What’s In A Name?

Lately I’ve been wondering about the names people have.  Everyone has a legal first and last name of course. But that isn’t always what we are known by.  For example my name is Michael, but people generally call me Mike.   There isn’t any particular reason and I don’t have any strong feelings about either one.

However around here, everyone seems to have a nickname.  At least that’s how it feels sometimes.  Po Monkey, T, D; it doesn’t seem to be unusual to be known by a name other than the one you were born with. That can be confusing when there is no clear connection between that and one’s nickname.

The interesting part is that everyone’s nickname has a story behind it.  Perhaps a teacher needed to distinguish between two students with the same first name.  Or there maybe a more colorful tale to tell. Either way by learning someone’s name you can learn something about their life.

Sometimes a nickname is given by others which is something I can relate to.  Growing up it seemed that my parents had a name for everyone who lived in our complex.  There was the train man, the professor, the refrigerator man, etc.  For the sake of privacy I won’t reveal their real names, but in many cases I don’t actually know them.  As a transplant I wonder if my neighbors have the same habit.  Of course nicknames aren’t always bad.  They can be affectionate or mean spirited depending on the person.  But it’s not hard to imagine nosy neighbors quietly applying the latter to all of us who relocate from elsewhere.

I guess part of the reason why this topic sticks out is that I’m used to simply referring to people by their name, even if it’s hard to pronounce.  In fact not bothering to learn how to say unfamiliar names is one of my pet peeves (and something folks do an awful lot around here).  But beyond that, it’s fascinating to learn how people got the nicknames that they did.  It really helps one learn more about the folks in the Delta and the sorts of lives they live.

Article by Mike

Mike is the Head of Discovery Services for the Delta State University Library. He has lived in Cleveland since May 2013.

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