I am a Nickname Jerk

Coble has a name. I don’t call her it. Coble’s husband has a name, the defining part of which he brought into the marriage and yet, to me, it’s Coble and Coble’s husband. Not for great feminist reasons, but because I’m a midwesterner and in my culture, when you like someone and kind of like their swagger, you call them by their last name as a term of endearment.

Unless you’re a gym teacher, then you just call everyone by their last names.

But the Professor. She introduces herself, “Hi, I’m the Professor.” Everyone calls her “The Professor.” I call her “Proffy.” And I cringe when I do it, but I still can’t break myself of it.

Tonight, I found out that the Butcher, who I have obviously known since he was a suckling babe, whose pee I failed to wipe off the ceiling when we were both children, who my other brother and I wanted to name Bubbles when we thought he was going to be a girl, would much rather be called by his full name. Basically, he would like to be The Butcheropolis… No, that’s not long enough to give you the flavor of what he wants, because “the Butcher” is longer than his actual name. If we’re keeping it proportional, he would rather be called The Mega Monster Butcheropolisapocalypse, which is how he introduces himself, and then everyone proceeds to call him “The Butcher.”

I never knew this. But my insistence on calling him “The Butcher” has, apparently, contributed to an atmosphere where no one seriously ever calls him The Mega Monster Butcheropolisapocalypse. And I feel bad about that.

But not bad enough that I’m going to be able to break myself of it.


30 thoughts on “I am a Nickname Jerk

  1. I’ve always preferred to go by Samantha, ever since I was almost too little to pronounce it correctly myself, but when I was ten I had a softball coach who seemed to hate me and started calling me “Sam” against my protests. The more I protested, the more he referred to me specifically by “Sam.”

    Because I started school in the midwest (where the custom is to start school at age 5, as opposed to 6) and had a late summer birthday, most of my native-Southerner teammates were a year behind me in school, so this “Sam”-ing didn’t bleed over to school for another year or two. But, eventually, the kids at school were calling me “Sam” because my softball teammates did.

    I thought I was free of this at college – until the two people from my high school who went to the same college saw me standing in front of the University Center with the woman who would later become my maid of honor and referred to me as “Sam.” She and I were in the same honors program, so soon the whole honors program was calling me “Sam.” This included a few members of the fraternity that the man who would become my husband belonged to, so, yeah.

    All that to say, I feel the Butcheropolis’s pain.

    And my husband admits that, while he always refers to me as “Samantha” when speaking to me, sometimes he says “Sam” with our friends.

  2. I’m so sorry you cringe. It’s perfectly okay with me. It’s only odd for you because we’re in Nashville. Most everywhere else you’re in the majority. And so I kinda like it because it feels the right kind of intimate.

    While I definitely think we should respect what people asked to be called, I have always known (at least through my own experiences) that our names aren’t entirely our own.

  3. TheBoyfriend™ has a name with a long version and a short version. He prefers the long version, but I call him by the short version, which means most of the people we meet start calling him by the short version too.

  4. Samantha, I remember I called you “Sam” once by accident, because I am the nickname jerk, and the look on your face was such that I wanted to immediately rewind time and take it back.

    Professor, I know you don’t mind, but I still have been trying to be better about making sure to call you “Professor” in front of your colleagues, even if you’re always “Proffy” otherwise.

    Dolphin, he and The Butcher and Samantha may need to form a support group.

  5. I was supposed to be called “Elizabeth” – which is actually my middle name, but my older brother screwed that up: he was 2 1/2 at the time and couldn’t say “Elizabeth” – it came out as “Libet” — my mother’s favorite book was Little Women so “Beth” it became. But yeah, I kind of envy Elizabeth Taylor – I like the formality of “Elizabeth” — but of course with that some asshole would call me Liz and I really hate that nickname.

    There exist three people on this earth who can get away with calling me “Bethy” — and yes, they are all men.

  6. I rarely notice whether people call me by the long or short version of my name, but when someone asks I request Wopolois rather than W.

    My children on the other hand…. both have non ‘aden’ names with the potential for shortening. We’ve always used the short versions so they barely recognize the long versions now that they are three. My son gets really annoyed if you call him by his actual full name.

  7. I figure, over the course of our lives, I’d probably end up wasting hours saying two extra syllables every time I said his name!

  8. Heh! I am a whole paragraph! Yay! :)

    But can I just say right now that I’m kind of a nickname jerk too? At least where the Butcher is concerned.

    Because to me his real name sounds tough and manly and like the kind of fellow who you could play cards with, drink with, carouse with and raise a barn with.

    But his real long-form name sounds like an odd combination of a Dickensian pawnbroker and a monk at a rapidly dying monastery which refuses to embrace the changing times. The fact that it ends in an ontomontopaeia (SP!?!?!?!!) seals the deal for me in that were I he I would prefer to be Butcher instead of Butchercopperfieldwoof.

  9. I am also a nickname jerk. A girl in college wanted to be called Mickey because she was a gigantic Mickey Mouse fanatic.

    Yes, in college. At age 18.

    I called her Emily. I didn’t care for self-imposed nicknames.

  10. If you call Stephanie the word Steffy, she will snarl. Steph or Step is fine, but Steffy means that who calls her that name is dead to her.

  11. I have found that college freshman girls frequently take new names, or at least try to.

    Often this is done to jettison a hated childhood nickname. Katie tried to become Catherine, but that backfired, because her new friends immediately shortened it to Cat. My mother still regrets not turning Judy back into Judith when she had the chance.

    Several girls I knew my freshman year decided to start going by their middle names. Gayle became Elizabeth (which we shortened to Liz, which she hated more than Gayle). Ivey became Lloyd. Jennifer became Owen.

    As for me, my brother and my husband call me Kris, as do a small handful of people who knew me in my rock ‘n’ roll years. The only person permitted to call me Krissy is my 95-year-old grandmother.

  12. My name is un-nicknamable in English. A couple of times a guy (it’s always been a guy, usually one who liked me but maybe not quite that much … weird) has tried to nickname me by foreignizing it a bit. But they always mispronounced the foreign version, so it never stuck. Except for one time when a foreign language tutor decided that my name was useful for demonstrating the declension of possesives. That was linguistically correct, but got him a lot of odd looks from the other students.

  13. You don’t know me from Moses, but I lurk a lot, and never, never comment…until now: I am so very curious as to what the Butcher’s real name is, from all the attempts to describe without giving it away. My imagination is working overtime now!

    I am one of the rare Elizabeths that actually prefers Liz for no particular reason.

  14. Kristin, you are the least “Kris” person I think I’ve ever met. I’m having a hard time reconciling the knowledge that anyone could call you that. Literally, it would be easier for me to see how your brother and husband might call you Beaufort.

    Welcome, Liz. He has the same name as that cartoon Simpson kid. He would prefer to be called the disciple’s name. But considering that people can’t spell it or pronounce it, he’s got an uphill battle.

  15. I would never call Kristin “Kris” for fear of her refusing to answer me. Plus it would just get confusing, considering her household. The ending syllables are important to use around there.

  16. The ending syllables are important to use around there.

    Indeed, which is why I refer to Kristin as “K” (not a nickname!) and her husband as “C”

  17. The friend who introduced us addresses correspondence collectively to CK1. Heh.

    There was a point when more people in town knew me as Kris Whyte than by my legal names. That was the pen name/radio handle. Much easier to spell and pronounce.

    …although, on reflection, few of them ever just called me Kris. They always said Kris Whyte. Kinda like Mary Ann, only not at all.

  18. I relentlessly and unfailingly correct people who call me Liz. One has to earn Lizbet or other diminutive rights, mostly. I cannot tell you how many times people trying to get something out of me shorten my name, a subtle power play I won’t tolerate. I deserve all four of my syllables, by God.

  19. Several girls I knew my freshman year decided to start going by their middle names.

    I did that, quite successfully (I tried unsuccessfully to switch to initials in HS but of course too many of my HS friends had known me by my first name too long for anything new to stick). Ironically, the main reason I did so is because my first name is fairly common while my middle name was exceedingly rare. However thanks to a certain quasi-celebrity among my generation who’s first name is the same as my middle, I’m now somewhat frequently hearing my name called, only to turn and find some mother fussing at her three year old. Oh well, I still feel that my middle “fits” me better than my first.

  20. I have my dad’s habit of making up nicknames for everyone, usually something very specific to them. I also call people “Slick,” “Hoss,” “Shug” and “Precious” when I can’t think of their names. (That is both rural and Southern, I believe. We can’t stand not to use an endearment of some sort.)

    I think that Kristin W is the only person I have ever known for whom I have NOT had some sort of a nickname.

    Wait. I do have a nickname for her, but it’s not a diminutive of her given name. The thought of calling her “Kris” just … no. Can’t do it, even though I know it was her nom de plume.

    I do call her “Whiptoesie,” however, courtesy of a horribly addressed envelope that made us laugh for about six months and which she may still have somewhere. She has not yet slapped me, but that is because she is an inherently classy individual.

    I guess that’s *related* to your calling folks by their last names as a term of endearment, B, although I don’t think it’s strictly Midwestern. One of my exes and I called each other by our last names, and we were both born here. (Used to freak people out, though. So we’d just say “Mulder” and “Scully” and make it worse, har.)

    I knew an Elizabeth who allowed no one but her husband to call her “Beth.” If you were a very good friend, you got to say “Liz.” Otherwise it was “Ms. X.” I have a Samantha and an (another name) in my life whose parents refused to let their names be shortened, even by family, which I always thought was more than just a bit pretentious, but whatever.

    I still have people who call me by my given name and an incorrect middle name, as a nickname, because of a former colleague who made up the craziest nicknames for everyone he met. It still makes me laugh. I can’t remember what he called Whiptoesie, though. And by “called,” I mean “bellowed across the room or sang loudly.” ;oD

  21. This is off topic but not, but the way I nickname people is for snark. People on twitter know my downstairs neighbor is “CrazySherry” – a guy I dated for a hot minute years ago is “Guitar Boy” – the couple down the street who bought a cat stroller are, you guessed it, “The Cat Strollers”

    Please tell me I’m not the only a**hole that does this.

  22. Beth: there was a girl at the studio I called “Mensa.” Obviously not to her face. And obviously not for her intellect.

  23. When I was in college, one of our favorite drinking holes had the most boring & unenthusiastic bartender – his nickname: “Old Quaalude”

    Then there was the women that used to come to the office for social hour each week – she would trap someone each time & bore that person with her stories about her “wannabe” life as a musician: We dubbed her “Buzzkill”

    I could write a book.

  24. Thanks Aunt B – nowhere near what I was imagining (some sort of old Norse-Pict mashup). I’ve always really liked that name, but the last syllable as onomatopoeia is cracking me up!

  25. Y’all are cracking me up. I could listen to nickname discussions all day.

    Liz, I wish he had some kind of Old Norse-Pict mashup name! My dad had to make up a song to teach my other brother and me how to spell the Butcher’s name. You know you’ve given your kid a ridiculous name when you have to teach your other kids a song so they can learn to spell it.

  26. The South shares the last name thing equally with the Midwesterners, though maybe just a little bit differently. Very common for the last name thing with guys (guys to guys or girls to guys), not quite as common with girls & their last names but it does exist.

    It’s a term of endearment as well – if you’re a girl and getting called by your last name by guys (and some girls though not as common) it definitely IS a term of endearment. Not so much when referring to guys, and it’s occurred to me before that it is kind of strange that there really was no criteria as to why some guys among my male friends from high school generally got called by their last names while others never did.

    And then there were the two guys in my class who had the exact same first and last names – one of whom was referred to as (last name) or Michael D., and the other referred to as Big Mike, to differentiate the two.

    Another unwritten exception to the rule – even if 99.99% of everyone else generally called a guy by his last name, if you’re a girl and you’re flirting/dating/going with that particular guy, you don’t call him by his last name anymore – and in fact I was specifically asked NOT to when that happened, heh.

    (Well, unless he’s not around & you’re talking about him to others, which became a necessity when talking about then-MY Chris, who was best friends with another Chris… but if my at-the-time Chris had ever heard me refer to him by last name after we started dating, I’d have been in trouble.

    To this day, though, when talking with folks from that group of friends/classmates, I still always refer to one as Chris and the other by his last name and no matter whether I’m talking about one or bother of them, everyone knows which one I mean. In fact I’m pretty sure I’m right that myself and the other girls that were girlfriends at one time or another are probably the ONLY people in the entire county who don’t refer to him by last name.)

    It’s probably mostly a small town thing here in the South. I noticed recently that my 68 year old mother still refers to some of the guys she grew up with by last name only and others first only, too, same as me.

    But the slightly (a bit) larger town I originally grew up and that I live in now – not so much.

    Pretty much anyone that ever calls me by last name is (A) from that smaller town and (B) has known me since I was 15 at least and (C) is probably a guy. Same with a two-word nickname that’s a play on both my first and middle name… with the exceptions being they might have been from a bunch of guys I hung around with most of college days. Or they’re the wives of the high-school era guys.

  27. “…no matter whether I’m talking about one or bother of them….”

    I meant “BOTH of them” of course, wow, I can’t type & think at the same time today. Ugh. Must be the heat…

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