Tuesday, April 17, 2012

In the nickname of time

Etymology of the "nickname": The compound word ekename, literally meaning "additional name", was attested as early as 1303. This word was derived from the Old English phrase eaca "an increase", related to eacian "to increase". By the fifteenth century, the misdivision of the syllables of the phrase "an ekename" led to its reanalysis as "a nekename". Though the spelling has changed, the pronunciation and meaning of the word have remained relatively stable ever since. 

I have always had a nasty habit of giving people, even complete strangers, nicknames. Perhaps it is because my  legal name -- Tim -- is a nickname for Timothy. Ironically, many people call me Timothy thinking that is what my name should be.

But I digress.

Although I do give friends and family endearing nicknames, I have less than flattering names for strangers I see on a regular basis, say at the train station or on board the trains I ride every day to and from work. It is kind of a perverse hobby I have to pass the time while waiting for the train.

For example, there are a group of cackling women who walk their yapping little dogs along the train platform on a regular basis. I have nicknamed them the Haggis Sisters. They started out as the Harpy Sisters, but I kind of like the play on words of Haggis. There is also a man who shuffles by the station in a jogging suit on a semi-regular basis that I call Freddy the Fart.

I have nicknames for my fellow passengers as well. Since I am a creature of habit, I stand in the same spot at the platform everyday. It is precisely where the train door will be for the first car when the train pulls into the station. I am generally the first person there and I guard my spot very jealously because I like to be the first person through the door when it opens so that I can get my usual seat on the water side of the tracks. So I really get pissy when other people arrive late and try to crowd my spot. The three worst offenders are Lennie (a hulking man who invades my personal space and reminds me of the slow character in Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men), Thumper ( a man who reads the Bible while waiting for the train) and A-hole (another guy who invades my personal space and races me for the door when it opens).

In the afternoon commute there is Phlegm, an annoying potbellied loud mouth who is constantly making disgusting sounds in between moronic pronouncements. And then there is Pepe Le Pew, a large man with questionable hygiene habits who gets pretty ripe when it warms up on the train.

Not all my nicknames are for fellow commuters. There is One-Note Johnny, the lousy saxophone player who plays the same song day after day in the plaza outside my office window. And there is Perry the Poser who works out in my downtown gym and never loses sight of himself in the mirrored walls around the weight room. Let's not forget Chia Pet, a woman with an unfortunate hair style who also works out at the same gym.

I think I would have made a great mafia don, what with my affinity for giving people nicknames.

Or not.

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