They say imitation is the most sincere form of flattery. I guess that is so, as one time another local paper, that I once worked for, hired someone to do a column on Old E.G.
I saw that he was asking for help about the origin of my Uncle Tar Tar’s nickname, which is a part of East Greenwich lore, and that he wanted to know more about East Greenwich nicknames.
Seeing as, in the past, I had devoted at least a couple of articles to this topic, I decided to help out. So this edition, and two others to follow, will be dedicated to those storied nicknames of old East Greenwich.
As for Tar, there were two versions of how he got his nickname. One was that he liked to play in the freshly oiled and tarred streets down below the hill and regularly got himself covered in the sticky stuff, which my grandmother would have to wash off. The other was that when my grandmother would call him to come home her pronouncing of his given name, Anthony, sounded like Tartone, which morphed to Tar Tar. She was probably saying Antone or Antonio, but like other names throughout history, when the medegones get ahold of it, it becomes something altogether different.
A good example would be Indian names. One of my personal heroes was Crazy Horse, a war leader of the Oglala Lakota. He had a few nicknames growing up, one of which was Curly, as his hair was brownish instead of black and wavy instead of straight, unlike most of his fellow tribesmen.
After going on his vision quest he was given the name Tashunka Witko, which means His Horse Acts in a Strange and Mysterious (Mystical) Manner. Of course, the whites butchered that to Crazy Horse in their inimitable fashion.
But getting back to nicknames here in Old EG. They have always played a big part of life here and almost everyone had one. Some people had two or more.
I have lived here 72 years and there are some people I know only by their nicknames, not ever knowing their first and last names. If I knew their given name at one time, I have since forgotten it. Maybe I never knew it; no matter, I always addressed them by their nickname.
You may not have known the person’s first name or last name, but you always knew his nickname. Notice I said his because I can’t remember many girls who had nicknames, though there were a few.
Nicknames were common as far back as ancient Egypt. Some nicknames from back then included – Red, Tiny, Lazy, Ape, Frog, Donkey and Big Head.
In Middle English they were known as “eke” (pronounced eck, I believe) names, which means an “also name.” These later became known as “neckenames,” and finally nicknames. They were applied to royalty and commoners alike, and, in some cases, just like with me today, all that is recalled about some of these people from history is their nickname, whether it be Little John or Richard the Lion-Hearted.
The nickname eventually got a strong toehold in America, where it seemed that groups and subcultures were vying with one another to see who could come up wit the most colorful nicknames. These colorful names were the norm during the Civil War, especially for leaders like Honest Abe, Old Snapping Turtle, Fightin’ Joe, Stonewall and others, and they have followed us right down to the present day, in all walks of life from show business to sports.
East Greenwich takes a back seat to no one when it comes to nicknames, as you will see by the following.
Once again, I dedicate this column to George King, my go-to guy when it comes to nicknames. He has helped me in the past with all those great nicknames, and as you will see in the end, will reveal some of the real names behind the nicknames. Also, to all those people who held the colorful monikers we will be donating the next three columns to. They have helped build the lore of our colorful past here in little, old East Grenitch,” the smallest town, in the smallest state in the greatest (still is, I hope despite “W”) country on the face of the Earth!
Sooo, keep the nicknames straight and maybe some rainy day (or snowy) when I have nothing better to do – and probably with the help of “The Irish Whip” – I will reveal the real names of the people who go with them. That is, if I ever knew the real name to begin with.
The following list is a shortened version of at least one or two others I have released in the past, but it will give you a good picture of the color and the characters we had here in good, old East G., back in the day.
From Yesterday and The Cove: Friday, Jumbo, Tiny, Fats, Chub, Cracker, White Rat, Jesus, Little Jesus, Peanuts, Churchill Downs, Pumpkin, Pop Eye, Lindy, Pardo, Piccolo Pete, The Professor, Short Uncle, Happy, Tunk, Bebe, Mr. Peepers, TarTar, Jimmy Neck Tie, Baltimore Sport, Rip, Doody, Bubba, Lolly, Lollipop,Chink.
Pini, Dutch, Kit, Chipmunk, Bugeye, Pep, Suck, Buster, Beanie, Skip, Jigger, Windy, Spongey, Hump, Swamper, Joe Hump the Stump, Tish Tash, Edooch, Tippy, Horse, Waller, Puddy, Moose, Lala, Shrimp, Slim, The Admiral, Klukie, Officer 8, Stogie, Squeaky, Tubby, Sly, Angles. Jump Spark, Stinky, Drop-the-Gun, Red, Bricky, Brute, Plum, Chisel, Port, Stooge, Scabby, Zeed, Pidgy, Pork.
Cinnamon Nick, Chainsaw, Dynamite, Hacky, Scaky, Mokey, Eagle Beak, Ding, Spider, Chink, Willie Woodchuck, Diz, Fart, Webby, Web, Scup, Hi, Touchy, Deek Oakland Beach Pete, Vet, 49, Cheetah, Maggot, Junk, Kingfish, Icehouse Dottie, Fleetie, Tarzan, Goodie, Aggie, Bo Peep, Willie LumpLump, Ferret, Old Timer, Hickey, Chocolate, Sleepy, Zebby, Grumpy, Torchy, Nemo, Spit, Nuppit, Twinny, Barney Google (GooGoo), Pal, Ebby, Gabby, Comrade, Snuffy, Cap, Guy, renchy, Gomer, Butch, Misty, Mickey, Plack, Legs, Cowboy, Tuffy, Junior, Mac, Duke, Walloper, Tiger, Buffalo Hoof.
From school days and other associations: Kreegah, Chinook, Chingachgook, Nyay Hook, Lalloats, Roval, Dacon, Bats, Batman, Ray Gun, Red Dog, Wild Red, Hawkman, Picks, Thumbs, Thumbuckyone, Benny, Elfego Baca, Strunge, Nero, Frapootie, Dipper, Scat, Onions, Wink, Young Gun, Bunky, Big Ducky, Greenie, Jug Head, Jacque, Bird, Mouse, Buzzy, Chopper, Hubby, Bake, Colnel, Little Dab’ll, Ace, Big Ace Button , Chicken Breast, Mick, Oh Man! Tizzy, Fuzzy, Stash.
Fun-A-Head, Magic Wand, Cinnamon Roll, Junie, Stash, Animal, Mad Dog, Koona Bell, Jelly Belly, Lefty, Cricket, Parakeet, Mo, Bull, Farmer, Thumby, Nyook, Peck, Swede, Nuke, Carce, Kenna, Pop, Corker, Tunka, Brizzi, Jasper, Jay, Scoop, Stormy, Teddy Bear, Bear, Buffalo, Rooster, Dare, Greek, Bale-A-Hay, Gyppy, Hip Boots, Yack Yack, Butch, Buddy, Jumper, Pinky, Gunner, Lil Dab, Goose, Two Ton, Watty, Lord, Letta Len, Skidsy, Snooky, Sport, Wax It.
Our teachers: Roofus, Archie, Iron, B-Button That Shirt! Zit, Chips, Halitosis, Kerosene, Sleepy, Cha Choom, Miss Prim, Prunilla, Bucky Beaver, Mawde, Ncaa, Garlic, Twinkle Toes, Fluff, Midget, Lump Jaw, Black & Decker, Millie, Big Norm, Muscles, Fast Looie, Sweet Willie, Redge the Ledge, Stump, Jumper Sarfe, DooDoo, Meatball, Domina, Human Jock, Killer, Coke Bottle Eyes, Glass Butt, Officer Krumpke, The Warden.
On a personal note from the home front: “E”, The Warden ( Queen ) of Misery Manor, ookie, BJ, Beege, Beej, Rooch, Tarooch, Petunia, Matilda, Maroo, Calves, Woodstock, Tigger, Chambers and The Boss.
On a more personal note: Cousin Brookside, Brookside, Brook, Brooky, Brooker, Brooks, Hawk, Red Hawk, Hawkman, Snapper, Mustang, Mustache, Strash, Stang, Stanger, Stinger, Pistachio, Eagle Claw, Juice, BruBru, BroBru, BruBro, The Brooker, Cuzzone, CuzzBru,BruCuzz, Cetan Cinye’, Gekek Niijikiwe (Native American meaning Brother of the Hawk ), Bruce Almighty (from the movie), and lately the sweetest – “GraMpa M.”
Recent entry to my circle – JDW25, Stinger, Wheels, Wheeler Dealer, Jay, JayDee, Giovanni Fragilia Delicato, Stiner Stang, JDDW, Double D.
So there you have it for now. This piece will be followed by two more. One more expansive in the nicknames and the last one giving some of the real names of the characters mentioned here above.
Bruce Mastracchio grew up in East Greenwich and had the pleasure of growing up among these colorful characters and even knowing more than a few of them. They made life interesting.