Handles, Nicknames and Monikers – Bullying or Harmless Fun?

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“Mother and Child” brush drawing in oils

When my kids were young, I made up silly names for them. It was a playful way of adding extra affection and fun to our relationship. The handles were cute and harmless and never said outside of our home. They were just between us.

I soon discovered that my children had shared them with their friends. When my oldest son got married, he asked me to tell his new wife a few of them because he couldn’t say them the way I did. They wore those nicknames like a badge of honor which said: “My mother loves me.”

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“Moody Blues” mixed media on canvas

Some names can also be a form of bullying. They go from the playful into teasing and taunting. One of my daughters was called “fat Pat” by her brothers because they knew it irritated her. She was far from fat, but over time she began to believe them. She fretted over her weight and it became a negative focus into her teen years.

My youngest son was dressed up in a girl’s dress by his sister when he was only three years old. She even burdened him with a feminine name. When his siblings teased him and chanted this name, he grew angry, especially as he got older. Calling him this after knowing it made him angry was really a form of bullying. To this day he hates this name and cringes whenever he hears it.

Another daughter had a severe case of chicken pox. They were so bad that even the bottoms of her feet were covered and her tongue. Afterward she was left with a large scar on her cheek.

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“Broken Hearted” 11×14 Pastel, matted and ready to frame.

Before that time she had been full of spunk and self-confidence. But one day a boy at school called her “crater face” and she shriveled into a door mouse. The scar and the teasing made her feel inferior and ugly; not a good way to enter the teenage years. Eventually she outgrew this hurt as the scar grew smaller and she became a beautiful young woman.

I know how she felt. When I got my first pair of glasses as a child, I was called “four-eyes” and learned the negative quip: “Boys seldom make passes at girls who wear glasses.” Even when a young admirer told me I had beautiful eyes, I didn’t believe him. “How could he see my eyes,” I wondered. “I’m wearing glasses?”

We all have battle scars and memories of being picked on or made to feel different. For some it’s a disability. For others, it’s a behavior, a personality quirk or an actual physical characteristic that others may find odd or funny. “Freckle face,” Carrot Top,” “Cowboy” (for bowed legs), “gimpy,” “hunch back,” and “sissy” are stings that you never outgrow. They stick in your mind and may hurt for a lifetime.

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“Broken” mixed media (SOLD) Prints available

Childhood is filled with pain until we finally grow up and discover who we really are. But for some, the burden of pain stays hidden beneath a wall of self-protection making relationships and friendships hard to come by and difficult, perhaps even dangerous if it pushes someone over the edge.

Wild Bill Hickok was one of those people. That’s right: The “Bill” part of his name was just as much a nickname as “Wild” — his full name wasn’t William, but James Butler Hickok. Bill was actually a wisecrack about his appearance, and specifically on his giant slope of a nose and protruding upper lip. The first version of Hickok’s nickname was actually “Duck Bill.” He changed it to Wild Bill to divert people’s attention from his nose to his skills.

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Wild Bill Hickok became one of the most famous figures to emerge from the American Old West, his legend reaching mythical proportions. Hickok fought with the North in the Civil War. He was best known as a gunfighter, a scout, a professional gambler and a lawman. But for his contemporaries, and his sub-conscious, he would always be known as Wild Bill – the guy with the big schnozola.

Positive nicknames can actually enhance someone’s image. Here is a partial list of famous people and their monikers. If you want to see more, go to this site:  http://www.pubquizreference.co.uk/trivref/nicknames-of-famous-people.htm

FAMOUS PERSON NICKNAME EXTRA INFORMATION
Sportsman/Sportswoman Their Profession
Jim Corbett GENTLEMAN JIM Boxer
Jack Dempsey MANASSA MAULER, NONPAREIL Boxer US
Muhammad Ali LOUISVILLE LIP Boxer, US greatest ever arguably, now in his 50’s sadly suffers from Parkinson’s Disease
Nigel Benn DARK DESTROYER Boxer Eng
Georges Carpentier ORCHID KID Boxer Fra
Thomas Hearns HITMAN Boxer US
Ricky Hatton HITMAN Boxer Eng
Primo Carnera AMBLING ALP Boxer
Rocky Marciano BROCKTON BOMBER Boxer
Joe Louis BROWN BOMBER Boxer
Barry McGuigan CLONES CYCLONE Boxer
Eddie Edwards THE EAGLE Ski-Jumper, famous for his poor performance
Sergio Garcia EL NINO Spanish golfer
Florence Griffith-Joiner FLO JO Athlete, US 100m died aged just 38 after heavy drug use
Paavo Nurmi THE FLYING FINN Finnish Ski-Jumper
Ference Puskas THE GALLOPING MAJOR Hungarian Footballer, peaked around mid 50’s early 60’s
Jimmy Hill RABII Footballer UK, and later TV presenter and Football pundit
David Beckham GOLDENBALLS Footballer, Eng World Superstar off the pitch
Eusebio BLACK PANTHER Footballer
Stanley Matthews WIZARD OF DRIBBLE Footballer Eng, one of the greats of the 50’s, played league football at 50 yrs of age.
Duncan Ferguson DUNCAN DISORDERLY Footballer for Everton
Lev Yashin THE BLACK PANTHER Football Rus Goalkeeper
Norman Hunter BITES YOUR LEGS Footballer for Leeds
Dennis Law THE LAWMAN Football Sco prolific striker Man Utd & Scotland
Stuart Pearce PSYCHO Footballer Eng, England International left back, moved on to management
Paul Gascoigne GAZZA England Footballer, career blighted by addictions but still reached superstar status as much for his character as his skills.
Eddy Mercyx THE CANNIBAL Cycling Bel, winner of Tour De France 5 times
Martin Offiah CHARIOTS Rugby League and Union Eng Winger, one of fastest most elusive wingers in the game

Professional nicknames are fun, but they prevent us from remembering a person’s name which is more personal. Here are a few you’ve probably used yourself (note that most of them are disrespectful).

  • Bones for a surgeon or mortician
  • Sawbones for an orthopedic surgeon
  • Doc for a doctor or dentist
  • Sparky for an electrician or radio operator
  • Geek for a computer technician, a brainy person or nerd
  • Sarge for a military sergeant
  • Chief for a police or fire chief
  • Teach for a teacher
  • Prof for a Professor
  • Brains for someone who is clever or a genius
  • Moneybags for a wealthy person

You may enjoy creating your own nicknames and handles that describe someone in a positive way. Heaven knows we have enough sadness caused from bullying and name calling. Handles may lift someone’s self-esteem or tear it down.

I was never a good athlete. I’d be the last chosen for a team because in those days I was the shortest kid in my class. To this day I cringe when I hear someone called a sissy or the cat calls “Bet she throws like a girl.”

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“With These Hands — Hope”

Revenge is sweet. Some of these girl’s (and boys) grow into powerhouses! One day this gangly uncoordinated girl will look down on you when she’s the CEO of Yahoo, or Hewlett Packard, or GM. You better look out! “What goes around, comes around.”

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