Friday, January 15, 2010

What’s In A Name?

Names in our family are completely arbitrary. They pretty much serve the function of legal identification for tax purposes. Beyond that, no one in our house is who their birth certificates say they are.

On a road trip to the east coast about 18 or 20 years ago, Dan and I saw a huge rock along the Pennsylvania Turnpike onto which someone had spray painted, “I Love You, Booper!” We found this quite funny (not even having seen the movie “She’s Having A Baby” yet) and kept threatening to start calling the other one by that nickname. Dan won, consistently referring to me as “Booper” for the requisite 21 days it takes for something to become a habit. He claims self defense. I still sign e-mails, text message and other correspondence to him “Booper” or, the more informal “Boop.” I got my revenge, inventing the ridiculous name “Dannypookernose” and then proceeding to call him nothing else. He signs most correspondence “Pook.” Cutsey? Maybe, but who asked you? ;)

When we adopted our beloved cat, Dolby, he, too was given all kinds of nicknames, Splinky, Spider-monkey cat and Lump being the most memorable. When we adopted Perry, we called her “Perry-Girl” or “PG” for short. PG is still her primary identifier between Dan and me. Collectively, they were known as “The Buddies,” never “The Cats.”

It’s somewhat of a miracle that our daughter ever learned her given name. Eiledon Katharine is a mouthful in any case, but those words rarely come out of anyone’s mouth in this house. From birth she was “Binky,” and then “Binks,” “Munchkin,” and then “Munch,” (which is still my favorite) and a slew of other endearments. At daycare, she was dubbed “Leelee” since the other kids couldn’t pronounce her name. It’s stuck and is probably Ledon’s most commonly used nickname. Her middle name came into play when her behavior got rocky. I will never forget the time when she was about three and we were in a Stride Rite shoe store. She was chattering away to a complete stranger: “Hi. My name is Eiledon. But when my mom is mad at me, she calls me ‘Kate.’” Ledon-Kate, Leelee-Kate and other similar concoctions are still frequent.

In fact, we had given Eiledon so many nicknames that when Gavin arrived, we were sort of tapped. Seriously. I actually sent out an email to friends and family asking for suggestions. I thought about calling him “Dutch” after my grandfather’s CB handle: “The Flying Dutchman” but it just never stuck. Gavin was… Gavin. We did shorten it to “Vin” and Eiledon sometimes called him “My Gavy” but nicknames didn’t come easily. Then later, when he was about 2 or 3, he went through a phase when he refused to be called anything but Gavin. Not even “Sweetheart” or “Vinnie-bear.” If I called him anything other than his given name he would look at me with a scowl and say, “Mama, I’m just Gavin! Eventually he accepted other permutations and I most commonly call him “Vinnie.” These days, he is generally one or another Pokemon, so as soon as I find out which one he is, I call him that until he changes his mind. Poor Dan knows nothing about Pokemon so he gets kind of lost in the nickname shuffle.

Collectively, the kids are referred to as “The Monkeys,” which is appropriate since they both like bananas and jumping all over the furniture.

When Jack-Jack arrived, nicknames really weren’t necessary. We had a family meeting to choose his name and wound up laughing so hard at all the different suggestions, we just kept them all, giving him an official name of “Jack-Jack Oinkpuff Orange Squeakbox Moir the Cheeto Padawan.” Where do you go from there?

A similar situation arose with Brubeck, when he came into our lives. Having set the precedent for multiple given names, we skipped the formal process and all came up with one or two we liked and just lumped them all together. His full name is Brubeck Dyoxis Obstreporous Yankovik Moir VIII. Still, this hasn’t prevented the nicknames from flying out the woodwork (which isn’t the best thing for a dog, really—he’s confused a lot). My sister dubbed him “Brewski” which totally stuck. It then mutated into Bru-skaDOOSH (courtesy of Kung-Fu Panda) to just “SkaDOOSH” to “Ski.” Ledon calls him “Ski-baby” usually (which she pronounces SKEE-buh-bee). He has no idea who she’s talking about. I shortened Bru-SkaDOOSH into “Brushka” with a heavy Russian accent. He responds to that one.

Then last night—which is the reason for this entry in the first place—Dan came in from walking Brubeck, took him off leash and gave him a treat saying, “There you go Spazzy MacBarkBark.”

I about peed my pants. Spazzy MacBarkBark. I’m still laughing.

Poor dog.


  1. My nickname for Brubeck is Dave. Makes sense, doesn't it? Leo. ;o)

  2. Funny with all the nicknames! My husband hands them out frequently as well. Our dog's name is Hazel, but frequently she is called "Hazel McGooberstein". And sometimes I am called by that same middle name as well... one never knows what will come up; and I like it. :)