Monday, December 18, 2006
On the whole, as I daily observe and help educate college students at Lane Community College, I am deeply impressed with their determination, kindness, courtesy, intelligence, curiosity, and desire to be good.
I also, in my lesser moments, envy their stuff. I can't imagine what it would have been like as a NIC freshman in 1972 to have a device smaller than a baseball card that I could use to listen to Glen Miller and Tommy Dorsey as well as Three Dog Night and Cream. My students carry the history of recorded music with them, not just the music of 2006.
But, they don't have nicknames*.
In 1972, when I strolled into a party or a bar filled with friends, someone would mark my arrival by calling out my father's name: "Hey,Pert!" If George White was present, he called me "Cotton". Some called me "Irish". I'd sit down with Stu(aka Sturt, Mulligan, or Ned), Byrdman(aka Blowtop), Lew(aka Bartalome), Louie(aka Dunbar), Chick (aka Pierce or Dodger), Jake, Bones, Snotz, Bach, Squirrely, Buck, Buff, Goose, Hog, Dogfoot, Abby (aka Brooks), Eddie, Kenny, Lars, Stinky, Magilla, Sparky and we might tell stories about Sweats, Fancy Art, Jeremiah Bean, Carmen, Dersky, Catfish, Trout, Poz, Sman, Ollie, Reuben, Chat (the Cat) and others.
Some of these nicknames were mean. Some were highly complimentary.
I still do it today, but more in private, calling people I know outside the home by nicknames with The Deke.
But, all in all, the nickname calling I knew thirty, forty years ago has dissipated (except in the world of hip-hop). I grew up knowing professional athletes by nicknames like the M&M Boys, the Say Hey Kid, the Splendid Splinter, Stan the Man, Hondo, Whitey, Yogi, Pee Wee, Dizzy, Yaz, the Human Highlight Film, Dr. J, Magic, Larry Legend, The Toe, Johnny U, Frenchie, and so on.
I don't know. The young people I work with are so respectful of each other's names. The only student in my classes I knew had a nickname was Tiffany, who former friends called Stiffy. I think of nicknames for my students all the time, but keep them to myself.
If they call each other anything, it's dawg. It gives them a hip-hop feeling. 'Sup dawg?
I'm not like my junior high band teacher, Wayne "Tank" Benson, who had a nickname for every kid in the band. I was "Beautiful". My fellow baritone horn player, Wayne Denlinger, was "Desdemona". Don Windisch was "Alfalfa". My little sister Carol was "Pooh".
If anyone reading this was in junior high band with Wayne Benson and you know other nicknames, please click comments and write them.
I'll be leaving for Kellogg on Thursday. Lars, Stu, Jake, Rooster and I are going to try to get a poker game together and play on Stu's boat, if the heater works.
Rooster, Jake, and I will go to the Casino for a day some time.
I'll see Tank out at Johnny's Bar for coffee in the mornings. Hog Hill will be there, too.
But, today, I'll send student papers out in the mail. I'll look at each of their names and wonder what their nicknames might have been thirty-five years ago in Kellogg, Idaho.
Wucky? Fanner? Vinnie? Linnie? Li'l Sweats? T.A.T Mongoose? Greebs? Rifer? Doc? Nifty? Goggles? Roscoe? Boafer?
Nope. Those are all taken. They live in the Silver Valley -- along with the scores of nicknames I can't remember.
P. S. I think I might have overstated my case about lack of 2006 nicknames. The students I act with come up with nicknames for each other. Matt calls Scott "Hoop" and I call Scott "Trump" and Scott calls me "Snugman". Nicknames are alive in LCC theater. One other place nicknames are THRIVING, is on blogs and in chat rooms. I write under a nickname in this very blog! The fellows over at 2Blowhards use nicknames. I read the comments of all kinds of nicknmamed writers at Huckleberries Online. So, what am I thinking of! Nicknames abound, just not in my classroom or when I am around the current generation of youth in the cafeteria or in the classroom.
*etyomology of the word "nickname": [Middle English neke name, from a neke name, alteration of an eke name : eke, addition (from Old English ēaca; see aug- in Indo-European roots) + name, name; see name.]