How Ruth Bader Ginsburg got her ‘Notorious R.B.G.’ nickname

A Supreme Court justice and a ’90s rapper walk into a bar… and that’s how the powers that be came up with the now-famous moniker “Notorious R.B.G.” Well, not really. So how did the term of endearment originate? Even the late Supreme Court Justice, Ruth Bader Ginsberg — for who the nickname got coined — was left scratching her head wondering what inspired the moniker. As reported by The Washington Post, Ginsburg enlisted the help of her law clerks to learn the significance behind the nickname that became a pop culture phenomenon.

And after Ginsburg’s tragic passing in September 2020 due to complications from metastatic pancreas cancer, per NPR, there was a bit of resurgence surrounding the nickname, and just like Ginsburg, some just didn’t get it. So just how did the formidable Supreme Court justice and feminist icon earn the nickname “Notorious R.B.G?” And what did she really think about it? Keep reading to find out!

It all started with Tumblr

As it turns out, “Notorious R.B.G.” was born after a New York University law student, Shana Knizhnik, created a Tumblr account with the name. The name was inspired by Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s dissent in the landmark Supreme Court case, Shelby County v. Holder, and was a nod to the late ’90s rapper, Notorious B.I.G, Bustle noted. Once the account became mainstream, it was a fixture in pop culture, getting printed on shirts, coffee mugs, bumper stickers, and anything else that graphic design teams could get their hands on.

Once Ginsburg learned what all the fuss was about, though, she reportedly took a liking to her new nickname as well. In 2017, Ginsburg even had this to say about it, according to NBC News: “This young woman was, to put it mildly, disappointed by the Supreme Court’s decision in the Shelby County case — the decision that held a key part of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 no longer constitutional … So, instead of being angry, she would do something positive. And the positive thing she did was to put on that blog the announcement of my dissenting opinion in the Shelby County case and then it took off from there.” A woman after her own heart, right?!

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