Wednesday, December 1, 2004


Sometimes when Mrs. Linklater doesn't have much to say, she reaches back into the archives and steals a subject from the past. Take nicknames, for instance. Mrs. Linklater may have mentioned some of hers at other times, but she’s never delved into the larger, wider, deeper meanings of such names. Probably because there aren’t any.

But in an attempt to put lipstick on this pig [NOTE: This is the third entry where Mrs. Linklater has been reduced to using this metaphor, but it is one she has become attached to, okay?] – let us ask ourselves, what is in a name? 

How about everything and nothing.

While not entirely PC, Mrs. Linklater thinks it is possible for your given name to divulge your family’s ethnic origin, your socio-economic class, and hint at your religion, among other things. For instance, take the name Kellogg Fairbank, III – a white Harvard educated WASP or street basketball player? You be the judge. 

There are notable exceptions of course.  Like her daughter’s high school friend, Sean Kaplan. What does his name reveal? Confusion perhaps. And there's the Sheehan family, who have spent three generations among Irish Americans, even though their family name was Shaheen when they arrived at Ellis Island fifty years ago. You can't cubbyhole everybody.

And who can forget the bizarre attempt by AOL to disguise the country of origin, but not the accents, of all those tech folks from India with names like Keith, Joe, Tom, and Bill.

Mrs. Linklater also thinks your name may even suggest how popular you were in high school, what sports you played. It could predict your future income. And who knows, until we have the definitive studies paid for by a pharmaceutical company to confirm it, we may discover your name might even affect your height, weight, and voting record. 

And yet, in the end, your name reveals nothing about the real YOU. That certain je ne sais quoi that makes the YOU that’s YOU whatever it is YOU are. That’s what  nicknames are all about. Peeling back the layers to reveal the inner persona.

While we’re at it, Mrs. Linklater will not give a moment’s time to nicknames that are mean or cruel.  Like Fatso, Dummy, Four Eyes – you know the ones.  Those kinds of names and the people who use them are not worth her time.

However, Mrs. Linklater is also not talking about the nicknames that are shortened versions of given names – like Tim for Timothy, Bob for Robert or Betsy for Elizabeth. These don’t count as REAL nicknames. They are generics, assigned to you at birth when you took on your formal name, which is usually too long for daily use.  The abridged version was designed to get you through grade school with a minimum of notice.  Nothing worse than a birth name that draws too much attention. 

Generic nicknames reveal nothing except a complete lack of imagination. Dave for David.  YAWN. Sue for Susan.  SNORE. Terry for Terrence or Theresa.  ZONK.

And don’t be fooled by disguises either. Buffy, for instance, is another nickname for Elizabeth that may appear more imaginative at first. The name seems to be predominant in families where young siblings pronounce Elizabeth as Elizabuff and thus, the origin. 

However, those of us who have known Buffys would probably agree that it also screams WASPY boarding school debutante. At least among the Buffys Mrs. Linklater has known. And loved. 

So for a nickname to pass the quality test, it can’t represent an obvious stereotype. If it does, then once again, sad to say, that particular nickname, while useful, even accurate, lacks the piece de resistance of a quality nickname – imagination, creativity, and originality.  

Chris Berman, the anchor from ESPN, is renowned for the nicknames he makes up for athletes, particularly baseball players. But his names, as creative and original as they are, don’t stick. First because they're usually way too long. Like Eddie "eat, drink, and be" Murray, Roberto "Remember the" Alomar, and Jose "can you see" Canseco.
Short and to the point is essential. Like these famous nicknames which need no introduction: Flo Jo, Air, Catfish, Say Hey Kid, Dr. J, The Mailman, Boom-Boom, Big Unit, Joltin' Joe, The Golden Bear, Tiger, The Fridge, Da Coach, Babe, etc.

Secondly, Berman’s nicknames are just his plays on words, not a real reflection of something about the person.

A rule of thumb for those seeking a nickname – play a sport and you’ll get one. After all, there aren’t many astrophysicists with memorable nicknames that Mrs. Linklater can recall – although if there were an astrophysicist section of the newspaper, with writers who could make their careers writing about them, maybe there would be.

Some names are so unusual they are already nicknames. I know a woman whose first name is Eway.  She doesn’t need a nickname.  She got the two for one special. Except her name is so special it almost crosses the line into names you don’t want to get stuck with.

But let’s get to the point of all this – Mrs. Linklater’s nicknames. The fact that she has more than one may suggest she is a nickname magnet, a rare, though not terminal, affliction.

She gave herself her first nickname, writing Moose on a sweatshirt at camp in eighth grade. For some reason, Mrs. Linklater had not looked into a mirror up to that point. At thirteen, she was 5’8” and 105 pounds, so Moose was not going to stick.  But, a few months later as a 5’9” still 105-pound high school freshman, the nickname “Stick” stuck.  Like glue. 

Followed by “Dunker” a moniker bestowed on Mrs. Linklater by two members of the boys varsity basketball team, who weren’t much taller than she. 

When Mrs. Linklater reached six feet her by her senior year, two more nicknames -- Long Sam, after a tall, female, backwoodsy character in the comics, and Road Runner, after the Road Runner -- were added to her lexicon. Unfortunately, the origins of these two have faded with time. Only their indelible memory remains.

Freshman year at college is always ripe for new nicknames. Mrs. Linklater was less fortunate, however, when she arrived on campus. Not a day had passed before she heard someone call her STICKS.  Is there an echo in here?  Someone added an “S” to stick. Big whup.   

Based on Mrs. Linklater’s own rules for quality control, Stick or Sticks, was so obvious and unoriginal it shouldn’t have counted as a nickname.

It may be worth noting at this point that all of Mrs. Linklater’s nicknames have been attached to her by males except one.  So a long time ago, she decided that this was a good thing.  Even when it could be argued there was evidence to the contrary.

So where were we. Oh, yes, the college nicknames.  Somewhere between freshman and sophomore year she picked up Olive Oyl.  That name was given to her by a college basketball player who was later profiled in Sports Illustrated, not for the success he enjoyed in the pros, but for his stunning failure.  But she got a nickname out of knowing him.

After college one of her softball coaches started calling her Stretch. Boring, unoriginal, unimaginative, etc., but it stuck for the season. And the coach still called her that for years after she left his team.  Probably because he couldn’t remember her name any more.

For some reason, shortly after she got married, Mrs. Linklater’s former husband [emphasis on FORMER] decided to start calling her LURCH. This was a clue that things weren’t going as well as she might have hoped.  It only took her eight years to pull the plug.

Getting married added another nickname – LINK. And it’s cousin MISSING LINK. She still hears “Hey, Link” a lot.  Mainly because nobody knows how to pronounce [or spell] LINKLATER.  Are you ready? LINK. LATER. Two common, ordinary words that make a strange last name. No, it’s not German. It’s Scottish, part of the Stewart clan. There's a place called Linklater in the Orkney Islands. 

Mrs. Linklater’s next nickname was MRS. LINKLATER.  She was dating someone younger – shuddup, it was only six years -- whose friends started calling her Mrs. Linklater, because they thought they were a bunch of comedians.  None of them had ever been married and here she was divorced with kids and all, so it stuck – to this day, she might add.

During the eighties, when Mrs. L began bleaching her hair and wearing it natural – which, in her case, meant very CURLY, she acquired a new nickname – BIG BIRD.  Now the sport was volleyball and one of the players, yet another guy, had anointed her. 

Coincidentally, around this time, she also began seeing a professional athlete who had the same nickname. Come on, that’s weird, admit it. So when someone yelled, “Hey, Big Bird!” two very tall blond people would both turn around. His hair wasn’t as curly, though, which Mrs. Linklater often pointed out.  If you’re going to have the nickname, BE the nickname. Like another one of her former boyfriends, Giant Sequoia Legs.

As nicknames go, Mrs. Linklater was rather fond of Big Bird, which got shortened to Bird from time to time. 

Mrs. Linklater during her Big Bird phase with two nickname-free friends.

With the advent of email and the rise of J-LO, Mrs. Linklater acquired a nickname from a friend that pays tribute to Ms. Lopez and herself simultaneously.  Mrs. Linklater’s initials JEL plus LO.  JEL-LO.  Which soon became JELLO.  That one is still around.

And recently, a new friend named RUTH calls herself ROOT and calls Mrs. Linklater JOOT.  

By the way, Mrs. Linklater has left out any of the sweetums poopsie type nicknames she got from old boyfriends.  Not to mention most of the ones attached to her first name which she doesn’t use here.

So what kind of nicknames do you have? Are you brave enough to reveal them?


mosie1944 said...

I never had a nickname in my life until I got my first AOL account.  My screen name was mo2773.  A group of us in a chat room started getting together for "chat reunions" a couple of times a year, and I became "Mo".  I loved it.  One online friend affectionately calle me "Mosie" which is how I chose this SN when I returned to AOL.

But this reminds me of our local HS basketball games when my kids were teens.  One young man who, although he was only about 5'6", was an excellent basketball player.  His nickname was "Doobie".  I've led a sheltered life, and didn't have a clue that there might be some meaning behind that name.  I'd sit in the bleachers yelling, "Come on, Doobie..." and parents wh were there with the visiting team would give me the strangest looks.  Oh well.

magogos said...

I got Marco Polo alot(My maiden name was Margo Page) and to this day if I am near a pool where kids are playing and the start yelling"Marco" "Polo" I turn looking for school friends from the deep. dark past. Marco,. er I mean Margo

tdain2003 said...

You had me laughing out loud!  I love this entry.  My nicknames both came from my dad ... he calls me 'Evil' to this day.  He said he started calling me that when I was a wee thing because I was so good : )  In church our priest would crack up during the Lord's prayer... every time... when he got to the part, "Deliver us from Evil."  It embarassed me but only my dad calls me that nowadays.  My other nickname that my closest friends and family call me is 'Grace' as in "take a bow, Grace."   I'm a klutz.  If there is something to be tripped over, say a pebble, I do it and break something or need stitches.  I'm still called that today.  Sigh...

ycutellmey said...


Came across your blog today. Good stuff. Very interesting stories.

Thought you might be a college basketball fan. Hoping you could add a blogroll link to my College Basketball Blog, I'd very much appreciate a link on your site.

And would gladly return the favor, adding a link from my site to yours.


Yoni Cohen,
College Basketball Blog

judithheartsong said...

I think the pig looks great in lipstick. I also was tall for my age.... "mean jolly green" and "string bean" were oft used. I had a name that my father called me, but never having seen the cartoon in print I thought it was just "Olive Oil"..... both because of gangliness and my middle name of Olivia. And I loved olives so it worked in all kinds of ways. He also called me "Sunshine" as have many people since. I love that nickname.

Unfortunately, my dear mother always called me Sh*t H&@d........ (no lie) and I hated it. She called me that for years and years, and when my daughter was 8 or 9 she started calling her that too. My daughter promptly told me that other little girls were called Pumpkin or Peaches or Honeybun or some such thing by their grandmas, and that she did not like being called Sh*t H&@d. I called my mother and told her what my daughter had said, and that she should not ever utter the phrase again. I admired the hell out of my daughter for having more self-esteem as a child than I had ever had.

Interesting that my mother is out of my life and my daughter's life now. I had all kinds of endearments for my children.

I had a nickname of Frank in high school due to a sweatshirt my parents brought me back from their trip to San Francisco (Frank's Fishermen Supply)........ I loved it and wore it all the time.

I don't know if I have any nicknames now............... when I walk past Virginia she always says "Great Butt". Does that count???

:):):) judi

salemslot9 said...

"Peeps"...when I was much friend Mary G. was "Jeeps" hamsters were named Peepers and Creepers...anyroad..."Noodlehead" or "Noodles" or "Poodles" brother called me after getting my first and last perm...don't do it...later my ex-boyfriend started calling me "Lil Bo" in Peep..."Hipster" that my hair is super boyfriend "Bulldog" in "Hey"...Beatles...put that one on the red guitar he built.

thisismary said...

You are 6 foot tall --- too?  Wild!  I wish that I could regale you with stories of all the clever nicknames that I have had, alas, not a one.  Mary it was at birth and is still. Sigh.  You don't, by chance, know of a support group for people so astonishingly lackluster that they are destined to slump through life nicknameless?

belfastcowboy75 said...

everybody knows that the Bird is the word

sistercdr said...

My nickname is Bull, from a word play on my maiden name.  Since I've always been a woman of substantial size, when it was first given, it wasn't necessarily done in a cute, friendly way, but I embraced it and transformed it.  It became a positive.

mombzbe said...

I unfortunately, was too boring for a good nickname.  But I have bestowed one on my youngest son that will surely haunt him should he grow into a giant.  "Sugar" is what we call him.  It started the first Christmas after he was born, I called him "my little sugarplum" and it just got shortened to "sugar" and stuck.  He's six now, and I sometimes see him cringe when I holler it at him and we're in public.  And isn't it a Mom's right to occasionally embarrass the kid/s in public?? :)

cneinhorn said...

Love the stories of all your nicknames!  I remember nettie-spaghetti being one of my names (I was also 5'9 in HS) and although everyone was sweaty after a crosscountry race or practice (I ran track and Xcountry) I ended up with the nickname sweatynettie because, well, it rhymed! ;-)  

amy122389 said...

My childhood nickname....was BushHead.  Imagine, if you will, a chubby white kid with glasses and braces...and a 70s Michael Jackson 'fro.  ::shaking my head::  Curses on the beautician....curses on her.... <smirk>

belfastcowboy75 said...

BTW, I reeeaaally like your new picture, but I learn from this entry that you're 3 inches taller than me. Um, want to slow dance?

lcsudler said...

I knew Fairbank - one of the best street basketball players I ever saw.  I sorta expected to see him in the NBA but I understand he never got into college - solid teak between the ears - and now squeaks by hustling points on neighborhood playgrounds to win lunch money from kids who need the nourishment.  What a shame but he was a good athlete....  Ked, the gink.

bejaranogdlp said...

My nicknames additude b/c I talk back to all my teachers and usually gaet in trouble for graffiting so my friends call me graffi. cool...