“That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”
Well, I get that, Bill. There is, of course, a basic truth in what you said.
Turns out, though, your famous quote might not be the be all and end all
to this name game, Willy old sport. For while a rose by any other name
truly can smell as sweet, the name one might come up with to replace
“rose” might have much to do with one’s perception of the rose in the
first place, Shakey old man. Much ado about nothing, you say? Perhaps.
But since you’ve long since had your say, Spearey old bean, we’re going
to chat on my dime now. And I have a slightly different slant on this name
We start out life with a name we didn’t even choose. Don’t tell me that
all those little shriveled-up squalling human prunes suggested a name…
who would, for instance, call a tiny, red-faced newborn Brittany?? Nope.
So then the question becomes, do we grow up to be somehow defined
by our names? Do we grow into our names, or do we, perhaps, define
our names with our character? Do we become larger, stronger, more
dynamic than our original names? A few of us actually change our name.
I always liked the story about a guy named Ed Bumfarten, who couldn’t
stand his name, so he changed it to Bob.
Each of us knows what we like to be called. But the real fun in this naming
exercise comes from finding out what people call us, why they call us that
and what it might mean.
Let’s start with our dogs… oh, and cats. Okay, and cats. I never had a cat,
except once for several months. Someone else named it Ebony, which didn’t
fit it at all, so I called it “Kitten,” then “Kitten-kitten.” She figured it out and
hopped up into my lap any time I called “Kitten-kitten.” But then we all know
how weird cats are.
My first family had a dog we named “Ruby.” She was the sweetest female
yellow lab, we loved her dearly. We knew that it’s proper to call dogs by
their given name, so they know you’re talking to them. But we couldn’t help
ourselves. Ruby became Rubes, then Rubinski, then Binski, and finally
“Bin.” Somehow she managed to stick with us through all that, and would
come wagging if she heard, “Hey Bin…”
B’s little fluffy, white wag-tail was initially named Susi. That turned into
Susi-poo, which finally became “Pooh.” So now she’s Pooh, except for
when B occasionally calls her “Lil Monken.”
I can tell you’re on to me already. Well sure… what people call us, after
they know our real name, can be a huge indicator of how they perceive us.
We loved that dog to death, so naturally we came up with nicknames,
endearing names that expressed to us, at least, how we felt about her.
And our human nicknames for each other can be as wacky as our names for
our pets. One of my faves is the evolution of the name of one of our close
family friends from the Atlanta years… Lori Jakes Fink. Poor girl went from
our family calling her Lori to Lori Pedori, then Pedori, then Ped, the Pedster
and finally “The Pedmeister.”
Okay, now wait… what does that say about our perception of her, who
we thought she was, who she was to us? Obviously a close friend, a dear
pal with a good sense of humor and fun to be with. She tolerated (and still
does…) our goofy nicknames for her, knowing that those nicknames come
from love and familiarity.
And there are more like that. My son Dillon has had his share of nicknames
through the years. He was allergic to whole milk, so a stint on soy gave him
the short-lived name of Soy Boy. He was a preemie, so at first he was our
“Little man.” Then, being baby-talkers, we changed it to Edo man. and then,
of course, “Edo.” Funny… he was Edo for several years. An naturally that
grew into Eed, and “The Eed.” God, we were sick!
As Dillon grew, he became Dil, Dilonio, Dillweed, Dilly Bar, Dilster. I even
came up with “Dufus Q. Wormwiggle,” as it made him laugh… and he had
the best belly laugh for a little one… it was great. Even that name became
Dufus Q. and finally “Dufe.” I still call him that. He still calls me on the phone
with, “Hey, Fool…” I guess that’s only fair.
This name thingy gets out of hand, but now that I’m started, I can’t stop.
My good friend Tommy Holcomb’s nickname is “Hawk,” and his name for
me is “Griz.” We’ve been Hawk & Griz for years, and it feels great. A fine
friend in Atlanta, Joe Neil, calls me “Mr. Hulse.” I have no idea why, unless
he’s referring to the fact that I’m older than he. If it’s a respect thing, I’ll
take it! I called him “Joe Neil” – that’s right, both names, until he married
Ruth. Then I heard her call him “Joseph,” and I liked it… and from that
point on, He’s been “Joseph” to me.
Same deal with Pete Caldwell. Most everyone called him “Pete,” but for
some reason I liked his proper name, “Wilber,” so that’s what I called him.
As formal as it sounds, it was out of love. He always called me “Hulse.”
Some folk don’t get nicknamed. Don’t ask me why that is. Maybe they
really ARE their name, and there’s no reason to change it, or familiarize it.
But I don’t really know. All I know is that when I gave someone a nickname,
they usually at least tolerated it. I’m not a great nicknamer, but sure enjoy
dabbling in it. I called Kurt Bush “Hippy” for years, mostly because he was
anything but a hippy. Clean-cut and well dressed. He’d usually just laugh
at me. And I called Steve Schwartzberg “Feinbaum.” I swear to god, I don’t
know why. But it kind of stuck, didn’t it, Fein?
And there are some family nicknames that get a little personal and I can’t
share them here. Believe me, though, they’re funny. I call my Betty Ann
“B,” or Betsy, because that’s who she is to me. One of our family’s nickname
is “Captain Nosehair.” Another is “Mute.” That’s as far as I’m going to go.
These names don’t evolve over night, they take time. If you’re introduced
to me as Robert, I’m going to call you Robert until you tell me you prefer
“Bobber.” In the old days, guys who became friends frequently called each
other by their last name. I’m not sure that holds true today. When I was
growing up, I heard my dad introduce himself to people at least a hundred
times. He’d always say, “Guy Hulse. My friends call me “Guy.” Strange, as
almost all his friends called him Hulse, or “Hulsey.” Doll Dixon even named
him “Hulsey Cottontail,” because he danced uncommonly well for a big
man with size 14 shoes.
I’ve been called Stevie, Steffen, Hulsey, Mr. Hulse, Georgia, Cowboy (now
that’s a stretch)… even Maestro. I like them all, as I think they’re all calling me
how they see me. Yeah, there are a few mean, nasty ones once in awhile…
but that comes with the territory, right? I’ll usually answer to anything. Just
don’t ever call me “Late For Dinner…”
Little Stevie Hulse