When I was a kid… being assigned a nickname was like a badge of honor. You were not only known by your given name but you had the distinct pleasure of being addressed by your nickname by family members and close friends. I am not really sure who actually bestowed nicknames on us. Often it was done by our own parents. They shared their same given name which was handed down to you from father, grandfather, great grandfather and so on. Instead of being called by your real name (God forbid), you might be labeled...”Junnie” (Junior) or “Sonny” (Son of the father) or some other designated faux “Amerdicon” name instead. You could have two Salvatore’s in the same household (maybe more) but only one was going to be called Salvatore. If you’re Italian you know what that means.
In my mother’s family, my grandfather’s given name was Ferdinando and as Italian tradition has it, the second son in the family (that’s me) was named after my maternal grandfather. The first son was always named after the paternal grandfather. I mentioned this in an earlier rambling…remember?
Yes... I know… my name is not Ferdinando. My mother, as hip as mothers could be back in 1945, Americanized my given name to Frederick. That alone was a foreign nickname as far as my grandparents were concerned. As my Mom’s younger sisters had children, their second sons were also named Frederick. This could have become a problem because in a relatively short period of time there were five Frederick’s in the family including my grandfather Ferdinando who also was referred to as Fred! Was there panic and confusion? Of course not! You simply got nicknamed which meant that you would no longer be called by your proper name ever again.
Being the first and oldest of the Fred’s, I was nicknamed “Big Freddie.’ I was always a big kid and so the name was appropriate on many levels.
My cousin Fred from Massachusetts was known as (I’ll bet you’ve all ready guessed it) “FreddieFromMassachusetts”…all one word! Fortunately he resided far enough away where we saw that part of the family only 2-3 times a year.
Cousin Freddie from West Haven was labeled “Little Freddie” but as a teen ager he felt self conscious being called “Little Freddie” (even though he was short) so he was renamed by my older brother James (whose nick name was “Chuck”) as “Horse teeth.” Little Freddie was so proud of that name that he had his first license plate imprinted with the letters “HOSS” (short for Horse teeth). You were only allowed 4 letters on your marker plate in those days.
Last but not least was the fifth and final Fred born into the family. He was properly called “Baby Freddie.” Because there was no other aunts bearing children by then, the lineage of the name Frederick came to an abrupt end. Baby Freddie is now over 50 years old and is quite portly. He outgrew his name in more ways than one. Prior to his teenage years he was eventually transitioned into the nick name of Rollo (pronounced Row-Low and derived from Rolli/Polli).
I was in Disneyworld a few years ago seated on a wall “people watching” in Adventure Land. I thought I recognized a face… a face from the distant past. It was at least 40 years since I saw my cousin Joe. As he walked pass, I called out, “Bud... Joey Bud!” He stopped and looked around knowing that a very select group of people knew that name which was used a long, long time ago. He was now being reminded of it decades later and in a distant location no less. I am certain that sacred nick name was not uttered in the last 50 years.
As he turned his head in my direction trying to locate the voice and a face, I called out again…”Bud…Joey Bud!” Once our eyes made contact he immediately knew who called out that name. An immediate connection was made as if no time had passed. A smile spread across his face and mine. All of the light years and all of the miles were erased in that single glance.
In the middle of a bustling crowd, we met and gave one other a “manly hug.” It was a very long time for both of us since we saw or spoke with one another.
As a young boy, cousin Joe’s original nick name was “Wilbur Bud” but eventually it was transitioned into “Joey Bud” for obvious reasons. Don’t have me explain the slang connotation of a male child’s…”Wilbur Bud!” (Hint: Read Citizen Kane and compare it to the word “Rosebud”). If you still don’t know the answer inbox me.
Words and names can have a powerful effect on each other. They can ignite wonderful memories of people and places long ago or they can dredge up ill feelings and hatred toward one another. Use them wisely and thoughtfully. They produce consequences. What was your nick name? (09/17/2017)