Of Men and Nicknames

by Brett & Kate McKay on September 24, 2012 · 263 comments

in A Man's Life, On Manhood

Back in high school, my close male friends called me “Mama McKay.” It started out as a way to poke fun at my tendency to make sure everyone was taken care of and for being the guy who’d say “Fellas, maybe we shouldn’t be doing this,” whenever we were about to take part in some potentially dangerous or criminal teenage hijinks. The nickname rubbed me the wrong way at first, but I soon accepted it and even became a little proud of it.

We had nicknames for other guys in the group as well. We called one guy “Crip” because when he first started hanging out with us, he had a foot in a cast and was on crutches. For a long time, we didn’t even know his real name. It was just Crip. There were other nicknames that were designed to infantilize and emasculate. When we found out that “Drew Bear” was the pet name my best friend Andrew’s mom had for him, we started calling him that first as a joke, and the name stuck. Another guy was “Indian Princess.” I don’t even remember how that one was coined.

On the football team, especially among the linemen, nicknames abounded. We called one big guy “Happy Fat” because he was, well, happy and fat. Another guy we called “Squints” because his cheeks were so fat it looked like he was squinting all the time. Then there was “Donuts.” He liked donuts. A lot.

An unspoken rule about all these mocking monikers us guys had for each other was that only guys in the “gang,” could call each other by their respective nicknames. If an outsider tried to use the name, they’d be given the cold shoulder or simply told outright to “Shut the hell up.”

While this very distinctly male ritual might seem sort of silly and superficial, the practice of nicknaming has been studied by anthropologists and sociologists, and can in fact offer some fascinating insights into manliness and the bonds between men.

What Are Nicknames?

The word nickname comes from the Middle English “eke name,” or extra name. Nicknames are names that are substituted for a given name but have not been legalized. While using someone’s given name and title shows deference and respect, using their nickname is an informal form of address.

In small communities, derisive nicknames are often used to refer to people behind their backs, and the nicknamed individual may not even know about the epithet. Other nicknames are used to refer to or address someone directly. These fall into several categories:

Referential nickname. These are nicknames bestowed on public figures, and are often used to refer to politicians and sports figures. For example Andrew Jackson was known as “Old Hickory” and Winston Churchill was called “The British Bulldog.” And of course in times past evocative nicknames for athletes abounded: Lou “The Iron Horse” Gehrig, Harold “The Galloping Ghost” Grange, Earvin “Magic” Johnson, Karl “The Mailman” Malone, William “The Refrigerator” Perry, and so on. Boxers have always been some of the most nicknamed athletes — pugilist John L. Sullivan (who graces the AoM masthead) had half a dozen monikers or more, including “The Prizefighting Caesar,” “The Hercules of the Ring,” “The Boston Strongboy,” and my favorite, “His Fistic Highness.”

Sports nicknames linger on today, but have been in decline since their golden age in the 1920s, when childhood nicknames were more common, and colorful journalists sought to punch up their writing by christening athletes who had made it to adulthood without one. Today’s athletes lack the intimacy and accessibility that allowed nicknames to thrive, and because all nicknames are bestowed by others and thus lie outside the control of the named, modern athletes often eschew them in favor of stricter management of their “personal brand.”

As the name implies, these nicknames are used to refer to someone — not to address them directly. You wouldn’t have gone up to Mr. Gehrig and said, “Hey Iron Horse, how’s it going?”

Private nickname. Also known as a love-name, or pet-name, these names are typically used between lovers only when they are alone (or by couples who are impervious to the eye-rolls of their friends). Think “Sweetie Pie” or “Honey Buns.” Private nicknames give couples a sense of intimacy, as they are names known and used only by each other, which helps create a little pocket and hedge against the outside world.

Public nickname. A public nickname is one that is often given to a person in his childhood by family or friends, and which he carries with him everywhere he goes — it has a achieved a near permanent status. The person may introduce themselves to new people with the nickname, and friends and associates may not even know the person’s real name. For example, Kate’s uncle’s real name is James, but as a kid his brother started calling him “Fuzz,” because his neck hair grew back so quickly after haircuts. His dad worked with a not-so-bright guy who morphed Fuzz into “Buzz.” Friends and family found that so funny they all started using it. Today, he’s Buzz to pretty much everybody and introduces himself that way.

Public nicknames differ from diminutives, which represent variations on one’s given name: Bobby=Robert, Smith=Smitty. True nicknames are complete departures from the root of one’s real name.

Generic. These are less personal, off-the-cuff nicknames that are given to those who fit certain categories. “Doc” for a doctor, “Shorty” for a vertically-challenged individual, “Paddy” for an Irishman, and so on.

Group nicknames.  At last we come to the type of nickname that we will be focusing on today. These nicknames are bestowed on members of a group by each other, and only used within the group. It’s the difference between Winston Churchill being called “The British Bulldog” by the public, and his being known as “Copperknob” (for his red hair) among his childhood chums at the all-boys Harrow School.

Group nicknames are an almost exclusively masculine domain, and their purpose and function among men will now be explored.

The Purpose and Function of Nicknames Within All-Male Groups

At their core, group nicknames are boundary-defining and boundary-maintaining mechanisms that draw a line both between who is in a group of men and who is out, and between that group and the outside world.

How Nicknames Set a Group and Its Members Apart

Group nicknames thrive within small, insular tribes, gangs, and teams of men who experience regular face-to-face contact, and especially among those male groups which share in a common purpose and set of risks, and together must tackle difficult challenges. Think of military units, criminal organizations like the Mafia, motorcycle gangs, football teams, pioneering and adventure expeditions, and men whose employment isolates them from the outside world (miners, loggers, etc.).

Men have a desire to feel that our group is tighter and better than other groups in the same category. And so the cohesiveness of these kinds of male groups is driven by an “us versus them” mentality — we band of brothers against the outside world. Part of what creates this distinct sense of “us” is the use of names known only to each other. Nicknames create a special language that outsiders aren’t privy to (in addition to nicknaming other group members, men, especially in the military, come up with their own names for their equipment, living quarters, and so on). Even if an outsider knows what a group member’s nickname is, he also knows he dare not use it to address him without causing offense – that privilege is reserved for his comrades.

Nicknames not only set a group apart from the outside world by creating a special language, they also foster a distinct identity for the group and its members. In religious rituals in which an initiate is inducted into a priesthood or order, they are often given a new name to signify their new life and the new behaviors that will be expected of them. In receiving a new name, you become part of a new “family.” In the same way, a nickname helps you shed the expectations tied to your given name for a time, and settle into your role in the group. For example, Army Lt. Mike Smith may be a gentle, happy husband and father of three when he’s home in Ohio, but when he’s stationed at a remote outpost in Afghanistan, he’s a different guy, with a different name, a different family, and a different code.

How Nicknames Indicate a Man’s Status and Inclusion in a Group

While nicknames separate a group from the outside world, they also demarcate the status of an individual man within that group — whether he is an accepted, respected, and integrated member of the group, or sits on the periphery.

The interesting thing about nicknames is that while derisive nicknames used behind someone’s back are utilized to shame someone in a community and designate them as an outsider, mocking nicknames (and in most male groups, nicknames are) are given to members of all male-groups to mark them as an insider. What explains this seeming paradox?

Nicknames are usually first given to guys who are sitting on the “bubble” of the group. The other members aren’t quite sure about him, and throwing out the nickname is a way of feeling the guy out. If he demonstrates he can good-naturedly accept an insulting nickname from his fellow members, he proves that he trusts them — that he knows there is no malice behind a moniker that in another context would be considered a putdown. So while a nickname often starts as a form of ribbing, if the member is able to take it, he will become more integrated into the group. In a way, it’s a form of hazing. Thus nicknames in male groups, despite looking like insults to outsiders, are actually honorific titles showing that a man has been accepted by the others.

Conversely, a man who will not accept his nickname — “My name is Ralph! Don’t call me Dumbo!” — shows that he does not trust his brothers and thus cannot be fully integrated into the group.

How Nicknames Test and Solidify the Bonds Between Men

Once nicknames have been established, they serve to test and reinforce the bonds between the men in a group.

You yourself may have used, or seen other men use, seemingly derogatory language in greeting a friend. “Hey bastard!” “What’s up fat ass?” What may seem to others to be a puzzling ritual and paradoxical way to demonstrate one’s friendship, can actually be a way for men to show — and to test — the solidity of their bond. A man will use an insulting greeting when he feels confident enough in the relationship to know he will not offend. At the same time, if the greeting does evoke a negative response — perhaps one friend has been nursing a grudge unbeknownst to the other — it will bring this rift to the surface. “Hey bastard!” “Who you calling a bastard, you asshole?” As Diego Gambetta, author of Code of the Underworld, puts it, when the interaction does engender “a negative response, this brings a switch from innocent banter to strategic interaction.”  This “insulting” greeting can serve to ferret out and then deal with ill-feelings.

In the same way, each time a man answers to his group nickname without umbrage, it indicates that the ties between the men remain solid – it’s a constant sonar test, sounding the depth of those bonds. In groups that face risk and challenge together, trust and loyalty are paramount, and nicknames help men to know they have placed their trust and loyalty well.

Now that you understand the function of nicknames within a male group, it becomes possible to finally see the underlying rationale behind the prohibition against giving yourself a nickname, and why we find others’ attempts to do so ridiculous and funny — nicknames must be bestowed upon you by your male peers. Inventing a nickname for yourself is read as an attempt at gaining a privilege without earning it first — something a low status man like George Costanza would do.

The Genesis of Nicknames in Male Groups

Nicknames, which contrast with formal, deferential modes of address, demonstrate the equality of members of a group, and any fully fledged member of a group may bestow a nickname on another. The ability to coin a good, clever nickname can in turn give a member more status and popularity.

What makes a good nickname? A nickname that will stick manages to distill down a story or a defining personal trait into one or two words. Bernard Rosenberg, who studied criminal gangs, noted how gang members would “size each other up, and then, put their findings in pithy nicknames–names which explain the man in a word–his weakness, his racket, how he works, or some peculiarity about him.” Anthropologist Anthony P. Cohen argues that, “The hallmark of the apt nickname is that deft touch of nuance, mocking humour, pungent wit, and droll equivocality.” Meeting these requirements and coming up with a good nickname isn’t easy, which is why the man who does so gets kudos from the others.

As discussed above, many male nicknames are mocking in nature, and the largest percentage of them are rooted in a man’s physical characteristics — particularly of the unflattering variety. As Russian philosopher and literary critic Mikhail Bakhtin noted, “Wherever men laugh and curse, particularly in a familiar environment, their speech is filled with bodily images. The body copulates, defecates, overeats, and men’s speech is flooded with genitals, bellies, defecations, urine, disease, noses, mouths and dismembered parts.”

The popularity of body-part nicknames in groups of men speaks to another one of their purposes: tension-reducer. Especially important for tight-knit groups under stress. Nicknames evoke laughter because of their contrast with more formal modes of address, their common use of phonemic repetition (“Mama McKay”), and, because body parts can be pretty funny.

Insulting nicknames based on a man’s physical qualities also serve to emphasize the distinct maleness of the group — one cannot imagine female friends calling a big-nosed girl in the group “Birdie” or an overweight one “Chubs,” without causing deep offense and hurt feelings.

But unflattering physical attributes are not the only fodder for nicknames — they can come from a variety of sources of inspiration. And it is possible to earn that most desirable of male nicknames – a descriptive one based on one’s exemplary skills. Examples of nicknames culled by Diego Gambetta from the court records of Italian Mafioso offer an interesting look at the different categories into which male nicknames can fall:

Physical Nicknames

  • u’Beddu (Handsome)
  • Il Gosso (Fat)
  • Tignusu (Hairless)
  • Turchiceddu (Little Turk – the man in question had a dark complexion)
  • Faccia di Pala (Shovel Face – “because of the wide shape of his face”)
  • Pietro u’Zappuni (“two horsey front teeth”)
  • Il Vampiro (the man in question was tall, thin, and spooky)
  • Mussu di Ficurindia (Prickly Pear Mouth)

Descriptive Nicknames

  • L’Ingegnere (Engineer — “He was in charge of fixing radios used by smugglers at sea”)
  • Il Senatore. (Senator –This man did not hold office himself, but “was involved with politicians, he could rely on all sorts of favors”)
  • U’Tratturi (Tractor—This man was skilled “in murdering people. He flattened everything and wherever he went the grass stopped growing”)

Titled Nicknames

  • Reella Lalsa (King of Kalsa)
  • Generale (General)
  • Principe di Villagrazia (Prince of Villagrazia)

Behavioral Nicknames

  • u’Tranquillu (Quiet)
  • u’Guappo (Braggart)
  • u’Cori Granni (Big heart)
  • Farfagnedda (Stammer)
  • Pupo (Dapper)
  • Cacciatore (Hunter)
  • Studenete (“because he went to university, but never graduated”)
  • u’Masculiddu (Little Male)

Animal Nicknames

  • Il Cane (Dog)
  • Cavadduzza (Little Horse)
  • Conigghiu (Rabbit)
  • Farfalla (Butterfly)

Objects Nicknames

  • Alfio Lupara (Sawed-off Shotgun)
  • Pinnaredda (Little Father)
  • Putina (Little Nail)

Some men were even named for vegetables:

  • Milinciana (Eggplant)
  • Cipudda (Onion)

It wasn’t just underlings who had derogatory nicknames either — mob bosses had them too:

  • Ninu u’Babbu (Nino the Fool)
  • Fifu Tistuni (Thick Head)
  • Piddu Chiacchiera (Joe Baloney – know for exaggerating events)
  • Il Corto (The Short)

According to Gambetta’s research, within the Mafia, hit men are the most likely to have a nickname — most likely because of yet another purpose of nicknames , at least in criminal organizations — keeping one’s identity secret.

Why Has the Use of Nicknames Declined?

Sociologists say that the use of nicknames of all kinds has declined over the last few decades. Why is this?

One final, very practical purpose of nicknames – of both the group and other varieties – is simply to distinguish one person from another when many individuals in a community have the same name. So, for example, they used to thrive in small villages in the Mediterranean, where surnames were few, and the tradition was to name a firstborn child after his or her parents or grandparents, or for the local Catholic patron saints. The result was a lot of people with the same names, and nicknames helped folks keep track of who was who.

These days, the diversity in names is on the upswing. As The New York Times reported:

“According to the Social Security Administration, the 10 most popular baby names for boys in 1956 represented 31.1 percent of the total born. In 1986, around the time many of today’s athletes were born, the top 10 represented only 21.3 percent of the total. In 2010, the number dropped to 8.4 percent.”

With so much variation, nicknames just aren’t as needed anymore.

Another reason for the general decline in nicknames may be found in a culture that takes offense to things more easily than it used to. As psychology professor Cleveland Evans put it, nicknames are “humorous or non-complimentary, and we may live in a culture where people are less willing to accept names that are less complimentary.”

When it comes to all-male groups, the decline in nicknames can simply be traced to the decline in the existence of these kinds of groups at all. As we mentioned above, nicknames thrive in small, insular groups that offer plenty of face-to-face contact. As a group interacts less, gets bigger, and becomes penetrated by outside forces and people, nicknames disappear.

The way in which this plays out can be seen by contrasting two organized crime syndicates: the Italian Mafia and the Russian Vory. In the Mafia, the organization is tighter and based on long-standing kinship and community ties, and its members’ nicknames are left to emerge naturally. The Vory, on the other hand, are a much looser and fragmented organization which originates not from bloodlines but in prison, and is made up of members of different nationalities and ethnicities. So it is interesting to note that Vory choose their own nickname when they are initiated into the group, instead of having them assigned by others.

The way in which the breakdown of the male group leads to the disappearance of nicknames can be seen in sports as well. In addition to the reasons for the decline of athlete nicknames mentioned above, it can also be traced to a breakdown in the bonds among players (who, besides reporters, were the ones who used to mint monikers for each other). Players don’t typically stay with one team and with a single set of teammates for very long anymore, and when they are with a team, they spend less time socializing with their teammates. As NBA Hall of Famer Walt “Clyde” Frazier put it:

“With the communication age, everybody’s on the computer, the cellphones, there’s not a lot of communication. When we traveled, there were only three channels, and all during the day, there was nothing but soaps on,” Frazier added. “So the guys spent a lot of time together, playing cards, talking, hanging around in the same places, traveling together on the bus or whatever it might be. There was a lot of camaraderie among the players.”

As it is on the hardwood, so it is in life. As tight-knit groups of men becomes more scarce, nicknames disappear too. All of which is to say, it’s harder than ever to become a T-Bone these days…or even a Koko.

Do you have a nickname that only your buds call you? Share it and the story behind it with us in the comments.

Postscript: If you enjoyed this topic, which relates to the broader topic of honor among men, then stay tuned as next week we will begin a series on the subject of honor itself.



Code of the Underworld by Diego Gambetta

Dictionary of Epithets and Terms of Address by Leslie Dunkling

Belonging: Identity and Social Organisation in British Rural Cultures by Anthony P. Cohen

“Nicknames as Symbolic Inversions” in Honour and Violence by Anton Blok

{ 263 comments… read them below or add one }

101 Jon Finkel September 25, 2012 at 12:24 pm

Great post… And isn’t Jim sort of a nickname for James?

Either way, I think nicknames are awesome. I have friends who I haven’t called by either their first or last name since we were freshman in college. Sounds like most of you were the same way.

In no particular order (and for reasons I barely remember anymore):
Johnny Parmigiana
Jonboy CoolPants
Hard Candy
Ham & Cheese

102 Joseph McCall September 25, 2012 at 12:28 pm

I’ve received many nicknames in my time..some better than others.

Little Greg- (my dads name)
Joe Cool- (based on the old snoopy hat that I used to wear religiously)
Superman- (I have tons of superman material)
Preacherman- (went to Seminary and worked at a church for a time)
Padre- (given to my by some bud’s of mine- based on the Spanish word for “Father”- I’m not Catholic, but this is by far one of my favorites)
Shadow- (the boys from the Boy Scout troop I work with have taken to calling me this)
Professor- (I’m slightly academic- and still might get my PhD…someday)
Then there are the ones that came from mispronunciation – Jofus and Jopher.

Finally, where I grew up, we have a tradition of calling each other by our last name, so “McCall”.
I’ve probably had others- but I can’t recall now lol

103 Brett McKay September 25, 2012 at 12:38 pm


Great comment. It reminded me of a quote I came across in my research that didn’t make it into the article:

“In one instance one might take the positive meaning of the nickname, in the next the negative, the name mediating both encounters and defusing tension by allowing one to insult without damage, criticize without reprisal, or compliment or support without becoming maudlin. This maintained a certain level of emotional balance, coolness, or detachment.”

And I found the same thing as you on my football team, in that the guys who weren’t willing to accept their nicknames tended to be the guys who couldn’t take criticism, didn’t work hard, and were poor performers at practice.

104 Smerf September 25, 2012 at 12:49 pm

How’s the joke go? If Cheryl, Emily, Kate and Amy go out for lunch, they’ll call each other Cheryl, Emily, Kate and Amy.

If Dave, Mike, Rob and Joe go out, they’ll call each other “Stinky”, “Bean”, “Bigfoot” and “Chubs”

105 "Griz" September 25, 2012 at 12:51 pm

Excellent article! As a guy who answers to “Griz” (alum of the U of Montana), “Art” (I shaved my head and my little brother – nicknamed “Merton” after former NFL DB Merton Hanks because of his long neck – thought I looked like Art Donovan, who was starring in many ESPN commercials at the time), “Bean” (no idea how that one came to being, but in high school, it was so prevalent that many people – teachers included – thought it was my real name), and “Elmer Fudd” (see “Art” explanation), I appreciate the insight into male nature that makes nicknames such a common occurrence among men. There’s a reason even seemingly-demeaning nicknames give rise to the phrase “affectionately known as…”!

106 Dan September 25, 2012 at 12:56 pm

We all just go by last names usually.

I joined a fraternity in college. We used a mix of nicknames that sort of naturally occurred based on some variation of a last name.

i.e. Nowacoski was shortened to “Novo”. Dmitri was “Dimi”. Grippin was “Grippo” or “Grip”. Wallach was “wally” or “wawa”, etc. We even had a “tank”, a “jaws”, and a “Pollard”, which never even closeley resembled their real names.

I still get called my nickname, or “Grippin” all the time. Depends on who I’m with or the given situation.

107 Carl Monster September 25, 2012 at 12:56 pm

No real nicknames given as a kid, I was left alone and stayed apart.
In HS I opened up, and in my last year had not only a nickname, but one I liked: Skag. The fact only two or three people called me that didn’t matter, it felt good.
I see the power of these names; I know guys who are still called by their HS nicknames, even though HS is decades past, and by people that didn’t know them in HS.

108 Smerf September 25, 2012 at 12:56 pm

Nick names of mine…

Dr. Banner

109 claude September 25, 2012 at 1:16 pm

If i were “bruised” by nicknames, i probably wouldn’t have survived my life so far. In no particular order, I was known as:

Big n Dumb
Big Bird
And my friends were:
Coon Dog
Fat Kid
Rain man
Shit face

I could fill a book.

110 Evan September 25, 2012 at 1:19 pm

Right after initiation into my fraternity, I picked up the nickname Smirnoff.

It’s a long story, and yes they made me drink all of them.

111 Patrick Lappert September 25, 2012 at 1:33 pm

Great article. Nicknames have a hallowed tradition in the world of combat aviation, where they are known as callsigns. Generally they are given by a “callsign board”, an august group within the squadron that has a demonstrated ability to hit on the essential trait of the nugget pilot.

One of the best I recall was a fellow who slipped of the front edge of the wing on a wet afternoon, and painfully straddled a missile rail. Thereafter he was “Hymen”.

112 Jack Stanley September 25, 2012 at 1:38 pm

When I started my pilot training at Baylor University, I started acquiring nicknames or “call-signs” from friends, family, and other pilots.

Iceman – earned during my Instrument training for having “ice water in my veins”. I have also flown through ice before.

Captain (America) – many of my non-pilot friends call me Captain. Some because they imagine me as an airline captain, others because of my physical and behavioral resemblance to The First Avenger.

My least flattering nickname is interchangeably Dorothy or Blanche from the Golden Girls. I pilot buddy of mine that I have often flown safety pilot with is typically the Dorothy counterpart. As I have never seen an episode of the Golden Girls – I’m not 100% how humiliating (in a manly, good-natured way) these monikers are.

113 Justin Brewer Golightly September 25, 2012 at 1:45 pm

My grandmother (who raised me) called me Jay Bird, I have no idea why. She loved blue jays, my first name stars with a “J” and then a “B”, and maybe my hair sticked up a lot? I don’t know but I loved it and blue jays have come to have sentimental meaning to me. I have no tattoos but want to get a blue Jay on my chest.

I’ve been called many nicknames from others as well, J-Brew, J-Dog and even Justice after one of my friends found out that is basically where “Justin” comes from. A girl in my past came up with “Justin Credible” after a long time of joking about my name.

My Catch Wrestling coach called me Squirelly Bastard for a long while because of how lean I was and how unpredictable and limber of a wrestler I could be.

114 Claude September 25, 2012 at 1:52 pm

This post reminds me of one of those e-cards I saw recenty:

Men insult each other and don’t really mean it.

Women compliment each other and don’t mean it.

115 Sonny September 25, 2012 at 1:52 pm

My relatives have always called me The Gooch. The Gooch was the bully on the tv show different strokes that arnold was scared of. They started calling me that way way way before america found out the the character was in fact a girl!!. I still love the name. Then when I was in middle school I was late on the first day of football practice so the only jersey left in my size was Purple. I bump into guys from the team every once in awhile and they still call me Purple.

116 Jeff Kelly September 25, 2012 at 3:08 pm

I had three different nickname depending on the group I was with. First was weazel because I was the one that could get into cramped places and retrieve things. When I went to college and joined a fraternity I was giver the nickname Bruiser because I was small and had a huge Irish Temper. I still uses this one today and is the basis of my email address. The last was with my fantasy football team because I am always forgeting to set the line up or missing draft day and they started calling me Taco from the character on The League on FX that has the same problems.

117 Alejandro September 25, 2012 at 3:24 pm

When I joined a fraternity in college in 1984, nicknames were common. Some of the members had trouble to come up with a name for me, when one of them commented that I bore a resemblance to actor Al Pacino. So, they called me “Scarface.” As the editorial states, nicknames among men are simply our way of self-identifying; separated, in a way, from our birth families where women often name and subsequently raise the children. Either way, it’s just how men bond with one another, and men pretty much are the only ones who understand it. We’re just like that, and there’s no real need to explain it. I think it’s cool!

118 S.W. September 25, 2012 at 3:34 pm

In regards to nicknames as hazing, there is a definite difference between what this article describes and outright bullying. As many guys who’ve commented have pointed out, they didn’t like the names their friends gave them, but because of camaraderie (and yes, guys can haze you and still be true, actual friends) those names lose their insulting meaning and become part of the group culture.

I was never the most outspoken or open guy among my friends, and so they gave me several different names to see how I would react. Although I rarely liked the names, it wasn’t long before I realized these guys actually liked me. Suddenly their ribbing didn’t seem so bad.

My nicknames included Old Man (when guys noticed I had a bit of a unibrow), Jew (I’m not Jewish, they thought I was cheap, after a while the kids under us in school actually started thinking I was Jewish… I didn’t go to the most diverse school), Ugly (my wife has since pointed out I was one of the better looking guys among my friends… after I got rid of the brow).

Favorite names guys I know are The Bear, Deuce (there was another Greg already), Birdie, and Moose

119 Robbo the Port Swiller September 25, 2012 at 4:10 pm

Very good stuff. I rowed crew in college and just about everyone had a nickname, some of them plays of one sort or another on the guy’s surname, some of them physical, some referential. They called me Whammer. My junior year, the other five guys in my boat were Biff, Bam-Bam, Flip Rollo (or the Flipper) and Goldmonster.

120 Robbo the Port Swiller September 25, 2012 at 4:10 pm

Four guys, that is.

121 Ed Sorrels September 25, 2012 at 5:24 pm

I was a really big kid 6’3″ at 17 when I went into the Corp’s, Just before I enlisted I on a dare got Big Ed Tattoed on my left forearm and it has stuck thru 8 years as a Marine and + 50 or so more years after that !

122 Steve September 25, 2012 at 5:45 pm

Never had a nickname. Never had any freinds with nicknames. To be perfectly honest, I can’t think of one person in my high school that has a nickname

123 Jason September 25, 2012 at 6:44 pm

This made me think about when I was learning Capoeira. The way my teacher tells it, you can’t get your first rank without having a nickname. Mine was Espada (sword). In fact, I remember most everybody I played with (this was 10 years ago), but only by their nickname.

In junior high school, I was pinned with “nerf” because my hair was apparently like a nerf toy. I never got it, but it stuck till high school.

124 Being lame and not leaving a name. I made a rhyme! September 25, 2012 at 7:40 pm

at one time, I was called sugar. One guy actually asked my mom why she named me sugar…

I’ve alson been called white lightning, vanilla speed and alpha

125 Patch September 25, 2012 at 7:45 pm

All of my older friends call me Patch. My sister started it, and when i started hanging out with her friends, it just kinda stuck, though i dont like people calling me it outside the group.

126 Jonathan September 25, 2012 at 8:04 pm

Its rather an interesting how the use of nick names as a form of address has declined, yet the use of nicknames and online handles has become the way we know each other more an more.

I can’t think of a time recently when family or co-workers have addressed me by anything other then my given name, but no one that I know online knows my real name outside of a very small group of close friends. Most of the time I am just another nickname amongst nicknames.

127 Fletcher September 25, 2012 at 8:34 pm

You guys all have so many nicknames. I’m still hanging onto my first nickname from my high school friends. I’m called butt scratcher usually when we’re playing sports which is based off a family guy joke. I didn’t really like it at first, but now I’m strangely proud as not many of our troop have nicknames.

128 julian September 25, 2012 at 8:39 pm

My nicknames growing up were Jules, JuJu, Juice, Juiceworld, Juju Bees. and my great grandfather called me popcorn when I was a kid because I was yellow with curly hair…..whats not cool is giving yourself a nickname.

129 Charlie September 25, 2012 at 9:02 pm

My nickname is Happy. I’m generally positive and helpful to people. It started out with a small group of people I worked with. Eventually it spread to more and more friends. I get introduced as Happy to new people I meet by friends. Most don’t know my real name until they ask or find me on facebook. Some are disappointed to find that isn’t my real name.

Additional friends also call me the Beard. So it has become a fullname nickname Happy Beard, or Charlie Beard (depending on who I am with).

130 Robert Drouhard September 25, 2012 at 9:15 pm

In high school I picked up the name “psychobob” because of my often crazy physical acts – skiing off big cliffs and bombing down black diamond runs, running full-bore through muddy cow pastures during cross-country practice, etc. Then in college I was known as “Bobicus” because a group of us were studying Greek (I know, “cus” is Latin, but we weren’t stickers for accuracy). We called my close friend “Heffe” and my roommate “Billiam” for some reason. Now I’m sometimes called “Prof.” because I have a Master’s of Theology. I call my close buddies by their last names – “Pickett” and “Razzy” (short for Rasmussen) – because they’re both named Ryan.

131 Joe Roy September 25, 2012 at 9:24 pm

My older brother was a chunky little kid at 6, while the rest of us were pretty skinny guys. My brother is now very athletic and muscular, with the kind of good looks and muscles that you usually only see on a magazine cover. We still call him “Fats”.

I’ve been called Almond (Almond Roy), GI Joe, and Altoid. (small, white, and curiously strong.)

132 CrAAsh! September 25, 2012 at 9:33 pm

I joined a fraternity and recived the nickname of…
-CrAAsh! Bandicooch

It has to be spelled just like that, the capital As and the ! are required. Every part of it has meaning and reason. It was orchestrated very well and surprisingly accurate.

133 Clint Flatt September 25, 2012 at 9:56 pm

Mine are CW my middle name is Wayne
Flattman (take off from Batman)
Flounder (a Flatt fish in the corps at A&M)
My dad since high school has been known as Stick he is 6’1″ and skinny now in his sixty’s his grandchildren refer to him as papastick.

I have often wondered about titles that attach to a person such as
Doc (he may be a physician or a phd)
Reverend or Brother (but not a minister)
Coach is the toughest one for me. There are many men in my life who are now Principals, Preachers, Superintendents or retired but when I first met them they were a coach whether it be school or little league it seems like once you are a coach you are always a coach.

134 Buster September 25, 2012 at 10:16 pm

When I was growing up, nicknames were a part of the family as well as with friends. I have been called ‘Buster’ since I’ve been born, mostly because my parents didn’t want someone else to give me a nickname that they didn’t like. But we had names like Bunk, Turk, Bud, Butch, T-Ray, Chip, Peanut, Baboo, Booger, and many more.

Now that I’m in the military, our call signs are made using the same guidelines as noted above: Nationalty/Heritage, civilian job back home, what tobacco you chew, etc.

What is interesting to me now that I am older is who I introduce myself as to new people. Family and friends that I have known my entire life can and will call me Buster I am sure, but new acquaintances at college and professors know me as Alex. My girlfriend grew up in a family that abhors nicknames so she doesn’t call me ‘Buster,’ even when around family. Her father made sure that his children had names that couldn’t be shortened or made into nicknames. So far she is the same way, but we’ll see what happens if we have kids down the road…

135 Don E Odom September 25, 2012 at 10:33 pm

Flick-hated this one. Received it in 7th grade when I was a skinny uncoordinated nerd from 2 football players. They said it was because I walked like I was “afflicted”. I have a congenital defect in my skeleton that causes me to walk leaning a little forward. It was devastating to have a girl call me this. Thankfully I’m not nearly as concerned about what others think now at 49.

Eddie Feen? Friend called me this, cant remember why other than my middle name is Eddie..

Wiley Coyote or Recon Don: called these by a buddy because I wore a lot of camo in high school…I was a big deer hunter.

Lurch- my walk and size. I got up to 6’3″ before graduating high school.

Big Don-cute little black girl at a plant I worked at called me this because of my size….lot of the guys started too also as a way to rag on me because they said she called me that because she “knew”. I would have but she wasn’t interested.

Clovis-first wife called me this because I could recite over a dozen of Jerry Clower’s stories by heart.

Odie-my wife now calls me this or Don Odie due to our last name.

136 Charlie Harper September 25, 2012 at 10:43 pm

I joined my brother-in-law’s fantasy football league w/ his high-school buddies. I was immediately dubbed FNG (Frickin’ New Guy).
It’s been over ten years, and there are newer guys in the league, but I’m still FNG.

137 Trev September 25, 2012 at 11:11 pm

My father-in-law calls me Cliff (as in Claven from Cheers) because I am full of random facts. I like that one because him and I do not have a ton in common and it, as you said, lets me in the group…

I had a number from my brother and our two buds, but they were mostly used sporadically as inside jokes. I might call my brother “Nitro” in reference to the wrestling league we made up when the teachers were on strike 12 years ago. I might get called ‘EP’ in reference to a fishing show we mocked. In fact, most of our nicknames for each other reference fishing shows we watched together in jr and sr high school.

138 Orac September 26, 2012 at 1:58 am

Interesting post. I’ve had a couple of nicknames over the years but one of them stands out because of what it is and who bestowed it. It’s definitely offensive to a lot of people, although it’s not used that way. It does illustrate several of the points raised in this post though.

I have three very good lifelong friends, all of whom are serious rednecks. We all grew up in the southern part of the US. I was slated to attend the wedding of one of these guys, and flew cross country to Virginia to attend. The grooms’ future brother-in-law had a problem with this, which led another of my friends to angrily say: “If anyone messes with my (N-word) I’ll shoot his ass!” The wedding was drama free, and I was told this story after the fact. But since that time it’s been a nickname that is sometimes used when the four of us are together. And never in the presence of others.

Yeah… I had to seriously think about it when I heard the story. But knowing these guys, and everything we’ve been through together, and knowing their hearts I found I didn’t have a problem with it. I’m not sure outsiders would understand, and a sociologist would undoubtedly have a field day with the four of us. But 30+ years on it’s never been an issue for us.

139 Chuck September 26, 2012 at 4:19 am

I have had several nicknames all through life. Chas, Chester, Charlie Chiclet. But nothing like now. Most of my friends that I hang with call me Sparticus. Why I am called that I have no idea, just one day, one of the guys started calling me that and it has stuck. I like it and have made it a point that only friends could call me that.

140 Steve "Bubba" Robbins September 26, 2012 at 6:58 am

Most everyone knows me by “Bubba” for nearly 20 years. It’s actually been on my business cards for the last 12 years, too.

As opposed to being called Bubba as a replacement for “brother”, I got it because of Forrest Gump.

Right about the time the movie came out I was working for a DoD contractor that required me to be in and around the Pentagon. I drove a 4X4 pickup truck with a chrome light bar, KC lights, and a personalized plate that said “REDNCK”.

The group of co-workers and clients (almost exclusively men in the military or formerly in the military, by the way) took that and ran with it to come up with Bubba Gump. Finally shortened to just Bubba….

141 Eugene September 26, 2012 at 7:21 am

It’s funny that they called you Mama McKay, because my buddies call me Mama Martir for the same reason. On a related note, I started getting called Mother Goose because while floating the river, I happened to be the only one with rope in my car, so I got tied to the cooler, and a couple of the girls wanted to tie onto me so they didn’t float off. I end up leading a small caravan of tubes, and my buddy swims by and says I look like a mother duck. I’m like “I’m not a mother duck!!!” So then he says, “Fine, you’re Mother Goose.” …and the group proceeded to honk at me for the remainder of the river float.

The same group also calls me Siri because apparently I inadvertently play secretary half the time since I’m good with dates and times and can remember a lot of details even with a passing mention…and coordinate most of the hangouts and whatnot.

Back in high school I was called Thug Nasty. Not entirely sure how that one came about except for sheer whim of one of the other guys on the drumline that decided I needed a ridiculous nickname. It ended up spreading across the band because I fought it so much it spread, but it ended up becoming a much more effective term of endearment than I thought. Then my little brother came to my high school, and soon after joining the drumline, he got the name Lil’ Nasty.

Some people also took to calling me Panda because apparently I resemble one.

And then there was one in 5th grade that I hated: Eugenie in a bottle (reference to the Christina Aguilera song popular at the time). Since then friends close to me have heard the story and it’s mutated from its original form to Eugenie and Genie…to the point where one friend has suggested me renaming my car Lamp or Bottle.

142 Tecumseh September 26, 2012 at 8:43 am

Here is a sampling of almost 35 nicknames that different people from all over the world have “christened” me durring the span of my lifetime – I still answer to all of them!

“Troy-Boy” (My very first nickname from my father); “Baby-Doll” (From my grandmother – I was a very small kid); “Troy the Toy Boy from Illinois” (From 1st grade) ; “Toy-Boy”; “T-Roy”; “Messy Marvin”; “Grampa” (mostly because I solved a lot of my friends problems; they trusted me); “Gramps”; “T-Rex”; “T-Roy-Rex”; “T-Bone”; “T-Bone Rex”; “Traw”; “Twa”; “Trowsk”; “Traw-Ski”; “The Art Bishop”; ”His Highness”; “The Duke of Perspective”; “Tecumseh” (Because I like to rebuild Tecumseh small-engines); “Cochise”; “The Ar-tEEst”; “The Artist Formally Known as Troy”; “Augoooostus”; “Teufel-Troy” (“Devil-Troy” – My friends in Germany called me this all of the time when I would visit them; I guess it kind of rhymed); “Hill Billy”; “H.B.”; “Hill Billy Boy”; “H.B.B.”; “Starcruch”; “Ball-Washer”; “B.W.”; “Ball-Washer Boy”; “B.W.B”; “Scout” (Because I was an Eagle Scout and I was dependable); “Professor” (…because I am a univeristy professor who teaches Fine Art); “Santino” (My nom de guerre when I lived in Cuba)

143 RockDog... September 26, 2012 at 8:45 am

My buddy, “Ace” sent this to me because I call all my friends solely by their nicknames, I just got married in August and even at 38, my wedding was known as “RockDog’s Wedding” and my groomsmen were all introduced by their nicknames—Ace, SwinDaddy, Juice, Hicks, Silencer, Moonie—and on the place cards for the wedding were the nicknames J-Love, T-Bone, Abe Frollman- Sausage King of Chicago, Riggo, & McMuscles. When I’d talk about them to my mom, she used to say, “Who’s J-Love, just tell me his real name!” and I would reply, “Why, I never call J-Love by his first name so it will just confuse you more!” The art of good nicknames has taken a little dive with nicknames trying to be forced on to someone(especially pro athletes) instead of happening naturally. For example, my friend who is 6’5″, got the nickname Silencer in a way one would never come up with. It sounds like a great mafia/thug name! Meeting Silencer could mean your life is about to be silenced/over. In reality, one day playing basketball he kept getting open under the basket but he wouldn’t make a noise so that he wouldn’t tip off the other team that he was open. After scoring 5 of the teams 11 points down low “silently” getting our attention that he was open, “Silencer” was born. Anti-climatic story as to such a powerful nickname but it wasn’t forced and it stuck.

144 Alexander September 26, 2012 at 9:32 am

I have 3 that I can think of off the top of my head. 2 from friend groups and 1 from a Marine unit.

Loki – because rather than being an outspoken front man for our group, I made arrangements behind the scenes. Also, they thought I resembled the comic book character.

2T – because I routinely wore tight T-shirts.

Lurch – because I’m tall and don’t speak much unless I’m spoken to.

Within the friend group several members had a nickname. Some are as follows:
The Law
The Prez
Pete the Hobo
Lil Bro

145 Chuck September 26, 2012 at 11:01 am

I had some nicknames in highschool, such as goggles, Chuck, but the ones not based on my name didn’t really stick. Now that I ‘m in college, I’ve seen many nicknames due to the low name diversity on my floor:
RVD, Ryno/Nolan, Schroedski/Schroedrunner
Papa Phil, Mama B[inversie] (my roommate), the Kruser, Mac, Big Z, J-Hope/Jope, H-BAT, Whitey, Jonesy
Now, back at Home, I have learned to respond to darn near anything because my parents can’t keep our names straight.

146 VWS September 26, 2012 at 1:49 pm

Being an avid reader and a bit of a know-it-all, I’ve been called “Teach” (like Teacher — plenty of people still call me this every day and I’ve never actually taught) and “Shakespeare.” My great uncle took it up a notch and calls me “The Professor,” but being a Marine, he has nicknames for absolutely everybody. My favorite one of his is for my Uncle Claude — he’s “The Cat’s Revenge.” Get it? Clawed, Claude…he’s awesome.

147 Aaron September 26, 2012 at 2:01 pm

When I was growing up my friends called me a lot of things: A-Dizzle, for my first and middle initials, Ugly, for my terrible haircut, Ladykiller, for my constant change in girlfriends, and T-Bone, for no reason that I’ve ever really been able to figure out.

My favorite nickname actually comes from a friend of mine I was in the navy with. One day he didn’t show up for work, turns out because he wrecked his BMX smashing his front teeth out. We left and he didn’t fly to the ship for a month or more. When he got back, he earned the nickname “Bumpy Gumholes” for what was left of his face. We usually just call him Bumpy now for short.

148 Andrew September 26, 2012 at 2:57 pm

Where I am from it seems like everyone has a nickname.

Growing up, I was “Chunks”. I have never been really slim but this moniker came about from throwing up in the pool at swim practice. It stuck for years.

Later on it became “Big Poppa” because despite being a big dude, I always had pretty girls hanging around (like a B.I.G). it has got to the point were even my female friends call me Poppa.

149 Mike Johnson September 26, 2012 at 3:57 pm

Just like Costanza, I was given the nickname “KoKo” a few years ago, albeit for entirely different reasons. The group that gave me the nickname was my circle of rock climbing friends. As a group who trains together, takes long road trips together, and enjoy philosophizing together, nicknames inevitable surfaced. Mine is a reference to “ape index.” One climber was interested in seeing how one’s ape index (difference between the measure of your outstretched arms and your height) correlated to climbing ability. At 5’8″ with a wingspan of 6’2″, i had an ape index of +6, the largest of anyone in the group. hence the name KoKo. The guy with the -2 index was promptly dubbed “T-Rex.”

150 Stever September 26, 2012 at 4:25 pm

A worthy Art-of-Manliness topic (mildly to my surprise); thanks!

I grew up in the 50′s and 60′s and nicknames were abundant. I recall many of my buds to this day by their nickname: Fudd, Narc, Beaver, Gopher, Yawn Dave, and O’Weenie to name a few. And, I recall being envious of those with a nickname. But as you’ve written, you can’t self anoint yourself; it has to happen organically and arise from your local tribe. Or not at all.

Again, a worthy posting!

151 Ben September 26, 2012 at 4:30 pm

Growing up I had the nickname Dr. Jones on the football team. During freshmen football weight training I caught bronchitis and was on the walking wounded squad for two weeks. This was the height of summer and it being hot, I wore my fedora… just like Indiana Jones. Varsity team saw the hat and the guys shouted out INDY! and Dr. Jones, Dr. Jones! It stuck all throughout high school.

There was another Ben in our group, and my dad could never remember his name, just kept calling him Russell. It stuck and we call him Russell to this day.

My best friends high school sweetheart became a great friend and was included in our group. Her nickname was JD, after here initials.

152 Joe Fahnestock September 26, 2012 at 8:13 pm

Big Joe Fine-stock its stuck since 8th grade

153 Luis September 26, 2012 at 9:36 pm

My middle name’s Miguel so I had Mikey when I was a kid, Meegs for people who couldn’t pronounce Miguel, and recently I’ve picked up Deacon, because I don’t drink or smoke anymore.

154 Chris September 26, 2012 at 9:42 pm

In my freshman year of high school we were at a youth conference and I wanted a t shirt from that area. I found one I liked that said “Broad Jumper” on it. A play on words for the sports event and for looking for females while at this conference. My buddy said put “Frog” on the back to enforce the phrase and I did – it stuck. It stuck good. At my 30th class reunion I was still called by that nickname more then my real name.

155 Clint September 26, 2012 at 10:21 pm

I don’t remember my grandfather ever using my real name a single time in his life. He only ever referred to me as “fireball”. He said that I never really learned to walk. I just started running, and I left a path of destruction everywhere I went.

156 Ryan September 26, 2012 at 10:26 pm

When I used to work in a restaurant, I would get called “Wiggles” or “Margaret.” I have no idea how I got those. In the army I get called “Balls” because my last name is Bales. Funny thing is I got called that even as a little kid too. I embrace it now! Not like some Nancy No Balls like Jim over here.

157 Lumpy September 26, 2012 at 10:49 pm

Well, my obvious one is Lumpy, since everyone on the face of the earth calls me this! I’ve also been known as Chuck, Chuckles, Chucklenuts, Dingus, and The Fat Man.

158 Merlin Cafarella September 26, 2012 at 11:40 pm

With the birth-name Merlin, I did not have much opportunity to obtain nicknames in my youth… my own was distinct enough that no one had to go searching for anything else to call me.

However once I found a crew of guys to drink and rock out with in my late-teens/early twenties, I earned the names “Dikini”, “Big Gay Dino”, “Stephanie” and most recently “Fat Digit”.

Every single one a loving insult, creating a private bond between Evil E, the Deadly Curve, 4″ Monster and the rest of our bunch for the better part of 15 years!

159 Sam September 26, 2012 at 11:44 pm

I’ve only had two nicknames, and they’re both sports-related. The first one I got from my baseball coach in high school, during my first year playing on the big 90-ft diamond. Most of the 13 year olds looked tiny on that diamond, and the coach liked to take advantage of that by hitting the ball in between the infielders during practice to make us run after the ball. He rarely was able to get the ball past me at shortstop, and I received the nickname “Condor” for my wingspan.
The second I got was in college where I played intramural ultimate frisbee, and got the name “Brick Wall” for my defensive abilities. This was quickly shortened to “BW” and then again to “B-dub” which some of my friends still call me.

160 Jesse September 26, 2012 at 11:51 pm

My dad calls me Jethro all the time because in the past I’d do something dumb and it reminded him of Jethro off of The Beverly Hillbillies.

161 Josh Boaz September 27, 2012 at 12:01 am

I’ve had a number of nicknames in my time. I think the strangest I’ve ever had though was Yeast-infested cum bubble. It was one I received from the stoner group at my HS. I thought it was very creative to say the least.

162 Matt Waterman September 27, 2012 at 1:01 am

Well I got mine mostly from my luscious afro in highschool and through college and mainly my last name.

The most popular were:

Plain old Waterman

I’m sure Ill receive a few more over my years now in joining the military.

163 Brian September 27, 2012 at 8:40 am

I was in the drum line for marching band in high school and as a freshman got the nick-name Emily because I apparently whined and complained about some things and reminded some of the older guys of a character from a TV show. I didn’t like it at first but came to accept it and even embraced it a little.

In my college fraternity I was nick-named B-Dave loosely based off my name.

164 Westicle September 27, 2012 at 8:46 am

My grandpa always gave people nicknames, mostly because he couldn’t remember names. When he worked, he told me that he called everyone “Howard” just because he was so forgetful. I seem to do the same thing but call everyone either “dude” or “man.” But the FUNNIEST nickname he ever gave was to our portly neighbors: “fatteous” and “ducky”

165 Alex September 27, 2012 at 11:11 am

I have two best friends, we three have nicknames.
Me: Smokey- For two reasons. Heavy cigar smoker, and I’m big, so I apparently look like a bear haha.
Ben: Grenade- Probably the funniest story. We were at a party, and Ben, being drunk, did what some call “Jumping on the grenade” (He had a one night stand with a less than attractive girl) He’d beat the ass of anyone who wasn’t us if they called him that.
AJ: Yamaha- Because of his penchant for Yamaha ATVs and dirt bikes.

166 Ellias September 27, 2012 at 12:09 pm

I love when my friends called me papa bear. I was that guy that always knew a guy and i always made sure everyone had what they needed. It was lots of fun.

167 Isaac September 27, 2012 at 12:52 pm

I have a group of friends that I met in college. they’re from California and theyre a pretty close-knit group of friends. They’ve known eachother since elementary school and have managed to stay friends and even go to the same university. I loved hanging out with them because it truly was a good group of really cool guys. I also liked the nicknames they all had for eachother and for everything pretty much. They nicknamed most everybody and most places.

My nicknames with them were “The Spanyard” The Sac and Sac Town.

Other nicknames ive had throughout the years given by different people were Stacks and El Presidente which stuck with me after I was president of my fraternity.

168 Brock Wright September 27, 2012 at 1:35 pm

My nickname is Brute… I got it at work because if something could be broken I could break it… If no one else could get that bolt loose I would get it open… Also I tend to be pretty straight forward with my comments and some people thought I was bullying people with them until it became more well known and Brute just kind of stuck…

169 Petey September 27, 2012 at 1:36 pm

Today I was presenting a lesson and leading a discussion on bullying for high school sophomores. Having just read this article I was amazed at the times that I made reference to concepts presented here. One example was that “McNugget” shared that only his football team bros can call him that. I got to explain that jokes are only jokes when you are on the inside. In some sense you have to earn the right to make fun of someone. I explained that being a very skinny man (and kid) that certain people could call me Toothpick and I didn’t care. Others would call me that and I would get quite heated.
Thanks for writing so much relevant information!

170 Tyler T. September 27, 2012 at 6:07 pm

Cool article!! My nickname is either Bubba or Pinky. I dont no why people call me bubba but I`m cool with it. I am called pinky because I am very pale and if you touch me you leave a mark.

171 Joseph September 27, 2012 at 9:03 pm

@Brett I get called same thing by a group of friends who call me “50′s dad” because of my morals of hard work and good judgement.

172 "Barbara" Walters September 27, 2012 at 9:15 pm

I love that this article was blocked at the school where I work. Not all of artofmanliness, just this article. That, to me, proves the point that society gets so offended these days.

I’m a guy, and due to my last name (listed above) a girl I went to school with started calling me Barbara. Her last name was Hamm. So, she became Ham-hock. No insult was intended and we remain friends.

In high school I received the nickname “feckless gadfly.” I’m it’s a bit of a mouthful, but I’m now married to the girl that gave it to me.

(I hung out with lots of Tom-boys, when I was younger. I always thought they looked better than the guys)

173 Robert "Kellogg, Wiki, Cliff" Short September 28, 2012 at 3:46 am

During my tours in Iraq I was given four nicknames, two each deployment. my first one, people noticed my tenancy to “sneak” up on people and insert random bit of information to conversation. one of the guys labeled me “Serial Killer” but was told that it might not look good if anyone out side the unit found out, so they changed it to “Kellogg” (from the homophone of Serial.) my second deployment people named me “Wikipedia” (shortened to Wiki) for my ability to recall information when it was help full and “Cliff Clavin” or “Cliff” when it wasn’t.

174 Chris September 28, 2012 at 8:40 am

My family nickname is my first two initials. Nobody else calls me that, even those who know about it.

But the military is where I’ve seen more nicknames come out.

In our technical school all officers in my career field must go through, we were broken into 14-person squads. Not everybody got a nickname, but the ones I remember were:
1) “Z” (his last initial- nobody could pronounce the whole name)
2) “Billy D” (his last name was Williams)
3) “Mac” (last name began with Mc), 4) T-Mac (last name was Grady).

Mine was “Peggy Sue”. It came about early because, as we were all meeting each other for the first time, I had to constantly reinforce that the “Su” which began my last name was pronounced “Soo-” (like Susan) not “Suh-” (like “suppose”). But I think it stuck because of the irony. I was the biggest and gruffest at 6’2″ / 215lbs, the strong-silent type, as well as the heavy weapons guy. So it was only natural for me to have a “girly” nickname. Plus, I tolld them they could call me whatever they wanted because it wouldn’t change anything.

But there’s also a time where, in my book, a nickname becomes a sign of respect, especially as an officer where everyone below you can easily default to just “Sir”, “Ma’am”, or your rank. Brand new Army, Air Force, or Marine officers are lieutenants, which is abbreviated as LT on documents. When they haven’t accepted you, you haven’t proven yourself, or when you’re an outsider, the enlited use the terms sir, ma’am, or lieutenant. But when they did accept you, they’d call you “L.T.”. Some people may see it as being informal or inapporpriate, but it’s the closest they can get to giving you a nickname beyond the formalities they are required to extend to EVERY lieutenant. And when an NCO will talk to others and refer to you as “my LT”, you know they’ve accepted you.

175 Willilam Eleazar September 28, 2012 at 9:05 am

I have two nicknames and Im 16 but im very fascinated by this website.

They were:
Chewy and Pebbles

I have NO idea why people call me that but they just got stuck and follows me everywhere I go. HA.

176 Matt "Pencil Boy" Reeder September 28, 2012 at 1:21 pm

As my name above indicates, my nickname going back to high school has been “Pencil Boy.”

When I was in my teens, my younger brother loved to try to embarrass me by telling the story of the day I came home from school and flopped onto the sofa, only to discover that a pencil had wedged itself point-up between the cushions. Yes, I impaled my butt cheek with a pencil.

My brother told the story to one of my friends, who though tthe story was so funny that he called me out to share it with a bunch of people I did high school theater stage crew with. One of the girls, new to the group, could never remember my name and always just yelled out “Hey, Pencil Boy!” every time she needed my attention. As you can imagine, the name stuck.

Everyone I did theater with still calls me Pencil Boy, and I still greet to Lindsey as “Pencil Girl,” in honor of her bestowing the nickname.

177 Carlo September 29, 2012 at 9:44 am

I just ended a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail, and there is a strong tradition of nicknames, or “trail names” in the thru-hiker community. In fact, hardly anyone knows anyone’s first name by the end. Mine was Shakespeare, because I’m a writer who would often recite quotes and poems (including Invictus). Other male friends of mine were Chatty Kathy, Waterboy, and Caveman Chris

178 Ted "Pops" Larson September 29, 2012 at 11:38 am

The guys at work call me Pops on account of my gray beard and age.

179 Vadim Smirnov September 29, 2012 at 2:12 pm

Restaurant kitchens are one place where nicknames are alive and well. It is a ritual for many crews to nickname anybody and everybody, the more insulting the nickname the better.
Some of the favorite ones I’ve gotten, as a Russian named Vadim Smirnov:

Cossack Slut.
Moscow (though I’m not from there).
Vlad the Impaler (when I had a habit of getting to know the female servers very well).
White Dragon (when at an Asian restaurant, as one of two white back of the house workers).
Vadim the Dream, the Machine, the Scheme.
And my favorite: The Divine Vadeemer (given to me by a very cheerful, religious, and mentally challenged dishwasher).

180 Vadim Smirnov September 29, 2012 at 2:13 pm

Oh, and naturally: Drago.

181 Keith September 29, 2012 at 5:16 pm

I grew up being called “Little Keith” because I was named after my father. “Kenneth” was a nickname for a while because a friend of mine thought my name was Kenneth when we first met and it stuck. “Old Man or Grandpa” because I was always quiet and more mature than my peers and I liked old music.
“Queef” was one that I went by for a while at work, at the time there was three other guys named Keith and we all worked the same shift so it got really confusing, so someone jokingly suggested that one of us has to be called Queef, because I was the newest I got the name.
“MacGyver” because I always carried a leatherman tool.
“Willy” another instance of thinking I had a different name.
“Bubba” My little brother has called me bubba his whole life, the funny part is that I’m about half his size so if anyone should be called Bubba its him.

182 Jacob September 29, 2012 at 9:18 pm

Jacobuus in middle school and to anyone who still remembers me from those years, because in our small Catholic school we were taught Latin and our priest reintroduced us to each other with the Latin forms of our names; the guys liked the sound of mine so much it stuck. In high school I was butters and a few people still use that one today. I think it’s the ease of use as compared to my biblical sounding name, it’s connection to my rather obnoxious last name and the fact that the biggest loudmouths in the group introduced me as “butters” to everyone we ran into, that has caused it to stick (even though I never once supported it or called myself by it).

183 JeffC September 29, 2012 at 11:03 pm

A couple of years ago some of the girls in one of my high school classes started calling me “Papa Coulter” because of my fatherly manner. It was about as sincere a compliment a 15-yr. old can give to an adult publicly, and I was flattered.

I received the nick-name “Coulter, Mister” from a student after I addressed him the same way (last name first) half-way through the school year. He’s not my student this year, but we still address each other this way when passing in the hall.

Of course, I’m sure students have a few nick-names for me that are never uttered within my earshot…

184 Andrew September 30, 2012 at 2:22 pm

I’ve had several:

The Aristocrat (I had a thin mustache once)
Muscles (rock climbing style)
The Rocket (strong shot in foosball)
Ned Flanders (I’m religious)

185 Zavi September 30, 2012 at 3:01 pm

They called me “Oscar” for about a year once when a teacher compared me to Oscar the Grouch, but that didn’t last very long.

186 Bryce September 30, 2012 at 10:21 pm

I’ve had quite a few nicknames in my life. Most of them are still used by someone or another.

-Bryce-on (this is exclusively used by my family)

-Bruce (I used to get mail that was addressed to Bruce and my friends thought it was funny)

-Bryle (Same story as Bruce)

-Easy Breezy Baby B/Baby B (A high school friend came up with it out of the blue and it just stuck)

-Spotless (I used to work in a restaurant and I would always stay late after my shift to make sure everything is very clean. They were appreciative, if not taken aback)

187 Benji October 1, 2012 at 7:42 am

Go to any sea port in the United States and speak to any gang of men. All of them will have nick names like wiggles, chicken, mouth, ect.

188 Samuel October 1, 2012 at 3:31 pm

During the fall and winter seasons I am referred to as “Ole Captain Redbeard.” I can’t remember which of my friends started the nickname but it stuck. I have light brown hair but a very thick and full red beard.

189 Jason October 1, 2012 at 3:57 pm

Almost everyone from my Marine days calls me Shermanator. At first it kind of bristled me because of the American Pie reference, but it stuck and now it doesn’t bother me at all.

190 Joe Mosey October 1, 2012 at 4:25 pm

I’ve had a few nicknames, but easily my favorite is–

Joe “Mosey”

By now some of my friends even call me “mose” in place of Mosey. I got it because I tend to do a lot of things slowly, like eating, walking, or just my overall attitude . . . and every once in awhile I’ll argue that I don’t do EVERYTHING slow! Even so, it’s probably become my favorite thing to be called by my friends.

191 Derek McGarey October 2, 2012 at 4:30 am

Great article. I’ve had a few nicknames in the past. The first was Dergie because growing up I had trouble pronouncing Derek. I’m still called this by some cousins & aunts. My second was Dexter, because I was always a nerd & bore a striking resembelance to the title character from Dexter’s Laboratory. I was christened Chubby the half-elf by my highschool D&D group because I’m rather chubby, & my character was a half-elf. Finally, I’m Heavy D to the guys at work.

192 Nathan Donald Mawer October 3, 2012 at 5:42 am

I have had a few nicknames since I Joined the USN;

Doc ( for self diagnosing myself with pink eye in boot camp…i paid for it with lots of exercise)
superman/ Clark Kent ( because my shipmates think i look like them)
Nathaniel (One of the guys in a Cigar Club i belong to, his son’s name is Nathan…so i became Nathaniel)

193 Papa Bear October 3, 2012 at 1:12 pm

One of my closest friends in college called me Papa Bear because I am hairy, weigh 195 lbs, and when I get upset, I sound like I am growling. Thus, I give off the impression of a big bear. The papa part is because I tend to have fatherly tendencies to my close friends. It stuck immediately.

194 Tye October 3, 2012 at 4:41 pm

I’ve managed to pick up a couple names in my short time here on earth. My real name is Tyrel, but its difficult for people to remember and I sometimes get tired of people looking for a black guy when they’ve heard my name but not seen my face (not that I’m racist, it just happens to lead it interesting social situations). So, now I go either by Tye or Tyrel, its pretty much optional.

My other nicknames include:
Ty: Used by my dad originally, then other people who had a hard time with my full name. I later added the “e” to the end because I thought it looked more complete (The inspiration for that came from a Louis L’Amour western character, where my dad got my full name as well).
Tyler: Usually used by older people, probably just because its more familiar so they just unconsciously “adjust” their memory of my name.
Terrel: Used by the girls I was friends with in high school, why it was just them I don’t really know.
Thor: This is my favorite one, I usually pick it up from coworkers who, strangely, don’t know each other. I guess its a good default name for a danish guy with long blond hair.
Fuzzy: My wife’s nickname for me, because of my long hair and quick-growing facial hair.

195 Markus October 4, 2012 at 2:54 am

Nice article as usual! In the mainstream Western society of today, oddities – the very soil in which nick-names can thrive – are getting increasingly odder.
Therefore I’m happy having being honored with two.
Being a native-born Swede with very swarthy, Mediterranean looks, I’ve been nick-named “The Serbian” by my colleagues.
And of course, being a Jehovahs’ Witness, they occasionally call me “The Preacherman”.
I feel these nick-names are well put – I like’em both! They bring me a nice feeling of respect and acceptance.

My collegues are “The Sheep Farmer”, “The G.I.”, “Shorty”, “The Priest”, “Timmy the Bastard”, “The Angel”, “The Danish”, “The Crutch”, “The Hunter”, “D.A.M.P.” (which is same as ADHD) and of course “The Puppy”.

¡Viva los apodos!

196 Dfoland October 4, 2012 at 4:29 am

The guys at work call me Dick Foland because it use to be my job to make sure the works was done. So, I was the Dick. Now we work in different departments but I’m still known more affectionatly as Dick Foland.

In the ARMY my LT use to call me Dr. Death and that turned into just Death. I was know by that for a while and still by some people.

197 Gunnar Patriksson October 5, 2012 at 12:14 am

At first when I read this, I felt disappointed because I couldn’t think of any nicknames in my life—but then I thought back to Boy Scouts. I aged out last year, but as an Eagle I was kind of a leader by default, even if I wasn’t holding any position at the time. A lot of the younger scouts took to calling me “The Colonel” after I wore a Smokey-the-Bear hat to a summer camp.

And then there are the nicknames for the younger kids—Porkers, Kronos, Jugo (de Naranja). If the names aren’t insulting, they’ve gotta be bizarre.

198 Matt October 5, 2012 at 9:56 am

When I was a kid in the mid-Sixties, my parents, who worked in the same place, would at supper discuss what so and so did that day. The names of the men were always nicknames (Lefty, Ziggy, Rusty, etc. – all retro names). My nicknames in the past – Cochise, Redman & Savage/Sav (re my ethnic origin; I use savage still for a blog) and Crescent-wrench (a pun on my last name).

199 Gordy October 5, 2012 at 11:58 am

My real name is Alex but since there are so many Alex’s I changed my name to Gordy. Which my last name is Gordon so I got Gordy from Gordon.

200 Pickle October 6, 2012 at 8:27 pm

Pickle, as my name shows, comes from a friend of a friend who eventually became my personal friend. I’m a guitar player and one of the first times I talked to him was about music, he’s a bass player. I was talking about a guitar technique known as Sweep picking and he misheard the first time thinking I said sweet pickle and it turned into my nickname. It started as being pronounced with a swedish accent and eventually just got cut down to Pickle.

I grew up with the nickname Moose from my parents, apparently I had broad shoulders and a very noticeable barrel chest as a newborn, while they no longer call me that, it stuck as both a pet name from the fiance when she found and several of my very long standing friends call me that as well.

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