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Nicknaming Your Friends (For Fun and Revenge)

(I was going to title this “Nicknames:  Another Tool in the Guy’s Arsenal”, but decided it sounded fairly perverse, so I didn’t.)

Jonathan Blarney Perry

I like it when someone gives me a nickname.  At least a good, non-insulting nickname.  Nicknames are for friends and buddies.  They’re cool and kind of endearing.  It’s said that one’s name is one’s most precious possession, so it’s important to mess with those, but only a little.  And really, being the nickname-giver grants you a certain power.  It’s like naming a baby and if the nickname sticks and everyone starts using it, then you’ve really started something.

I was kind of named for my Uncle John, but not really and my mom doesn’t like it when people call me Jon.  She’s weird.

Nicknames I’ve had:

  • Jonny (by family & people who’ve known me since I was little)
  • Jon (by a lot of my friends who don’t know my mom)
  • Donger (High School.  Sounds worse than it is.  Maybe.)
  • Goat (Mostly by Roland & Lenny.  I use it for them, too, and randomly for everyone else.)
  • Jonathanatos & Thanatos (Thanatos is Greek for death.  I took a year of Greek in college.)
  • JonPerryJonPerry (Teri D probably started it)
  • JB (My dad calls me JB.  It was the name of one of his mentors.)
  • Jap (This was in middle school.  Not sure if anyone besides Elizabeth Franks called me Jap.  I had a huge crush on her.)
  • Jack (a nickname I’ve envied, but it’s only been slightly used for me)
  • Jon-dong-athan (by my brothers.  My bro Chris sings a little song when he says this twice.  Kind of cool.)
  • JonnyBear (by my friend Heather.  She’s too cute.)
  • Wookie (Randy in the office calls me this a lot)
  • Jon-Jon (my old friend Jeannine calls me this)

When I visited Taiwan, my friend Roland helped me pick a Chinese-y/Taiwanese-y name, ‘Pan Yuwehan,’ so I could have a rubber stamp made using Chinese script.  It was pretty awesome to see my Chinese nickname in pictograph and perhaps one day I’ll find a use for the stamp, maybe in government work that involves rejection letters to Asia.  At least I didn’t get a tattoo.

Tyson Chicken‘-Besides being a dude thing, giving nicknames is useful as a mnemonic device.  I seem to have a crap memory, so sometimes I’ll give people nicknames so I can remember what the heck to call them.  Recently 2 engineers started working at the office and I found it helpful to call Tyson ‘Tyson Chicken’ and Paul ‘Paul Bunyan’ (Paul is tall, but Tyson is not a chicken, so…).  For years I confused Larry and Gary in another part of the office, though they look nothing alike, and eventually figured out that since Gary has gray hair it was helpful for me to think of him as Gary the Gray (like Gandalf the Grey), but I’ll never actually call him this, since he might not be so keen.  Also ‘gray’ is an anagram for ‘Gary’, so bonus.  Anyway, I no longer confuse them.

Paolo Weisskopf”-Some nicknames are just fun.  I know 2 other Pauls from work, one I call ‘Paolo’ or ‘Paulina’ (at some personal risk to myself), and the other is a former supervisor who’s now retired, Paul Whitehead.  For Paul Whitehead I came up with ‘Paolo Weisskopf’.  ‘Paolo’ is a Portuguese name and ‘Weisskopf’ is a German rendering of Whitehead.  This made me think of Nazis who escaped to South America (Brazil in this case) and gave their children mixed language names.  I never called Paul this (that’s a shame) and certainly never meant anything bad by it, but thought it was awesome and should’ve been widely and obnoxiously used.

Stinger‘-One of the techs I work with is Brian Walker, who I refer to as Brian Walker ‘Texas Ranger’.  He always wears a cowboy hat.  I just found out that another tech, Bob, has been called ‘Boonie’ for 32 years by the other techs because he lives way out in the Boonies.  This is useful since it can be rhymed with Goonie, loony, and Clooney.  Maybe ‘Debbie Boonie’.  Bill has been called ‘Stinger’ since he got into a nest of yellow jackets and had to visit the ER because of a bad reaction.  I’ve called my college friend Allison ‘Allisonogram’, Pat ‘Patapan’, and Sue ‘Sousaphone’, but they ignore me, which is probably best.  Usually anyone I know named Scott becomes ‘Scotland’ or ‘Great Scott!’.

DJ Mice-K‘-My buddy Randy at work (he calls me ‘Wookie’) admitted he was called ‘Nerd’ a lot growing up, but now is known as ‘Wizzer’ (not Wizard), because of his great betting and gambling prowess.  I asked around and learned Dave Micek was called ‘Meats’ (for Micek) and Matt was called ‘Bones’ because he’s very tall and thin.  Great names, but they could use some fresh stuff.  For Dave Micek, I’m pushing the name ‘DJ Mice-K’.  It’s only mostly stupid.

Hildegard‘-Randy mentioned picking out the Catholic confirmation name ‘Francis’ when he was a kid.  When I discovered the coolness of the confirmation names, I asked a few of the other Catholics.  Dave’s was ‘Paul’.  One woman was also ‘Frances’ and another claims to not remember, so I suspect it to be something awesomely embarrassing like ‘Gertrude’ or ‘Hildegard’.  Picking a confirmation name is like Asians picking out their Western names.  It seems that in grade school many Asians pick out their own Western nicknames.  It’s kind of cool, but if you’d picked out your own name as a kid, what would you have chosen?

Mikhail‘-My friend Mike, a former Mormon, once told us he was given the Mormon temple name ‘Mikhail’, which at first he thought was pretty great considering his name is Michael, until he overheard other guys in the temple that day getting the same special name.

Tenderloin Vanderbeek‘-I like trying out different nicknames on friends.  It’s great to mess with them until something really fits.  In emails, my friend Cami (who’s been known as Spam, Moose and Chamomile for years) and I use different nicknames each time for both ourselves and for the other person.  For example, in a recent series of exchanges, she called me Red Man, Monkeyboy, Yoda, Spanky, Cracker, and Captain Congo and referred to herself as Django, Moosetart, Otto, Tarbaby, Samurai Smack, and Scarlet Pimpernel.  Then I called her Moosey, Super Bon Bon, Manhands, Hydroponic Mosquito, Crotchety Crocheter, and Racist Casseroler while referring to myself as The Waffler, Chewbacca, DonkeyKongKublaKhan, Blarney the Gaelic Dinosaur, Snorklefish, Cap’n Crunch, Kim Jong Ill, and Tenderloin Vanderbeek.

Geritol‘-Of course, nicknames can also suck and be hard to shake.  You always hear about those bad names kids get in school that turn them into the next David Koresh or Ted Kaczynski.  Darrin and I use nicknames as good-natured insults.  Darrin, who harasses me about my old man car, usually calls me some variation of ‘Old Man’, which is ironic because he’s about 5 yrs older than I am and is pretty gray. We go back on forth on names along the line of ‘Grandpa’, ‘Geritol’, ‘Ben Gay’, and ‘George Hamilton’ (Darrin is tanned).   I think we’re still looking for the best nickname insults, though I’m proud to have told him “Go fold your Cosby sweaters, grandpa.”

Quality nicknaming doesn’t always come easily.  They often take time to figure out and shouldn’t be forced.  You have to try them on, like a Cosby sweater at the store.  It might look nice on the rack, but end up looking crappy on you in the dressing room.

If all else fails, I’ll call you ‘Goat’.

Famous Nicknames: Wild Bill Hickock, Johnny Appleseed, Lucky Lindy, Lady Bird Johnson, Billy the Kid, Buffalo Bill

Famous Sports Nicknames‘Shoeless’ Joe Jackson, Reggie ‘Mr. October’ Jackson, Karl ‘The Mailman’ Malone, Earvin ‘Magic’ Johnson, Wayne ‘The Great One’ Gretsky, Michael ‘Air’ Jordan

What nicknames do you like?

The secret word is Tenderloin.

Related Reading:

Will Your Siblings Use Up The Good Names?

A Photographic Memory

Children, Braid Your Nosehairs

Couples vs Singles: Socialization

Bachelors In History

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3 Responses to “Nicknaming Your Friends (For Fun and Revenge)”

  • Karl:

    Nicknames are fun. I’ve had a few fun ones that I’ve sadly forgotten, but I do remember going to high school with a guy who had a killer knack for nicknames, but would fall back to calling people “Jimmy”.

    Oh, and I think you mean Gary is an ANAGRAM for Gray.

  • admin:

    Dangit! Thanks for the early correction.

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