Whatever Happened to Good Nicknames?

I’m sorry, but Bubba doesn’t count. Why? Because there are too many of them.

Besides, in many cases, I think Bubba is a polite term for Yokel, Gomer, Goober, or Red Neck.

The nicknames I’m referring to are the ones that were given after careful thought and months of observing the behavior of the recipient of the nickname. While this is not always the case – some of the best nicknames resulted from a younger sibling’s inability to properly say a name – the most unusual nicknames seem to result from time honored traditions that began with the Native Americans.

A child should be given a name that is meaningful. In today’s culture, the name must be bestowed shortly after the child’s birth to enable to government to issue a Social Security number. Is it just a matter of time before a bar code is tattooed to some part of the infant’s anatomy?

One of the boys in my Crafton Heights neighborhood was nicknamed “Bambi” because he ran like a deer. There would’ve been no way to know that he possessed that trait at his birth. Thus, he was given some meaningless name such as James.

One of the best and earliest nicknames I heard as a young boy was “Biff”. This was long before the “Back to the Future” movie. Biff Bracey was the last little boy I remember who wore knickers. Lo and behold, Biff’s parents must have had some real insight. Biff is not a nickname; it is his given name! He went on to become a star athlete at Duke University.

Fatty, Tubby, Lardo are nicknames that were bestowed to people I knew as a child. Obviously, those nicknames were not given out of kindness nor respect.

However, “Antoine Obtuse” was definitely given out of friendship – although the recipient may not have seen it that way. Antoine was the given name for “Fats” Domino. And, yes, our friend was a bit on the chubby side. Or, were we all on the extremely skinny side?

In any case, besides being hefty, our friend was the opposite of pigeon toed. His feet seemed to be always at an obtuse angle. Thus the nickname.

In high school, we also had a “Moose”, an “Alka-Bong”, a “Nellie Bell”, and a “Horse-face.” Of course we also had our fair share of Chips, Buckies, Skips, and Sonnies.

In college, I met my first “Kink”. His father called him “Stinky” and his little brother had trouble pronouncing ‘s’. It was similar to the boy who grew up next door to us. His father called him “Billy” and his brother called him “Bibby”. Naturally, the “Bibby” is what stuck.

College also introduced me to “Spider”. His claim to fame was the ability to stretch out across narrow corridors and, with his feet on one wall and his hands on the opposite wall, walk up the wall. His favorite game was to get above doorways and reach down to knock on a door. Naturally, when the door was opened, it appeared that no one was there.

While “Red” was the obvious nickname for red-haired boys and men, in college I met my first red-head named “Peaches”. Come to think of it, there was a second “Peaches” at Edinboro State College, but his hair was dark brown. There had to be a good story there, but I failed to delve into it.

Other nicknames included “Turtle”, “Serpent”, “Punch”, “Dutch”, “Noke”, and “Tweety”. Could you have guessed that “Tweety” was a biology major who resembled Mr. Peepers?

In case you’re wondering, yes, I had a nickname. In fact, as a teen, I longed to have a nickname. People tried calling me “Slim” – I was less than 150 pounds at the time – but I didn’t care for that one. Others called me “Curly”, but that sounded too much like a Stooge. So I continued through high school being called simply “Jim”.

Of course, to my family, I’ve always been “Jimmie”. In truth, that helps me identify anyone I haven’t seen in ages. If they call me Jim, I probably know them from high school.

College was a different story. It was less than a month into my freshman year when someone suggested that I slept like a log. That was all it took. From then on, I’ve been known as Log.

With a nickname like that, I became fairly well known on campus. In fact, every once in a while I’ll run into someone who attended Edinboro while I was there. If they recognize me and start to introduce me to their friends, inevitably they’ll say, “Log, what’s your real name?”

Now, that’s a good nickname. At least I think so.


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