I seem to collect nicknames.
Many people loathe the paltry one or two they gather over a lifetime.
I, however, have long since embraced the dozens I’ve earned over the years, and made peace with the rest. I don’t allow them to define me, but they do serve their purposes — they recall to mind some of the good times, or remind me that there’s always room for improvement.
Here’s a few of the more notable ones I can share:
I have been adopted by several of my good friends’ families, becoming the “Uncle” to their offspring. However, one family’s children gave me this name, mainly because I most often arrived with birthday gifts, holiday fun or Christmas presents. They’ve all since grown up, and don’t call me this anymore — More’s the pity.
This one stuck, mainly because the Parental Units of another adoptive family still occasionally use it, long after their kids’ developing soft palates could properly pronounce the triphthong that starts my given name. That is, the ankle-biters tried to say “Uncle Chris,” and this came out of their tiny mouths instead.
A circle of friends and I were enjoying several rounds of “Balderdash” when this word came up as the word in play. We had a good laugh, because no one believed the game defined this word as “organist,” which in fact, is one of my vocations!
After the game’s conclusion, we looked it up in my friend’s multi-volume Oxford Unabridged Dictionary with its custom magnifying glass. (My friends have one, don’t yours!?)
Sure enough, “organist” was the 3rd definition. However, I was a mite red-faced when we also discovered the primary definition was… “drunkard.”
Hmm…. my second “Death” nickname. Should I be worried? Nya-a-ah.
This gem of a nickname I picked up at AT&T Bell Laboratories, during my stint as a software tester. During my tenure in that position, I carried the honor of finding the most high-severity bugs each year. Needless to say, I began to get a reputation of sorts.
Though my coworkers appreciated that it was far better that I find these problems instead of our customers, and despite dispatching my duties without crushing the egos of my fellow coworkers**, many feared my knock at their door.
One fine day, I chased a software developer to ground in his cubicle, during which his wiseacre Brooklynite officemate blurted out,
“Uh oh! Here comes Dr. Death!”
And it stuck. I wear it proudly!
Kurt Russell from “Overboard”
** – with one or two notable exceptions. Like when I had a heated argument with two Ph.D.’s in mathematics, who somehow didn’t understand the 6th grade math of percentages. Grrrr!
This one’s a name that a girlfriend had given me. (Long after our break-up I still occasionally refer to her as “She Who Must Not Be Named.” But that’s another story!)
This name she bestowed upon me was an acronym for “King Of Yellow Lights”. Apparently, I had the aggravating knack — and still have — of turning almost every traffic light I approach yellow as I enter its “Stop or Gun it” zone.
This penchant for nicknames tends to show up in my writing. “The Mask of Jyestha” and “No Children Aloud” in my book “If I Can’t Sleep, You Can’t Sleep” contain prime examples.