After my first nicknames story (find it HERE) I got emails and phone calls and comments about it. I don’t know why, or maybe I do, but nicknames are fascinating to people.
I was asked why I have so many nicknames. The answer is fairly simple. I went to school in East Greenwich. I went to college at URI. I got my masters degree from UConn. I was in the service. I worked quite a few different jobs. I taught and coached at nine high schools in five states.
At each of those stops I picked up another nickname or two.
It all started fairly simply in elementary school. I brought my lunch to school in a white bag with blue letters that was foil lined so, as my mother thought, it would keep my lunch at the desired temperature.
The blue letters on the white background read Brookside Ice Cream Company.
Remember, we Italian kids MAY have eaten bologna sandwiches, and ham & cheese and PBJ’s, but we also got those little special sandwiches, foods and desserts, which the medegone kids did not. Homemade meatball sandwiches, sausage and peppers, eggplant, pizza, maybe even a piece of braciole.
And then there were the desserts, like wandies, pizzelles, sfogliadelle and torrone candies, and the wedding almonds.
My cousin Michael (his brother was Vinny, thus, also My Cousin) started calling me Cousin Brookside, which morphed to Cousin Brooky, Cousin Brook, Brooky, The Brooker.
I liked it, and allowed it, and it stuck. Though, with nicknames you usually didn’t have a choice.
Some of my nicknames came because people couldn’t pronounce my name correctly, and just threw out the closest thing that came to their mind.
My Senior D.I. in the Marine Corps called me Alphabet. He was a southerner from Alabama and they didn’t see a lot of Italians down there I guess. My papers were lost six times by the southern privates and lance corporals who occupied the records and pay offices. I will withhold my thought and comments on that. My Junior D.I. called me “White Soul” because I hung with some of the “Brothers,” could do “Ham Bone” and strut and move with some rhythm, which he liked.
Pistachio, P-Nut. Strack, Strash, Stache, Strache, Mustache, Mustang, Stinger, Stinger Stang – they all came off my last name.
My construction boss used to call me Snapper because I could snap my fingers to particular beats or music, something I picked up off a kid in the movie Blackboard Jungle or Rock Around the Clock or some such teen flick of the late ’50s, early ’60s.
Some of my Native American friends called me Cetan Cinye’ (Lakota) or Gekek Niijikiwe (Narragansett), which means Brother of the Hawk or Hawk Brother, from which came Red Hawk, Hawkman, Hawk.
My cuzzones (cousins ), a rough and ready crew if there ever was one, call one another Cuzz and then add some term of endearment (or not so) after it. In there I have been called CuzzBru, BruCuzz, BruBru, BroBru, BruBro and a host of others.
At a couple of stops I have been Juice, Eagle Claw, Brickem (from my full set of initials).
One aunt called me BruBru or BrewBrew, not sure how she spelled it. A birthday card With Money would solve that, Auntie.
I have given a bunch of nicknames to a new friend. Not sure if he understands why. Maybe someday he will figure it out.
At one high school where I coached, an assistant coach used to give the kids nicknames based on something they said, did, acted like, dressed like, etc.
He came up with a few beauties and some that were right on.
Stealth, Sea Biscuit, Chipmunk Cheeks, Dibs, Slew Foot, Sugar Foot, The Toe, Babe, UgLee, HomeLee (The Lee Brothers), Leviathan, Baby Huey, Pizza Hut, Gargone, Gargoyle, Beep Beep, Speedy Gonzalez, Dibs, Sack (from Sacajewa, a kid who did a dance after each sack; died in a skiing accident), Apples, Stone Hands, Nipper, Crusher, Gypsy, Bumpa, Toad, Froggie, Swifty, Beansie, Chicky, Whale, Jughead, Jocko, Swivel Hips, Crazy Legs, Fuzzy, Do Bee.
At another high school I did the same thing. The kids loved it! No matter how harsh or hard the nickname, if they didn’t get one they asked for one. “What’s mine?” they would ask.
The other day on the computer there was an article on state nicknames. Test yourself sometime. You should know the Ocean State. But how about the Flickertail State? The Beehive State? The Peace Garden State? The Peach State?
It’s a good way to get the kids involved. Then add the capitals and so on. Believe it or not I used to quiz the football players on the states and state capitals during practice. It was a good way to combine their football with education. After all that’s what they are in school for. At least that’s my take. I also threw in meanings of words and occasionally an Italian phrase or two and some common sense quizzes. (If a plane crashes on the border of Canada and the United States – where do they bury the survivors?)
That’s about it. I was going to add some nicknames from the World of Sport and Sports Entertainment, but I think you have the drift by now. I am also sure you have all had the same type of experience growing up. Maybe you even had a closet nickname, one you gave yourself. Sometimes I call myself, Bruce Almighty, from the movie of the same name. Not a lot though.
Maybe the nickname(s) from your era, or area, were not as descriptive, or colorful. Maybe they were more so. Whichever way, I will bet that you had one or two.
A few years back I tried to utilize a play on one of my nicknames by using it as my nom de guerre (pen name) for some of my writings of the time.
I used T.H.E. Brooker, but thought that was a bit obvious. So I settled on T.H. Brooker.
People never really got it. A few people told me, “It sounded like your writing, but I didn’t recognize the name.”
This from some people who have known me since time immemorial, including some relatives, and others, who knew my nickname. Funny how a little nuance can throw some people off.
Oh, so much for a little fun and playing around.
Nicknames have been around a long time, and will continue to be. They are a lot of fun and it is interesting (to me at least) to learn how they originated. But, that might best be saved for another time.
So, typing with the smoothness and precision of a well-oiled timepiece, this is T.H. ( for The ) Brooker, signing off for now. Be careful out there and remember, only Robinson Crusoe could get his work done by Friday.
For their invaluable help on nicknames, a tip of the fedora to The King Man, Frit the Sponge, Fuzzy, GariBaldi, and Puddy.
Bruce Mastracchio grew up in East Greenwich and experienced those 28-hour days and eight-day weeks that contained the magic and made his hometown so special.