I was just reading a new blog for Mormon teens called “The Greenies,” and LJ used “Old Nick” as an alternative appellation for Satan.
“Old Nick” apparently comes from the Danish word Nikker, which may also be the source of St. Nick. The Danish word was used to describe a water sprite. Old Nick was widely used in the U.S. in the 1800s, as was “Old Scratch.” It was common for people to speak to Satan in a playful manner, as if the battle for their souls was a contest. (For a more modern version of this phenomenon, see “The Devil Went Down to Georgia“?)
Nowadays, at least in my circles, we do not talk about Satan much, except occasionally at Church. But the idea of Satan is useful to us, isn’t it? We know that fidelity to the Gospel requires great discipline, and the idea that we are battling Old Nick — rather than some darker or weaker part of ourselves — might strengthen our resolve. Of course, I can see how some might use Old Nick as a scapegoat, Flip Wilson style: “The devil made me do it!” On balance, however, I think I prefer the image of resisting temptation from without, and I like the idea of doing battle with Old Nick. As LJ wrote:
[Saying "old nick" is] a little less scary than saying “satan” He seems much more conquerable as “old nick”. Sheesh, he’s gotta be at least 4 billion years old, I bet he has a cane, and a limp, and age spots, and no hair…and probably those fake teeth too. No wonder he didn’t get a body, he’d be a pushover. lol, plus it might kill him if we ever raked his yard or something. I don’t think he likes service very much.
Ok, I am convinced. I can take him.