Monday, October 02, 2006

Winken, Blinken and Nod...and Poose and T-Rich

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?

14 comments:

  1. I don't think they're too common in my area, which is known for its conservatism. My older brother is named after my father and we called my brother Buddy. When he got older he let us know he preferred to be called by his given name since my father has passed away and there's no confusion (except when his son is around, because his son is a IV (fourth, not an intravenous drip.) Of course, I couldn't pass up the chance to irritate him so I've steadfastly refused to call him anything other than Buddy. So we all call him that except his wife.

    I guess a lot of nicknames are bestowed by family members for some reason or other. Others get given by friends. I like the idea of a town so casual that they list the nicknames in the phone book!

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  2. Let's see, Jigger is a contractor here, Itchy works on the street department, Sunny is a local politician. Other than that, most people have reverted back to their given names. You win!

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  3. Wow, not nearly as manny as that -- affectionate names, sure, and shortened versions of the actual name or surname, but I only know one Buddy, one Pud and one Tig.

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  4. I can't think of anyone around here who goes by a nickname, and I'm a little stunned that nicknames in your area actually make it into the phone book.

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  5. Nary a Bean, Brick or Bud in the bunch, here. I even took out our phonebook and looked through a few random pages. Nothing but legal names. Who makes up your phone book? Is it a local company with a staff who knows everyone in town? Or do phone customers actually open their accounts using their nickname, so that then becomes the name of record?

    I have friends, spouse and a child with derivative nicknames - but don't know any Tut or Needlenose. Even my cousins in France use their given names, so I'm thinking it's not the "French Connection" of LA.

    Interesting observation, Velvet! My daughter has two roommates from NO - will have to run this by them.

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  6. Oh no wait....that's their real name

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  7. In my area they aren't too prevalent in the phonebook but I do know a lot of people that go by a nickname.

    smiles to you and yours
    Little Duck

    PS. My family of origin called me Duckie since I was knee high to a grasshopper (love that expression). For some reason I like it so at 35 people in my 3D life (as opposed to the Internet) still call me Duckie. Hardly anyone calls me by my legal name. It's Duckie with an IE not a Y go figure.

    What do you call a duck with a water phobia? A chicken? Old joke but I still think it's cute.

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  8. did you ever give any thought that people of the same age group gibe ther children certain sounding names. many people of my age group i find have given their children names with the ending ie sound.

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  9. Janet: Glad to know your nephew isn't a drip, IV or otherwise. ;-)

    Kat: Jigger and Itchy are GOOD ones! You lose points for quantity but gain extra ones for quality.

    Duly: Houston might be too "citified," but I'll bet there are a few good ol' boys with nicknames in the outskirts.

    Mike: I can understand the absence of nicknames in Silicon Valley, but you probably have more screen names per capita out there than we do.

    Sunflower: Our phone company gets the legal name for each account but lets whoever is opening the account choose how they want their listing to read.

    I do think the "French connection" plays into it, but only peripherally. We have almost as many Breauxs and Babins in this area as we have Smiths and Joneses. Many of them have the same given names as their fathers. In addition, it's very common for large plots of land to be subdivided among all the adult children in one family, so we can end up with people who have identical names (except for Sr. or Jr.) living next door to each other. I think some people put their nicknames in the phone book to distinguish themselves from others with similar names. It makes sense, if you think about it that way.

    4th Sister: I can think of at least one guy from Arkansas whose nickname was Bubba. It didn't appear to be a problem for him.

    Austin (Duckie): Did your siblings get nicknames, too, or did you get the only one? Cute joke, BTW.

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  10. Patsy: I missed your comment while I was writing mine. You're right about similar names being popular in different age groups. I'm picturing a future in which there are a lot of shuffle-stepping old women named Tiffany. Maybe it'll seem normal by then, but it's weird to think about now.

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  11. Black Breaux...? You have got to be kidding.

    As far as I'm aware nicknames aren't allowed in the telephone directory over here.

    Good grief, I'd better write to my local Member of Parliament! :)

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  12. TC, I'm glad you found the humor in this. If you ever move here, we'll list you as "Teecee" in our phone book.

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