Growing up, I didn’t know the real names of most of the kids in my village who I played with every day. I knew them by their nicknames, as did everyone else. Even the adults and senior citizens had nicknames.
The worst were the names that were bestowed on those who had a physical or mental setback. ‘Crazy Beverly’ was the name of a girl who had a slight mental handicap. ‘Half-A-Foot Maggie’ was the name of the village’s amputee. She was the first person I’d ever seen with one leg and she scared the bejesus out of me. ‘Dummy Olga’ the woman with the speech impediment and ‘Big Foot Theresa’ who had a case of elephantiasis. Even my uncle who was missing an arm was not spared. His nickname was ‘Half-A-Hand Duncan’. Looking back, rather cruel but normal and funny then.
‘Asshole’ was not a nickname given because of any relation to the word, at least not that I know of. He was a nice, hard-working young man who still had his English accent having been born in England. (Maybe that’s where he got the name). He was the total opposite to his name.
‘Goatie’ ‘Dog head’ ‘Hog head’ ‘Fatman’ ‘Bony’ were some of the guys in my neighborhood. Fatman was my best friend who was so-called because he was a fat kid. Man, we took political correctness and stomped all over it.
Some nicknames were unwittingly self-bestowed. Telling your friends about a strange dream involving people with strange names could get you called one of those names, as my sister found out. Or using the word ‘Dengue’ too often as a kid because you liked the way it sounded, as I found out.
As a culture that thrives on personal privacy, nicknames were welcomed by most as it prevented anyone from finding out their real names. (Names, age and illnesses are fiercely protected). Calling someone by their real names was not always welcomed, unless maybe if your nick was Asshole. Go figure…
While reading George Orwell’s Animal Farm in high school, I realized that my good friend Kensley, displayed the characteristics of Squealer, the pig. I pinned the name on him immediately and watched it become one of the more popular nicknames in the country. He is known far and wide as Squealer and he wears it proudly.
So, if you were to have a nickname, what would it be? Blogger Jane? Facebook Pat?
- Nicknames (designmom.com)
- Do You Have a Nickname Based on a Beauty Feature? (bellasugar.com)
- No More Nicknames? (andrewsullivan.thedailybeast.com)