When I was a boy, my older brothers called me Babe. The names they and their high school pals had for each other and their pals were more negative — these included Lard and The Nose. When I reached high school a friend started calling me Snowgoose (for no specific reason). The name stuck, and all the star athletes in the school, who were older than me, started saying hello to me just so they could say my nickname. A nickname made me popular! One boy I knew was tagged with the nickname “Grandma.” Many years later he told me that the nickname damaged his self-esteem. That seems obvious to me now as a psychologist (labels can be important!), but it never occurred to me at the time. In recent years I have handed out some positive nicknames, e.g., Magic and Star. I even gave myself a nickname, JJ (for Jaunty John).
What nicknames have you had? What effects did they have? Have you given someone a positive nickname?
John Malouff, PhD, JD, Associate Professor of Professor