86. Toothless Joe, Darlene Sardine and other Nicknames.

11 Mar

I probably should have saved my Bubba commentary for this post, but I’ve never been big on planning ahead. I mean, if a project is due Friday and I finish it Wednesday night, then die on Thursday, that would have been a waste of my time.

In the South, nicknames are so common, you could go your whole life knowing a “Junior” or “Sissy” and have no idea what their real name is. One day, you might happen upon an obituary for “William Henry Anderson” that reads suspiciously like the life (and death) of…dear Lord, that’s “Skippy.” Who knew? Better grab a casserole out of the freezer and head on over.

Southern folks are saddled with nicknames for any number of reasons. For the sake of brevity, I’ll discuss the top six:

The correct answer to Bubba's Oodles Question.


1. Earned nicknames
Beware: any time a person does anything whatsoever, there’s a good chance they’ll be saddled with an unflattering nickname. And even if you are a hermit who withdraws from society altogether, you can still earn a nickname like “The Hermit” or “The Unabomber.” My dad has a brother whose adolescent voice change was so pronounced that he’s been called “Squeaky” ever since. One of my best friend’s nicknames was inspired by her bowling technique: “Gutterball Gertie,” which we’ve shortened to “Gert.” Also, when we were playing the game Oodles, her brother Bubba (who now goes by “Tommy”) shouted a spectacularly wrong answer that earned him the nickname “GANT!”

2. Appearance-based nicknames

If you know someone by their nickname before you meet them face to face, you might be in for a surprise. Most likely someone known as “Red” will have hair of that hue, but if someone’s called “Tiny” they’ll likely be a future contestant on “The Biggest Loser.” Back in my headbanging/tie-dye wearing years, my aforementioned friends’ father dubbed me “Hippie Kim,” which I’ve always secretly (till now) liked. My favorite nickname which wasn’t meant to be ironic but became so is my friend’s step-cat “Boney.” Boney’s a Seattle native, but I suspect he has a Southern heritage.

My friend's step-cat "Boney."

3. Rhyming nicknames

Future parents of the world, please do your kid a favor and give him/her a name that’s less likely to lead to playground altercations. I realize this is an almost impossible task, considering how creative kids are, but at least don’t make it easy for them. Try avoiding anything that rhymes with an unpleasant word, i.e. “Darlene Sardine,” “Grody Jody,” or “Phlegm Jim.” Also, you might want to steer clear of choices like “Chuck,” “Mitch,” or “Bart,” just in case the “Name Game” rears its ugly head again.

4. Code names

Considering how females like to go on ad nauseam about the men in our lives (past, present, and future), we use code names so our friends can keep them straight. Which is particularly helpful when one has a run of suitors who happen to share the same first initial, “J” for example. Hypothetically. This isn’t so much a Southern thing as it is a female thing, but it was a category I didn’t want to overlook.

Guess who "forgot" his wallet?

Here are a few I’ve heard and/or coined both above and below the Mason-Dixon. “Hurt Foot,” “The Fireman,” “The Eddie-ot,” “My Stalker,” “Toothless Joe,” “Stupid Boy,” “Dutch Treat Bob,” and my favorite “Bill (I can’t pay the bill) Bill.”

I don’t remember which one of us started calling my sister’s college boyfriend “George” based on his resemblance to a certain Seinfeld character. It used to drive Jenna nuts, but after they FINALLY broke up, she, too, started referring to him as “George.”

5. Random Nicknames

We call my friend Karen “Nooker,” but I’m not sure why. Supposedly it’s the shortened version of “Nanook of the North,” which does little to enlighten me. There was a guy in high school that Sandy called “Dirt Dauber,” apropos of I know not what. I’ve personally known a “Dirty D,” “Mutt,” “Gopher,” and, wait for it…”Squid.” Check out my blogging buddy Renee’s Mardi Gras adventure in which you’ll discover how her friend’s baby came to be known as “Snake.”

If you're over 60, you may call me this.
However, I prefer "Darlin'."

6. Generic Nicknames

“Honey,” “Dear,” “Love,” and “Sweetheart,” (HDLS) are not necessarily used in a romantic or familial context, which you’ll quickly learn should you venture into a restaurant, clothing boutique, or beauty parlor. Here’s a brief etiquette primer:

1. Never call anyone who’s clearly your elder “HDLS.”
2. Never call the person who’s serving you (waitress, hair dresser, etc) “HDLS.”
3. Men under 60: Never call anyone you aren’t romantically involved with and/or related to “HLDS.”
4. Do not get uppity when an elderly person calls you “HDLS.”

Which brings us to my biggest nickname pet peeve: “Mama” and “Daddy.”
I have no problem with children using these names however they see fit. Also, I think it’s perfectly acceptable when talking to one’s children to refer to one’s spouse as “Mama” or “Daddy.” Example: “Go ask Daddy to wash the dog; she’s been rolling in dead stuff again.” But for the love of all that is holy, please DO NOT call your spouse or anyone you’re romantically linked to “Mama” or “Daddy.” It’s just plain creepy.

What are some of the best nicknames you’ve heard?

How did you come by your nickname (surely you have at least one)? Please keep it PG, people.

Thanks for reading, y’all.

Love, “Kimi-san,” “Hippie Kim,” “Kimbo,” “Lil Kim,” “Hollywood,” and “Pierre.”

Flickr Creative Commons photo credits: “To Bubba from Stinky” by Fushia Foot, “Honey Bears” by wabisabi2015, “Hello My Name Is” by Kris Beltran.

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30 Responses to “86. Toothless Joe, Darlene Sardine and other Nicknames.”

  1. Karen cronacher March 11, 2011 at 6:25 pm #

    toothless joe and darlene sardine cracked me up. The picture of bony was hilarious!We did give you the nickname “Lil’ kim” or little kim because we love the way it sounds, not because of any vertically challenged issues. My nickname in high school was “chronology” because I could memorize historical timelines easily. My friends used to tell me I had a journalist’s crackily name: this is karen cronacher for the chronicle. I gave my sister the hated nickname “kyod” for the way elton john sings “hey Kiiid” in bennie and the jets. Then I started calling everyone kyod or dud in college. It became very cool to be a dud. Now I call my dog “dooog” or snoop dooogy doog, and yes, me and Josh refer to ourselves as Ariel’s mommy and daddy, as in, daddy’s home or why do you love mommy more?

    • Kim Holloway March 15, 2011 at 11:46 pm #

      I have to agree, Karen Cronacher for the Chronicle is pretty awesome. You missed your calling. But there’s still time. Why have I never heard “snoop dooogy doog” before? Hilarious!

  2. Jbeebus March 11, 2011 at 9:20 pm #

    When I was about three two people were kissing on TV and I said “woo woo woo.” Since then I have learned to answer to the names Woo, woo girl and woo joo. I am also sometimes known as Julie beebus or just bebus. One of my brothers is refered to as pow poot or doshala doo da. My mom calls my other brother Smayrod and my sister Kizzie. My mom really liked Roots.

    • Kim Holloway March 15, 2011 at 11:51 pm #

      I hope you realize I’ll be calling you “Woo Joo” from now on. I can just picture you at three saying “woo woo woo”! I’ve often wondered where the beebus comes from. Geoff’s always asking, “Who’s winning? You or jbeebus?” Judging from your other sibling’s nicknames, you lucked out. Except for Kizzie. I actually like that more than my own name. I also really liked Roots.

  3. victoriasfolly March 12, 2011 at 2:46 am #

    Snookie or Snooks (only my daddy called me that), Ditzy Blonde, Ditz, VT, Vic. My sister was called pelican or pumpkin.

    • Kim Holloway March 15, 2011 at 11:53 pm #

      Sadly, “Snookie” from Jersey has forevermore tarnished the name “Snookie,” which is too bad.

  4. Renee Mason March 12, 2011 at 7:01 am #

    OMG! Boney is the FIRST square cat I’ve ever laid eyes on! Thanks for the shout out to my blog, and there’s one nickmaqne men I’ve known from Georgia always use “Sugar Britches”. None of them have ever lost a job over the usage that I’m aware of…sadly!

    • Kim Holloway March 16, 2011 at 12:06 am #

      Ok, this may forever change the way you think of the nickname “sugar britches.” I know a guy who knows a guy who takes on different personas and messes with telemarketers’ minds. He records the calls and shares them with the world via youtube.

  5. lisa in alabama March 12, 2011 at 5:36 pm #

    Back in Canada my Grandpa was prone to giving people nicknames. I have an uncle Mooker and an aunt Shnook, and he always called me Nuisance. I used to steal and hide his cigarettes and mess up his comb-over, so I guess I earned that one.

    My Alabama husband used to call me “Scooter Pie” back in college when we were dating. Now he calls me “Boo”. His Southern family has a long list of great nicknames – Sister, Fella, Fil, Til, Doc, Pot, Cooter (whose last name is, in fact, Brown), Cakes, and my personal favorite, Crumbsnatcher.

    • Kim Holloway March 16, 2011 at 12:08 am #

      I have to agree that Crumbsnatcher is the best of the bunch, but I love them all. Especially Cooter whose last name is Brown.

      That reminds me of a generic insult a friend of mine used to use: Chucklebutt.

  6. Debbie March 13, 2011 at 8:46 am #

    My sister tagged me “Nellie” because I used to give her horsey-back rides when we were kids. More recently, my son tagged me “Kitty” because I HATE being wet!

    • Kim Holloway March 16, 2011 at 12:09 am #

      I think those are both great nicknames!

  7. sneaux March 13, 2011 at 1:14 pm #

    My dad often addresses any male, of any age, “Big Guy”. Has as long as I can remember, but in recent years it’s kind of stuck in reverse and that’s what me, my husband, my sister, and her fiance’ now often call him.

    • sneaux March 13, 2011 at 1:15 pm #

      oh, in Arkansas, btw

      • Kim Holloway March 16, 2011 at 12:11 am #

        That’s a great solution for someone who can’t remember names. But I don’t think the female equivalent “Big Girl” or worse “Big Gal” would go over so well.

  8. Joe March 14, 2011 at 10:21 am #

    My brother was tagged “Shorty” when he was born because he was so long by an obnoxious uncle. He is over 6′ and well over 60 and still can’t get away from that name. My sister and I were much smarter. When one of my relatives tried to pin a nickname on us, we just refused to answer them.
    I did grow up with a “Nubbin” who still proudly goes by that name although I have no idea why. Maybe because his given name is a double name. Seems to me either one is extremely Southern.

    • Kim Holloway March 16, 2011 at 12:14 am #

      I can’t imagine why anyone would proudly go by the name “Nubbin.” Which reminds me that I dubbed a person who works in my industry (but will remain nameless) “Niblet.”

  9. 2blu2btru March 15, 2011 at 12:32 pm #

    I’ve been saddled…er, blessed, with a ton of nicknames: Minnie Mouse (voice related), Weenie (size related…I was rail thin then, LOL), Sweet Pea (generic), Sapphi (generic), maigwai (which refers to the little brown and white furby looking thing that you can’t feed or give water after midnight in Gremlins…I have no idea). This days, my boyfriend calls me Ms. E. That’s my favorite for me.

    My family calls my boyfriend Tutu (his name is Desmond, and he made the mistake of saying, “like Desmond Tutu). I have an aunt called “Pink Susie” (her aunt bought her a pink Easter dress every year). Others: Flo, BootyCoo, Bebo (Bee-bow), Madame Wax, Nookie, Duke, Woo Woo, Fat Baby and Dirty Red. Yes, we are Southerners, my family.

    • Kim Holloway March 16, 2011 at 12:17 am #

      Ok, I think you win the prize for best family nicknames EVER. Tutu? LOL!!

      I have to say my favorite is BootyCoo, followed closely by Madame Wax and Dirty Red.

      You are Southerners, indeed.

  10. cupofkris March 16, 2011 at 6:25 am #

    Oh Miss Kim you forgot the all important animal category of Southern nicknames…. Mostly given out from one good ol’ boy to another. Such varieties as Hoss (from horse or the character from Bonanza), Squirrel, Bass, Fish, Flounder, Trout, Buck, Bull, and of course Mine… Possum.. HAHA. there is a long story behind that one but it also comes with a nickname last name… Think on that.

    • Kim Holloway March 17, 2011 at 3:44 pm #

      Ok, I didn’t add a separate category because I wasn’t aware that it existed. I included “gopher” and “squid” under random because I had no idea WHY or how they’d gotten those names. Thanks for enlightening me!!

  11. Tori Nelson March 17, 2011 at 12:51 pm #

    Haha! Too funny (and totally true). I received various nicknames based on my level of stupidity at any given moment. Dad called me “Chickie” because I was a wuss. Mom called me “T Bone” because I beat up a boy. Friends in college called me “Lady”… I STILL don’t know where they came up with that one 🙂

    • Kim Holloway March 17, 2011 at 3:45 pm #

      I like “t-bone.” Nobody messes with a girl named t-bone, if they know what’s good for them!

  12. bayoubyme March 23, 2011 at 8:06 pm #

    Boney is your friend’s step cat? How does one become a *step* cat?

    • Kim Holloway March 30, 2011 at 12:38 pm #

      by marrying boney’s (human) mother. 🙂

  13. sleeve April 26, 2011 at 12:32 pm #

    I once knew a Skillet McMatty. Skillet wasn’t his first name and McMatty wasn’t his past. I won’t go into where I got mine, not interesting enough. But it wasn’t for anything lewd, I want that clear!

  14. Kathy Rowe August 9, 2013 at 1:04 pm #

    Giving me the giggles. I’m writing a southern “contemporary agricultural romance” and my hero is giving his future bride to be (he doesn’t know it yet) a lesson on southern strangeness. I know a Donald Duck (town council), and I found a Cutworm in the phone book. I’m a transplant to KY, and still getting used to the nickname thing. Does add a lot of flavor to my writing!

    http://amazon.com/author/krowe

    • Kim Holloway September 4, 2013 at 12:50 pm #

      Hi Kathy, your novel sounds fun. Nicknames seem to be far more prevalent/colorful in the South. I can’t think of anyone in Seattle with a half-way decent nickname. But maybe I just haven’t met the right people…

  15. MontaukTrl December 3, 2013 at 10:05 am #

    My immediate family has always avoided nick-names, my mother can’t stand them even though she answers to “Pete,” which was given to her by an uncle. We also have a great aunt “Sissy,” my grandfather “Butch,” and a great grandmother “Bill.” My wife was given the nickname “Helga,” while in college in Montgomery. My grandfather referred to me as “Pedro,” but pronounced it Pee-drough (my name starts with the letter P) and to my brother as “Roberto,” but pronounced Row-Brr-Toe. I went to school with a “Moose,” and a “Woo.” Worked at a place with a 60 year old man that answered to “Spider.” My favorite college football team has a “Ha-Ha” and a “Nudie.” I could go on and on…

    • Kim Holloway December 3, 2013 at 3:44 pm #

      Ok, you win! Don’t think I’ve run across a family with a more intriguing mix of nicknames!

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