Mouser from Super Mario Bros. 2? It's an evil mouse that throws nightmare bombs. Look up however what 'mouser' actually means... a cat trained to catch mice.
A fireman is a rescue worker trained to extinguish fire. Fire Man from the first Mega Man 1 game on the other hand, is a robot who starts fires.
Proto Man's Japanese name is "Blues", even though his suit is mostly gray and red. The name is a reference to the musical genre of blues and not to the color blue.
In The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, the headmistress of Riften's Honorhall Orphanage goes by the name of "Grelod the Kind". Far from being kind, she's one of the absolute cruelest people of all of Skyrim, and her sobriquet is meant as an ironic insult by the townspeople of Riften. She's so mean that should she die, not only do the orphans she ostensibly cares for all cheer her death, but it is not regarded as a crime, no matter the means of death.
There's also Kesh the Clean, a Khajiit who worships Peryite, the Daedric Prince of diseases.
One of the small groups of Undaunted one can find in the bars of The Elder Scrolls Online has a rather small wood elf and a huge high elf, collectively known as "the Twins".
"Trusty" Patches from Dark Souls. He is perfectly trustworthy...when you've got a weapon in range of his head.
Also "Mild-Mannered" Pate from Dark Souls II, who is revealed to be a deceiving and greedy man who murders people for their loot.
One of the heroes in Superhero League of Hoboken is Captain Excitement, who is so drowsy, lethargic and boring that his mere presence can put animals and some humans to sleep. His biography mentions that his nickname is deliberately ironic.
Mallik the Unscathed from World of Warcraft, who is the first of the Paragons of the Klaxxi to fall in battle when he's killed by Imperial Vizier Zor'lok at the end of the Klaxxi storyline.
In Sluggy Freelance a very fat guy and a very short guy host the "Broadman & Midget" radio show. Turns out the short guy's Broadman (real name Brouderman) and the fat guy's Midget (a.k.a. Mike Midgetski). They both seem completely unaware of the irony.
Despite being a carpenter by trade, Handy from Happy Tree Friends has stumps for arms. The name winds up being both descriptive and ironic.
In the Hanna-Barbera series Top Cat, the dimmest member of TC's gang is named Brain. The Latin American Spanish dub managed to make it more hilarious by renaming him "Demostenes", after the Greek philosopher.
The three Erics in the Wayside School series all have different nicknames... specifically, unflattering nicknames that invariably describe the other two.
In most of those cases, it was because the kids believe that, because a nickname describes the other two Erics, itmustdescribe the third.
Tiny, a female Tetramand (Fourarms' species) in Ben 10.
The Rustler Alameda Slim from Disney's Home on the Range isn't exactly, and Lucky Jack is a jackrabbit who lost his foot, which are believed to bring good luck.
In Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends episode "Who Let The Dogs In?", Bloo's friends all find a whole litter of abandoned puppies and begin naming them. Finding the whole thing ridiculous, when Bloo is given the rights to name one of them, he named him Stupid. Turns out, Stupid's pretty much the smartest of the imaginary puppies, being the one who can talk.
In a Robot Chicken sketch about Big Jim, Zorak mentions the reasoning for the name. There's also "Eagle-Eye" Smith, a bumbling blind man who rarely even knows where he is.
One of Mordecai and Rigby's coworkers in Regular Show is a fat little guy called Muscle Man. This is a special case because he likes to work out (and at one point turns to protein supplements as a comfort food), his daily tasks are very physically taxing, and he really is quite strong. Eventually it's revealed that he was once a bodybuilder, and that his old nickname stuck with him after he got out of shape.
In the episode "Power Tower" Mordecai says he always assumed the nickname was meant to be ironic, before Muscle Man reveals that once upon a time he was legit ripped.
Curly on Hey Arnold!. He had black hair in a bowl cut — like Moe, not Curly.
One famous branch of the Roman gens (clan) Julia probably got their cognomen (secondary name) Caesar from the nickname of Numerius Julius, which would mean "hairy". Since it is known that many men of the family suffered from a very early onset of baldness, this probably started as a joke (rather like calling the bald guy "Curly"). Or at least it became one for later generations.
Tom "Tiny" Lister, an actor who is also a very big, very muscular, very cross-eyed, very, veryScary Black Man.
Tiny Ron, a seven-foot-tall actor who's had a number of bit Hollywood roles (probably most notably Maihar'du in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine).
In Police Squad!, he's so tall, his head won't even fit in the camera frame.
1970s NBA player Nate "Tiny" Archibald was 6'1"—not tiny in the general population, but small compared to most NBA players.
Gheorge Muresan, who along with Manute Bol is the tallest player in league history at 7'7", had the nickname of "Ghitza" which translated to "Tiny".
In Australia up til recently, it was fairly common for friends of a redhead to nickname him/her Bluey.
MLB relief pitcher Heathcliff Slocumb at some point picked up the nickname "Smoke 'em." He really couldn't.
Arguably, Napoleon Bonaparte, whose nickname of "le petit caporal", is partly the reason for The Napoleon trope page, while he himself was 5'7", which was the average height of a Frenchman. Though his gentry was mostly taller than him (many of them stood at 6').
The famous Roman orator, statesman and historian Publius Cornelius Tacitus. His cognomen "Tacitus" means "silent".
One of Sonny Barger's lieutenants in the Hells Angels leadership was a hulking brute called Tiny.
1960's and 1970's NASCAR racer DeWayne Louis "Tiny" Lund was 6'5' and weighed about 270.
Snooker player Steve "Interesting" Davis was nicknamed so by Private Eye because he was seen as a dull public speaker.
During World War II, the overly huge Panzer VIII was named the Maus (Mouse). The even more ludicrously huge Landkreuzer P. 1000, which never made it past the drawing board, was named the Ratte (Rat).
Masi Oka originally got his name from a teacher who called him "Messy Masi" after getting tired of trying to say Masayori. While the "messy" part is normally an accurate description of his handwriting, there are a couple of pieces of autographed Heroes memorabilia out there where the only remotely readable piece of handwriting is Masi's Japanese (his English letters are still largely illegible).