What’s In a Name?

When we first come into the world, we are given a name, what one might call a ‘formal name’. For instance, mine is William. However, as we grow up, we tend to pick up other names along the way, what are usually referred to as ‘nicknames’. In example, for William, it’s usually Bill. For Richard, it’s most often Rick. But as we grow older and develop our own unique personality, other people along the way add other nicknames for us that may refer to our physical traits, personal habits or other things that are unique to us. Giving away some personal information, although he didn’t know it at the time, my father pegged me with the nickname ‘Goat’. It referred to my eating habits as he used to say, “that boy is like a damn Billy Goat, he’ll eat anything”. He would also say that I had a ‘hollow leg’, and used to call me ‘Little Hackie’ in reference to a guy in the neighborhood who I believe pretty much eat himself to death. Fortunately, my father’s prognostication was in error, as I am still around.

The other members of my family had their own unique nicknames as well. We used to call my brother Rick ‘Flathead’, ‘Squarehead’, and such, referring to the anatomical shape of his head. We used to say that you could place a round ball on his head and it would just sit there. While his head wasn’t really that square, the name stuck. My brother Dave we called ‘Blood’. I believe I put that one on him and don’t know how it came about but the name sounded pretty cool, so to many people, he was ‘Blood’. With my brother Tom, my mother used to say that he had ‘sticky fingers’, as items would often stick to his fingers, whether they belonged to him or not. We also had a couple of nicknames for my sister, but I better not mention them if I want to continue talking to her.

In the neighborhood, there were others that I knew that had their own unique nicknames. I know of at least two ‘Stinky’s’ and the name was definitely deserved for one of them as he always seemed to carry an extra load around with him in his pants. There was a ‘Tarzan’ which referred to his athletic and climbing ability. There was a guy we called ‘Shorty Long’ as he stood about four foot tall, and wore these oversized cowboy boots that came up to his knees along with a matching hat. Another guy was known as ‘Bighead Little’ as he was a ‘brother’ that was also very short but had an enormous head. There was at least one guy named ‘Tiny’ who was anything but, and of course the ‘Boo Boo’s’, the ‘Russian Boogie’ and so on. While all the ones mentioned referred to guys, I don’t know if it was just not proper to tag the girls in the neighborhood with names, but more than likely they had them as well, I was probably just out of the loop.

Some might say, ‘what’s in a name’?, when oftentimes there is much in it. While the names others used for us may have not always been flattering, they oftentimes referred to something unique about us, and stuck with us for many years. Although I have now graduated from ‘Goat’ to ‘Willy’, the name my father labeled me with back then was appropriate for that time, as nicknames often are. I would bet that all of us have some nickname from earlier years, what was yours?

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