What’s in a Name?

Nicknames are a curious thing. Monikers earned due to a specific event, a casual simplification of a name, or a specific trait. Though I’m mostly referred to by my actual given name, I’ve had a few nicknames over the years, and while some have lingered, others have faded away – for the better, in some cases.

Briefly, in my later years of elementary school, I was called “Alf.” It’s a shortening of my first name and the first initial of my last name. It’s also the name of a furry extraterrestrial sitcom character from the 80’s, to whom I like to think I bear no resemblance. This one didn’t last very long, though – only a year or so, if that.

After an accident during a track meet when I was fifteen, I was plagued by a recurring injury that resulted in the disastrous end to my athletic career, a few stints with crutches, and reconstructive knee surgery. Due to my less than stellar walking ability for those months, a handful of friends dubbed me “Gimpy.” Other variations of this name were used, but “Gimpy” was the most frequent, and that stuck from sophomore year of high school through senior year, long after my limping stopped. Fortunately, I have since shed it, and no one has referred to me this way . Looking back, though the nickname was imposed upon me with a measure of friendly affection, it’s actually pretty offensive, so I’m glad I don’t look over my shoulder at a shout of “Gimpy!” anymore.

In college, a friend gave me the nickname “Allenson.” The impetus of this one is foggy, but I think it had something to do with Vikings? I’m not entirely sure of the circumstances, but I do remember it was hilarious.

I actually used to detest being called “Allie.” I used to think it was too “girly” sounding for me since I was a huge tomboy growing up, so whenever folks called me “Allie” in an effort to be nice or spark a rapport, they were met with my wrath. It’s a variant of my actual name, but none of my family ever called me Allie in my early years. However, when I got to kindergarten there was another little girl with the same first name, and she ended up with the shortened moniker while I got to keep the long version, a distinction which lasted through the entirety of high school. Now, I do not mind being called “Allie” as an adult – I wouldn’t have chosen it as my pseudonym, otherwise. Most people in my life don’t call me Allie anyway, except for the few folks who only know me for my writing – it’s actually made it somewhat easier to separate my personal/business life. As a writer, I also give a lot of my characters nicknames – either due to their actions, or traits, or because I can’t be bothered to type their full name out all the time.

People closest to me (family, close friends) commonly refer to me as “Al.” It’s the kind of nickname that sounds wrong when it comes from the lips of an acquaintance, or from someone I’m not very familiar with. If I go out and meet someone who proceeds to call me “Al” without prompting, or without knowing much about it, it grates on me – in a “You have not earned the right to refer to me as such” type of way. I’m not sure why that is, or why I’m so particular about it – perhaps because “Al” is the most personal nickname I’ve ever had. It’s an “If you don’t know me, don’t call me that” nickname.

Nicknames can be adored, abhorred, earned, given, or inherent – and some carry a unique origin story with them. What’s your unique nickname story?

 

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