Adventures in NicknamingMark Peters
Though there are some trends in parental nicknaming – and the lists I accumulated from friends and message boards are dominated by dinosaur-y, food-ish and poop-propelled pet names – the full gamut of parental nicknaming would require a column the length of 1.7 Russian novels. Though I only have room for a Russian haiku, that’ll be enough to show that parents rival mobsters in the Prolific Nicknamers Department.
As with all nicknaming, baby-name-mangling is common. Neil Cunningham’s daughter Luna has a lengthy resume of rhyming aliases: “Luna Beguna,” “Luna the Goon,” “Gooney Boon,” “Gooney Boons,” “Luna Goons,” “The Goon,” “Gooner” and “Miss Goons.” Similarly, Dan Weinstein’s son Koey has been redubbed “The Koaster” and “Koaney Guy,” which was part of another genre of parental creativity, the made-up song: “He’s a Koaney Guy, He’s a Koaney Guy, He’s got nice eyes, He’s a Koaney guy.”
But it’s not always the baby’s name that gets altered. For some reason, the fearsome Tyrannosaurus Rex – a meat-ripping beast with foot-long teeth and a 600-hundred-pound skull – has proven indispensable in baby-nicknaming. Some variations play on the child’s name (Audrasaurus Rex, Oliviasaurus Rex, Tarynosaurus Rex), while others refer to one of the child’s less laudable qualities (Crankasaurus Rex, Grumpasaurus Rex, Slobbersaurus Rex). In all these cases, the X-saurus Rex formula allows for a silly way to express a natural feeling of any parent: This kid is doing to my life what Godzilla did to Tokyo.
When they’re not metaphorically destroying metropolitan areas, babies wage another not-so-subtle war – on their parents’ sense of smell. Accordingly, many nicknames are poo-or-stink-centric. I’ve seen “Stinker Butt,” “Stinky Boy,” “Stinky Shorts” and the short, sweet, apt “Stink.” “Pooper,” “Little Poopie,” “Pooter Pants,” “Thunder-butt” and the Star Wars-inspired “Count Dookie” continue the theme.
Poop’s proud descendent, food, also inspires many nicknames. Dictionary-maker and word-lover Erin McKean reveals, “Oh, we had tons of nicknames for Henry up to and including the present day. I often call him ‘pickle’ or even ‘picklebutt’ for reasons lost to history; he usually tolerates it except within earshot of his friends.” Others parents use “Fig,” “Peaches,” “Peanut,” “Pork Chop,” “Pumpkin Butt,” “Silly Muffin,” and “Sweet Pea” – not to mention an umtpy-bazillion versions of “Bean.” Even fictional characters look to the kitchen when nicknaming their kids: Lost‘s baby Aaron is known as “Turniphead.”
But no pattern can explain all the names a kid accumulates. Carole Chabries and Shannon Smith’s daughter Mairin has had dozens of nicknames, but none so notable as “Budgie Magoo.”
Here’s the scoop from Dad: “The first part of the name was originally an abbreviation of ‘fussbudget.’ When she was two or three months old, she also looked very much like a little bird, and so Budgie became a secondary abbreviation of ‘budgerigar,’ an Australian parrot (or parakeet, or something like). The Magoo part was just fun, and gave it a good rhythm.”
This name has stuck, and Carole recalls it spawning “every imaginable derivation thereof – including Budgie Mac and Budgie Mac Heart-Attack. [Mairin’s] grandparents (and, quite honestly, her mother) still regularly call her ‘Budge’ or ‘Budgie.'” One version is already on the way out, as Shannon sheepishly admitted: “Sometimes I call her the Pudgie Magoo, but I’m told that must stop relatively soon if I want to avoid a daughter with eating disorders.”
Does anyone in the world still think parenthood is a creativity-killer? I trust that viewpoint has been thoroughly pecked, pooped and pillaged by the Budgies, the Stinker Butts and the Dino-baby-saurs who roam the earth.
What nicknames have you given your children? Let us know in comments.