Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Nickname Rules to Live By

Many of you know this already, but I call nearly every one of my friends by a nickname. Most of these are funny, some make fun of the person, and some commemorate stupid things done or said. At the same time, nicknames are a term of endearment. It shows you care.

I also call strangers nicknames. Most of these make fun of strangers that I have judged for almost always a superficial reason (which almost always turns out to be correct, even if Will McMillan thinks I judge people too quickly).

There are certain rules for nicknames. If we don't have rules, people, we descend into chaos. A parallel is to calling shotgun. One of the most important rules for calling shotgun is you have to be in view of the car to call shotgun. It's black and white, folks. In any event, on to the nickname rules (note: this is the first in a series of Rules to Live By posts)

1. You cannot give yourself a nickname. If you decide, for example, on the first day of college that you would like to be known as Cougar, even though you have never been called Cougar before, that nickname does not count. A self-given nickname is a sign of idiocy. You might as well tell people to call you an idiot. You know what would happen in this purely hypothetical scenario? Cougar gets turned into something much less flattering. Which leads me to the next rule.

2. Rhyming with a person's name or mispronouncing somebody's name does in fact count as a nickname. I'll use myself as an example. I've been called Mr. Figs for coming up on three years. Granted, it hasn't caught on as well as Corey Maggette'e nickname, but it's out there.

3. Natural. The nickname can't be forced. It has to flow. Recently, one of my law school buddies nearly got stuck with the nickname Frenchy because he wore a beret. The rest of us tried to call him Frenchy, but it just didn't stick. So, it went by the wayside. Closely related is the next rule...

4. You can't fight the bestowing of a nickname. This same friend who shall remain nameless (it's Leighton [whoops]) didn't like Frenchy and tried to avoid it. That only pushed the rest of us to pushing the nickname on him out of semi-spite; we hoped he would surrender to the nickname, but it didn't happen. But, when rules 3 and 4 clash, 3 wins.

5. Clarity. The justification behind a person getting a nickname needs to be clear. If you have to explain the nickname, it's not a good one. Now, what kind of a lawyer would I be if I didn't have an exception to my own rule? Here's the exception folks: if the back story is embarrassing or hilarious, the nickname counts. Also, there is a Grandfather clause. If the nickname dates back more than ten years, whatever the reason is, and the person still answers to the nickname, it's a true nickname. Longevity is a sign of a truly great nickname. Either that, or worthless unoriginal friends. If people know a person by the nickname predominantly, its gold (Sweater).

6. No jumping on the bandwagon. You can't just jump on to somebody else's nickname, unless it is by express invitation. If you don't know why somebody is called a nickname, you can't call them that.

7. You cannot refer to yourself by your nickname. This one is fairly straight forward. Unless you're Shaq, you can't call yourself your own nickname.

8. Changing languages is entirely appropriate. And then changing it back to English is even better. I'll explain this by way of example. Trey got the nickname, "da le" (which, in Spanish, means, "kick it"). This nickname was chanted and yelled. It was a good one. But, at some point, I changed it to Dale. As in Earnhardt. And, it works. If you figure out how to call somebody "Dark Horse" in Mandarin, I say go for it.

9. KISS. Keep it short, stupid. You have to limit the nickname. It can't be a sentence or a story. 3 words, max (not including "the" or "a").

10. Be original. Put a little thought into a nickname. Not too much, but some. It's a delicate balance. Chief, while funny, is not a nickname. Neither is ace, slick, boss, or champ. Feel free to use these monikers, but I think its best to use these when you either don't know the person's name or are using it derisively. On the other hand, played correctly, "Something McSomethingerson" can be hilarious [for example, if you see somebody wearing a dumb hat and sporting a beard, calling them Hatty McBearderson is both funny and appropriate).

11 comments:

Jordy said...

Is refering to someone by their last name a nickname? Naaman is 'Naaman' and not Michael. Or Wesley is 'Wes'. Or Vik is 'cocksucker'.

kaduke said...

Along the same lines as Jordy's comment. I think using someone's actual name can be a nickname. As i call you Vikram when you do not go by that name. Another example, my friend randy, I sometimes call him Randall Wayne (not just when he is in trouble)

Trey said...

Dale means "hit it." and frenchy wasn't because of the beret, it was just random. schubert (shoo-bear) would have worked perfectly. im sad to see it go. if i were around, i think it would have stuck.

Luke said...

1) i thought naaman's last name was lewis?

2) "hatty mcbearderson" is neither funny nor appropriate.

Frink said...

As the person who was actually there when "Cougar" happened, I appreciated the mention.

Also, I used to work with a guy who used tonon-ironically call people "ace," and I always had to struggle not to laugh in his face.

Trey said...

i disagree, luke. i think hatty mcbearderson is funny. in moderation of course...

Sarah said...

Well said, Counselor.

n.a.t.e said...

am i still speed bag...? I forgot the rest of it but I hadn't been called that in a while so just checking?

Vik Vij said...

In my opinion, calling a person by their last name or first name if they go by something different is not a nickname, as it is their real name, or part of it.

In my opinion, a nickname is not a truncated portion of a person's name. That would be a short name. In my case, Vik is short for Vikram. On the other hand, Big Cat is not short for anything but is my nickname du jour.

Wikipedia, I will point out, does not agree with me and claims that a short form of a name is a nickname. But this isn't the wikipedia blog. So there.

LegalBeagle said...

Cooter!!

n.a.t.e said...

vikram sounds alot like scrotum...he he