My People, My Nicknames
by B.J. Delas Armas
on 3/28/2008 05:33:00 AM
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My People, My Nicknames
I read Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison for a Literature class at UCSC.
They say that the book is a quest for identity, as is noted in the nicknames given to people.
"He closed his eyes and thought of the black men in Shalimar, Roanoke, Petersburg, Newport News, Danville, in the Blood bank, on Darling Street, in the pool halls, the barbershops. Their names. Names they got from yearnings, gestures, flaws, events, mistakes, weaknesses. Names that bore witness.
Macon Dead. Sing Byrd, Crowell Byrd, Pilate, Reba, Hagar, Magdalene, First Corinthians, Milkman, Guitar, Railroad Tommy, Hospital Tommy, Empire State (he just stood around and swayed), Small Boy, Sweet, Circe, Moon, Nero, Humpty-Dumpty, blue Boy, Scandinavia, Quack-Quack, Jericho, Spoonbread, Ice Man, Dough Belly."
I was always struck by this passage. It was something I felt even before I read it and something that rings even truer today.
Whether it was calling my little sister, "Camilleishibu" based on the All That Foreign Exchange student character or when I'm calling her "Bums" as short for a rhyming Nickname for "Bumille", which was a nickname I gave her after I got annoyed at her singing this "Banana nana fo fana" song on Nick Jr. I've also called her "Dumler" also because it rhymes but also because it came from Madden 2001 as one of the random last names generated in the NFL Draft, and now "Bumler" as a synthesis of Bumille and Dumler, and now I've started pronouncing it "Boomler", perhaps as a symbol of the explosion of her art work
When I am I calling Desiree "Company Flow" over the email because she listened to them for no good reason at all at least she told me or "Big Des on the Low Low" because "Des" sounds like a football player's name and/or one of 2Pac's associates,
OR "Wibs" or "Wachi" for my friend Harlan because it was odd just saying "Harlan", and I liked saying Wibs or Wachi better and plus it reminded me of the 50s song "Mr. Sandman" and the context of post WWII and Japan and Hawaii when that song was played
OR Keith "Airplano" way back when because he reminded me of this old school Regent Forex commercial
OR Bel "Bull" cause her sister Trina or "Trinz" has a funny way of pronouncing things
OR Maria "Partner" cause she was my dancing partner for a debut
OR Cressa "the Impreza" cause it rhymes and it reminds me of her red phone, "Hane" cause she called me that one time, and I thought it was pronounced the way you pronounce "Hanes" when in reality it is pronounced HAH-NAY and now all I do is think of underwear with her
OR Chiara "Sis" because that's Cressa's sister and I'd wanted to implicate something by that
OR Daniel "'Yell" in online correspondence because it was just odd calling him by his first name, 'Yell being the nickname of former Chicago Bulls player Donyell Marshall by a poster on RealGM
OR Joel "Drums" because he played the drums and reminded me of that episode in Friends where Ross is playing the theme of Beverly Hills Cop on his keyboard to work on his music in that episode where we find out that he was supposed to take Rachel to prom
OR my mom "Brooklyn" cause she had a bit of a round belly that I once used as pretend turntables when I was imitating a remixed rap version of the Supermario Bros Theme (not the Benefit one) and the fact that she looked hip-hop when she was waving good-bye to some black kids or the "Wadelian Paradigm" as my latest nickname for her reflecting an evolution from "Oodles", Waddles, derived from an episode in Rugrats with an Oodles the dog, and the current academic discourse in which I am embroiled. In ever evolving fashion I alternate between "Brooky" and "Paradigm" nowadays.
OR Joy "Joybif" as short for Joybifida, which means absolutely nothing, but "bifida" I got from imitating the beat from the song "The Life" by Mystic and Goapele which she gave me on a CD
OR Charlyne "TChar" because she sounds like she closes her glottis when she talks
OR Jade "tee" because she's my tee.
OR my dad, TATAY in an exaggerated Filipino voice because he's got lots of grey matter and he tends to be old school, but then he's an artist.
OR Phil "Full" because of the brusque and ironic ways he speaks or "Banks" referring to Phillip Banks on the Fresh Prince of Bel-horizoche-iz-air
Some people I just shorten their names as if they were acronyms. Perhaps this is just a microcosm of a trend where we live in a society of signs and signals. Like Dom for Dominique, like Pens, like B, like A, like Jel, like Bats. I was about to call a friend that is a girl AJ, "Tits" because her last name is Titong, but that wouldn't have been quite right. Sometimes I feel the need to extend past that acronym stage and call them something else. "Domfather", "D-O-M", Lups for Dom. I've been thinking of using Human Highlight Film or HHF, but that doesn't sound quite right, HHF sounds like he he has some kind of disease. I call "Jel" "Gelatinous Jel" or "Jail" as if I was a black dude pronouncing her nickname.
Some nicknames have gone awry. Like "Bats" for Batungbakal which was just a shortened version of his name and got him kind of mad, K-Pop for Kay-Anne because she had a facebook picture where she was turned to one side and it looked like her head snapped to which she ignored, Boocs or Boo-key for Sharlene because her last name is Bucasas to which she told my friend in confidence that she didn't like.
Some people I have nicknames for and they don't even know it because I never call them it. Like "Bucktator" for Christian Bonifacio because his last name is Bonifacio and the Native Guns said something about Bonifacio Bucktating in their one and only album.
Then there are people I don't even call by ANY name EVER. It would be absolutely weird if I called them by their first names, but I don't have enough of a quirky relationship to call them a nickname though did try. Like Carolyn, like Shelly, like Beverly though she wanted to be called Bev, but I know a few Bevs, and "Bev" wouldn't adequately describe her at all.
I almost never call friends and family by their first name. It's just weird.
I think that nicknames are just a way of remembering someone. It's nothing more than coding.
However, for me, nicknames (and even the absence of one combined with the refusal to call you by your first name) give the life to life; it means that you are something more than what is written in a paper document that witness your birth. They say more about you than your institutional name. They give witness to the fact that you LIVED and you've floated around in my consciousness.
Labels: Keying in on Language, Who Am I?