If you had read this post earlier, you could have surmised from the book on the lower portion of the bottom half of my page (that is not there anymore so don’t bother looking), that I had just finished reading Crow Killer: The Saga of Liver-Eating Johnson, about a legendary mountain man of the Old American West. What struck me most about this book is the extreme coolness of mountain man nicknames: Bear Claw, White-eye, Arkansas Pete, Hatchet Jack, Mad Mose, and of course the main character, Crow Killer, otherwise known as Liver-Eating Johnson.
This got me conTIMplating nicknames, where they come from, and perhaps most importantly, why I don’t have one. The mountain men gave one another nicknames that derived largely from their exploits. Bear Claw would collect bear claws, Buffalo Bill would kill buffalo, and Crow Killer would kill Crow Indians in blood-thirsty vengeance for slaying his wife and unborn child. He was also blessed with a second nickname, ‘Liver-Eatin’ because he would cut out their livers and eat them raw. Ya, ew. I think this is my problem: I don’t have any good exploits. I don’t cut off the feet of woodland creatures, I don’t shoot livestock, and I don’t eat liver—unless you count that one time I went to White Castle. I could use a good exploit.
Exploits are the most effective way to get a good nickname; just look at Shoeless Joe Jackson or The Crocodile Hunter or Lucky Lindy. Nicknames are especially memorable if you can combine your exploits with your real name like basketball player ‘Big’ Ben Wallace or Attorney General Eric ‘With’ Holder.
I have had friends with nicknames based on their exploits, names like Psycho and Banger and Poop-sock. My exploits would result in terrible nicknames. I think this is because I have been cursed with the toxic combination of introversion and sobriety. My exploits would thus give me names like Kitchen Sweeper or Nappy or, what my kids call me, ATM. I would walk around town and people would whisper, “Do you know who that is? That’s Lawn Mowin’ Tim.” Lame. I could probably get by being called ‘Ironman,’ though it would be for the wrong reasons.
Sports always provides good nicknames: OJ, A-Rod, King James, Big Nasty, The Great One. Wouldn’t it be nice to be called ‘The Great One’? Much better, I suppose, than ‘Big Nasty’. I could be called The Great One, though it wouldn’t have anything to do with my ability in sports. Cynicism maybe. Flatulence definitely. But not sports.
I do play golf and I don’t know why, but golfers especially have some sweet nicknames: Bubba, Boom-Boom, The Shark, Tiger, Boo, Lefty. I think I would like to be called ‘Lefty.’ Granted, I’m not left-handed which is a drawback, but I have broken up with numerous girlfriends and I have a nasty pull-hook.
And then there’s Lefty’s caddy, Bones. I really like ‘Bones’ for a nickname. It probably came about from some legendary evening at some rib joint or chicken wing place. Food offers up some great nicknames, generally revolving around its excessive consumption. I’ve known guys called Beets, Milky, Chugger, Strudel, and Mayo. I’ve always wanted T-bone for a nickname (a’la Seinfeld and Clifford) because I like T-bones and it goes along great with my name, which also happens to start with a capital ‘T’. And ‘T-bone’ sounds cool after ‘What up?’ which is the golden rule for any good nickname.
“What up, T-bone?”
“What up, Beets?”
“What up, Big Nasty?”
Wrestlers have great nicknames: ‘Hulk’ Hogan, ‘Bulldog’ Don Kent, Andre ‘The Giant.’ I think it would be cool to have a ‘The’ nickname like The Giant. Other examples are The Situation, The Rock, The Big Unit, The Unknown Comic, etc. I wonder if just putting ‘The’ in front of my name would catch on; people could call me ‘The Tim.’ I doubt it. They’d probably start adding ‘-ster’ at the end which sounds like I’m making copies.
I’d be happy with almost any word in front of my name, really. It has to be a word like ‘Wild’ or ‘Crazy,’ though, and not a word like ‘Sneaky’ or ‘Languid.’ (I was called ‘Sneaky Tim’ for a while as a result of certain actions that were perfectly legal and have no place being expounded upon in such a time-wasting forum as this.)
Rappers have good nicknames: names like Biggy Small and Snoop Dogg. At least I think they are nicknames. Of course there are also some pretty abysmal rapper nicknames like Vanilla Ice and Del tha Funkee Homosapien and Chali 2na. When Eminem was big I wanted to come out as a rapper named Skittle. Fortunately, somebody beat me to it.
But this brings up an interesting ethics question: Can one choose his/her own nickname? Or is it required to be assigned by someone else? I’m assuming that rappers choose their own names for marketing purposes, and I’m wondering if this is even appropriate. If so, then I want to choose my own nickname. I would like to be called T-bone or Drizzle or Vengeance.
You know who else chooses his own nickname? The Pope. Popes get to choose what they want to be known by, but the problem is that they are always making a lame choice based on theology and history.
“What up, Francis?”
“What up, Clement?”
See? Terrible. I’m thinking if I were chosen to be Pope, I would go with something a little edgier like, say, ‘Skillet.’
“What up, Pope Skillet?”
Now that’s an awesome nickname.