I got an email from Corky today. He’s my cousin, my dad’s oldest brother’s boy, my Uncle Charlie’s son.
Actually, the letter was from Matthew Charles, or Chuck, as he’s known to his co-workers, Corky to the family.
On my mother’s side, nicknames are just shortened versions of given names; Christina, Elizabeth, and Debra become Chris, Beth, and Debbie; James, William, and John are Jim, Bill, and Johnny.
But on my dad’s side, they tend to get creative. No one knows why; it’s just something they do.
What about that other kind of nickname – the name bestowed on you that may not have anything to do with your given name. Nicknames given with love, sometimes used in love, that make you smile – sometimes.
At other times, those fun names are only appropriate at small, intimate, family gatherings, where no one from work, school, or your latest significant other is in attendance.
My dad’s youngest brother, Albert Michael, is the best example, good or bad, of the nicknaming-tradition.
Uncle Mike was named in honor of an old family friend, Albert, but immediately called Mike by his parents, brothers, sisters, and all the other relatives. To his boyhood friends, co-workers, and his wife, my Aunt Marie, he’s Al – the name he started school with.
Uncle Mike gave my son Adam, his nickname when he was about 3 or 4 years old- Barney. This was at least 10 years before, way before, that purple Barney dinosaur, so we don’t know how it began, but Barney it is.
When we’re visiting, its Barney this, Barney that, – Barney, Barney, Barney. After a few days, it even starts coming out of my mouth. It’s not a bad nickname and in comparison to others Uncle Mike had given, Barney’s a gem of a nickname.
For a while, I was sure one of Uncle Mike’s three babies would climb out of their crib and murder him while he slept because of the nicknames he gave them.
My bet was on the oldest, Aaron, otherwise known, but thank goodness only to his dad, and only until the next baby arrived, maybe three or four years, as “urine.” Wonderful, huh?
No one else has ever said that nickname, but we all heard Mike whisper it lovingly at one time or another to Aaron, especially when he was changing his diaper.
Each baby had their turn at nicknames; Anna-Renee became Sahara-nays, and Benjamin morphed into Gun-ga-din.
But not to worry, nobody ever killed anyone; Aunt Marie took it with a smile, and the kids just groaned out, “daaaaadddd.”
To get back to Corky – this wonderful baby boy was given the name of his father and grandfather – Matthew Charles. Almost immediately, to avoid more confusion between grandfather, son, and grandson, someone called the new baby boy Corky, and for his first five years, it stuck like gum to the underside of a chair seat.
However, when you start school, you’re called the name on your birth certificate – Matthew. Ten years later, Corky/Matthew gets an after school job washing cars at a car dealership and the mechanics turned it into Chuck.
He’s now become Corky-Matthew-Chuck depending on his location; Corky at home, Matthew at school, and Chuck at work.
So, for review, we have a grandfather, his son, and the grandson, all named Matthew Charles. The grandfather answers to Matt or Charlie, his son became Junior days after he was born, and depending on where he is, can be called Junior, Matt, or Charlie, and the grandson, answers to Corky, Matthew, or Chuck.
Nicknames stay with you forever; not only do they become a part of your name, they become part of your life.