But new research in the June edition of Educational Studies reveals that more often than not pupils use them to express contempt or as a means of gaining the upper hand.
In the first ever study of teacher nicknames, 103 university students were asked to recollect how and why they adopted a certain name for a certain member of staff during their schooldays.
Only a fifth of respondents said the name expressed warmth. The rest said it reflected dislike or contempt or was a means of getting their own back, or putting one over the teacher. Male secondary teachers over 40 years of age were most likely to earn themselves a nickname.
The study shows that the majority of names draw upon the physical imperfections of the "victim", with dangling jowls, protruding eyes and a shortage of hair among the most mocked characteristics.
Personality traits are another popular target for ridicule. Any teacher with even the slightest reputation for raising their voice is in danger of being christened Hitler, the Dragon or Jaws.
Names that reflect a resemblance to a celebrity or cartoon character, such as Tin Tin, Barbie or Pavarotti, make up the third main category identified by the study.
Dr Ray Crozier, of Cardiff University's school of social sciences and author of the study, said: "A nickname only really works if it is witty and captures or exaggerates some characteristic of the teacher.
"Once a name gains currency it is virtually impossible to shake off. Most nicknames are known throughout the school and are passed down from one generation of pupils to another. Kids are amazingly alert to teachers'
manner and appearance so there is unfortunately not much that can be done to avoiding getting yourself one."