What’s In A (Special) Name?

Just about everyone in my family has one or had one at some point in their lives. Not all of us appreciate nicknames, but sometime they just stick.

My youngest brother Jamie was called “Turtle” when he was born be-cause he resembled the little amphibian when he was just a tiny thing in his crib.

My oldest brother is named for our father, Harry, but as a junior my parents opted to call him “Herk.” I still don’t know where that name actually came from but it’s the only name he’s used. His son is the third with the Harry name but goes by “Chas” for his middle name of Charles.

It gets a little tricky with those nicknames, but others are pretty easy to figure out.

One of my four sisters goes by her initials “K.C.” rather than her given name of Kathryn Camille. My sister Ellen Denise has always been called “Denny” but also got the nickname “Den Mother” because she is the nurturing type.

I haven’t figured out where “Moo” came from for my oldest sister Marilyn but it is easier to say for the little kids that came after her. My baby sister Gretchen has escaped too many variations of her name but sometimes will get “Gretel” or “Gretch” depending on whom she is talking to in the family or among her friends.

The rest of my brothers – Jon, Chris, Bob, Matt and Greg – have shared similar versions of “Hammer” because of their last name of Hamm. Only Greg has been tagged with the added nickname “Moose” from his football days at Wheeling Central.

Being married to a Ziegler automatically branded me a “Zig.” But here’s where it can be complicated. My father-in-law was “Big Zig” and my husband, just “Zig.” Then our son came along and a third “Zig” was christened. You can figure out who is Big Zig and Little Zig these day because the younger Zig stands a few inches taller than his dad.

Plenty of people have nicknames, some appreciated, others not. The music industry is full of not-so-endearing nicknames including those of rappers. Imagine going through life as “Scarface” or Ghostface Killah.” Those names are as difficult to wear as “Smelly Ellie” or “Fatso Freddy” we heard as kids.

Some nicknames simply help to shorten a long, given name such as G. Randolph Worls. Around these parts, he’s simply known as “Randy” or even the unofficial “mayor of Oglebay.”

We have plenty of people in our communities who are known only by their nicknames. Once of the most recognizable is “Moondog.” He wouldn’t have it any other way and rarely responds to his given name of “Charlie.”

Some nicknames aren’t always welcome Yet in our family, you feel left out if someone doesn’t tag you with some sort of term of endearment. But “Hessie Mae.” Really?

Heather “Hessie Mae” Ziegler can be reached at hziegler@theintelligencer. net.