The Person Formerly Known as Short Pants

My uncle’s name was J. No, it wasn’t Jay. It was J.

This was a guy who was born in 1911 so it wasn’t like his parents were into some symbol for the person formerly known as Prince thing. Why would anyone name their son a single letter? I would have asked them, my grandparents, if I had ever talked to them but I never did. Oh, they were alive until I was about fifteen and we did visit but we didn’t actually converse. Ask me about my grandfather’s worm bin though. It was massive. He would turn the dirt over with a pitchfork and there would be hundreds of big fat angleworms, the ones that had knuckles they were so big. Ponder on that for a minute.

Anyway, I thought about Uncle J because he was a person not in need of a nickname. There is no diminutive for a single letter. Maybe he had a different nickname altogether, though. One not based on his name. Maybe one based on his looks or what he liked to eat. I know he loved pork chops. Maybe his folks called him Pork Chop. Or more likely P.C.

I love nicknames. Love them to death. I don’t think there are enough nicknames anymore. And by nicknames I don’t mean honey or sweetie or any of the other interchangeable endearments constructed to accommodate serial monogamy. New sweetie? No need to change the nickname. Just go generic.

I like nicknames with character. My husband’s childhood nickname was Schnitz. I had two nicknames given to me by my brother and he was the only person to ever use them. Red (hello) and Short Pants. He would write letters to me from college that started “Dear Short Pants.”

My husband had a friend once who had a tic. His nickname was Wink. I knew a man who called his wife Girly Dear. I loved that. I don’t know if she did. One of my sons started calling one of his sisters La, an extreme diminutive of her name that caught on within minutes and we were all calling her La. She never knew what hit her. La.

My older daughter’s nickname is Birdie, given to her by her stepfather but so perfectly describing her decades later that it’s hard not to think it was her original birth name. The same daughter is still called Yo by her younger siblings. What one started the others continued; they may be aware that she has a full proper name but they’ve never let on.

Me, I’ve had a host of nicknames given to me by my husband, so ridiculous and queer that I won’t even list them. He is now consistently using J.J. which oddly brings us full circle.

J. to J.J.