Thursday, March 12, 2009

The A.K.A. Albatross

The thing about nicknames is they are hard to get rid of. I was reminded just this week as Barbie turned 50 and I got a “Dear Barbie” e-mail from my 62-year-old cousin Jim, who was always Jimmy to me.

That doll came out when I was 10. I never even wanted to look like her and certainly never did. But to most everyone in my small town and among all my relatives I would be forever “Barbie” despite the presence of the doll. It’s just hard to unlearn a name you have used for 10 years!

When we were thinking about children’s names, I was determined to pick names that could easily be used in their entirety without a diminutive form. We picked Daniel and Rachel, very Biblical names. In college Daniel decided to become Dan, but that was his choice. Rachel never made any attempt to change her name.

I face this same nickname problem when I correspond with my best friend from childhood, who sometimes comments as FL. She will always be FL to me, not the full version of F she seems to go by these days. Old habits are hard to break!

Did you ever have a nickname? When and how did you leave it behind? Do you find a certain awkwardness in talking to people who knew you “back then”?


Blogger bulletholes said...

Lets see, my mothers mother whom most kids would call "Grandmother" I called her "Big Mama" not because she was big, but because she was mama's mama. she called me 'Mr. Pete" for reasons i do not know because my name is not Pete.

Then in Baseball the Coach called me "Roadrunner" because once I got to first base, I would be stealing home within the next few pitches.
I was just that fast.

Then in Football the Coaches called me "the Phantom" because I wore those big black glasses under my helmet and I never knew where to line up. Sometimes I was so far away from where I should have been that no one knew where I was.

When I was dating a couple girls in the same apartment that I nicknamed "hormone Hall" they nicknamed me "Stevette, the Chef of Love".

Never had one that stuck though.

1:01 PM  
Blogger Fire Byrd said...

I was given a name as a teenager that ryhmes with mine that probably doesn't mean anything in America.
Most people dropped the y of the end of my name when I was young. My Dad used to call me loulabelle and my Mum, Lou, even though it's my second name.Only my best friend in Philly calls me Lou now.
And no-one is ever allowed to call me by my full name of Amanda as I associate it with being yelled at when I was at school.
Nowadays I'm either called Mandy or mand. And by some blog people Pix after my first blog persona

1:21 PM  
Blogger Kate said...

I was born Katherine but my family as I was growing up (mother, father, brother, aunts, cousins, etc.) called me Katie. I was Katie until we moved and I started high school in the new town. I decided that Katie was too kiddy-like and changed my name to Kathy. When I went to college I became Kate and it has been Kate ever since. However, my cousins still call me Katie and if the phone rings and the person says "Hi, Kathy" I always know it is someone from high school. Kate suits me and I am glad I got rid of the Kathy! She was fat and I never really understood her. :) Kate it is and "Kate" suits me, I think.

1:27 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Bulletholes -- You would be a fun one to nickname. I had a friend who called her grandmother Big Mama. I always thought that was pretty cool. It seems southern to me.

Fire Byrd -- You seem perfectly well adjusted to your various names. Mandy always seemed like such a popular girl name to me. But then I like Lou a lot too.

Kate -- You will forever be Kate to me. Such a no-nonsense name. Katie and Kathy just have to be someone else.

2:15 PM  
Blogger Steve said...

We're not really nickname people in my family. Everyone calls me Stephen. Only to my friends am I Steve.

I called my parents "Grandmother" and "Grandfather." My mother called her parents "father" and "mother." You see how disciplined we were in this regard.

I've been getting away with a lot, frankly, by calling my parents "Mom" and "Dad."

4:09 PM  
Blogger Steve said...

Oooh, sorry, I called my GRANDparents "grandmother" and "grandfather."

Calling my parents that would not have gone over well.

4:10 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Steve (Can I call you that? :)) -- It does sound like your family went to the other extreme!

For some reason my father called me Barb. It was fine for him to do so, but I wouldn't allow anyone else to call me that! I think he basically didn't like to use any more syllables to communicate than was absolutely necessary.

4:56 PM  
Blogger Terry said...

My given name is Teresa, but I have been Terry since the day I was born. However I have always and continue to use Teresa in all school and official situations and all legal documents list me as Teresa. I have no problem switching from one name to the other and find it helpful when someone calls on the phone. If they ask for Teresa I know it is probably a sales call. If they ask for Terry it is a friend. My Dad called me "Slim" when I was a skinny little kid. I grew out of that nickname, very literally.

6:53 PM  
Blogger Cyndy said...

Anyone associated with my mother calls me Cynthia - so that means all of my relatives and all of her friends. Sometimes they'd call me Cynth around the house. In school people started calling me Cindy and it seemed like it was easier to just go with it. And I enjoyed the notion that I was a different person when I was out of my house. When I was 14 I changed the spelling to Cyndy because my friend Cathie changed hers to Cathe. And I just left it at that.

7:08 PM  
Blogger LiLu said...

I always WANTED a nickname, but never got one... I even tried to "dub" myself with one when I got to college, and it still didn't stick. I think it's something that's just gotta happen naturally.

7:28 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Terry -- Like you, for me it was going to school that introduced me to my "real" name. I was able to make the separation quite easily back then, but when I went away to college my nickname went into disuse.

Cyndy -- I think it's cool that you came up with an alternate spelling. It looks good on a musical program!

LiLu -- Maybe your readers can come up with a nickname for you! I'm assuming LiLu is nothing like your real name, although it is a pretty cool name. I've always wondered if it stands for Little Lulu or what! :)

8:23 PM  
Blogger Kellyann Brown said...

"Kelly" is pretty much a nickname to begin with... and as a teenager I went by Kellie,
...and then I went the other way... I went through a very "Russian" time of my life and wanted a more "formal" name, so I went by Kelethra Anastasia and only answered to that. I told my friends that that was my real name... and to this day, my best friend in high school, Martin, calls me "Kelethra" :::smile:::

I know, I was sooooo silly!

Now I am Kelly Brown at school and Kellyann at home. In Colorado, where my family is from, all the women have two names. My mom is Wanda Lee and my sister is Michael Sue. The men only get one name, like Pat, or Garth, or Bayard (some of the men in my family).

So, at home, I'm Kellyann. :::smile:::

I like the thought of you being "Barbie". Personally I love, love, LOVED Barbie dolls.

11:06 PM  
Blogger karen said...

Barbie! i've always had nicknames for some reason. I can tell from which era people know me from,when they are still calling me "Ashkins" (derived from my maiden name), or "Osh Kosh" (simply mad). My sister used to and still sometimes calls me KK, and my mum still has a variety of names she's called us from when we were little! Very sweet! Of course when I was a kid, I always wanted to be called Diana, but it would have been a bit hard to make that one stick!!

4:28 AM  
Blogger karen said...

PS Barbara, there's an award for you on my blog today :)

4:28 AM  
Blogger Pauline said...

My Mama was the only one who called me Pauline as a child. I disliked the name and in grammar school I was sometimes called Paula. In high school we all called each other by our last names. In college I was know as Pooh (as in Winnie-the-) and now my grandchildren call me Memere. In fact, everyone in their family - son, daughter-in-law - as well as all their friends and their friends' children call me Memere. My sisters simply call me P.

7:05 AM  
Blogger mouse (aka kimy) said...

kim is easy to diminutize....and thus, as a child & teen, i did have an assortment of nicknames (although I didn't embrace any)

I have two girlfriends who always call me kimmy, and because I love them I let them get away with it...and my dad still occasionally calls me kimikins

what I hate is if people call me given (middle) name is kim - not kimberly....

way too much information, but you asked for it! xxxmouse

8:51 AM  
Blogger bozoette said...

I never really had a nickname, but the nuns used my first and middle names in combination -- there was always at least 8 "Marys" in any given class so it was the only way to distinguish us. However, my Pop nicknamed everyone except us kids -- cousins, friends, boyfriends -- and that has caused some amusement. My cousin John, for example, will always be knows as "Buncie" to the family.

2:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I and my two brothers called my parents "Mom" and "Pa," and my father even referred to our mother as "Ma." Very old-fashioned (and impersonal). I am known as a "namer" -- if I go camping, I end up naming the tree by the fire ring, the bluff across the canyon, the faint trail winding down to the creek, etc. Both of my ancient vehicles have names. My two dogs had a zillion nicknames apiece, as did my former spouse, and to a lesser extent, my current partner. I think it's all a way of expressing my love and connection, and also of making places and beings feel like "home." My name is prone to many nicknames, and I enjoy them all.


2:23 AM  
Blogger Avid Reader said...

I never minded nicknames at all-- but then I never had painful ones. They were all sweet or easily ignored.

11:48 AM  

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