Most people don’t call me by my name. My wife even calls me, “Jay” or “Jase” as if the extra “on” is burdensome. But it’s not just her. Most people call each other by a single syllable version of their name, unless their name is single itself. Even then, we often go by the first letter or something.
But we also apply nicknames to people. I call my friend Nick, “Nickles.” No reason other than it’s playful and fun. He probably thinks I’m implying he’s cheap. That’s fair game since he sometimes calls me, “Biggin’.”
Most people call me “Falls.” I like that. It’s my family name, but almost elevates me to the most notable of all the Fallses. Since until my son was born I was the last male in my family line, I’ve always felt a little burden of importance, so it’s fitting.
I’ve also been frequently referred to as, “Fallsman.” I don’t recall if this is an off-shoot of Rob Schneider’s copy room bit on Saturday Night Live or another dig at my physique comparing me to Eric Cartman on South Park, but whatever the origin, I also embrace it.
One of the basketball coaches I once worked with gave me the nickname, “Doctor.” I asked him why and he just said, “Because you’re the Doctor.” I wrote it off to some inside joke jab he and his fellow coaches were taking at me and reveled in my own perception that it meant I was wise or something.
When I was in graduate school, I was known as, “Big Country.” My roommate gave me the moniker because I had a deeper twang than his Carolina accent. That, and I suggested we could save money renting a trailer instead of an apartment, which was like suggesting a Khardashian cook her own meal.
And then there are the nicknames people give you behind your back. My stat crew buddies and I had nicknames for all 11 volleyball players at Morehead State in 1994. They weren’t all inappropriate, but we certainly didn’t want them to find out. You’ve never had a more awkward conversation that one that starts with, “Why do you call me ‘Blister?’”
Without question, several people I’ve known over the years have derogatory nicknames for me. It comes with the territory when one of the few things that makes you giddy is making everyone around you just a little uncomfortable.
For my part, I have a tendency to give people nicknames as pneumonic devices to help me remember their actual names. While I never forget a face, I have trouble remembering names. Psychologists might tell you this means you’re self-absorbed and not a caring person. In my case, they are wrong. I just have more of a visual filing system up there.
I also give nicknames to people because I like them. My wife’s best friend from high school has a daughter I refer to as, “The Bean.” When she was a baby, her head was shaped like a bean. She was gorgeous and just became “Sophie Bean.” I think she even likes it when she walks in the room and I scream, “THE BEAN!”
While I’m certain there are some nicknames I’ve been given that aren’t flattering or fun, and certainly I’ve given a few myself, the practice is a fascinating extension of human behavior. What nicknames have you earned through the years? Why do you think so? I’m curious.