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What's in a Nickname?

It's not who you know, it's who knows you

By Al Carlos Hernandez
Published on LatinoLA: December 10, 2003


What's in a Nickname?


Someone said in order to be truly cool or to accomplish great things in life you have to have a nickname. I don?t know if that's true, but I know that a nick ]name that doesn?t degrade you or make you seem like a dork is a way of separating you from the other ratones in the rat race.

Each ethnicity seems to have their own styles of nicknames. Euro dudes have one word names like The Edge, Sting, and Moby. American guys take a different and less creative approach, simply tacking endings on names like Brad-ster, Steve-arino, and Dave-meister.

Harley Biker types have names like Buffalo, Road Dog, and Sidewinder. There is a well-known musician named ?The Funky Doctor? because his Dad was a physician. I don?t know, but maybe accountants have names like ?Kid Calculator,? ?Jimmy Mechanical Pencils,? or ?Spread sheets.?

The Black community has the best nicknames, which speaks to certain bravado, asserting a glib and extravagant uniqueness. Take for example the And-One street basketball touring street baller team; you need a nickname just to qualify: Hot Sauce, Skip-to-my-lou, and Escalade. Rappers include various Cubes, 50 Cent, C-notes, and inane egocentric anachronisms. You never hear of an MC Broke, DJ Dyslectic, or Ja-Rude.

Old school Italian fellas, pretty much set up the whole G?ed up, nickname paradigm, back in the day when they came up with names indicative a certain character trait, like Bruno-Bag-of-Donuts, Tony Ravioli, and Larry Six Fingers.

Latinos especially, those of us of the barrio variety, have broken many of the rules for nicknames, and have included women. Why is it that in every barrio there is always a plus-sized baby Mama Chola, with bleached blonde hair named Blanquita? Names for the most part as self explanatory: Sleepy, Cyclone, Dopey, Rascal, Shy Girl. The ones I don?t get are Casper, Puppet, and Tamales.

Names seem to stick with you and are oftentimes are brought up at inappropriate moments when childhood friends encounters you as adults.

We were surprised to find out that our dignified, well-spoken, quite thin Dad was called ?Torpedo? by his band member friends during World War Two. My younger brother made the mistake of referring to Dad using his nautical name, and was close to being renamed ?Traction Boy?.

A friend who we grew up with was an All State football star was named ?Squeaky? because as a kid, he would squeak instead of cry. There was a kid who had a small crew who used to frequent the motorcycle shop named ?Papa Duck.? A street racer was named ?Cat Daddy? but no one could figure out why an old school cycle shop owner was called ?Biscuits.? If you asked him about his eating habits he would tell you to ?bite me?.

Some names as designed to be ironic, like a short school administrator named ?Big Sid? or self evident like Big Rob, Black Mike, or Willie Fat.

I never had a nickname, and while in the cycle business I would go by my middle name Carlos. Using the middle name only was like an insurance policy, so that when someone would call and ask for ?Carlos? the query was motorcycle related. If they use my whole name it was usually something litigious that needed to be avoided. Some of the crew would call me ?Los? and one guy who had the distinction of being the Wheelie Champion of the entire Northwest would insist on calling me ?Carlucho?.

It would be great that at a certain point in life that you had the opportunity to give yourself your own nickname that people had to call you. Folks could come up names like ?Closing the Big Deal Bill,? ?I Have a Degree and You Don?t -Darrell", ?You Don?t Know What Pain is Murray, and ?Math Whiz Wong."

Giving nicknames is a science; the only proof of your work is if the name sticks. I have been marginally successful in naming a ?Cadillac George,? an ?East Coast Eddie,? and an international TV Executive ?Vito?.

There is nothing more pathetic than trying to nickname yourself and it failing. Like the time Arturo messed with his image and wanted to be called Big Art, until someone found out his middle name was Maralejo, which means Marmalade.
Suffice to say everyone started calling him ?Marmalejo is a Pendejo?.

You can call me Homes.







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