Tuesday, January 21, 2014


One of the saddest, angriest soldiers I met in Iraq was a staff sergeant with the nickname "Squishy Head."  He got the nickname at the aviation hangar at Muir Field on Fort Indiantown Gap.  As I heard the story, squishy was working near the massive doors for the aircraft when the doors were closing.  He dropped a wrench, reached between the closing doors to retrieve it and got his head caught.

He survived, but was forever after called Squishy Head, mostly behind his back.

The poor guy makes one mistake, some smart ass calls him a name and he is Squishy Head from then on.  But that is how real nicknames go.

I don't have a nickname, at least not one that I know.  Except at home.  Among all my kids I am "Dude."  For the past decade all of my kids have called me Dude.  It came from my daughter Lisa.  From age 12 to 14 she was a junior bicycle racer.  She rode up to 100 miles a week between March and September to train for racing.  Some of those miles were with me on the tandem we owned back then.  Once or twice a week Lisa would ride 35 miles with me between 4 and 6 pm on the daily training race.  Six to a dozen rider, mostly men, would be on this fast ride.  Many of them called each other Dude.  Some called me Dude.  Since I was 50 years old, from the East Coast, never surfed, and did not otherwise see myself as a "Dude," I smiled at this generic name.

One night, while we ate dinner with the rest of the family after the ride, Lisa was describing the way we passed some riders down Turkey Hill (tandems are fast down hill) and addressing me said, "Dude, did you see how we passed. . ."

Everyone looked and Lauren, the oldest child, said, "Did you just call Dad Dude?"

She did.  And kept talking.  Slowly over the next week, the other kids started calling me Dude.  And I have been Dude ever since.  I still get some odd looks in public places when one of my kids, particularly my adopted kids, turn to me and say something that begins "Dude,  . . ."

But it seems to be the rule of nicknames that they are more funny than fitting.

My daughter Lauren and Lisa, like me, were called Goose by coaches on the teams the played on.  Goose never really stuck with either of them.  Lauren, who is 5'10" and was the thug/enforcer on her high school basketball and soccer teams, still has the nickname "Sissy."  Which is like calling a fat guy "Tiny."  The whole family calls her Sissy.

Some nicknames make sense.  My bunkmate in basic was Leonard Norwood from Sawyerville, Alabama, population 53.  He was, no surprise, "Bama."  In the next bunk was our mutual friend "Jersey."

An odd occurrence of nicknames was happened about the time my older daughters went off to college.  Nigel and Lisa were the only two kids in the house.  They started calling each other "Pumpkin" and "Muffin."  But the names were not for one person.  If Lisa left for school and said, "Goodbye Pumpkin" Nigel would say, "Bye Muffin."  The next time Lisa might be Pumpkin and Nigel Muffin.  They still do it occasionally now, seven years later.

Do you have an odd nickname?  Let me know what it is?

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