After Twenty Years Questions and Answers
by O. Henry

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Why is Bob's nickname "Silky" Bob in "After Twenty Years" by O. Henry?

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Even Bob's first name is not mentioned until near the end of the story, and the nickname "Silky" Bob is mentioned only once. This is when the plainclothes detective tells him, 

You've been under arrest for ten minutes, ‘Silky’ Bob.

Bob's last name is never mentioned in the story. O. Henry has some reason for not wanting to identify Bob by his name. This is undoubtedly because Bob is continually on the lam and probably uses many different names. Jimmy Wells, of course, would know Bob's last name, but he cannot call him by his first name, last name, or nickname when he is talking to him in front of the hardware store because he has quickly decided not to reveal who he is or that he knows who Bob is. Jimmy makes this decision when Bob lights his cigar and Jimmy sees that his old friend is the man who is wanted by the Chicago police. From that point on, there is no exchange of names. Bob speaks of Jimmy Wells, but he does not know he is talking to Jimmy Wells. Bob is called "the man"...

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