Tuesday, September 14, 2010

NICKNAMES! By Sue Kinsella

So Windy Bags said to Big Bertha Puffy, “Do you think we could snooker C-C Balls, Stinky Pot and Squirt into doing our chores for us?” If Big Bertha Puffy could have seen into the future, she might have answered him, “I don’t know about that, but I bet Tuffy could wrangle Katydid or Loopty Lou into doing those dishes.” Of course, that was long before Kickley and Dudley, along with Rhombus, wrote stories for the TaylorBakerCousins blog!

“What?” You say. “Who are these people?” Oh, just some of your favorite aunts, uncles, and cousins. I suppose it’s not uncommon, but we seem to have had some unusually dedicated nickname-bestowers in our extended family.

Uncle Arnon was an early champ. As President of the Taylor Family Club, he awarded special names: Esther was Big Bertha Puffy, Doris was Stinky Pot, Lucille (Aunt CB) was C-C Balls, and little Harold was Squirt. At least Arnon believed in equal naming rights; he called himself Windy Bags. (I bet his nicknaming didn’t stop there. Nancy, Diana and Carole Ann probably can add some dillies!)

Fortunately for us all, Lucille didn’t forever remain C-C Balls. But she gained a nickname in high school that has stuck with her so intrepidly all her life that many people don’t have any clue what her given name actually is. This nickname, of course, recalls how she excelled at so quickly topping beets when high schoolers provided some of the harvest labor to farmers during WWII that her friends started calling her Sea Biscuit, after the Kentucky Derby winner of the day. Now, nearly seven decades later, everybody still knows her as CB.

Apparently there was also a subset of the Taylor Family Club, with the younger cohort coming up with special signatures to accompany their nicknames. For this club, Doris signed her name, Dot, as (.), Lucille by then was already CB, and Harold signed with a D inside a circle, for Baldy. (Get it? Ball-D . . . It took me a while, too . . . .) By the way, should we be concerned that this may mean that names can influence the future? Because at the time that Uncle Harold became known as Baldy, he still had all his hair.

Whether Harold (no longer “little”) learned from his big brother’s example or it’s in the genes, he went to town on nicknames in his own family and nobody seems to have escaped his creativity. In fact, I first got interested in writing this story when I visited Uncle Harold with my parents and my brother Jim in August and learned that dear, sweet little Olivia Eden Rooks, not more than two weeks old, was already unofficially christened “Olive Oyl” by her great-grandfather.

Annie filled me in on her Dad’s nicknames for her family. She, of course, has been Annie Bananie for as long as I can remember. Her daughter Jessica Rose, Olive Oyl’s Mom, was Rosy as she was growing up and Rosy’s brother Elliot answered to Elmer.

Kathy sent me more names. She was nicknamed Katydid, her daughter Yvonne was Schultzy and her son Jeff was Jeffer. Following in her Dad’s footsteps and not content to name her own kids just once, Kathy herself also called them Henry and Henrietta.

Mary Lou was Lou Lou or Loopty Lou. Her son Dan was George and Matthew was Fred, but Uncle Harold went overboard with Mary Lou’s oldest son, Jesse, who became Clem Kadiddle Hopper.

Judy was nicknamed Jute or Jude, but I remember that Uncle Harold was kind of confounded when her daughter Mallory was born. All he could think of was Mallory batteries, which surely explains her subsequent nickname, Sparky. Judy’s son Zackary became Zeke.

Not only did everyone answer to all these alternate names, but there were times when Uncle Harold couldn’t remember any of the right names at all, so he’d just start yelling out boys’ names – George, Steve, Charlie, Whoever You Are! – and all his girls would come running.

Of course, we have to take all these names with a grain of salt. Kathy says, after consulting with her sisters, “This is how we remember it but that is subject to being off as we are all old now, you know, and our memories are faded with time.” As part of her cohort, I’m not letting that one stand!

Uncle Harold had his own names, too. Not only Squirt and Baldy from his childhood, but he also became known as Tuffy Taylor in high school. The reason for that seems to be lost in the mists of time. Kathy says Tuffy and Baldy were the names he answered to when he ran his Texaco gas station, and I believe I’ve heard my mother still call him Squirt even now sometimes.

She had a similar lapse of memory for proper names, herself. In our family, when we heard my mother calling, “George!” we all knew we’d better show up fast because Mom was so frustrated about something or other that the name of the kid she wanted at that moment escaped her.

It was my brother Dan who inherited the nicknaming gene on our behalf. He claims he has no idea why he chose the names he did, but somehow he seemed to always pick up on enough of the family current that his nicknames stuck and we still sometimes use them for each other. Interestingly, though several of us tried hard to nickname Dan, no one else apparently possessed the appropriate inspiration because he was the only kid in our family who escaped the trend.

He and Tim were close, so I can’t explain why Dan named his brother Garbage. When he was feeling expansive, he would add a French accent and call him, “Gar-BAJ.”

Pat, your intrepid Cousins blog meister, became Kickley or Turnip. One time I wrote a check to her as Turnipseed. I think she had a long debate with herself about whether or not to cash it, because of course signing her name as Turnipseed would expose to the public a goofy private part of our family. I think she decided that the amount on the check wouldn’t qualify as snooty high finance, so she signed it and got the money.

Pat, by the way, was drawn into Uncle Harold’s orbit. She has always been “Patrick” to him. Of course, she loves challenges and that must be why she married into a family where her husband’s mother had deliberately chosen names for her boys that she thought were nickname-proof. Pat, however, calls her husband (Glenn Arthur) “G.A.”

When we were kids, Dan would call for Rhombus and we’d know he meant Tom. He extended Beth’s given name of Elizabeth into several variations, including Lizard, Gizzard and Bathtub. Others of us came up with somewhat softer, more affectionate nicknames for Beth, and I suspect she appreciated Lizbeth and Betka a bit more.

Jim came along enough years after Beth that everybody was kind of stunned to encounter baby antics again. I think that’s how he got the nickname The Green Grabber. These days I don’t hear that so much anymore, but I call him Jamison. Pat calls him Jamie.

Poor Chris, born four years after Jim, got nicknames from everybody. His hair stuck out so wildly when he was a baby that he looked like he had his finger perennially stuck in an electrical socket, so we called him Critter. Pat was a little more considerate and called him Christy. Jim, however, who was, and still is, one of Chris’s best friends, always lovingly called him Big Buns.

And me? Well, Dan is two years younger than I am so he had trouble saying my name when he was little. He started out calling me Duden (pronounced “Doo-Den”) and then, perhaps influenced by a certain TV cartoon about an incompetent Canadian Mountie, started calling me Dudley. Ever since we were kids, I don’t remember his ever calling me by my actual name. In fact, for the past few decades, I have been resigned to assuming that his name for me may mean somewhat more than just a nickname to him. Whenever we get in touch, Dan says to me, “Hi, Dud!”

I’m sure that the family nicknaming gene is much more widespread than just these examples. What other silly names are in our Taylor Baker families?

Picture One: 1934 family photo--Squirt in front, then Stinky Pot, Ruth, Lloyd, Ethel, and C-C Balls, with Windy Bags and Big Bertha Puffy in back

Picture Two: Squirt all grown up, 1968

Picture Three: Squirt's daughter Annie Bananie and CB's son, The Green Grabber

Picture Four: Thanksgiving 1971 in Waterloo--Starting with Jim, I mean The Green Grabber on the floor in front of the Life money, Lou Lou, Betka, Jute, Critter in front of the Life board, then Annie Bananie on the couch arm, two unseen cousins (most likely Patrick and Rhombus) and Dan.

Picture Five: Kinsella Family, 1969
Front Row--Jamie, and then CB in front holding Critter
Middle Row--Kickly, Rhombus, Uncle Jack also known as Fearless Leader, and Gizzard
Back Row--Garbage, Dan also known as Guano, and Dudley


Pat said...


Terrific work!!

Now, let's see what OTHER nick names we can come up with!


Anonymous said...

What great names! When reading the article, I recall Bryant saying that he never had a nickname, which he really wanted. However, in college he got his wish--- "Curly"--because of his hair.

Judy aka Jute said...

Oh Sue what a great job, you made me laugh and remember things that I hav'nt heard in years. Thanks so much for the memories...
And by the way Florida is wonderful, I'm loving it and Jimmy will be here Sept. 25

MOM/ Aunt CB said...

This does bring back memories!! I had forgotten Dan's nickname until I read this here and then, determined to be sure he got counted, saw it in the photo credits! However, it should be emphasized as he named all the others. Was it Tim who gave him the name GUANO? At any rate, they all signify great love for the chosen one.
AS for the Green grabber, I am not sure what that signified!! That first came about when 2 year old JIm got down cellar [ helping me wash where he also put the pup in the wash pail but that is another story] and saw a wall of games tucked neatly on shelves in the playroom! What a challenge! Every one within his reach he pulled off and threw on the floor, in the process mixing all pieces and blocks. Well, he made one grand mess! Completely cobfused as to what went where, I waited untilall were home from school, called GEORGE and the green grabber was born! [ scolde and watched but repeated the job over and over again!! Today he is one of the neater kinsellas!! [ whatever that proves! ]

Garbage (Tim) said...

Dudley (Sue),

Great job - this brought back wonderful memories. I also remember Ricky calling Tom "Cedar Mouse" and I would sometimes call you "Susi Sciple" (as in disciple).

Anonymous said...

Ahh yes, Cedar Mouse....I remember that nick name also....!