Author: Slim, Sims

Nicknames Revisited

A couple of weeks back, Bert Daniel wrote a column about nicknames that engendered a lengthy thread on the Message Board. It got me thinking….

If you’re reading this, you know me as Slim. That’s fine with me. I’ve been tall all my life (6’ 4”) and , for most of it weighed 170 (aka “the good old days”). Even now I’m about 205, not bad for my height.

Back in the summer of ’62 I worked on farms in eastern San Luis Obispo County. There I met up with a grandfatherly retired fellow who spent his summers working for a small farmer, and his wife cooked for the crew. The other three of us came out of the Paso Robles Farm Labor Office. He’s the one who called me Slim. I’ve used it ever since, partly as an “icebreaker”, but I think more because I have fond memories of the times and the people. And I think it’s easy to remember (for others, not me!).

It hasn’t always been easy. When I moved to Boron in ’75, the people here seemed to have a thing for using proper names, more Richards than “Dicks”, Roberts than “Bobs”. Sure, there was a “Cornbread”, a “Tinker” and a couple of “Buds” and “Hanks”, but given the choice of using my given name or my nickname, they picked the given name.

Bert points out that kids sometimes adopt alternative names, I think to bond with friends in a little fantasy world. I recall a time when my Mom answered the phone and was asked for Corey. My little sister (Sydney) overheard her say “I’m sorry, there’s no Corey here” and screamed “Mom, that’s me!”. Poor Mom, who knew?

Bert makes another, very good point. You can’t give yourself a nickname. I think the handle that will go the distance is one that….

Is given to you,

Is given to you fondly,

Is given spontaneously, as a reflection of a personal trait (“Happy”, “Red”, “Slim”) or in response to a memorable happening (“Shif’less” Elston). I think this all works better if you’re younger, the occurrence will be remembered for some time, and you don’t already have a good nickname,

Is not too contrived,

Is given fondly,

Is acceptable to the nicknamed person,

Does not ridicule one’s unavoidable situation, such as a physical disability,

And is given FONDLY!

This is not to say that, if you really don’t like your real name, you can’t adopt another (maybe your middle name), but you’ve probably already done it, and probably used a “real” name, like James or Edward (or “Jim” or “Ed”). In this case I think you’re still eligible to have a real nickname!

Oh, and if you see Shif’less, tell him Slim said “hello”.

Posted:  6/5/2010

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