I’ve often wondered about Nick. Not Saint Nick, and not the one who almost ran out of time. The other Nick. The one who must have been incredibly skilled at terms of endearment.
Everyone in this Nick’s hometown most definitely had the name on their birth certificate, and the name Nick gave them. I picture him as a jovial wielder of words whose labeling felt like a verbal hug from your best friend.
He was a friendly guy who walked around with blank name tags, waving the ancient equivalent of a giant Sharpie and issuing nicknames, maybe like the United Kingdom knights people. Can you see it?
As Nick, the naming monarch, moves the oversized quill from your right shoulder to your left shoulder, you wait expectantly to hear what would follow the words “I now dub you…” As he speaks, the crowd that has gathered begins to nod with approval and admiration at how perfectly the name fits you. Nick writes the name on a piece of cloth, pins it to your shirt and shakes your hand. You stand, smile and start repeating your nickname with excitement as you hurry to tell your friends.
The nickname force is strong with my family, although I fear it’s mutated significantly since the imaginary scene described above. Names other than the ones given to people, places and things roll off our tongues like a fluent second language. To be fully forthcoming, I should note that many times that second language is actually jibberish. We often see blank stares and confused expressions if we slip up and use these odd and affectionate titles in public.
So, get your brows ready to lift or furrow, because I’m bringing you into the family. Here we go!
How it began
The gene grows stronger over time, but it was a slow start for me. In elementary school, I called my sister Foopy for a couple of years and she called me Acapulco. Not very creative, I know. Foopy is clearly just a rip-off of the more commonly known Schmoopie. We were young and apparently had just looked at a map of Mexico.
Our dog, whose given name was Blessing, was christened by my dad as Bud-nicky Peatums. Bonus points for that one. Five syllables, straight-outta-nowhere and made us laugh really loud.
There were a few more typical terms in the mix. My mom often called my dad Daddy-boy, and he answered her with a Baby-doll. To me, my Mom was Mamma Schmamma, and eventually, I started calling her Marmie after one of our favorite movies to watch together, Little Women.
How it still is
Even as an adult, I still conjure up fun things to call people. During one visit to my parent’s house, I stood at the top of the stairs calling out to my dad. “Daaaa-aaad!” No answer. “Dad!” No answer. He couldn’t hear me over the radio he had blasting downstairs. I resorted to calling him something close to his given name Richard, “Ricky!” “Rick!” Still no answer, and I couldn’t be bothered to walk downstairs.
It started somewhere deep in my belly. I felt it surging up through my chest and shoulders. My neck began to sway and my bottom jaw flexed open wide. “Rrrriiiiiiii-tcheeeeeeeeey!” It was a high-pitched, gargly bellow, like Scuttles from Little Mermaid. I was channeling the matriarch from All in the Family. Can you hear it? “Aaaaaarrrrrrrrr-cheeeeeeeey!”
It worked, and the moniker Ritchie was born for my dad. It stuck, like a nametag from our patron labeler Nick himself.
Places are also not off limits. Ritchie not-so-affectionately refers to a soup and salad restaurant as the Vegetable Hole. I think he equates it to culinary solitary confinement with no access to red meat or apple pie. No hunter wants to be drug to that leafy, green hole.
As I reflect on nicknames, it’s clear to me that my father is a blackbelt. He should advance to the elite ranks of those individuals who hand out one-of-a-kind aka’s. In fact, I think the original Nick would be OK with me coining the term rickname. Congratulations, Ritchie, you’ve earned it.
I appreciate most nicknames I’ve been given over the years by people I know and love. These playful and sometimes goofy names make me smile.
What nicknames have you given to people or things you love?