When I was a kid there was a guy in the neighborhood, and older guy named Eddie who everybody called “Crazy Eddie.” Eddie was probably in his 20’s, we were kids, 15 or 16, and he would come over to us while we were playing basketball and revel us with stories of being an adult chasing girls.
He was a tall blond haired half-Puerto Rican guy who wore tight cheap sharkskin suits and skinny ties, and always carried a large transistor radio with him, blasting WABC radio. He liked to call himself “The Horse Of South Brooklyn”, on account of his liberal use of horse. But we always called him Crazy Eddie when he wasn’t around.
The regular UPS guy I see at work always greets me as “Professor X”, and I don’t know if he’s being a wise ass or he’s just a fan of the X-men, but I don’t say anything. But totally unrelated, I was called the same thing in junior high school, we were all reading the fledgling X-Men comics from Marvel at the time, but I also sold my homework to other kids for a quarter.
Most of my friends in high school settled for just plain X, or sometimes Zave, both OK with me. I had a close friend in High school who called himself Trickout, and I guess it was apropos. He looked like a Trickout with his Jewish Afro.
Also in high school I had a girlfriend named Anna, who everybody called Anna Banana, also apropos because she was crazy. She in turn had a friend named Helen, a half-Irish half Italian girl who had a dad called Chicky Doyle and a really overweight younger sister she called “Sneak-2-Peep”, because she snuck food at night and was as big as two people. That was a good one; I’ll never forget that. I don’t even remember her real name.
When I was in college, I hung out with a bunch of guys that had a band. The singer’s name was Tony, a guy from Barbados who called himself the “Black Mick Jagger.” We just called him Tony Baloney. The guitar player called himself J.P., those were his initials but he was also a great admirer of J.P. Morgan and a better capitalist than he was a guitar player, so I guess that’s apropos. I think he’s selling swamps in Florida now.
The drummer was a guy who liked to call himself Mike Lash. He talked about giving girls he had sex with a “lashing.”
There was also a roadie we called “Coney Island Joe” and a guy we played poker with that was known as “Taxi Dave” because he drove a cab.
In the 90’s I spent some time on the streets of Bushwick, and I never told anyone my name, but because I was overweight all the Latino kids I dealt with called me “Gordo,” which is simply fat in Spanish.
Latinos have a propensity for using a physical attribute to describe people, and these stick as nicknames. Besides gordo there is flaco, skinny in case you don’t know. Latinos also use color liberally, a black person is always “El Negro”, a less dark person is “trigeño”, a pale person is “blanco” or “guero”. A person with light hair is referred to as “cano”, which literally means white-haired, but usually refers to blonds.
My parents referred to each other as Viejo and Vieja, which literally means old. That’s what I used to call my dad when he was in the nursing home, until Danusia asked why I didn’t call him Papa.
“Calling him Viejo is derogatory.” She’d said. So he became Papa again until he died.
People use nicknames sometimes because a name is too hard to say, so some people just refer to Danusia as “Dee”, or “Danush.” Her real name is Danuta, and Danusia is a diminutive. She was a nanny to a young boy for a while, and he called her “Manusha.’
A guy I know who knows her once called her “Minutiae.” I didn’t think he was funny. I didn’t think Gordo was funny either, but I wasn’t going to tell those guys my real name.
My favorite was what a girlfriend that I had in my 20’s used to call me, Sexy Exy. But my Sexy Exy days are over and I’ll settle for just plain X or Exy, as my friend Jenny Moradfar Meyer likes to call me. I call her Jenny MM but that hasn’t stuck. Some nicknames just don’t go anywhere.