i used to have a lot of nicknames in high school; there must have been a half dozen listed under my picture in the yearbook. for the life of me, i can't remember a one of them, altho i'm sure at least one had to do with my obsessive need for coffee. i actually set up a little desk for myself in the radio station when i was one of the managers, and i used a spare AV cart with a plug in it, so i could set up a coffee pot. different boyfriends have had their private names for me. my roommates in college and i had goofy names for each other. but the only one i remember is from when i was very little. my mom used to call me hambone. she had a little song that went with it, too. i have no idea where this came from. i have this image of my mom standing at the stove, making dinner, ivory lit, doing a little dance as she stirred the pot and sang the hambone song.
one of my friends in college we called Little Uphill. when he walked anywhere, he always trudged as if he were hiking the alps in a high wind, head down, bracing himself. it only got worse when he got a Mac, because he's pack the shoebox into a backpack and carry it around campus. (let's face it; the first Macs weren't really portable.) his older brother, of course, was Big Uphill.
and there was Taz, whom i worked with at the theatre. it's a good thing she had a nickname, as there wasn't really any other way to distinguish us in conversation. 'you know, beth.' 'which one?' 'beth c.' 'which one?' 'the redhead.' 'which one?' 'the one with glasses.' and so on... really, we weren't that much alike. we had different jobs, and different personalities, but there was just enough in common that even our friends sometimes mixed us up in conversation. Taz is short for Tazmanian Devil. i have no idea how she picked that up, but it fits.
my grandfather's nickname was Zeke, short for Cecil. for the longest time, tho, i thought it was short for Ezekiel. i don't think i knew my grandfather's proper name until i was 14 or so. it may have come out because i wrote a card for him, and addressed it to Ezekiel, or someone mentioned Cecil and i got very confused. it's odd to think that you can be close to someone in your family for so long and not know something so basic as their given name.
then there are the people you nickname for other reasons. for a long time, the person sitting next to me at work was Angry Little Man, or ALM. he sort of looks like a santa elf gone bad - short, very stout, balding, and with a temper like nobody's business. we didn't hit it off well when he started here, hence the nickname. fortunately, we've sort of tacitly worked out a good relationship, and he's one of my key go-to people these days, so he's grown out of the nickname. then at one point, i had an affair, and for obvious reasons his real name was not an option. so he became strawberry boy. it's a rather private story as to how he earned that, but i will share that he isn't a redhead. my ex-husband went by a nickname for a long time, because i couldn't stand referring to him by name. unfortunately, we nicknamed him Pooh because he looked like Pooh Bear. this led to Thousand Acre Wood moments when some trigger reminded me of Pooh. i finally got fed up with my memories of Winnie the Pooh being ruined by this dud, so he now goes by Fritz. it's debatable as to whether that's a nickname, as it was his birth name, but since he legally changed his name when he was about 6, i think it counts.
the other reason he has to go by Fritz is because i had developed such a block about his current name. this actually led to another friend being nicknamed. i go to a port and poker game once a month; well, it's held monthly, and i go when i can. i was talking to a friend of mine about one of the regulars, and there was some confusion as to who we were discussing. 'you know... Hal,' i said. 'hal hasn't been to a game in months. are you sure that's his name?' 'yeah. you know, he looks like... .' 'oh! you mean Jeff.' 'i do?' there you go... the power of subliminal blocks. i was bound and determined not to remember his name correctly just because there was too much baggage with it. i finally got around to telling this story to Jeff/Hal one night, then kept calling him the wrong name, so i finally just asked him if he cared. he didn't, and now he's Hal.
and sometimes you nickname people because they're part of your personal landscape, in that they live or work around the same neighborhood as you. there's one guy who's been handing out coupon circulars or selling Spare Change in the square for as long as i've been here, and i may never know his real name, but if you mention Big Guy to anyone who's been thru the square, they will know exactly who you mean. his patter is pretty consistent; every woman is Pretty Lady, and every man is Big Guy, and every person walking by gets special attention. he's one of the reassuring constants of life in the square.
walking home last night from the inconvenient store, i stopped short when i saw the black sheep of stee's couch family abandoned along the side of my building. poor unlovely couch; you are truly alone in your ventures, as you are not even out on the curb to meet new friends and entice them to take you home.