Nicknames: I’m guessing we all have at least one and that it tends to be a term of endearment. If we don’t, I bet we can recall one or two from childhood that may have been anything but endearing!
But nicknames needn’t apply only to people. From my early days I recall making up fun names for places and things—a light-hearted diversion from everyday life. The grimy bus shelter, the telephone box at the end of the street, the fish ’n’ chip shop: each had a fitting pet name of its own.
I’ve never grown out of my love for nicknames; they seem to make life just that bit more interesting. I find when I shorten a word, the shortening adds something—it brings a smile or a chuckle. Nevertheless, nicknaming is a serious pastime: even our houseplants have names. It’s too wordy to ask if someone’s watered the new Phalaenopsis, so an orchid becomes Phoebe, named after the Goddess of the Moon—easy to remember because it’s big and it’s white! The fig, with its scant three letters, seemed destined to be nameless, but not for long. When we brought it home, it was young and fragile and there were instructions to follow. As for an infant, its “room” was ready and waiting. We named it Figaro and Figaro’s personality has developed with every bud and leaf. He’s part of the family; he has a name, he’s not just another object. Fig number two, Fidelio, was named even before we got him home.
In this hectic world of busy-ness we continue to trim and clip monikers, reasoning that it will save time and one can always do with more of that!
“Where’s the street map?” my husband asks.
“It’s in the downstairs?…” I start to say, “… computer room.”
A whole nine syllables! It’s not been the computer room since we bought the laptop five years ago. How much shorter and more helpful to say it’s in The Burrow, my small hide-a-way workplace under the stairs.
The same logic applies to naming other rooms and, occasionally, a piece of furniture. “The cupboard in the hallway” (seven syllables and dull beyond words) needed to be called something other than “the cupboard in the hallway” and not be confused with “The Ikea” chest, in the same hallway—obviously named before we started dishing out the pseudonyms.
More recently we’ve turned our attention to shop names which can be bland and unimaginative. A flurry of creativity ensued. The name of one eatery hardly rolls off the tongue, but their snacks are the best. So now, we enjoy a cup of coffee, just a little more than before, at?… Muffins.
Overwaitea is a difficult one and Save-on-Foods is another mouthful. But play around with word associations or forays into other languages and … bingo! Save-On becomes savon, French for soap, Suds for short, which is where we now buy half of our weekly groceries.
Real Canadian Superstore took a while. The answer came after a detour to the other side of the pond. Superstore’s home brand is President’s Choice (PC), which in England is short for Police Constable. Stay with me here! The first policemen were nicknamed “Bobbies” after Sir Robert Peel, creator of the Metropolitan Police. So, in this neck of the woods, Superstore has been renamed, and guess what—it’s catching on. At least three neighbouring households now refer to the biggest shop in town, as Bob’s.
Any new purchases are regarded by friends with mild amusement. “What do you call it then?” they ask of the new laptop and the new car. My naming things is now an accepted and expected practice.
Sharing these name changes farther afield, I learn that the village mini-bus, which takes my mum and her friends on little trips around the countryside and for weekly groceries, is called Lily. Our neighbours call their favourite famous chocolates “Fairy Rockets.” Another gives a French twist to anything she views as mundane—just, she says, because it’s fun to do. So don’t feel foolish about renaming stuff. Give it a whirl.
I’m signing off now on Pippin. I could never call my new Apple computer Jonathon or Granny Smith!
Kit-Kat (short for?… ).