BY: JAMES F. O’NEIL
Nickname: “A name added to or substituted for the proper name of a person; some descriptive or familiar name given or received, sometimes humorous, sometimes sarcastic, some one of affection or ridicule. Often, more likely, a shortened version of a person’s given name.”
Nicknames are certainly interesting, as is the word itself.
My wife and I were watching a TV doctor/hospital show. The heroine’s nickname is “Pit.” Why that?, the characters asked. As she raised her arms in embarrassment, to rub her head, she had wet perspiration marks in the armpits of her scrubs. Thus, “Pit.”
I was curious about what “Old Nick,” “Saint Nick,” and “in the nick of time” had in common. I was especially curious when I saw the movie Omen III. An old fish, a pike, if I recall, lived in a lake. Its name was “Old Nick.” Since the movie is about Satan, this was worth some research.
“Saint Nick” or “Old Saint Nick”–even “Jolly Old Saint Nicholas”–are common expressions in December, on 6 December especially.
So, like Nicholas becoming “Nick,” we have “Peg” or “Peggy”–and “Peg-o-My Heart” for Margaret. Peter is “Pete” and Richard is…well, “Rick” (as in Casablanca’s “Rick’s Café Américain”). But also “Dick.” That? Ouch! Double-entendre here? Because he could be a…. Ah, you can work that one out. I grew up knowing that a penis was a “peter” (or even a “doodle,” for God’s sake). Catholic boys in my young days had some mind-difficulties with Saint Peter’s nickname during our puberty….
Anyhow, continuing, Charles is “Chuck; William is “Bill” (not “Willie–and definitely not “a willie”), yet we have the 1993 film Free Willy. Romualdas becomes “Rom”; Eugene is…yes, “Gene”; Thomas is “Tom” or “Tommy” (but “Tommy gun” is from the manufacturer Auto-Ordnance Company, naming the submachine gun for its designer, John T. Thompson). (“British Tommies” will require another story.)
One of our teachers was Glennon E. Figge, initials “G.E.F.”: we called him “The Geef” (not a nickname used in his presence, of course).
And so it goes. My name is James, that is “Jim,” “Jimbo,” and “Jimmy” (when my mother really wanted my attention). In college, I was “Jim.” That’s it.
Until Saint Patrick’s Day, 1961. Whatever possessed me (“possessed”?) to paint a pair of my shoes green? No doubt, “The Devil made me do it.” There I was, celebrating my Irish heritage with green paint–bright green, for sure.
I attended the campus festivities of March 17, 1961: corned beef and cabbage–possible. Special dessert? I cannot remember. Nor can most of my classmates at our small college. However, many do remember my bright green shoes, though not remembering them as well as a pair of “ruby slippers” in some Wizard movie… But, hey, I made MY mark to this day.
“Greenie, how are you? “Hello, Greenie. How are things?” “ Greenie! What’s up?” A lasting memory from one special Saint PADDY’S Day (a “patty” is a hamburger-thingy; “Patty” is a girl’s name–mostly…. Look it up.).
© James F. O’Neil 2014
Note: A special thanks to my Irish classmate Michael Toohey for suggesting I write this memory. “Thanks, Mike.” Or, is that “Mikey,” “Mickey,” or “Mick”? Or would that be now “Mícheál”? Ah, that good old Hebrew name….