Sunday, November 22, 2009

Nickname blues

Names have weird mojo. There is a sound to them, a rhythm, a categorization effect. They don't define you and yet they seem to exert substantial influence. Everyone has a few names they don't like and people will even come up with character profiles based on a given person's name. "Oh shit, girls whose names end in -y are crazy!" For myself, I notice I seem to only be attracted to girls whose names start with B, M or S. Probably nothing to it, but it's a fun mental construct.

When a couple are expecting a baby, they have to spend a bit of time pondering a name because the name just might exert a bit of influence on how their precious offspring will end up. His or her destiny.

But in the end, you are stuck with a name just like you are stuck with premature balding or an unfortunate face. You can't change your DNA but there is one way to sort of change your name. The nickname. If you are "street" enough, you will probably get a nickname. Hopefully it's a good one. But, if it's not...(hurr hurr)

[This is the opening scene from The Wire, the greatest television show of all time in my opinion]
You might even be tempted to put a nickname out there for yourself, to push a nickname so to speak...not a good idea. In one of my favorite episodes of Seinfield, George decides to go for the name "T-bone" and it results in his co-worker getting the nickname. Here he decides to push the matter further.

You can almost always tell if someone picks their own nickname. It just doesn't have any weight or feel right. I met a woman in Thailand on my last trip. 5 minutes after meeting her, she says, "Everybody calls me 'Squish'." 5 minutes after that, she was fire twirling. I understand the feeling..."I want to reinvent myself so I will henceforth be called 'Squish the Fire twirler!'" Things just don't work that way.

I am the first born son in a family that follows the tradition of naming the first-born son after the father. The fifth in a row. There are only so many variations on Will, Bill, William, Billy, Willy and so on within a family before you long to be something completely different. Damn, I wanted to be know as Ozymandias or something.

Most of the nicknames I picked up were variations on my name. They were less nicknames than jibes. Wilma, Chilly Willy, the Mongrel, Mounger Man, War Monger, Fish Monger and the like. Luckily they never stuck. I almost got "Doc" one time, which ain't bad. Then later in Taiwan I fell asleep outside at a music festival and was seen passed out being attacked by a goose. That got me "goose" for a couple of weeks. Still nothing stuck. I seem to be doomed to go by my name.

Even things associated with me have trouble picking up cool nicknames. In college I had a yellow 1978 Honda civic that I bought for $1,500. It had an 8-track player and loads of character. I was on a road trip with some buddies and they even brought up the issue. "Dude, your car needs a nickname. What we gonna call it?" Some girl says, "well, if it's yellow, you should call it sunshine!" We laughed and made fun of her for not knowing how to nickname a car for almost an hour. "Ha, you need to go to the store? Hold on and let me go get 'sunshine'." After said hour passed, we looked at each other and my friend said, "You realize what we have done, don't you?" I said, "yeah, shit, now my car is named Sunshine." So I was stuck with an 8-track- playing Sunshine.

The whole reason I am writing this blog is that I was working on the bar I am building in my apartment in Taipei today. When I moved in, I noticed that a corner of my living room was a closed off stairwell that used to go to the lower floor. There was a metal railing that got in the way of using it for much of anything. I immediately saw the possibility and decided to build a cute little corner bar. I brought hundreds of bricks up 6 flights of stairs and have been working on making it "cool". My friends started asking me about it and I brainstormed ideas for a silly little name. Somebody mentioned "The Dojo" and that sounded great. I could run the bar with a little karate kid headband and put a rising sun flag behind the bar. Issue solved.

So, I get the bar partially finished and one of my friends comes over, a friend with a well-established nickname he didn't pick..."the Bull". That night he seemed obsessed with telling me about gay bars that he heard about where people piss on each other. "Dude, you should totally call your bar, splashers!"

"Ha ha ha, yeah  right." Well, there were a few dudes over that night and we drank a fair amount. The next morning, I go to my bathroom and there was piss everywhere. I talk to my friends and say, "damn, Bull was kidding about calling my bar 'Splashers' but after looking at my bathroom, it really is...." I was just joking, but guess what my friends now call my bar.

I guess I am happy just to be known as Will.

Ok, this entry has gone on long enough, but I will leave you with a story that I feel conveys the real dangers of caring too much about nicknames. In Taiwan there is a sport group that meets weekly. They have a tradition that everyone who participates gets a nickname. Mostly the nicknames are stupid and vulgar. A woman might be known as "Roboslut" or something. One friend I had put mousse in his hair and became known as "Vassilino". Silly stuff.

Anyway, this one guy had been involved for a while and was kind of leader in the group. His nickname was "Flaming Penis". After a long time of being involved in the group this new guy comes to participate. He is a male model. Flaming Penis tells the male model that he has decided to give him the nickname of "XXX"...something really insulting and lame. The model says, "so what if I don't accept that nickname? Why can't I be 'Flaming Penis'?"

"But 'Flaming Penis' is my nickname."

"Ok, so how did you get that nickname?"

"I wrapped newspaper around my penis and set it on fire and downed a beer before I put it out."

"How long did it take you?"

"I dunno, like 10 seconds."

So, the male model announces to everyone. "I want to take 'Flaming Penis' nickname. I will wrap my penis in newspaper and light the paper on fire and finish a beer in 8 seconds. If I can do that I want his nickname." Everyone gathers around and agrees to the contest. The guy pulls it out, wraps it in newspaper and lights it and skulls a beer quickly and puts out the fire." The whole crowd chants, "Flaming Penis! Flaming Penis!"

The man formally known as "Flaming Penis" is not about to go down without a fight. He announces that he will beat Mr. Fancy Pants Male Model's time to regain his nickname. The crowd goes wild.

He pulls down his pants but stage fright and temperature seem to be affecting his performance.

Someone yells out, "Hahaha, Look! He got a vagina!"

The crowd yells out, "Vagina Boy! Vagina Boy!"

Take a guess as to what his nickname is now.

So, yeah, my name is Will. Let me know if you need me to pick you up with Sunshine to come to Splashers.


  1. Heh, great post. My nickname in high school was Angst, and I'm still called that by my best buddies from those days.

    So, when can I come hang out at Splashers?

  2. I thought you might like that one....
    Splashers will be officially open for bidness before the end of the year.

  3. Also, wasn't that your first forumosa nickname?

  4. I used to be Albino before I was Vay. You can imagine how much I liked that. I would be like, 'Hey man, my eyes have pigment!'

    And I'm not Vay so much anymore either, except to a dwindling number of guys back home. It was a pleasant surprise to hear it from you one time.

  5. Don't feel brother used to call me saggy titties.