Nicknames are being nixed

20110512125827070_0001aaaaaThe New York Times just ran a fascinating trend piece about the demise of nicknames in sports.  The reporter, John Branch, waxed poetic about the great nicknames of yesteryear, ranging from ‘the Bambino’ and ‘Dr. J’ to ‘Earl the Pearl’ and ‘Night Train’. 

Here's the rub, though. Nicknames aren't just disappearing in sports, they're vanishing in society at large.

To explain why, the Times cites sociologists and experts in onomastics (now, there's an obscure profession for you). The experts say we don't have ‘Choo-Choos’, ‘Mookies’ or ‘Whiteys’ anymore because there's an increasing lack of intimacy and connectedness in society. A Wayne State professor added “…a nickname, good or bad, meant we cared. You don't give someone about whom you are indifferent a nickname. The opposite of love is not hate. It's indifference.” Amen, brother.

I love nicknames and always will. And, I've been unknowingly bucking the nickname nixing trend from day one.  To wit:

– My son, Chris, is known as ‘Ali’ (a la Muhammad Ali, my all-time favorite boxer).
– My daughter, Catharine, is known as ‘the Goose’ (because one of her earliest expressions was “You silly goose.”)
– My older brother, Russ, is ‘Ra’ because that's how my younger brother John (‘J’) once pronounced his name.
– Chris calls me ‘sDot’ (he says it has something to do with my addiction to the BB. Addiction? What addiction?)
– Chris's significant other is universally known as ‘O.P.’ (her initials)
– My buddy, Tommy, is the Babe Ruth of nicknames. He's alternatively known as ‘Thos’, ‘TLP’, ‘El Hombre Blondo', ‘Le Poer’ and ‘Thom’ (the man may have an identity complex).

Many of Peppercom's key players sport nicknames as well. There's:

– Ted ‘Teddy Ballgame’ Birkhahn (because, like the original Teddy Ballgame, our Ted can do it all).
– Maggie ‘Maggs’ O'Neill.
– Nick ‘The Knife’ Light (one of the Goose's high school boyfriends was known as Nick the Knife, so poor Nick was handed the same sobriquet).
– Dandy Stevenson is ‘The Danderoo’ (that's what Howard Cosell always called Dandy Don Meredith).
– Ed is either ‘Eddie Moeddie’ or ‘Edward Moedward’ (depending on whether the social situation is casual or formal).
– And, then, there's our West Coast president Ann Barlow, who is known solely by her surname. (i.e. “What's Barlow been up to of late?”)

I could go on and on. But, I think the nickname thing is indicative of my personal POV and Peppercom's culture. I give nicknames to people I like and care about (or, absolutely detest. But, that's a different blog for a different day).

I think the Wayne State egghead nailed it when he said the opposite of love is indifference. One of the main reasons people hate their jobs is because of the impersonal nature of the workplace. Peppercom has many faults, but impersonal and indifferent it is not.

I dare any holding company executive to share just one nickname from his or her place of work. They can't. Because at the big firms, you're just a number. Trust me, there's no Ed 'The Glider' Charles or Walt 'Clyde' Frazier at Weber-Shandwick, Burson or Hill & Knowlton. Because, well, that would be a tad too personal.

How about your organization (or circle of friends)? Have any cool nicknames you'd care to share?

28 thoughts on “Nicknames are being nixed

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  2. Steve, I’m very disappointed to find out that I have a pre-owned nickname. I always thought that my nickname referred to the jazz standard, “Mack the Knife.”

  3. Thanks for expanding the list, Julie. Quick question since I know you’re a devoted Royal watcher. Is Pippa Middleton, with whom I’m absolutely smitten, BTW, rocking a nickname? I’ve never heard the name before and figured it to be either a nickname or an abbreviation of some longer name, Pippadelicious, perhaps?

  4. Nice additions, Bedrock. Thanks. Spot on with jazz, which happens to be my favorite form of music. Coltrane and Miles Davis are my ultimate peeps. No nicknames there unfortunately.

  5. Paul McCartney: “Macca” or “The Cute One”
    Bruce Springsteen: “The Boss”
    Jerry Lee Lewis: “The Killer”
    Jim Morrison: “The Lizard King”
    Paul Hewson: “Bono”
    Johnny Cash: “The Man in Black”
    Jennifer Lopez: “JLo”
    Stephanie Germanotta: “Gaga”
    Kangaroo Jack: “Jackie Legs”

  6. Gaetano LePoer is an alias that is a salute to my family history. Gaetano is the Italian version of Thomas…my mothers brother Gaetano died at age 7. LePoer was my dad’s family name when they migrated from Normandy to Waterford Ireland. Once in Ireland they became Power. And when my grandfather crossed to American via Ellis Island the S was added.

  7. Terrific stuff. I love nicknames and dole them out in similar fashion that you do. Although, I think that I give nicknames to people I am indifferent about as well.
    Also, when I refer to people (that I know or don’t know) I like to shorten their first name and add a ‘y’ to it an then only use the first letter of their last name. So, when talking about Hillary Clinton, I would say something like. “Did you know Hilly C. was in town? She is giving a speech at NYU.”
    Here are a few examples of other choice nicknames:
    – My brother, Kevin is known as ‘Special K.’
    – My cousin’s husband is universally known as ‘SteGold’, I am sure that people think it is his actual name.
    – A random friend of a friend of a friend (I don’t know his real name) once was drunk and dropped a bagel in a bodega so I only refer to him as ‘Bagel Dropper.’
    – A super fashionable homeless man who chilled on my old block in NoLita is referred to as ‘Little Bitta Help’ because thats all he said.
    – A former roommate was dubbed ‘The Bro’ for his overuse of the word and his bro-like activities.
    – My roommate’s father has a friend whose last name I cannot ever remember but I know it sounds like paella so he is known as ‘Alan Paella.’
    – ‘Clueless’ refers to my roommates former co-worker. I think it is self-explanatory.
    – My roommate’s sister has a boyfriend named Axel, that is just too close to excel. Thus, he is called ‘Spreadsheet.’

  8. I hope nicknames aren’t being nixed! Jazz musicians have seen their share of interesting ones: Otis “Candy” Finch, Charlie “Bird” Parker, Thomas “Fats” Waller, and Lady Day — Billie Holiday.
    I saved the multiple nicknamed legend for last: Louis Armstrong aka Satchel Mouth, Satchmo, or Dipper Mouth.
    On the less jazzy side, I was called “Bedrossian” in high school/still by some, “Bedro” (pronouced Bee-dro) by some college friends, and String bean by some members of my family. Let’s keep the nicknames alive!

  9. Revisionist history, Gaetano. Btw, Dandy, if you get a chance, please find and post the clip from ‘Analyze This’ in which Billy Crystal introduces himself to a roomful of mob family heads by inventing various nicknames. It’s absolutely hysterical.

  10. English football (soccer) has always been good for nicknames:
    Neil ‘Razor’ Ruddock
    Paul Ince – The Governor
    Stuart Peirce – Psycho
    Darren Anderton – Sicknote
    Basically, don’t mess with the first three and don’t worry about the last guy.

  11. I don’t recall any image or reputation campaign aimed at undermining the ‘Zip’ nickname, Gaetano. It simply never caught on within the larger Ridgefield Park social set. That said, everyone called poor Walter Rivieri, ‘Pidge’ because of his pidgeon-toed walk. That had to be a tough sobriquet to live with.

  12. Spot on as always, Bubbles. If memory serves there was a character in ‘Goodfellas’ known as Tommy Two Talk because he always repeated a thought or expression (i.e. ‘I’m going to whack Frankie. I’m going to whack Frankie.’).

  13. I’ve never known Barlow to be very creative, but I must say I like ‘Eddie 2.0’. I’ve yet to meet you in person, Eddie, but I like you already thanks in large part to the 2.0 nickname (and you’re recent willingness to engage in the idol banter that permeates most Repman blogs).

  14. It is interesting how events can give rise to nicknames…circa 1963-1964 the US Post Office unveiled a new five digit means for sorting mail. And in the bucolic suburb of Ridgefield Park a particular friend known as Ze Rabbit decided that another friend had a last name that worked well with the new Post Office program…and suddenly that certain individual had the nickname “ZIP”…but “ZIP” didn’t like his new moniker and an image and reputation campaign emerged to put an end to that foul nickname…and as quick as it had appeared…that nasty nickname “ZIP” vanished forever…or has it.

  15. The Mafia has always been known for its nicknames, and as horrid as this org is, some of the sobriquets are wonderful. To wit, the ones who were busted in January: Anthony “Tony Bagels” Cavezza, Joseph “Junior Lollipops” Carna, Giovanni “Mousey” Vella, Vincenzo “Vinny Carwash” Frogiero, Luigi “Baby Shacks” Manocchio, Dennis “the Beard” Delucia, Anthony “Firehawk” Licata, Benjamin “the Claw” Castellazzo, Anthony “Big Fat Larry” Durso.

  16. You were always I-man at Peppercom and, Repman comments aside, will always be I-man to this blogger, I-man.

  17. I agree that the Peppercom culture is in no way threatened by the extinction of nicknames. Just take a look at my user name, courtesy of Barlow. This nickname stuck by the end of my first week in the SF office.