The inspiration returned just before 11 p.m. on Thursday as the presidential Twitter feed crackled to life.
Snappy, alliterative, essentially true — President Trump had coined another one. For the first time, the target of his executive nicknaming was one of his own: “Sloppy Steve” Bannon, his ousted strategist. A roster of vanquished campaign rivals, congressional enemies and other assorted villains had company.
If history is instructive, what comes next for Mr. Bannon is a relentless blend of mass repetition, capital lettering and brazen punctuation. He should also expect, given his former boss’s track record, that the label will stick.
Below, an appraisal of Mr. Trump’s signal creative endeavor in politics:
“Lyin’ Ted” Cruz
“You have to spell it right!” Mr. Trump implored a campaign crowd. “It’s L-Y-I-N-apostrophe. Lyin’ Ted. The bible held high, he puts it down and then he lies.” Mr. Trump went on to repeatedly float the evidence-free claim that Mr. Cruz’s father was involved in the Kennedy assassination.
“Crooked Hillary” Clinton
Chopped simply to “crooked” at times — no name necessary — by the Trump team, the tag became an instant shorthand for criticism of the Clinton family for dishonesty. Mr. Trump has returned to the name some two dozen times on Twitter since becoming president, including one post thanking Mr. Bannon “for his service” in defeating Crooked Hillary.
“Liddle Marco” Rubio
The details matter. “You have to brand people,” Mr. Trump explained at a rally, expressing his preference for “liddle” over the somehow-less-demeaning “little.” Mr. Rubio did not help himself, posing once in a comically oversized chair in New Hampshire, his feet dangling, and engaging Mr. Trump over relative hand size. This compelled the future president to declare he had “no problem” of any sort in the size department. Related: Mr. Rubio, boyish-looking in his mid-40s, was the candidate being branded as immature.
“Low Energy” Jeb Bush
“1 for 38” John Kasich
Sadder! If only because Mr. Trump did not bother inventing a slight for the also-ran Ohio governor and Republican presidential candidate until late April 2016, riffing on his dismal record in primary contests (he won only his home state), and did not find occasion to use it more than once.
“Pocahontas” (Elizabeth Warren)
Never his finest craftsmanship, the slur returned to the fore in November when Mr. Trump could not resist sharing his work during an Oval Office ceremony with three Navajo code talkers, who helped Marines send coded messages during World War II. “They call her Pocahontas,” Mr. Trump said of the Democratic Massachusetts senator, deploying a common strategy for borderline monikers: ascribing authorship to the masses.
“Cryin’ Chuck Schumer”
Mr. Trump and the Senate minority leader, a fellow outer-borough New Yorker who made it big, can share a modest rapport under the right circumstances. Mr. Schumer’s nickname — a nod to his choking up while discussing Mr. Trump’s immigration order last January banning travelers from seven predominately Muslim countries — is relatively gentle fare for a Democrat in the Trump canon.
“Flake” Jeff Flake
Not his most inspired, though Arizona’s retiring “Never Trump” Republican senator did come in for a second treatment from the president (“Sen. Jeff Flake(y)”). This began an apparently bread-themed tweet in which Mr. Trump declared the senator’s political career “toast.”
“Liddle Bob Corker”
An uncomplicated retread for the Tennessee senator who, like Mr. Rubio, is not the tallest lawmaker in Washington. But unlike the jab at Mr. Rubio — who strained to shake the perception that he might not be ready for the nation’s top job — the adjective’s return was a mismatch for a drawling 65-year-old with silver hair.
“Little Rocket Man” Kim Jong-un
Mr. Trump is almost certainly the first president to fuse nuclear diplomacy with an Elton John piano ballad.
“Leakin’ James Comey”
Reviving the cadence of his Cruz classic, Mr. Trump seemed to find something in the meter of this one. No sitting president has ever shown such disdain for the letter “g.”
“Sleepy Eyes Chuck Todd”
Memorably specific, if nothing else, Mr. Trump flamed the “Meet the Press” host both before and after the 2016 election. But he diluted the power by also attaching “sleepy” to Graydon Carter of Vanity Fair in 2013.
“Sloppy Steve Bannon”
Less than 12 hours after introducing the nickname, Mr. Trump made clear on Friday morning that he would not let up. “The Mercer Family recently dumped the leaker known as Sloppy Steve Bannon,” he wrote, name-checking Mr. Bannon’s longtime benefactors. “Smart!”
The hallmarks are all there: Repeating the label for emphasis, adding a “leaker” charge, slipping in a “known as” to imply the name has already caught on widely and capping it off with a single-syllable exclamation. Trump!
Matt Flegenheimer is a political reporter in Washington. He joined The Times in 2011 on the Metro desk covering transit, City Hall and campaigns.