Nicknames are funny things. Sometimes they’re temporary appellations which last–thankfully–only as long as the school day. Others are permanent, evidenced by pruny octogenarians with ridiculous names like Cookie or Skip. Often these sobriquets are bestowed affectionately by friends, family members and classmates. Just as frequently, these same people inflict upon their victims a moniker which serves not only to grind down their self-esteem as indefatigably as waves crashing against a beach, but also one which follows them all the way to their bitter and unlamented graves, hovering about them like a bad stink.
That some appellations fit so magically to specific individuals is surely one of the unrecognized beauties of the natural world. I have spoken in these pages previously of the spastic and afflicted Frogboy. He is but one of the many nicknamed characters to have crossed my path, including such delightfully named characters as the Fly; Bladder Girl; ‘Lil Apu; Easy Dana; Far-Side Freddy; Beerslut; Wigga & Little Wigga; Mexican Bush Chick (Any guesses as to how she got that name?); the Troll; Baby Reinhard; Blowjob Paige, not to be confused with Blowjob Holly; the Muppet; Crooked Katie, Zitty & Fatty (they were sisters); Rockstar & the Weasel; Dr. Knob; Sideshow Bob, who was also known as Puff; Cool-Whip Boy, Partyball; Poodlegirl and too many others to list. It beats memorizing a bunch of real names.
Nicknames sometimes attach themselves to someone simply because they’re so damn appropriate–like my buddy, Keebler. Damned if the guy doesn’t look like a happy little forest sprite with a mad jones for soft-batch. Upon meeting his wife, folks often mistakenly address her as “Mrs. Keebler,” believing that to be correct. Other people choose nicknames for entirely different reason, like my friend Nickname Withheld, whose physical-characteristic based nickname helps those close to him forget that his first name is Earl.
Some nicknames are not politically correct. Back in my lifeguard days, we had a mouthy kid who’d come to the pool. He had attitude, but he was fun, and he took to calling a lifeguard named Jimmy ‘Cap’n Crunch.” Believing turnabout is fair play, Jimmy called the kid (who was African-American) ‘Cocoa Puff,’ and the name stuck. Now this is the kind of thing that gets people fired today, but fortunately for Jimmy, Cocoa Puff knew the difference between laughing with and laughing at.
And sometimes, the difference between being saddled with an awful nickname and having it fade into obscurity depends entirely upon your reaction. Witness the entirely dissimilar experiences of my college friends Tyrrell and Steve.
Upon hearing the story that follows, it would be easy to assume that Tyrrell Laiblin is a ‘special person,’ who, if not by now asphyxiated after swallowing his own tongue, must surely live in some kind of assisted living facility where dangerous objects like scissors and pencils are kept in a special cabinet to which only the Day-Nurse has the key. In fact, today Tyrrell is living independently, employed and even the father of two children by his lovely wife, whom, one assumes, he blackmailed into marrying him. That Tyrrell is today able to live among normals is probably more a result of fortune favoring the undeserving and of our college’s anemic electrical grid than anything else.
The crux of the tale is this: Despite my repeated insistence, Tyrrell refused to believe that an electrical current ran through a phone jack, and was so convinced of this that he (folks, it’s hard for me to write these words without laughing) decided to prove it by touching the male end of the phone cord to his tongue while the other end was still connected to the socket. Unlike poor Tyrrell, I’m sure you already know what happened.
By the time Tyrrell had picked himself up off the floor, we were already calling him ‘Sparky.’ It only lasted about a day, however. He took it with a begrudging grace that knocked most of the fun out of the nickname, and since it didn’t fit him faded quickly into obscurity, resisting the one or two half-hearted attempts to revive it.
Steve Wooster, on the other hand, managed simply through his reaction, to cling to an ugly nickname he didn’t deserve. One day, in tossing around the random cruelties attendant with the friendship of young men, someone called Steve ‘Sac-Licker’ (as in, he licks testicles). This was said in the playful manner that so often accompanies epithets like asshole, fuckface or cum-bubble, any of which Steve would have simply shrugged off. But perhaps because he didn’t quite know what it meant–just that it was bad–Steve reacted poorly. And by poorly, I mean he flipped his fucking lid and demanded–demanded–that we not call him ‘Sac-Licker.’ And so of course, a nickname was born.
If we have to pull a lesson from all of this, it’s this: Don’t have friends.