The Nick in Nicknames

It’s been 3 weeks now since I put my sweet dog Lucy to sleep, and here’s the deal:  I miss talking to her.  I miss the sound of my words.

Like all of our dogs, past and present, Lucy was tagged with many nicknames.  Over the last few weeks I feel like I’ve been stripped of the most familiar language — the happy words — that made up my days.  I catch myself wanting to call out to her in higher octaves, “Where’s my Lou Lou?!” or “Here Oozy Loozy, come see Mama!” or “Three Legs Tree Legs” or simply, “Ooza!”  My heart breaks a little every time I have to stop myself.


I grew up in a place where people had nicknames.  Gary was called Butch, and his son Gary Jr. was called Butchie.  Aunt Vickie was Sis.  We called Jerry, Bub.  My grandfather’s name was Arnold Charles, but everyone called him Red.  I remember feeling jealous that I was just plain old Teri.  I wanted a nickname.  No, I desperately wanted a nickname.  A nickname would, of course, make me more one of them.

It wasn’t until I started school that I discovered nicknames could hurt.  My brothers started calling my stepsister Tubs.  A boy on the bus peed his pants one day and was forever after labeled Squish.  In high school we had Bird, so-called because he had frizzy hair and the Jocks started out calling him Burr Head, which morphed into Bird.  There was the girl everybody called Fish, who sat by herself in the cafeteria every single day.  Needless to say, I got over my urge to be called something I wasn’t, lest I be forever tagged with a word that hurt.


I mostly call Lea the Lab, Magoo.  As in, Mr. Magoo.  Her face, this word, and it’s cartoon image always plaster me with a smile.  This morning, however, when it was time to take Magoo for her walk, I caught myself wanting to call out, “Come on you guys!  Where are my Pumpkin Heads?!” only to remember I’ve been robbed of the plural.

Did you grow up with a nickname, or the fear of having one?  What words might you be missing these days?

14 thoughts on “The Nick in Nicknames

  1. Les

    All of mine were somewhere between jokingly disparaging to stabbing and hurtful. But the one that took the longest to get over was, “Dummy.” That one put off writing novels and getting a Master’s degree for way too long.

    1. Teri Post author

      How little it takes to change someone’s life. So flippin’ sad. I’m glad you rallied, because of course you write beautifully! I was recently remembering that story about you going to your dad’s class reunion. Loved it!

  2. erikamarks

    A very tender post, Teri. You reminded me of so many nicknames…it seemed I had many and always had so many for my friends. Of course some were hurtful (though I didn’t realize at the time)–In fourth grade, my best friend and I were Volcano and Hurricane respectively, due to our hefty size. I don’t recall being hurt by it then but certainly looking back now, I get it. I was Ig with my best male friend growing up, then Max because Marks done with a tasty Maine accent is, well, Mahhhxx, But you are so right that it is our beloved pets who get the best ones of all. Olive is Boo or Boo Bear or Olive Olivia.

    She and I send you warm hugs on this hard night, knowing you are missing your sweet Lucy.

    1. Teri Post author

      Awww, our cocker spaniel, Bailey, was often called Boo or Boo Boo.

      Olive Olivia sounds like a call out for trouble. “Olive Olivia! Come here right this minute!” (ha)

  3. Lyra

    My heart goes out to you…

    My current cat is named Merlot, which turned into Merle the Pearl (Eight is Enough anyone?) and of course ended up being Pearl. My daughter did a kindergarten projectwhen she was five, and I had no idea why she wrote her cat’s name as “Perl”. She had no idea that wasn’t actually her name and thus it became her name.
    Each of my kids has many nicknames. I’m one of those people who just gives them out willy nilly, kind of like most people do with animals. Maybe it’s the southern in me.
    I give us an hour when we meet and you’ll have a nickname, my friend.

    As for me, the only one that stuck was with one dear friend. She started calling me Lyra Lou, which shortened to Lou and then Louie. I actually answer to it even though she’s really the only one that calls me that. To all the rest, I’m just Lyr.

    Oh, but that reminds me. My dad had this one friend who was a state trooper back in the day. I was a kid and I remember going over there and my dad and his friend (both over 6’4″), nicknamed Bibsy, swinging me around doing the polka. Bibsy always called me LyraBeera. Who knew how fitting that would eventually become after I stopped having to dance on the tops of men’s feet.

    1. Teri Post author

      I love Bibsy for a great big guy. Kind of like Peanut for a big bruiser. Ha!

      I remember watching Little House on the Prairie, and loving how Pa called Laura “Half Pint.” And then how Almanzo called her “Beth.” What a sap I am.

  4. Downith

    Oh Teri, It’s so hard to get over losing a pet. Hugs.

    I have lots of nicknames for the kids- mostly plays on their names, so will not post here.

    My childhood nicknames included Up-ith (for obvious reasons) and ones based on my buck teeth (before braces). Kids can be cruel.

    Of course, now I’m rocking The Duchess as a nickname and love that!

    1. Teri Post author

      You will forever be The Duchess around these parts. When we’re on our writer’s panel there will be some lively discussion, names included. I miss “glasseye!”

  5. macdougalstreetbaby

    “…only to remember I’ve been robbed of the plural. My heart just trembled a little and I’m sorry. So sorry for you.

    1. Teri Post author

      MSB, I have had 2 dogs (in one way or another) for the last 14 years. It’s hard to break the “plural” habit. They are always “my girls.” My husband is already wondering when I’ll be looking for my next dog — he knows me well. I always feel like there’s one out there waiting to come live with me…. 😉

  6. lisahgolden

    God, did I feel this post.I hate to think about what it’s going to be like when these cats drift away. I give nicknames to anyone close to me. People and pets. Not coworkers though. Not to their faces, at least.

    My brother and sister call Leigh. My friend Craig calls me Leese. And my sister’s boyfriend used to call me Lizard. Very appealing for a twelve year old girl. My dad calls me Liza Jane and Butterball Penelope. Maybe I should consider using Liza Jane or Penelope as part of my pen name.

  7. Catherine

    My brother and I call ourselves Shazza and Glen, super Oz names. My dad calls me Kit (my favourite) and my mum calls me Cathy. When I left Australia I became Catherine but now I answer to Caterina in Italy. Or Cat or Kitcat. The best is that my ex’s new lady is also Caterina so I get to call her C2 while I’m C1. (If she had a reason to hate me I wouldn’t bother.)

    Sorry about your dog. These are such sad things. I’ve lost a lot of cats (we are in the country and they roam) but I can’t imagine not having my big girls around the yard. Ciao cat

  8. Averil Dean

    I wanted a nickname too. I’ve compensated by nicknaming all three of my children many times over. The little guy has been Softie, Monkeyhead, and most lately The Bean. But he keeps asking me not to call him those names, so I’ve been trying to break the habit. I miss it, though.

    I’m sorry about Lucy. She sounds like the sweetest girl.


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