Thursday, July 9, 2009

Banana Fanna Foe

By ned * Other ned Posts

In middle school, I was often referred to by the name “Sned.” After it caught on, I embraced it but that was not initially the case. My friend Pat created the name using logic that a 12 year old would embrace and I, the worldlier young adult, feel embarrassed to admit.

“You see if you put an ‘S’ in front of the name, it is your gay name … isn’t that right, Sned?”

We chuckled about it and, of course, created a variety of alternative names: Swill, Stim, and Smeera were particular favorites. But then, as any friend would, he began to call me Sned in front of everybody. Our secret code became public and I was the butt of our inside joke. Because he was a persistent and gregarious person, much to my chagrin, it caught on. For the next three years, I was Sned.

Nicknames are easily associated with different social circles and periods in my life. Distinct groups of people call me certain things because that is when they knew me and what they called me. In middle school I was Sned, high school Nedinator, my college fraternity Flandizzle, New York Nedders … to name a few. I generally avoid bringing up nicknames from Elementary school. On that note, I caution all future parents to avoid naming your child something that rhymes with “ed” as it can lead to such wonderful poems such as “Ned, Ned, he wets the bed and then his face turns red and he has a big head …” But, I digress. Despite the wide variety of results coming from the base of nuh, eh, and duh, there are common trends in how my new names were established that I feel are pretty universal.

The “Sned” example highlights two potential catalysts for a nickname. First of all, there was a charismatic personality. Without Pat beating people over the head with the name to his own amusement and being a dynamic person, the herd probably would never have followed. Secondly, there was a sophomoric or mildly offensive joke involved that was at the expense of the one who bears the name. But what if the name does not make someone blush? How else can it catch on?

When I mention that one nickname I have been blessed with is “Flanders” to anyone of my generation, it usually met with nods of unspoken understanding. Ned Flanders is just that recognizable of pop culture character for anyone born after 1975. Therefore the step to call me "Flanders" is not a stretch beyond anyone’s imagination. Same thing might go for someone named Xena being introduced as "Warrior Princess." To some who love late night reruns of 90's TV classics, its so obvious and, my goodness, it divinely rolls from the tongue. For me, the simple call-someone-by-their-last-name nickname catches on for much the same reason. Some people have straightforward, hard hitting last names that are just too easy to then translate into their known name. For all of these reasons, easy derivation from the base name is one more reactant that can help make a nickname rocket take off.

Through these means my nicknames have developed despite a natural redundancy - Ned is actually a nickname in the first place. Moreover, the sum of the parts tells a story. To leverage a High Fidelity concept, the “autobiographical” sequence of my nicknames are representative of the times and stages of my life. "Nedinator" came into play at a point when Schwarzenegger's nostalgia cool was at its peak. Flanders only caught on because of the popularity of the Simpsons circa 1988 to the present. It was appropriately adjusted to “Flandizzle” at the height of Snoopisms as demonstrated by brief life of that hit MTV2 series Doggy Fizzle Televizzle. Similarly, the use of my formal nickname in potty mouth poetry in lower school was just friends using what tools second graders have available: rhyming, colors and tinkle.

As a last characteristic, nicknames are rarely your choice. Although that can sometimes cause laughter to be directed at you, what this means is that nicknames signify the number of deep connections that you have made. Nicknames are born out of moments and a level of comfort that can only come with large amounts of time spent with another individual and group. That is one reason why the Feets, Taters, Wallys, Balls, Martinis, and I of this world should all feel blessed.


Do you have any good nickname stories? I encourage you to share them in the comments section below.

1 comment:

  1. My brother's nickname. Barca + elementary school = Chewbacca. simple. But how did they know he would grow up to be so hairy?