What’s In A Nickname?

July 13, 2001

When I was a kid I didn’t have a cool nickname. This bothered me as I got older, for reasons I’ll explain later, although it didn’t before I started school. Before school I had my friends Troy, Chad, and Chucky (which, I’d later learn, was sort of a nickname) and since we all had different names we didn’t need nicknames. We also didn’t really have reasons to give each other nicknames. Names like Ratface, Blotchy, Spots, Four-Eyes, and Hey-Man-When-Was-The-Last-Time-You-Used-Soap would come along as we got older. And as I got older, I wished I could have a nickname because it turned out the year I was born was the year seven out of ten children–boys and girls–were named "Chris".

Remember how you used to sweat in school hoping the teacher wouldn’t call on you? For me it was twice as bad. The teacher would say something like, "Why don’t you come up and solve this horrendous math problem that would boggle Einstein–Chris!" All the Dannys, Andys, Brads, Jimmys, Sarahs, Megans, Katherines, and Rachels would look relieved while the five of us named Chris–or Kris–would look at each other, hoping our teacher, who had the unlikely last name McCracken and the even more unlikely first name Eulalia, meant one of the other ones.

But what’s really interesting to me is that certain perfectly good names have fallen out of use and don’t seem to be coming back. I know four or five Anns–or Annes–but no Agnes. I’ve known a few Alberts but never an Archibald, a lot of Bills but never a Bertrand–or even a Bert. James, John, Jennifer, and Julie are all really common names, but when their parents were going through the baby name book, why’d they skip over Hortense? And what about famous writers whose names never get used anymore? Ezra, Percy, Edna, Conrad, Gordon, Edith, Gertrude, Aphra, Oscar, Cecil, Horatio, Gilbert, Evelyn, Somerset, Wallace, Doris, Edgar, Sylvia, Emma, Stella, and Isidore are all perfectly good names that you just don’t hear anymore. Unless of course they’re attached to hurricanes, and even then it seems to be the Andrews and the Kates that get the big press coverage.

What’s in a name, anyway? Some people seem to have had names that destined them for greatness, but did their names really have anything to do with that? When Napoleon Bonaparte introduced himself as a child, did people say, "Wow, I’ll bet you’re going to conquer Europe someday"? Will names really determine a child’s destiny? For instance, if, in a moment of insanity, you name your child Rumpelstiltskin, will he grow up to be a diminutive anthropophagic imp? Interestingly, in the fairy tale of Rumpelstiltskin, it was one of his friends who gave his name away, so he also would have been a lot better off with a nickname.

Enjoy this week’s offerings.


(Another fairy tale.–CW)

Once upon a time, in a land far away, a beautiful, independent, self-assured Princess happened upon a frog as she sat contemplating ecological issues on the shores of an unpolluted pond in a verdant meadow near her castle.

A frog hopped into the Princesses lap and said: "Elegant lady, I was once a handsome Prince, until an evil witch cast a spell upon me. One kiss from you, however, and I will turn back into the dapper, young prince that I am and then, my sweet, we can marry, and set up housekeeping in your castle where you can prepare my meals, clean my clothes, bear my children, and forever feel grateful and happy doing so."

That night, on a repast of lightly sautéed frogs legs seasoned in a white wine and onion cream sauce, she chuckled to herself and thought:

"I don’t f—ing think so."


The Top 14 Country & Western Horror Movies

14. Achy, Breaky Tell-Tale Heart

13. Nightmare on Rural Route One, Up Past That There Silo

12. Ah Seen What Y’all Done Last Summer

11. The Creature From Clint Black’s Spittoon

10. Don’t Tell Me You Love Me if You’re Gnawing Off My Leg

9. Night of the Homosekshual, BMW-Drivin’, Neiman Marcus Suit-Wearin’ Zombies

8. Jurassic Trailer Park

7. Something Twangy This Way Comes

6. Psychoklahoma

5. The Hounddog of the Baskervilles

4. All My Axes are in My Exes

3. Throw Momma from Shania Twain

2. The Expectorist

And the number one…

1. She Broke My Heart and Then She Ate It

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