In a conversation today about local politicians, somebody mentioned a parish councilman who's best known by his nickname: Needlenose. I am not making this up. When he's up for re-election, that name goes on his campaign signs and bumper stickers. My best guess is that few people in the community could tell you his real first name, although that's on his signs, too, but almost everyone has heard of Needlenose.
I remarked to my friends that this is the only place I've ever lived where so many adults are better known by their nicknames than their actual given names, and I wondered aloud whether there are other parts of the country where this practice is common. That's when I got the idea of mentioning this to you, oh-frequent-readers-and-fonts-of-unusual-and-unlimited-knowledge.
I've lived other places in the south with an abundance of Billy Bobs and Bubbas, but what we have here is beyond that. To give you an example, I made a quick scan of the local telephone book, all the way through the B's (okay, so research isn't my strong suit), and made note of the names I found listed in parentheses. I eliminated derivative nicknames (such as Tony for Anthony and Freddy for Alfred), and here's what was left:
Under the surname BABIN (rhymes with cabin): Dink, Tut, Kye, Sneaky, Brother, Rookie and Poose.
Under BERCEGEAY (rhymes with purse-uh-jay): Nub, Winky, Pamp and Ponk.
Listed under the name BOURGEOIS (rhymes with...uh...nothing I can think of): Poochie, Bean and T-Rich.
Moving on down to BOURQUE (rhymes with work): J-Boy, Brush and Cotto.
Under the surname BRAUD (rhymes with toe): Boxcar, Noonun, Tippie, Whitey, Pookey, Putsy and T-Boy.
And then there's BREAUX (also rhymes with toe -- go figure): Dukie, Black and Punkin.
I also found, in onesies and twosies, the following: Potchie, Happy, Twink, Tokey, Nuby, Buzy B'Z, Tanks, Buck, Woody, Shot, Bulldog, Butsy, Burger, Red, Bo, Dub, Bean, Brick, Bud, Coon and Dude.
I'd love to know the stories behind these nicknames. In the book I'm currently reading, Saving Fish from Drowning, author Amy Tan writes: "He was called Black Spot by his friends and family, a nickname given for the birthmark on his hand. As in China, such nicknames were meant to be unflattering, a ruse to discourage the gods from snatching babies away. But in Burma one could get stuck with a new nickname to reflect a change in circumstances or reputation." Maybe the same concept applies here; as far as I know, none of these local guys was ever snatched away.
Based on what Amy Tan wrote, I'll have to give China and Burma (now known as Myanmar) credit for having the most nicknames in Asia. So let's leave Asia out of it. When it comes to the rest of the world, I think I might be sitting right smack in the middle of the nickname capital.
Whaddaya think? How common are nicknames where you live?