Saturday, May 8, 2010

They call me "Hoss."

Did you ever have a nickname? Did you ever want one?

I'm betting the answer is yes to at least one of those questions, although most people never have a nickname that sticks and is used more or less by everybody they know. For the sake of the discussion here I'm not talking about diminutive forms of your actual given name like Rosie for Rosemary or Dick for Richard. (Now, there's a discussion we need to have some day.)

No, I'm talking about nicknames that have absolutely nothing to do with anything.

People with... shall we say unusual first names often have a nickname like Bud. I don't think any little boy was ever called Bud or Buddy on his birth certificate but the world is full of guys called Bud. When you get to know them better you learn the truth. These guys typically have real names so weird even their own parents wouldn't use them. I have two friends everybody calls Bud though their given names are Harley and Clerin. No disrespect intended but those are odd names. My own father dodged a bullet because his middle name, like John Wayne's real first name, was Marion. It was apparently a fashionable name in the 1920s but please, who is going to name his son Marion these days without also teaching him martial arts so he can defend himself?

Girls typically acquire nicknames that begin as simple endearments: Kitty, Angel, Candy, Missy, Boots, Peaches.

Seriously, one of my dearest friends in the world is a woman named Ruth but almost nobody knows that. She is called Boots by everybody. And even though I have asked her why I can't remember her answer. She's just Boots, that's all.

I also really knew an adult woman called Peaches though I never heard of anybody called Plums or Apricots. Academy Award-winning Actress Gwyneth Paltrow has a daughter whose legal given name is Apple but that's a Hollywood affectation that we can shrug off even if the poor little girl never will.

Don't get me started on what became of Chastity Bono. We all saw that coming forty years ago.

I had a high school baseball coach who called me Ted. That was because I was a left-handed power hitting outfielder like the real Ted whose last name was also Williams. I thought that was cool but nobody else used it. No surprise there. You can't use a real name for a nickname. If your name is Mark but one guy calls you Ralph you think everybody else will pick up on that? Nah. I don't think so.

For the past twenty years I've gone on regular camping trips with a bunch of guys I used to work with. One of them started calling me Hoss ten or fifteen years ago because I am large and have a beard and always wear a cowboy hat. It seemed kind of fitting and I'm fond of it but only from these guys. I don't want my son's in-laws or my wife or mom calling me Hoss.

I guess no matter how you look at it a nickname is a term of endearment even if the name is something less than flattering like Shorty or Bug. My wife and her first husband used to call their premie son Bug because he weighed only four pounds when he was born. He lives with us now. He's about to turn thirty and looks nothing at all like a bug. I'll just leave it there.

Nicknames are interesting. What's yours? Or what would you like to be called?

© 2010 by David L. Williams, all rights reserved

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