I love nicknames. More specifically I love the genesis of nicknames. Over the years I have collected a number of them, some earned, others…..not so much. For example, one day it occurred to my brother, who is three minutes older than I am, that people generally try to have one child at a time. He followed this train of thought all the way to a new nickname for me, “The Accident”.
For reasons too painful to elaborate upon I am rightfully known as the “jinx” by a certain cohort of Giants fans. I remain in exile from all post-season events and have actually taken a vow of silence on all issues relating to professional football, baseball, and their affiliates.
I have received more endearing names from the children in my life. In my best friend’s home I am known as “Corduroy”. When his son was about three, he confused my name with his favorite bear and it stuck. I’m thinking of legally changing my name to Corduroy.
Many years ago I worked in a residential school with a fascinating student. He was an extremely violent teenager who also happened to be deaf. His psychologist described him as feral. He was able to learn sign language and use a picture exchange book to communicate. One day, in my broken sign language, I asked him if he new what my name was. I had been working closely with him for a few years at that point. He looked at me thoughtfully and signed “popcorn”. Maybe he was just hungry, but the name followed me until I left that agency.
I remember giving names to people when I was a child. Michael and David Hamberger were respectively known as “Big Soup” and “Little Soup”, because you couldn’t call someone a hamburger- that’s just stupid. Besides, “Soup” was already taken by Jason Campbell. My older brothers somehow earned the names “Bubba” and “Baby Bubba”, but I have no idea how that evolved. It must have been quite a story because very few eight year olds could wear a name like “Bubba” and have it fit.
The tradition has continued into the next generation. We call my oldest daughter “Squirt” and my son “Doc”. The twins are respectively “Thing 1” and “Thing 2”. All well-earned names.
I think my favorite name is the one my oldest daughter has given me, “Oh Poppa”. The “Oh” has somehow become part of it, as in “Oh Poppa, why are you being so silly”. “Oh Poppa” has such an affectionate ring to it. It makes me feel like a bear whose porridge is to hot and bed is too soft.