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To Nick or Not … By Mae Catherine Godhigh

Got a nickname? Do you realize you are forever identified by your name?

Mrs. Kathryn Timmes refused to call any student by their nicknames. Until this day, I can’t thank her enough. During my school years, in the hallways she would say, Good morning Mae Catherine or Bruce Wayne I see you! I often wondered why she called us by our first and middle names. Later in life, I came to understand why.

Have you ever wondered what the purpose of a nickname is? Google states a nickname is a substitute for the proper name of a familiar person, place, or thing. Commonly used to express affection, it is a form of endearment and amusement.

Sorry Google but I can only partially agree with the above definition. Growing up, I remember kids with nicknames like Tilly, Pookie, Whistle, Spook-man, Boney- Rat, etc. What folk don’t always realize is that it may be endearment or amusement, but once you become an adult, it can difficult or impossible to shake.

Allow me to say, I am not trashing people who go by nicknames. Whatever name makes you happy is good enough for me. However, I hope this article will enlighten and challenge you with a few different perspectives. I don’t believe people mean to cause intentional harm with nicknames. The harm is in never being able to lose that unwanted identity.

ASSUMPTION: Don’t assume everyone is fond of their nickname or likes being addressed by their nickname. Keep in mind, the child did not ask or sign up for the name. It was given or assigned without their input or consent.

QUESTION:Think about this one: Is it even proper to address someone by their nickname without their consent? I have known people who had to fight over nicknames like Rail-head, Bubble-lips, Sticky-hands, etc.

DIDN’T KNOW: How many times have you known a person by their nickname and when they died you discovered their real name was something else? Shame on us when we thought “Bubba” or “Lieutenant” was the real name.

Until this day, I have to remind people that my nickname is not my name. I wish I had a dollar for each time, I have reminded people to call me by my name. I would be rich and open shop on a faraway beach. The real tragedy is we are both stuck. Folk are stuck with my nickname in their mind, and I am stuck with an unwanted name. So the question becomes, do we really do better after we learn better?

The moral to this story: think before you add a name, and think before you call a person by their nickname.

In some customs, parents wait days, weeks, and even longer before assigning a name to a child. They wait until the personality emerges before they select a name.

Case and point: My great-grandmother named my great-uncle, Pleasant (without a nickname). God knew that was the perfect name for him because all of his life, he was a pleasant man to know.

If you are a parent or thinking about becoming one, I ask that you give serious consideration to the usage of nicknames. Think about the purpose and the practicality of this form of “double branding.” Ask yourself, Is this necessary? How is this nickname going to affect my child later in life? To all of you lovely peeps who love your nickname, I raise my glass!

The sun is going down, and it is your decision to nick or to not.