What's in a (Nick)name?

It almost feels like a competition (or is it just me? does everything feel like a competition to me whereas everyone else is just going about their business without a thought to what the Joneses are up to? I don't know - it's one for the therapist's couch), this insistence we have on nicknaming our kids. Even in utero, we start calling them silly names. One of my girlfriends started calling Johnny "The Sprog" when he was just a cluster of cells in my belly.

Along the way, he's been called "The Nugget", "Jon Jon", "Johnny Bear", "Boo Bear", and, finally "The Guy". And "The Guy" seems to have stuck. "I'll go pick up The Guy if you go start dinner." "The Guy needs a diaper change." "Who's Mommy's Big Guy?"

I have friends who have referred to their offspring as "Noodle" and "Cupcake" and "Boo" and "Roo" and "Punk" and "Dude". I'm reminded of Ling on Allie McBeal (I'm dating myself, I know) who allowed any nickname as long as it was food. For awhile, I took to calling my husband "Pork Chop" or "Fish Stick" as a term of endearment, much to his utter humiliation and chagrin.

As a child, my cousins called me Megan Mouse. And my sister Amy went most of the time as Loola. My cousin Stacey was Boocey. I have no explanation for any of this. My brother started being Chris the Fish why my brother in law came into the picture and started giving us all new nicknames (I am loathe to share mine), but my brother's friend thought that was a stupid nickname which rhymed about as much as "Tom the Corn" rhymed. And, hence, Tom the Corn was born.

Anyhoo... I digress.

I am a person who likes nicknames. I appreciate a nickname especially when it is come by honest, not out of some contrived need to apply the cutest moniker possible to our offspring, although really I have nothing against that either and am guilty of just that crime.

I think nicknames are endearing, and personal, and allow for a kid to feel especially loved or recognized in a family or friend group. Our parents name us, and somehow our nicknames are even more special, assuming they're bestowed out of love and not cruelty. We name our babies before they are born, and sometimes we even think up nicknames for them before they're born, but it is my guess that the nicknames that arrive later, the ones born because they match a kid's personality or a specific skill or event in his life, are the best.

Sometimes I miss being Megan Mouse, or Moogina, or even what my college roomates called me: Mehorn. (I still don't get that one, but I think there was drinking involved.) Still, now, I have a new nickname, and it is the sweetest one I ever owned: Mama.

Comments

Laura Herring 7 years, 5 months ago

My first name doesn't exactly lend itself to nicknames and I hated that as a kid. It seemed like all my friends had names that were made to be shortened. At some point though, my father started calling me Pete (I don't really remember why) and it stuck. He still calls me that, as do both of my brothers-in-law, one even refers to me as Aunt Pete to my nieces and nephew. However I came by it I love being called Pete and it shows my special relationship to these men in my life, they're the only ones who use it. My niece has also been dubbed Peanut, she's nearly three and she calls herself Peanut even. Random nicknames are the best.

Alice Brewer 7 years, 5 months ago

My son is "the boy" because after several years of 2 girls, we had "the boy". My sister, who is now thirty-something, I call Kid. Go figure.

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