Monday, January 24, 2011

What's in a name?

There was a time when nicknames were stylish or a testament to awe: Joltin' Joe DiMaggio, Broadway Joe Namath, Air Jordan, Wilt the Stilt. Elvis Presley was the King of Rock and Roll. Sinatra and his crew were the Rat Pack. Growing up, a friend's Dad was nicknamed Sharky Easy. I thought this the coolest of nicknames and extra fantastic we, the kids, could call him that as well.

JohnnyMac received that nickname in college. One night, my friends heard it his old college roommate call him such. Unaware this name was reserved to a certain band of brothers, they began to call him that. As did I followed by my entire family and all of my friends. Months later he did advise the name was more of a reference point to a certain era of his coming of age. Well, not any more. I told him I cant wait until our son and his friends can call him JohnnyMac. My own in-house version of Sharky Easy.

But as an elementary school kid, nicknames are rarely beneficial to your social status. While I was on the front end of peer pressure, I still had my turn. In junior high school, a sassy rascal pants-ed me. This was an unhip version of snapping bra straps (I had no bra straps! dammit!) So I got the nickname Peach Fuzz. Seriously? But in 7th grade, puberty was still a long train ride away for me. This was the drawback and benefit of living in an era where all the dairy and meat products were not laced with steroids and antibiotics in that girls grew at a normal pace. In 9th grade, a wretchedly sassy troublemaker donned me Flatty Patty. By the way, I can't help my genetics. And my name isn't Patty, dumbarse. Who knew I wouldn't grow out of it until high school, figuratively AND literally.

Once that lazy and late visitor puberty finally made me grow upward and outward I was free! Only to find out that a boy we knew would don me with a new nickname that was even worse. I remember my step-dad telling me this pearl of wisdom: Don't react to it. Are you kidding me? I remember thinking....umm, WOW, that is profound. Except, I am a teenage girl. Control emotions? Do not react? You might as well have asked me to wear a prom dress made of scrambled eggs. 

Of course, all of my close girlfriends had nicknames in high school more hypocoristic than destructive. Ditto that for girlfriends from college. It is challenging for me now NOT to call my girlfriends those names: TazBudPoo, FernBernWern, NatSprat, Tigger (who was also Snortin Norton), Action Jackson, Bell from Hell, Muppet, Jodio, MarciaGarcia, ShaNaNa.

I am certain this induction into the fun of nicknaming honed my creative skills and I have coined a few nicknames myself over time. And since the universe is fair, I think I have earned the chance to give a few out. Believe me, none as socially reprehensible as "PeachFuzz".

My intent is never malicious but mostly descriptive. I will admit, I ran with a wickedly clever crew in graduate school and in the middle of learning about Civil Procedure and Tort Law, we were the absolute worst about nicknaming. I think back and it was a long, long list: RedLegs, Gargamel, the Porpoise, Frosty, Wrinkle, DomPerignon...ahhh, the mere recall transports me back in time. And I think I would take being called Peach Fuzz over Gargamel. If you do not know who Gargamel is, he is the nasty man who torments the Smurfs. If the cloak fits...

BUT, a former beau once told me that his Dad was such a great golfer and made it all look easy. I thought he said his Dad was called Easy Eddie. When I met his Dad, who is a fantastic person with a great personality, I called him Easy Eddie. I proceeded to call him Easy Eddie. For two years. Before being asked at the dinner table with about 20 people why I called him Easy Eddie. I explained the golf reference. And then was advised his nickname was Steady Eddie. Uh oh. My beau apparently didn't have the heart to tell me.  The nickname theory can backfire.  

And a guy friend once asked if he could set up my roommate with his friend "Porkchop." Ummmm. No. We were 31 at the time. Do you want to be called Porkchop at 31?

Once, at my BFF's house, we were discussing her pregnancy and potential names. She made her husband tell me his list which I deconstructed by demonstrating the many (and awful) nicknames we could create from said list. My BFF laughed and said, "SEE! I told you we can not name our baby ___, ____, or _____." Oops.

When we found out we were pregnant, as we discussed names, you know I put my brain in overdrive to test the potentially ill-fated nickname our yet to be named baby might suffer. I worked those names from every angle and since the baby's sex would be a surprise, we landed on two very solid names. (Oh, and I learned you NEVER tell anyone your name beforehand if you do not want them doing what I did to my BFF's husband.)

They clearly passed the nickname test but the day may come when our son has a nickname. I hope it is a good one. Not Gargamel. Or Porkchop.  The day may also come where he dishes out nicknames to his friends, or worse, us. Maybe we can simply remain JohnnyMac and JennyMac. And pray to all the heavens, our son doesn't grow up to call himself "The Situation."


Shelly - Tropical Mum said...

I was going to comment that I have never had a nickname, but then I remembered that my first sweetheart called me "Michelle Poubelle", poubelle meaning rubbish in french. Charming.

It then went on that my husband's favourite term of endearment for me is "Smelly Shelly". Charming.

I sense a theme here however, I wonder if my deodorant isn't doing its job?

Kat said...

My maiden name was Younger, and I grew up when The Odd Couple was popular. So Younger became Unger which became Felix. Dad always called me Kat, thus I became Felix the Kat. Clever group, weren't we?

Simply Suthern said...

Everyone I hung out with had functional nicknames. There was Weasel because with his glasses he looked like a cartoon weasel. His brother Cockroach because he ate a big bug on a bet. And Me, Crash because I ended up wrecking eveything I drove. Now I am known as Fro for a not so obvious reason. No not that or that either.

the walking man said...

...or his friends grow to call him "The Candy Man"

Secret Mom Thoughts said...

You do have to think of the nicknames involved. I didn't want to name our boy Richard because of the Dick nickname. I was teaching then so a whole bunch of names were vetoed for reminding me of not so favorite students.

Kelli said...

The first thing most kids think of rhyming with "Kelli" was "Smelly."
I swear I showered daily, so I think it was more of the rhyme than anything else. They never tried past that. Maybe I was lucky.

brokenteepee said...

My father called me "itchy drawers." He once called my new place of employment looking for said. The receptionist yelled across the lobby, "is there an itchy drawers here?"

I about died.

Kristina P. said...

I've never really had a nickname. Sometimes, people will call me by my last name, which I sort of like. Makes me feel like one of the guys.

Ed said...

It high school, the girls who "knew" me, called me Mr.Ed.

If you know what I mean.

Unknown said...

My sisters who were twins were called the Busty Twins.. umm yeah so glad I was 11 years younger then them

Unknown said...

Evil Eva is the nickname my Husband gave me, and that's pretty much the only one I ever had.

KittyCat said...

I think nicknames can be good and bad.
Mine as a child was thunder thighs or sam saugage. mind you I was NOT fat. Nor have i ever been.
but that is what my family called me. I have forever been scared because of this. Which is why I am so obsessed with working out now at age 42.

My son however had the nickname tay tay. Which now the older boys on his soccer team call him, on the field non the less and he is ok with it.
SO you just never know.

Great post

webb said...

Then there is poor Sarah Ann Parks... SAP!

Inge' said...

I hate nicknames. Mine have always revolved around my weight or my real name.

Since I am very thin, I got olive oil alot. Then there were all those awful variations on my name which I won't go into.

I also went to public school and they called my Snow White because of my fair skin and black hair. I guess I was the "fairest" of them in all in school if you get my drift.

Since I work in the gaming industry, I meet many people from all over the place. I have been called everything from Inge' to English. Go figure.

I used to work with a guy whose last name was Minga. Everyone teased me that I should marry him so my name would be Inge Minga. Who really wants a name that rhymes?

My favorite has to be the baseball player whose last name is Inge. I have been told I should have married him so I could be Inge Inge. I think that one is kind of cute.

Maria said...

Let's see...during my junior high years, I had the MOST uncontrollable curly hair that would always frizz up in the unforgiving S. Florida humidity. I also tend to turn beet red when embarrassed or anxious. Can you guess? Mop-N-Glo was my horrendous nickname. I still get chills!

If only I had known how to use a hair dryer and a round barrel brush...

However, knowledge is power. As a Kindergarten Teacher for many a year before I become a mother, you better believe many names were rejected before we came up with some good ones...Kids can be so cruel.

Desiree Lynn said...

In high school a bunch of use were switching up the first letters between our first and last name for laughs. My name, Desiree Peters, became Pesiree Deters. Pesiree turning into Pezzy. Years later I still have a couple of girls who call me Pezzy even though my last name has changed therefore voiding the nickname. I'm stuck with it haha. said...

NOTHING could be as bad as "The Situation"! Besides the fact that the originator is a dofuss, it screams "constant problem".
I think you can maybe start something for him as a child that will carry him through.... Scratch that. No self-respecting group of kids would ever buy it.
We'll just hope for the best! ;-)

Mrs. Tuna said...

So funny I just posted last weekend a post about nicknames. Mine.....ah Pooh. Hard one to live down at 48.

Anonymous said...

My, you have a way of surfacing repressed memories! My name is Korinne, nicknamed Kori and in middle school was Korki always to be followed with the theme "la la la la life goes on". Never a cool nickname.

Myya said...

Oh the nicknames, they are somethin fierce aren't they!! The Situation... Good Lord, I wonder what his mamma really thinks of that!

Unknown said...

My parents are obsessed with nicknames! Especially my mother. All of us kids (and our subsequent children) had to have at least one nickname. I had a couple...Shanie, Sissie and Boo (that came from my dad). My brothers were Bug, Skeeter and Charlie rhyme or reason to these monikers. And yes, these nicknames have stuck even into our adult years...*sigh*

mandatorybloghere said...

Im boo
my hubby is booba
and our daughter has been nicknamed
Geeb (hard G)
not sure how that all happened
but now they have all stuck lol

Aunt Juicebox said...

People used to rhyme my name with feather and weather nearly every day of my life, then in high school it was leather, and for awhile it was "hot tub heather" (commercial at the time where a guy with bad breathe says, hhhhhow's the hhhhot tub, hhhheather). It doesn't matter what you name a kid, somebody will come up with a nickname for them. lol

J.J. in L.A. said...

The "situation" just proves how stupid he is by calling himself 'the situation'. I remember when Prince tried changing his name to that symbol that no one couldn't pronounce. Not just a great idea, am I right?

The brothers have a friend that every calls 'Dribbles' (behind his back, of course) because the guy can't speak without spraying everyone! In grade school, 2 friends and I named ourselves Inny, Iggy and Abby. Inny for Insane, Iggy or Ignoramus, and Abby (me) for Abnormal. Yeah, we were cool!

Anonymous said...

With my name being Misty, a lot of people called me Musty. It didn't bother me though. I was in high school at the time so I could take it. Plus, it could have been a lot worse. My parents called me Boomer. I don't think they could ever tell me why.