Nicknames – do kids still use them today? In my lifetime I’ve had several. MORE
While growing up at a very young age I always heard my dad’s friends call him “Whitey”. Usually a guy is called Whitey because he has blond hair, (oh, and I just now had to look up the difference between Blond and Blonde – it’s a gender thing, go figure). My dad did not have blond hair; he was bald at a very young age. So his nickname was a twist on his last name – Wyatt.
In fact, my dad wore a toupee! Obviously, anyone who wears a toupee has to be self conscious about their baldness. I think he began wearing one around the age of 27 or so and had one all throughout his entire life. Honestly, I can remember only one time I saw him without his hairpiece and even then he was wearing a Ralston Purina hat.
Me? I was a toe head, blond hair almost all my life. Even with what little hair I still have, some of it is still blond (and the rest is gray). So when it came time for the neighborhood kids to give me a name, Whitey was an easy one.
The only nicknames we get in our elementary years, (other than those we want), are usually bad. Be thankful that you weren’t overweight, or that you didn’t have to wear Coke-bottle glasses or that you didn’t have a large mole in the middle of your forehead. If these descriptions match any of you out there then you’re sadly familiar with Dumpy, Four-eyes and Cyclops! I lucked out – For the longest time I was just plain ‘ole Robbie.
Luckily for me, my vision was fantastic, I had a very high metabolism and clear skin. The pimples didn’t come until junior high but back then most of us were pimple faces. The real Pimple Faces were the sad kids who suffered from acne. Nothing scares a junior high kid more than the fear of getting acne, (or that recurring dream of waking up naked at school).
And so, the junior high puberty years brought on my next nickname. As long as you didn’t fit the criteria I listed above, your nickname was likely to be harmless; typically something that sounded similar to your first or last name.
For me, it came in a study hall. A boy a year younger than I walked in and sat across from me. His name was Colin. Colin had hair even lighter and longer than mine and we seemed to hit it off from the very beginning. I had a reputation for being a cut up and he liked how I made him laugh. Unfortunately for me however, this coincided with my ‘confused years’ which I wrote about in this story (link). But all that aside, Colin was responsible for my next nickname – Tweety (and Tweety Bird).
That time in life was a bit rough for me but I eventually came out of it. When I did, Tweety was dropped and I was left with just Bird. I loved basketball and liked that nickname but make no mistake, I was no ‘Larry’ Bird.
True, I was no Larry Bird but basketball did lead me to my next nickname.
Quick Aside – Larry Bird was from French Lick, Indiana. That tiny town has a wonderful old hotel and resort that my wife and I used to frequent for stay and play golf visits. We absolutely adored it; complete with a tiny bowling alley, a movie theater and wonderful buffet that was always included in the cost. If you love these types of historical places, please enjoy these links.
Back to basketball….
I’ve written several stories about growing up in my Catholic neighborhood and how each and every day there was some kind of sporting game going on. When we got to the high school years we were too big to play baseball in our park. Basketball became our most favored outlet. We played constantly. We’d play at the local St Peter in Chains gymnasium or sometimes we’d drive to Miami University to get into one of the pickup games there. In good weather we might walk over to the local YMCA or even our own alley hoop if there was just a couple of us.
Basketball was really the only sport I felt better than average in. One summer I played a lot of ball with my friend Randy. I wrote a little about Randy in this story (link). His nickname, (which never changed), was “Pic”; short for Pickle. And I’m sure there’s a story there but sadly, I don’t know it. Since I was playing with Randy, it meant I was also playing with his friends, all who were a year older than I was.
They didn’t know me and I could tell by the attitudes of a couple of them that they didn’t think much of me either. For the record, I just loved playing with people like that and I especially loved wearing them down. I was a fast runner and I was in really good long distance shape. One of my favorite things to do was to let the two guards bring the ball down the court and to give them a little room near half court. And at just the right moment, I’d break into a sprint just as one guard was passing to the other…and the ball would be mine for an easy layup. I was also a fair shooter so once I’d gotten my opponent winded, he would give me a little space and I would take advantage of it by making a few three pointers. Fun times…I’m sure they had a couple of nicknames of their own for me.
But back to nicknames.
My best friend in high school was a guy named Joe. I’ve written a few stories involving Joe, fun stories like this one (link). Joe’s older brother Mike played ball with us every now and again. Mike was a kidder and he really liked trying to get to me. I could always take teasing well but one day we were all at the West Side YMCA, on the outside basketball court. Mike was in a rather goofy mood that day and was guarding me. Instead of sticking close to me though, he was giving me room to take outside shots. He didn’t seem to care if the shots hit or missed because he was more interested in “quacking” and calling me “Duck” each time I shot.
“Quack, quack….c’mon Duck take a shot“.
That went on and on and he was laughing harder and harder as the game went on. Finally, I stopped and said – “OK, what the hell is this Duck shit?”
Well that did it! Mike stopped playing completely and was almost crying from laughing. We kept on playing but not hard and not for long. Mike was laughing and giggling too much to give a serious game and so we all just broke up soon, laughing and enjoying the moment.
For months anytime I saw Mike, he’d laugh and joke about that day, maybe even throw me a quack. And the mission was accomplished – the nickname “Duck” stuck. Randy and Joe always called me Duck after that day. I became Duck for the next several years, pretty much until we all finally grew out of high school and the neighborhood.
I don’t recall any of our nicknames ever being mean or meant to hurt, at least not on purpose. Sometimes I guess one of us might acquire one we didn’t care too much for, but for the most part it was just how we rolled in the Prytania neighborhood.
I personally continued to use nicknames all throughout my life and still do I guess. Whether it was at work, on the golf course or even at home if I’m using one for one of our cats, nicknames are just another little harmless way of helping to keep things interesting and fun.
From Whitey to Tweety Bird to Tweety and to Duck. My nicknames were just part of the journey.
For us kids in the Prytania neighborhood, getting and using nicknames was fun and a right of passage of sorts. They were just terms of endearment for us.
Let me know in the comment section – what was your nickname?