Lessons From Nicknames

A friend of mine recently told me about the time her younger daughter accidentally cracked her head open on the doorknob at the top of a staircase. Of course this incident occurred the same weekend her daughter had a nasty sinus infection and was horking up greenish-brown lugies, thus earning her the nickname Snorky McStaplehead.

The name didn’t stick.

I’ve had many nicknames during the course of my life: I’ve answered to Ren, Renz, Renna, Nay, Nay-Nay, Née, She-Nay-Nay, Hools, Hoolie, Razz, RAS, RazzJ, RASJ, Teach. Each name is connected to the person that I am/was during a specific place and time. The memories attached to the names are inescapable — but not all were terms of endearment.

One summer, when I was 14-years old and enjoying my time at overnight camp, a few of the boys started calling me Kelloggs. I had no idea why. Finally, one of the guys fessed up.

“Because you’re flaky,” he said unapologetically and without a trace of irony.

He thinks I’m stupid, I thought to myself. I’m not stupid.

In college, I worked my butt off. Graduated cum laude. Learned a secret handshake and got a gold key when I was initiated into Phi Beta Kappa.

No one ever called me Kelloggs again.

Tell me a nickname you’ve picked up during your life? Who gave it to you? Do you like it? And what’s the story behind name?

69 thoughts on “Lessons From Nicknames

  1. In high school I was “Abs of Steel,” a result of my name (obviously) and the fact that I was in exceptional shape. There are still a couple people who go to that one, but only because it sounds fun (not because of an exceptional shape…sigh.)

    I also have a Polish nickname I’ve had since I was a baby–Busi. You pronounce it “booshey,” and it means grandma. My mom and grandma call me this. Go figure…

    1. “Abs of Steel” is Excellent. SO people come up to you in the grocery store and say, “Hey, Abs of Steel, it’s been forever!” And then you hug and stuff? Awesome!

      I like Busi. In my imagination (which, mind you has no relation to reality) the way that your mother and grandmother say this, it sounds like they are speaking to a small dog. “C’mere Booshey. Does Booshey want her treat treat? Does Booshey need to go out to go pee pee and poo poo?” That’s the only way I hear it.

      I am sure it is more tender than that.

      It is, right?


  2. In college the girls across the hall from me were fond of calling me Steevie, but the only real nickname I’ve ever had was littledubs. My older brother hung out with a group of guys who all had nicknames. His was “dubs” as in, our last name is Warner, starts with a “W” so they called him Dubs. As the little brother I became littledubs. Yeah, kinda dumb. It makes for a good login name though.

  3. When I was in middle school, I was the shortest kid in gym class. You know how they always make you line up by height in gym class? I was always at the end of the line. One day I was wearing a pink alligator shirt and the gym teacher who had little patience, needed to tell me something. (I was probably biting my nails and staring into space.) He called me “Pinky” to get my attention. He chose this because I was wearing a (bright) pink shirt (in an effort to be preppy?) and presumably because a pinky is small. The name stuck with many of the kids and it lasted until the end of the year. I like the name and I liked having a nickname.

    I wish someone would call me that today … with the assumption that I am small 🙂

    1. Hey, ‘Pinky’ was one of my nicknames, too. My sister used to call me that because I am the youngest of five children, so I was the 5th – pinky – finger. Of course, that made my brother the middle finger, which was kind of appropriate since that was the finger all of us sisters used to give to him with alarming frequency 😉

  4. My nickname, acquired in my early teens, is obviously not echoed in this comment. Although if you’ve seen some of my other writings…
    Verily, Always, Truly, Sincerely,
    Brian Bombast

  5. In college, a few girls across the hall were fond of calling me Steevie, and for some reason they spelled it like that, with a double e. But the only real nickname I’ve ever had was littledubs. My older brother hung with a bunch of guys that all had given each other nicknames. Our last name being Warner, starts with “W”, they called him Dubs. Me being the little brother became littledubs. Yeah, kinda dumb! But I still use it for a login name now and then because its usually not taken.

  6. When I was a little girl, my dad would call me Gumball. Not sure why, but it is where the name of my blog came from. Then, when I was in 7th/8th grade, I had a HUGE crush on Shaun Cassidy, who sang a song called “Hey, Deanie”, so my brother started calling me Deanie. Somehow it morphed into Baldini (Ball-Deanie).

    Then, my freshman year in college, I met a guy whose last name was Baldini. Would have been really funny if we had ended up together (I could have been Baldini Baldini), but alas, it was not meant to be. 🙂

    1. Hey Gumball:

      I like this one because it came from your dad. And I already knew that because I have read posts from your blog. He probably called you gumball because gumballs are so dang sweet. Don’t you think? 😉

      “Baldini Baldini.”

      Love it!

  7. Back in the day many of my friends called me Mel. I think it was a lazy way of getting out of saying my whole name. It wasn’t cute or funny like some of the nicknames above, but I didn’t mind. My girlfriends parent’s used to call me Mooie even though I weighed a mere 98 pounds then. They had nicknames for all their kids and mine wasn’t so bad. One was Putzy, another Stinky and the last was Sissy. I think Sissy and I lucked out with our names 😉 My friends at work call me Sorbello. Sometimes I wonder if some of them even know my first name?!

  8. Dear Lord, I don’t know why I’m telling you this, but the older cousin of my boyfriend called me “Punkin’.” I don’t know why. I’m blonde, hated the color orange, was never round nor found sitting in a “patch” (that I know of). I hated it. He even abbrievated it to “Punk” as a term of endearment. I was not endeared.

    I was also called “Doone” (as in Lorna Doone). Didn’t like that one either.

  9. When I was on the road, one day the stage manager called to me, “Hey Fluffy,” (because of my hair) but the flyman heard “Fluffer”. There ensued a battle to see which version would stick. Fluffy won, but it is often shorted to simply Fluff.

      1. I thought about it a lot. I’m going to stay curly for right now, reserving the right to change my mind in the future. I’m so glad I got the real scoop from a curly girl! Thank you!

      2. JM:

        As I tap out this note, just came from my most fabulous hair stylist who has me soooooo smooth, you know, I can’t stop touching myself.

        That said, if I so much as go outside, it’s all over.

        I’ll be Fluffer 2.0.

  10. ———–oh, my, you’ve had several nicknames, Renee!
    I like Razz….Kelloggs is great.
    I’ve been called Kimbo, Kimmie, Kimmers, Sist,.. & Hubby calls me Pit Bull :P) Xx

    1. Hey Kimmers:

      (I’ve wanted to call you that for a long time!)

      I love that your husband calls you “Pit Bull.” I guess when there is something you are going after, you do not let go. I have seen/read that side of you.

  11. My siblings and I always call each other nicknames or weird pronunciations of our regular names. For example, my sister’s name is Lydia and to everyone else, we would say LID-ee-ya. But amongst family, we pronounce it LEE-dee-ya. My name (Leonore) ended up sounding like Lee-nur, which prompted our co-workers at my first mall job to call me Eeyore.

    Other than that, I was Lee, Lee-Lee, or Leo (which I still go by). Strangest one was the father of a high school friend who was always at school events taking pictures (he was an amateur photographer). He called me Lorinell. That one stuck with me all through senior year of high school.

  12. I’ve been called “Sniper” because when I love someone, I’ll tell them what I think they need to hear. According to innocent bystanders, I wait for the perfect time, and aim a razor sharp laser beam headed right to the affected area…

  13. I’ve never had a nickname that stuck. Occasionally variations on my last name. Occasionally Lee. My softball team used to call me Gadget Arm (create your own image).

    I’m not sure if I should feel great that I haven’t had many nicknames…or a little sad!

    1. Well, you’ve certainly had a lot of play with your last name — so maybe that’s why nothing with the first name really stuck.

      Sometimes I want to call you “Lion” — is that weird.

      Once when we were having one of our marathon phone things, I almost did. You might have heard me hesitate.

      Hubby was all: “Who are you on the phone with?”

      And I said, “Li… Leanne.”

      So maybe I’ll just start calling you Lion. Can you live with that, Lion? 😉

  14. DEEFY!

    I was taking on the phone with one of my guy friends about a Sociology course in which we talked about “code shifting,” or behaving/talking differently depending on your social context. (This would include not talking the same to one’s grandma as one might in the heat of the moment with one’s boyfriend. And I think that’s about all I took from that class, come to think of it!) My guy friend likened it to there being multiple “dolls” which each person acted as.

    Later in the same conversation, I mentioned how my middle school school nurse had struggled with how to characterize me on a form. She finally landed on and wrote: “Beefy.”

    My friend practically squealed with delight, “Deefy! It’s Deefy, the beefy Debbie doll.”

    Since then, my deer friends have called me Deefy. And on a day where some very bad things happened, many years ago, a friend called and said, “I just went by a yellow Bug with the license plate ‘Deefy.’ I think it’s gonna be OK.”

    Being called “beefy” as a ten-year-old was totally worth this nickname, IMO. 🙂

  15. My nickname was Weave or The Weave, as in “Let’s go call The Weave and see if she wants to go drinking.” I wish I had a fabulous story associated with it, but alas, it was just a shortening of my maiden name, Weaver.

  16. That’s wrong that they called you Kellogs. That brand has way too many cereals. They should’ve just called you Flakes. I’ve been called dork, dawg, Claydawg, clay doggie (it was the 90s), Cassius, captain morgan…

  17. Corn Flakes?! You strike me as much more of a “Tony the Tiger” kinda gal.

    I’ve been called:
    Little K [my older brother’s name also starts with K]
    Special K [and not because i took the short bus: a guy who actually did take the short bus used to shout “Special K, what do ya say?” every time he saw me.
    KK [my initials before I got married]
    Pinkster [I love pink]
    Kitten [No idea why]
    Vixen [Again, no idea why. And no, I did not pole dance. that I know of.]
    Blondie [Duh.]

    And a few others i won’t mention because, believe it or not, They’re the embarrassing ones…

    1. Hi Kristen!

      You also have a collection of nicknames, but I see you are withholding the ones that are embarrassing. It is embarrassing to admit that there was a time in my life when I was less than serious, less than intellectual, a bit scattered. I remember looking up the word “flaky” in the dictionary and learning that it also meant “tender and delicate.” And I thought to myself, that is very true. Truth be told, there is still a bit of Kelloggs inside of me — the tender part and the flaky, goofy part. That part of me still very much exists. I jam just more careful about which people I show her to. 😉

  18. Back in my baseball playing days, I was planning to stretch a double into a triple, but got the stop sign as I rounded second. Trying to stop, I tripped over my own feet and fell just past second base. I got up and made it back safely, but one of my teammates remarked that I ran like I was wearing snowshoes. From that point on, I was Snowshoes (or Shoe for short).

    More than 20 years later, I can still walk into a room and have someone yell “Shooooooooe!” at the top of his/her lungs. (Was that grammatically correct?)

    1. Shoooooooe!

      I love this story!

      And I assume you have read Shoeless Joe, right? (Please say yes…please say yes…)

      Your grammar is excellent. And that was a tricky sentence with exclamation points and periods and everything. A+. 😉

  19. My older sister was 4 when I was born. The thing she loved most in this world was her swingset. When I arrived she nicknamed me swingset. I’ve always been really blessed to be her younger sister.

  20. As someone who doesn’t have an English-sounding surname, teachers would go into a cold sweat and get heart palpitations when faced with the prospect of pronouncing it. (The irony, it is actually quite short for an Asian name and easy if u follow the syllables.) Quite a few times, it just appeared as if certain teachers made no effort to pronounce my name and decide to say what was in their head. And that is how I earned a nickname in school of Garage. That’s the most longlasting but I haven’t been called that since leaving school.

    1. Okay… where is the comment I left here? Grrr.

      I said that I commented that I didn’t think your name was particularly difficult to pronounce, and I have a post (coming up soon) about a time when I got a real stumper and the student did not help me. At all.

      I also can’t believe that anyone could botch things so badly that the end result would leave you being called “Garage.” That’s pretty bad. I’d imagine you probably felt a little like how I felt when people called me Kelloggs.

      Not so hot.

      You have a beautiful name. Prav-in-JAY-a. (Right? Emphasis on the Jey part?)

  21. Hi Renee,

    Should I feel bad because I laughed when I read the meaning of Kelloggs? I’m sorry, but it was a good one. I hope that being called that didn’t leave any lasting scars. Children can be mean to one another, but it’s worth remembering that the goal is to be funny or witty — the veracity of the allegation is secondary.

    I can’t remember being tagged with any clever nicknames, only boring ones like four-eyes, so I have no memorable tale to tell.


  22. Keenie Beanie came about when there were too many “Chris”es at work. It’s an amalgamation of my last name: Keene, and my profession (accountant, or “bean counter”). I rather liked it since it reminds me of the pet name my dad has used for me since the day I was born: “Little Bean” because of how small I seemed when I was handed to him all swaddled up.

    1. KB:

      I love that blending of the personal and the professional.

      There were “too many” Maria’s at my doctor’s office, so they made one go by Mary. I thought that was weird. I mean her name is Maria. Couldn’t people say: Maria S. or Maria B.? Or call one by her last name? But to make her “Americanize” her name seemed weird to me.

      Keenie Beanie definitely sounds like they love you at work.

      I call you KB because it is short from Keenie Beanie, but also because KB was the best toy store in New Orleans. 😉

  23. I’ve had three nicknames. In Junior High they called me Electrified because I had very long very curly hair. It did not obey laws of gravity and it was quite fluffy. It stood at odds with my head as if I’d been electrocuted.

    Husband #1 said I reminded him of the baby in a cartoon by the name of Trixie (the cartoon may have been, “The Family Circus.”) Trixie always loved sitting in a little beam of sunlight. I love the sun, I’m small and cute. All of my relatives picked up the name and everyone who knew me referred to me as Trix. I hated the nickname and was finally able to rid myself of it in my forties (mostly because most of my relatives passed).

    I am now known as T to most people. I used to write scathing screeds to engineers to get them to get off their bums and come into the semiconductor fab to resolve issues that were holding up production. I always signed my notes as T and the name stuck. I like it since it was self-created. I should probably add that my bark was infinitely worse than my bite. When engineers entered my domain they found me to be pleasant and helpful. I always got quite a chuckle when they told me how much they dreaded meeting me face to face. ;}

    1. T:

      I can hardly imagine you as anything but sweet and sassy. You are truly the proverbial breath of fresh air. I love to read your responses because they are unlike anything else you post over at Grandma’s.

      I feel fortunate to know this side of you.

      I like my self-created nickname, too.


      1. Uh, Renee…I’m afraid Grandma T is a cannibal on Grandma’s. It started at the OTHER Grandma’s that was overrun by trolls. Young pukes kept posting that they would happily consume Grandma and I had no choice but to retaliate. It got pretty bloody and it carried over to the new Grandma’s. It’s a role I take very seriously. ;} It’s always fun to start making references to my grusome activities when newbies arrive on the page. It gives the other Grandmas quite a giggle. I should add that I am a vegetarian in 3D life and I don’t consume flesh of any kind. You will also see references to Frankenhand. I have a damaged hand from a bad mountain biking accident and Grandma T only asks newbies for hands when her freezer is fully stocked with flesh. It’s a loooong story. ;} Grandma T is on hiatus from Grandma’s until the end of summer. She watches and waits for well-marbled newbies from a distance for now.

  24. I read your last post and didn’t comment – I was travelling and didn’t have time – it was thought provoking and made me think. I also wonder who reads and moves on and who is ‘just passing through.’ And, I read this post Friday on my phone and wanted to post, but was busy and didn’t even open my laptop, sometimes that happens. Growing up in my neighborhood and in college, everyone had a nickname, it was part of the culture sort like Animal House, but tamer. In college, I was Herbie, because I drove a VW Bug and I had a habit of complimenting upperclassmen and hence ‘sucking up’ was a double-edged nickname of Herbert Hoover, the vacuum, and the car…. I have since moved on. I still think I tell it like it is – if something is good then it deserves a mention, some folks see things through a different lens, though. Keep writing, I’ll keep reading.

  25. Man, boys are harsh.

    When I was in 6th grade, one of the boys told me all the nicknames they came up with for the girls in our class. One was “Bisquick” because she was flat as a pancake. (For an 11-year-old, come on!) That was the only one I remember, but I remember them all being mean.

    I’ve had the weirdest nicknames. Grape Jelly, Kiwi, Woody, Caca-male, Ugly Head…believe it or not, they are all nicknames of endearment.

  26. I have had a lot of nicknames in my life.
    Kellie has the unfortunate problem of rhyming with smelly, which my siblings loved and came up with smelly butt. Never very keen on that one!
    In high school I got Kelliefish because I swam competitively and my friends thought I was always swimming, that one I liked and still keep to this day, though only a small number of people call me that now. One friend in uni shortened it to fish, then lengthened it to fishcakes, then shortened it again to cakes. I don’t want to think about the logic there.
    My grandparents call me Kellie wellie woozle, occasionally shortened to woozle.
    Other fun ones have been Kelorie (calorie), Kellie belly, kels, kels bells, K-dog(hated that one), K-star etc.
    Some nicknames are good some are terrible luckily they usually don’t last.

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