Nicknames Used to be More Interesting!

When I was  growing up there were all sorts of nicknames — and no one had ever heard the term “politically correct,”  so they weren’t all  particularly flattering.

The ones that first come to mind are the ones that keyed off of some characteristic of the person.  I’m thinking of ones like Red, Curly, Shorty,Tubby, Slim, Fats, Gimpy, Blackie, Happy, Freckles and Blondie.

Others interesting ones I can think of were Spike, Slick, Bub, Birdie, Digger, Dub, Gonzo, Boots, Howdy and Dude.

Some of the men and boys in my own family had some interesting nicknames.  Mama’s brother was named Ira, but I grew up knowing him as Uncle Spuds.  I can only assume that moniker came from some event in his childhood involving potatoes.  Uncle Spuds then named his son Ira, Jr., but the son was always called Junior.  If it was such a great name, wouldn’t you think at least one of them would have insisted the family call him that?

One time when one of my sisters was flying somewhere, she was making conversation with the man in the seat next to her.  He mentioned that he worked for a large insurance company in California.  Sis said, “Really, well my uncle works there too.  Do you know Ira B.?”  Why, yes, he did know Ira.  When they began to leave the plane, Sis said to her seat mate, “Next time you see my uncle, call him Spuds, and see what he says.”  A few days later Sis got a call from Uncle Spuds.  He said the man she had met had, in fact, called him Spuds, and he was shocked to hear that family nickname used by one of his co-workers.   He immediately asked the man, “Which one of my relatives have you been talking to!”  His family nickname had followed him all the way to California.

I had a cousin named Glenn, who was called Buster.  He was a contemporary of my older siblings, so I didn’t know him as a child, but I’ve been told that he was a cute little chubby boy with curly black hair, who had an unfortunate way of regularly making bigger kids mad.  It was also unfortunate that Buster, as Mama described it, “ran like a sewing machine needle — all up and down!”

A favorite “Buster” story goes like this.  One day after school, he was walking home with my brother and sisters and angered (as usual) some bigger boys who started chasing him.  Mama said she looked out the kitchen window and saw my siblings all standing at the edge of the yard, looking down the alley, yelling “Run, Buster! Run, Buster!,”  encouraging Buster on as he inefficently churned out the last few feet into the yard.  Buster would be safe if he could just reach the yard, because Mama was well known in the neighborhood as a strict disciplinarian (no matter whose kid was involved) and the older boys would have been fearful of incurring the “wrath of Mama” by stepping onto her turf!  So Buster did make it to safety.

Buster must have gotten better at either not angering the older boys, or at running, because he did live to be an adult, who we always called Buster.  When I knew Buster he was a teenager and he was such a nice person, so it was hard for me to see him as the not very fast, routinely-made-older-boys-made little boy described in the story.

Another way of individualizing names is by calling people by two names and this seems to be more prevalent in certain parts of the country, or certain families, like mine.  I had sisters, cousins and friends of sisters and cousins who were ALWAYS called by two names, for example, Betty Rose, Jean Marie, Martha Lou, Cora Lee and Jimmy Sue.  And I had a childhood friend who was always called Phoebe Ann.

There was one elderly lady in our family, who I’m pretty sure I never met because she lived way out in California, but my parents always referred to her as Cousin Bertha.  When I was little, I thought Cousin was her first name.  I have no idea whose cousin she was, but she must have been related to us in a cousin-ly way somehow!

There were two famous people in the early 1900’s with the nickname of “Babe”.  Of course, you’ve heard of the star baseball player, Babe Ruth, but not quite as well known was a woman golfing champion named “Babe” Diedrickson.

And finally, my all-time favorite nickname was in a radio show that we used to listen to in the evenings (way before TV).  The show was called Fibber McGee and Molly.  Remember, you were just listening to this show — no pictures, except the ones you imagined in your head.  One of the on-going jokes on this program was that whenever Fibber McGee had to get something out of the closet, when he opened it you heard lots and lots of stuff falling out and falling out and falling out.  That joke may sound a little lame now, but we were much more easily entertained back then.  Anyway, I am just assuming that Fibber was a nickname.  But if in fact it was a given name, it just boggles the mind to think what a child named Fibber’s siblings might have been named!

Now in the days of political correctness you wouldn’t dare call people by some nicknames that we used to hear.  Who knows — if you called someone “Spuds” now, you might be sued for somehow infringing on the rights of the “legitimate” potatoes!

Those were simpler times, with more interesting nicknames.

13 Responses to Nicknames Used to be More Interesting!

  1. When I was a little girl, my nickname was Betsy. Then the Betsy Wetsy doll made a big splash on the toy scene. I begged my mother to change my nickname but she thought Elizabeth was too much for a five-year-old. I hung on to “Betsy” until I landed my first corporate job in New York City. Then “Betsy” didn’t sound right and I’ve been Elizabeth ever since.

    My sister (we grew up in Texas) has a nickname for my son Spencer. In fact she calls it his Texan name: Spencer Bob.

    Thanks for sharing your great web site.
    Cheers,
    Elizabeth

  2. Mama Zen says:

    I had never thought about it, but it’s true!

  3. Betty Rose says:

    I met Cousin Bertha many times. She lived in California with her father Uncle Green. They were cousins of Mom’s. Uncle Green always asked for “teapot tea” which was simply hot water to which he added milk and sugar! Their last name was Farris. Green was his first name. What were his parents thinking? Cousin Bertha was an old maid until Uncle Green died, then,at age 60 she got married!

  4. Sandra says:

    That is sooo interesting, Betty Rose! If I had heard all of that, I had forgotten. I’m so glad you told these interesting facts about one of our distant relatives!

  5. ElleBee says:

    Love this post. My mom was Mary Beth growing up, but as an adult, she dropped the middle name, and hates it to this day. On a distantly related note, with all of the PC going on, my University mascot fell victim. We were the Miami Redskins, as a tribute to our namesake, the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma. When the name suggestions were in process, several smart-alek (and very miffed) alums suggested the “Spuds”, alluding to redskin potatoes. The school ended up choosing RedHawks, but many alumni (myself included) are still loyal to our beloved Redskins! :)

  6. Sandra says:

    ElleBee — That story about “Redskins” suddenly being inappropriate, just makes you shake your head and say, “What are they thinking?!” PC sometimes gets wayyyyy out of control!

  7. [...] Monday, July 6 — Nicknames used to be soooo much more interesting.  I talk about that here. [...]

  8. Helen G. says:

    Spud was one of my nicknames in highschool, as was Goose. I had friends with great nicknames like Skeeter ’cause she wasn’t any bigger than one, Tootie, for reasons of being a gassy child and I call my brother Bro and my cousin Cuz… probably could think of more, but I won’t take up all your space. And I loved Fibber McGee and Molly and it’s great to ‘meet’ someone that’s not only heard of them, but heard them on the radio, too.

    Thanks for stopping by my little corner of the blog world. I don’t know how to know when folks comment on past posts except to go back and check them every now and then. I didn’t mean to be rude and not say hi earlier.

    Thanks again for the fun post.

    Helen G.

  9. Sandra says:

    Helen — I’m glad you enjoyed this post. I don’t know if it’s the same for you, but I can click on my dashboard and see a list of comments, just FYI! Thanks for visiting! :)

  10. [...] I was looking back through some of my old posts the other day.  When I came to this one, Nicknames Used to be More Interesting, I was intrigued all over again (with a bad memory “all things are new again”) by the [...]

  11. Frosty says:

    I think out of all my friends I have the most interesting nickname and only one friend calls me by it. I think after that the most interesting nicknames out of my group are The Bouncer and The Bodyguard. There are these two really tall guys who hang out with us and whenever we get chased by other people we hide behind them.
    Then we have Butler, which is really just his last name XD. After that it’s boring stuff like Morgi and Issy and whatnot.

  12. Sandra says:

    Frosty –That may be the most interesting group of nicknames I’ve ever heard! Thanks for telling me about them. :)

  13. סעיף 46 says:

    סעיף 46…

    [...]Nicknames Used to be More Interesting! « Add Humor and Faith….mix well[...]…

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