Sunday, August 23, 2009

Nicknamery Part 2: The Search Continues ...

Remember that one obnoxious asshole from middle school theater camp? The one who insisted -- all … summer … long -- that everyone call him “Puck?”

Of course you do. We all do. We all knew “that guy.” The one who thought his Hawaiian shirts, juggling skills and extensive experience as "Boy Who Gets Turkey" in a dinner theater production of A Christmas Carol would get him laid.

Well, kid. I’m sorry to be the one to tell you … but you cannot give yourself a nickname. Nope. No sir. Not ever.

I don’t care that you’ve memorized the piano dance from “Big” or that you know all the words to “Jesus Christ Superstar.” You cannot give yourself a nickname. So stop it.

Also you’re a douche.

But that’s off-topic.

Anyhow, it’s an ironclad rule of nicknamery. The only rule, really. And a rule that all the “Pucks” of the world need “explained” to them.


With fists.

“Call me Puck! Then punch me in my face as hard and as often as you can! Huzzah!”

But, all that said … as a fella who longs for a nickname of my own, I’m fervently hoping that, while I can’t apply a nickname to myself directly, maybe I can coerce people into giving me one. And if I'm lucky, maybe it’ll even be cool.

So what makes a good nickname? According to my research (by which I mean: “opinions I’ve pretty much pulled from my ass”) ... a good, solid nickname usually comes in one of three basic formats:

1) First Name + "The" + Adjective/Noun

2) First Name + Descriptor in “Quotes” + Last Name

3) The Free-Stander

In this post let’s examine the first of these.

First Name + "The" + Adjective/Noun

Historically, this is probably the oldest known form of the nickname. You can track it through thousands of years in recorded history.

And back in the day, they really knew how to hand out nicknames.

Ramses the Great, Richard the Lionhearted, Ivan the Terrible, Attila the Hun, Conan the Barbarian … that’s pure, Grade A bad ASS.

And the very best of the bunch? Mr. Tepes himself …

Vlad the goddamn Impaler.

“I will DRINK a muthafucka!” --Vlad the Impaler, 1474.

This nickname was so pants-crappingly awesome that Bram Stoker was blown away by it 420 years later! He was so impressed with this nickname that he used Vlad as a model for one of the literature’s baddest muthafuckas - Count Goddamn Dracula. Now THAT’s a successful nickname.

Suck on that one, Scooter Libby.

Just think how much lamer history (not to mention monster movies) would have been if he’d been stuck with a weak handle. Vlad the Irritable? Vladdy the Stabby? Chuckle-Time Jim?

Thank you, Vlad’s Friends, for tagging your brutal, bloodthirsty dictator buddy with history’s ultimate nickname. The world is richer for your efforts.

Also, sorry that he probably impaled you to death. That sucks.

Sorry about that, guys. But nice work ... you know ... before.

But this nickname format isn’t without it’s perils and pitfalls, though.

The Vikings, collectively some of history’s very best bad-asses, especially dug this construction. But they didn’t always knock it out of the park, execution-wise.

I’m speaking, of course, of one Mr. Ivar the Boneless.

Real guy. Honest. The Viking who conquered the city of York in England back in 866 AD. Seriously. Go ahead, look him up. I’ll wait.

Now just how Ivar came by the nickname “the Boneless” is not recorded in history. Some historians believe he may have had a genetic disorder that made his bones soft and rubbery. Other (way meaner) historians think he may have been impotent.

“My dingus may or may not work. Also, I might be squishy.” -- Ivar the Boneless, 870 AD.

But while the etymology of this nickname may be lost to history … today it makes poor Ivar sound cowardly at best, and at worst, like something off KFC’s Value Menu.

"I like my Ivar boneless. Kully-FOO-nee-yah style!"

Is it possible that the meaning of "Boneless" has changed over the centuries? That, back in Ivar's day it meant something really cool? Like "guy who rips the bones out of his enemies?" Maybe.

But I can't take that chance. It’s vital that, if my nickname eventually takes this form, the adjective/noun at the end should be crystal clear. It's important. I don't want bloggers 1200 years from now thinking my bones are squishy or that my dingus doesn't work.

That would make my ghost in the year 3209 very sad.

Next time we'll take a look at nickname construction #2:

First Name + Descriptor in “Quotes” + Last Name

Till next we meet ...

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