One can not, or ought not, nickname oneself. This is not a hard-and-fast social rule, but it is similar to the unspoken rule about not declaring oneself humble. The person who volunteers that he or she is humble often is not. An exception comes when the humble person is speaking self-deprecatingly.
Every once in a while, I have desired a cool nickname, a moniker that precedes me wherever I roam. “Lefty” is a great nickname—Steve Carlton and Phil Mickelson both carry that name with distinction, but I am right-handed. No one goes by the name “Righty.” “Write-y”? No. No one needs a nickname that is a pun, a rhyme no less, and would always need a follow-up explanation: “‘Cause he calls himself a writer, get it?”
“No. No, I don’t.”
(As with many social rules, there is a “Seinfeld” episode dealing with the self-nicknamers among us. Click on the link for a recap.)
In the twelve-step fellowship rooms in which I voluntarily spend parts of my days, we know each other on a first-name-only basis for the most part and professions do not enter into the discussion. I rediscovered my inner first-grader’s desire for a nickname upon coming into recovery years ago; there were Mark the Musician (not me), Biker John, Refrigerator Bob, Tall Paul, Awesome Tommy, Mike the German. Not since I appeared in “Guys and Dolls” in high school had I encountered so many descriptive nicknames. I sent out a silent plea for months: “C’mon, call me … ‘The Professor.’ C’mon. Pleeeeeease.”
For a while, I was “Other Mark” to Musician Mark, but then his schedule took him away from our group. To my face I was sometimes addressed as “Other Mark,” and I loved it. A nickname, finally. When his schedule changed again, he became “Other Mark,” and I was returned to a nickname-less life.
Mark is a perfectly fine name and for obvious reasons I can not imagine life carrying any other name. Even though I know this to be not scientifically correct, I “feel” that I am a Mark as much as I feel brown-eyed or right-handed, two things I was born with. My experience of life is utterly Markish. “Mark” does not bend into many nicknames, however.
A woman I dated used to call me “Markie,” and she remains the only person who has called me that, or who I have allowed to call me that. She still does sometimes, and no one else has tried. (Among my radio comedy show group of friends, I have a nickname that has nothing to do with my name.) When one is named Mark, one is sometimes called “Marcus” and “Marcus Aurelius.” And that is that.
Oh, and there is the awful Wahlberg Effect, which is known to every person named Mark of any age, but especially those who have walked (and danced) on this planet since the late ’80s. Marky-Mark. On behalf of every person named Mark who enjoys the experience, please stop calling us that. It is demotivating.
But as seen with poor George in the “Seinfeld” episode mentioned above, those who work at nicknaming themselves wind up trapped with an insulting name, like “Koko the gorilla.”
If all fear of being nicknamed Koko or “Four-eyes”—when I was a kid, my glasses were so thick that that nickname was often quickly abandoned by bullies out of simple sadness for me—if all fear of being pinned with a negative appellation could be removed, I suppose I would ask all of you to call me …
* * * *
The Gad About Town is on Facebook! Subscribe today. Daily facts (well, trivia) about literature and history plus links to other writers.
The WordPress Daily Prompt for March 10 asks, “Tell us about something you would attempt if you were guaranteed not to fail (and tell us why you haven’t tried it yet).”