Friday, September 11, 2015

"Terms of Endearment"

Okay. I got fussed at three times in the space of about that many days by people who said they keep checking my blog and nothing new is ever there. Well, I certainly apologize for wasting your time but look at it this way.

You click on the blog link and there's nothing new there. Time wasted, maybe 5 seconds. Now let's say you click on the link and lo and behold there is something new and you read it. Now you've more than likely wasted 20 times as much time as you did the first time. Now, this isn't the subject for discussion on this post, but just a little introductory food for thought.

I'm thinking this evening about what we normally call nicknames. I couldn't find where the term "nick" came from, but we all know what we are talking about. And we may have very different opinions on whether nicknames are good or bad. Mostly depending on our own experiences. I've heard of families that insist that their children only be called by their proper names. And then there are other families that have multiple nicknames for everybody that's a member.

I certainly realize that nicknames can be used to make fun of people and I despise that at least as much as you do. There was a girl in high school that everyone called "Space Goose"; I'm not sure how that got started (maybe there was a cartoon character by that name?) but I never figured that it was meant to be a compliment. Then there was a guy in the grade above me whose nickname was "Mole". At the time he never acted like he minded, but looking back now I wonder.

And then I have a cousin whose nickname was "Turbo", which actually was a derivative of the larger nickname "Turbocharger". What's so bad about that, you may wonder. Well, the problem was that while this would be a fine nickname for a boy, this cousin I'm speaking about happened to be a girl cousin and I'm pretty sure she didn't appreciate it. Honestly, cousin, if you happen to be reading this, I didn't have anything to do with this; I think it was your brother.

So, I'm saying that nicknames can be degrading and even cruel. Let those kind of nicknames never be  once named among us.

But there is a beautiful side to nicknames as well, where they truly are "terms of endearment".

One that comes to mind from childhood (and continues to this very day) is my Uncle Bud. His real name is Ernest, but to us he was always "Bud". It never dawned on me as a child growing up that this was the same term you could use with anybody, as in, "Hey bud, can you tell me how to get to Kalamazoo from here?" He was OUR Uncle Bud, spelled with a capital B.

And then there's my cousin Sonny whose "real" name is also Ernest. He was the youngest of five brothers and I remember his brothers used to call him "Bum" and it would make him mad. So "Sonny" was a definite improvement. And to this day he still signs his name Ernest "Sonny" Yoder.

How do nicknames get started anyway? And what makes some of them "stick" for life? Sometimes they're  just a shortened version of the proper name. Like my grandsons.  Ashten became "Ash". Caleb has become "Kabe" and Clifton has become "Kiff". Clifton's nickname got started when Caleb was just beginning to talk and would pronounce Clifton, "Kiffen", which then got shortened to "Kiff". Although if you pronounce it right,(Southern like I do), it's still a two syllable word. Think "Ki-yuff". And then the youngest grandson's name is Carlton. And at this point he is called "Little Tan" or just plan "Tan", taken from the last half of his name.

And the granddaughter. Our favorite granddaughter we call her because she's the only one we've got. She had multiple nicknames growing up. "Smurf" and "Monster" are two that come to mind. And I promise you that these are truly terms of endearment; ask her if you don't believe me. But we seemed to have settled out on "Treas", which is a shortened version of "Treasure".

Our children had nicknames that stuck as well. We still call our daughter Laurie, "Bize"sometimes. But I can't for the life of me remember how that got started. And son Myron is still at times called "Munk". And I can explain that one, (and it doesn't have anything to do with monkeys). When granddaughter Alexis was little she would put an "M" on the front of uncle as in "Munkle Myron". Then of course that got shortened to "Munkle", which then got condensed down to "Munk".

Sometimes a nickname starts from some physical characteristic. I'm thinking just now of "Big Boy" Boyd. Big Boy isn't exceptionally tall, he is just BIG all over. Huge arms and chest and a neck at least twice as big as mine. I met him once in the local Chinese restaurant and something was said about not eating too much. I forget what I said but he said, "I ain't makin' no promises!"

And then sometimes a nickname comes out the opposite of some characteristic. Now I'm thinking of "Tiny" Vassal. Now Tiny is TALL, maybe 6 ft. 6 or in that neighborhood. And talking about BIG, at his heaviest he weighed about 650 lbs. At some point he had that stomach surgery and was down in the three hundreds somewhere. But he was a gentle giant. A friendlier man you would never meet. He had a sleeping disorder as well and at one time couldn't sleep more than a hr. or so at a time. So he had about 12 to 15 buddies and he knew when each of them needed to get up to go to work and every morning he would give each of them a wakeup call at the proper time. I haven't seen him for several years; he moved to Lynchburg so he wouldn't have to drive so far for his dialysis treatments.

And then there are names that get started from something that happened to the nicknamed person. I'm thinking now of "Bushwhacker" Booker whose real name is David. I can't remember the details of the story, but it has something to do with a truck he had parked on a hill and when he wasn't aboard, it rolled down into the woods. Or I could tell you about "Guardrail" whose real name is Eddie and who is among other things, a log truck driver and a Baptist preacher. I can't remember all of his story either but it had to do with interaction between his truck and a guardrail.

My favorite nickname of this type belongs to "Snook" Shelton, a log truck driving friend of mine. I don't even know his real name. I asked him once where his name came from. He said he decided to be born during a Christmas blizzard while his daddy was out in the blizzard trying to get the doctor rounded up. So his parents would tell people that he had "snook" up on 'em, and came into this world before they were quite ready.

In the local black culture, nicknames prevail. Almost everyone has one. I cut a piece of timber once for a lady named "Tunnie".  And it was thru those circumstances that I made friends with Theodore whose nickname is "Dowbie". Honestly, I don't know how it is spelled, but it is pronounced "Doughbie". I never asked him how the nickname got started but I'm pretty sure my theory is right. Anybody care to tell me your theory?

With all these warm and fuzzy feelings floating around me due to all these terms of endearment, you would think I would be supremely happy right now. But actually, to be honest, there is one great big empty feeling in the pit of my stomach.

You see,I NEVER REALLY HAD A NICKNAME! There, the truth is out. Counselors  say that's always the first real step in finding help, coming out with the truth no matter how awful and terrible and gut-wrenching it is. I mean, I have thoughts like, "What was so dreadfully wrong with me; was I not endearable enough to merit a nickname?" And, of course, it's probably a little too  late to acquire one now, seeing I will be sixty on my next birthday.  I suppose I should just grow up and get over it, but I will tell you, it's extremely difficult to grow up when you're almost sixty.

So sometimes in the quiet of the night I do wonder. What could I have become, (that I'm not now)if I would have had some great nickname?

If I'd have had a nickname like, let's say, "Turbocharger".