LaTanya, LaBomba, LaBuick, Buick, Coach, Mescobie Duck, Sweetheart Ojibowski, Roxy, Babalouie, Tawney, Tag, Tagna…
This is a list of my nicknames, but not all of them, but a lot of them. I like nicknames. I like them because they usually stem from something comical or memorable. They seem to create a gang atmosphere like the Little Rascals – Spanky, Alfalfa and Buckwheat. That gang is a community, and the nicknaming is a way to belong.
Years ago while working on an event my colleague called me to ask for a phone number; he said he’d been looking for it but couldn’t find Schmenge in the directory. Of course he couldn’t because that was not his real name. Makes me laugh even today.
Somehow nicknames break down barriers and build up trust. The ability to knight someone with a fitting name that is not offensive to them actually brings them closer to the group overall. It is a sign of friendship and inclusion. When my cousin was little he asked his Mother to call him Chuckie Margolis so he could have a nickname like his brothers. Case in point – if we don’t have them we want them when everyone else has them because we feel left out. But as in this example you don’t get to pick your nickname, it is awarded to you. Chuckie didn’t stick.
Nicknames should not be offensive to the person named, you have to trust the people calling you that name are not actually ‘calling you a name’. They don’t always have to be based on comedy, they can be derived from given names as well – Matt from Matthew, Jon from Jonathan. Or how I call my friend H which is the first letter of her last name.
Nicknaming can also be used as a way to label the potential you see in them that others may not. Take for example some high caliber sports athletes;
- Baseball – Philly Shane Victorino goes by the name of The Pineapple Express for his tropical heritage and blazing speed. (bleacherreport.com)
- Hockey – The first Russian goalie ever to win the Stanley Cup, Nikolai Khabibulin is a known impenetrable force in net – they say ‘the only thing separating the Berlin and the Bulin wall is graffiti.’ (bleacherreport.com)
- Baseball – Roy Halladay – Doc – garnered his potent nickname from American Old West gambler and gunfighter Doc Holliday. Halladay is a steady surgeon on the pitching mound. (bleacherreport.com)
Magic Johnson , Refrigerator Perry, Sugar Ray Leonard and the list goes on.
Nicknames can help you stand out or fit in. They can be a tool to create community, trust and even intimacy. For leaders I think it may be as simple as letting people know it’s allowable, you set the tone, you set the example. It doesn’t have to be unprofessional, but it can be inspirational.