Friday, February 19, 2016


Today would have been my brother Ken's 78th birthday.  When he was grown, I recall how Ken hated the childish nickname "Kenny".  His wife Betty always called him Ken, and as hard as I tried, sometimes "Kenny" would slip out.  

He was "Kenny Gene" (from Kenneth Eugene) to my Grandmother Shirkey and the aunts and uncle on that side of the family.

Several years before Kenny died, I gave him a photograph of our grandparents and inscribed it "to Kenny Gene";  he was actually touched by that reference. 

I dislike nicknames and all eight of us siblings had nicknames.

In my family, my brother Bode always wanted to be called "Bode"; Gary never had a nickname except when he called himself "the Great Garo"; Kenny is still Kenny to us; Neil is the middle name of Raymond Neil; and I, and nearly all the family, stopped calling Norman "Banty" when he requested us to stop when he was grown.  Roger is Duke and Leslie is Les and I'm Sue and other nicknames, but only Phyllis to classmates.  Les was "Punky" until he requested us to quit calling him that when he was a teenager. Duke is OK with being Duke, but Sheila insisted on calling him Roger.  She's the one who famously said, "You have nicknames like dogs!"

Bode, that culprit who bestowed all those nicknames on us, never quit calling us by the names he had bestowed.  I asked him once if he were getting even with us for himself being nicknamed. He asked, "Awwwww, don't you like your sobriquet?" Only he would throw in "sobriquet" to make a point.  He liked "Bode" much better than his real name of Velorus Melvin (oh, yes, that is true!).

Norman and Les would cringe as Bode called him by their old nicknames.  I was a bunch of pet names to him but I never minded as they were mostly cute. My subscription to The New Yorker still comes as "Susannah" because Bode gave me a gift subscription in that name; thus, I know if I receive any mail with the name Susannah, then my name was purchased from the magazine. 

Bode had practically an eidetic memory and he would never let me live down adopting a pseudonym after my friend Cammy and I assumed pen names as teenager writer manques; she was "Daphne D. Carman" because of Daphne du Maurier, and I was "Taylor C. Shirkey" for Taylor Caldwell.   Recently, Les said sarcastically, "Just think of all those girls named Taylor nowadays; you were a trendsetter!"

On cards and gifts Bode would use an assortment of names. The rest of us would always ask each other, "What name did Bode use on your Christmas card?" My all-time favorite: Bode was in Iceland during the Korean Conflict, and we received a Christmas card addressed this way:

The Clan
RR #1
Bloomingburg, Ohio

This was before the days of actual house addresses in the country.  How, you may wonder, did that postal delivery person Zoe Garringer know to whom to deliver that card? Of course it had the soldier's return address.

My friend Patty and I send numerous cards to each other for our birthdays and each will have a different name. This past year I received seven cards from her, all with different names. Patty is far more clever than I; e.g.: on presents she will write thus: From: Agatha and Chris Christie; Aretha and Ben Franklin; Hoot and Althea Gibson; Rosa and Gordon Parks; or Michael and Mary Tyler Moore, and never repeats herself.

Years ago, in e-mails to a friend who's a lover of Shakespeare, I began addressing her as female characters from Shakespeare--I was being cute--AND showing-off--of course!

At a meeting I said, "Hey, Miranda..."; she answered, "Yes, Beatrice..."; then she had to explain to others why we used the Bardian names.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

How would you have liked to have been saddled with my name? ML