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A Rose by Any Other Name
by Cookie Curci
Most all of us are given a first and last name when we enter this world. We have nothing to say about who chooses it or why. Our surname is the product of our family lineage, while our parents decide upon our first name after hours of agonizing deliberation.
Chances are, after all the work and energy mother and father put into choosing our names, friends or family will replace it with a whimsical nickname.
As a kid who grew up in the 1940s, I played a lot of sandlot baseball with the neighborhood kids. Fifty years later, I've long since forgotten the birth names of my old teammates, but their nicknames remain crystal clear: "Dimples" was on first base, "Jonsey"-second, "chi-chi" on third. "Red" was pitching softballs, "Spoony" was behind the plate, "Pebbles" was in left field, "Ricky" in center, while me and my Radio Flyer wagon and my dog Buffy kept guard over right field.
Most nicknames are self-explanatory. While they're not always flattering, they are usually lovingly bestowed. For instance, if you were born with red hair, your playmates were sure to call you "Red." If you were born with a set of protruding teeth, your pals might tag you "Beaver" or "Bucky."
When my brother was a boy, his friends dubbed him "Pebbles." Our father's name was Rocky so it was only natural that the son of "Rock" be called "Pebbles." I remember one of our pals who was nicknamed "Five-cents," because his surname was Nichols. And another we called "Mailbox." He earned his nickname because of his daily habit of leaning on mailboxes and watching all the girls go by. Luckily, both boys outgrew their nicknames. But I'd be willing to bet they enjoyed them while they had them. In fact, a kid just didn't feel loved until one of his pals gave him a nickname.
When my grandparents came to America in the early 1900s, they were immediately given nicknames. It was a necessity born from an abundance of too many people with like names and faces. In order to identify someone quickly and to ensure everyone maintained his or her individuality, a nickname had to be adopted. A descriptive nickname was used along with the immigrant's birth name.
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