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The explanation given for the use of this nickname is that clerks (pronounced "clarks" in British English) in the City of London used to wear Nobby hats, a type of bowler hat. Alternative spellings include "Knobby" and "Clarke".
An alternative explanation for the name Nobby attached to the surname Clarke is thus: 16th century monks wrote letters for the illiterate. These monks were referred to as "Clerks". The outcome of so much writing causes calluses on the fingers "nobs" and therefore "Nobby Clerks" was born.
In England the term "nob" is used to refer to a member of the aristocracy and by extension a posh person. A clerk would deal with the common people but would be better educated, better paid and in a position of relative power. To the uneducated, clerks were posh and therefore considered to be "nobs". Hence, nobby Clark. Clerks were also required to maintain a high standard of dress, and were paid a clothing allowance. The result was that they always appeared smart. Both the Oxford English and the English Dialect Dictionaries list nobby as being of a rich man, a nob or toff, or “smart”, and gives it a wide distribution, so smart persons were "nobby".
Nobby Clark is also cockney rhyming slang for a shark.
Soldiers of the Canadian Forces seem to have picked up this nickname as well during the 20th Century.
- Edward Winchester Clark, famous cricket player.
- William Clarke (cryptographer), British cryptographer
- Major Francis Herbert Clarke, a company commander with the Calgary Highlanders in the Second World War.
- Flight Lieutenant Fred Clarke, a pilot with 414 Squadron, RCAF, in the Second World War.
- J.M. "Knobby" Clarke, one of the first mechanics with the Ontario Provincial Air Service in the 1920s.
- Gordon "Nobby" Clark, former singer of Scottish band Bay City Rollers.
- Nobby Clark (ice hockey), Canadian ice hockey player
- Nobby Nobbs, Discworld Character
- Nobby Clark (footballer) who played for Partick Thistle and Queen of the South and managed Queen of the South and Stranraer
- Neil "Nobby" Clark, CEO, National Australia Bank