The 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?