GILBRETH COLUMN: Nicknames are a long-time Charleston tradition
It seems that Charleston has an enthusiastic predilection to award any and everybody a nickname of some sort.
I’ve got at least two, one being sort of a basic everyday nickname that I was given at birth and which I answer to on a daily basis (Teddy), and another that was bestowed upon me by the late M. Stuart Barnwell during childhood that I don’t necessarily promote, but do answer to among a closely knit group of people.
Not because I particularly like it, Stuart wasn’t concerned about that aspect of it, God love him, but kind of as a way to stay in touch with a bygone and legendary fellow. Depending on my mood, I may share it with you later in the column. Maybe.
I’m sure I have many other nicknames out there that run the gamut from insulting to embarrassing, or both. At any rate, I thought it would be entertaining to scribble down a host of nicknames given to various individuals over the years, some living, some not, some given to real “characters,” while others are just like you and me.
It’s my sincere hope that no one gets too upset.
Without further ado: “Diamond Dave” (David Ingle); “Publius” (Park Smith Sr.); “Peach” (Park Smith Jr.); “Brother” (Tom Waring); “Geezil” (Elliott Hutson); his brother, “Heno”; “Tigger” (Mrs. Henry) Smythe; “Jingle” (Nell) Ball; “Dor” (Dorothy Legge); “Haney” (Frances deSaussure); and “Bo” (William Morrison), to name a few.
There are lots of “Weezies” out there, and I understand that a local young lady from an earlier generation who happened to be a childhood asthmatic was referred to as “Wheezy.” How mean! Children can be that way.
My maternal grandfather and namesake was loath to call anyone by a proper name. He never called me by my first name per se, but as “Mr. Teddy” or “Major,” a reference to an eponymous Civil War ancestor.
He referred to my sister, Rebecca, as “that Motte woman,” my cousin, Pierre as, “Pero,” John Barnwell (Stuart’s younger brother) as “the Colonel” (referencing a direct ancestor by the same name who was a famous South Carolina colonist and Indian fighter), Dr. Charlton deSaussure as “Dr. Saucer,” and my father (who was rail thin) as “that fat old daddy of yours.” Any child deserving of it was called a “boobyhead.”
Now don’t get me wrong. He was a Southern gentleman and this was truly all in good fun. Interestingly, one of his brothers, Arthur, was known as “Ackie,” and one of his best friends, Waring Hazelhurst, was known as “Wee” (diminutive in size, but don’t mess with him).
There are so many other good nicknames: “Tunky” (Kathleen) Summerall; “Sticky and Peepsie” Stevens from generations back; “Toots” or “Tootsie” (James) Lucas; “Fish” (Albert) Simons; “Hobo” (Herbert R., the author) Sass; and “Mousy” Schliewenz (helped coach boxing with the great “Matty” Matthews).
Lastly, and she gave me permission to use this, Jane L. Thornhill was affectionately called “Dimpy” during childhood, but it’s my impression that she has outgrown it. Or at least that would be the safe, and probably healthy, assumption.
She reports that her late husband’s (Van Noy) childhood nickname was “Peewee.” I don’t think too many people called him that as he got older.
Well, in keeping with my end of the bargain, it’s time to reveal a second nickname conferred upon me by Stuart Barnwell back when I was probably about 10 or so (I’m 56 now, so do the math): “Fenwick.” Sort of a Lord Fauntleroyish and satirical depiction of a privileged child. But I ain’t answering to it unless you’ve known me for 46 years!
Monthly punster Jim Augustin sends the following observations:
Mom’s the word and Mother’s Day is a momentous occasion.
My role in life is a synonym bun.
Airline pilot to passengers about a takeoff delay: “Our computer is down and we cannot get up.”
Shrek is an ogre-achiever.
We organized riding lawn mower races as a NASCAR event, but everyone kept cutting corners.
Anonymous steers: Unheard of cattle.
From the Internet:
If we don’t conserve water, we could end up going from one ex-stream to another.
Take your motoring trip this month before the weather is nothing but swell-touring heat.
Vanna White of Wheel of Fortune started a T-shirt company. The first name they tried was “White T-shirts,” but then it hit them. Now they call it “Vanna T’s.”
Edward M. Gilbreth is a Charleston physician. Reach him at edwardgilbreth@ comcast.net.