Some people I know have had nicknames all their life, whereas some other people (ahem) have almost never had a nickname at all. At first, we thought it was genetic—some people just deserve nicknames more, it’s in their nature, they’re born with it. However, after careful analysis, we’ve discovered there is a method to creating and keeping a nickname.
- Be Realistic. Pick a nickname that fits. Most people lack the clarity of mind to come up with a nickname for themselves that is both catchy and true to their personhood. We only know one person who gave himself a nickname, and his name is Mad Dog. Yes—Mad Dog. But here’s the beauty: people actually call him that. Oddly enough, he makes sense as Mad Dog. Be honest and self evaluate: does your nickname reflect you? Also, don’t expect people to call you something lengthy and complicated; keep it simple. If people want to refer to you, they aren’t going to repeat a whole phrase, unless you’re He Who Should Not Be Named, but you don’t want to know what he went through to earn that one.
- Get Help. Find a friend you can absolutely trust and have them initiate your nickname. If one person exclusively calls you a name, others are more likely to catch on. Be careful though, they need to believe this person has always called you this, otherwise people won’t accept the precedent. If you can, get an old friend or someone visiting from out of town to call you this name. This way it has more credibility; if an old friend uses it then that must be what people actually call you—it has precedent.
- Have a Weird Last Name. Your first name is Kim? What’s your last name? Burgerking-Matthews? Guess what—no one will ever call you Kim. But here’s the beauty, Burger King, no one questions if your last name is genuine or not. For a few hundred dollars and an afternoon in court, you can simply change your last name to reflect the nickname you desire. This is drastic, but it certainly works.
- Location, Location, Location. Certain environments are more conducive to nicknames, places with quickly formed strong friendships: camp, work, the army, or prison. These are excellent places to pick up a nickname (or a sweet teardrop tattoo) because of the relative newness of everyone. The only nickname I ever had was from a new group of friends in boy scout camp, who decided my prepubescent, tiny self should be exclusively called “Diesel.” Since no one knew me yet, I became Diesel for that week. The hard part is bringing this name back to larger society with you; try applying this friend to tactic #2.
- Earn it. Nicknames can arise from the role you play in significant events. Do you want to be called “Nachos”? (Why? Why would you want this?) Then do something memorable and iconic with nachos. Throw nachos at the president, any president, even the class president. This way your personhood can become inextricably linked with one, clear, identifiable event. “That’s the girl who threw nachos at the president of UNICEF!” The leap from that to just plain “Nachos” is inevitable.
- Don’t Force It. In college, a friend of a friend named Elizabeth decided she wanted to redo her personality, and midyear declared she wanted to be called “Eliza.” First red flag: this went against rule #1—she wasn’t an Eliza, she will never be an Eliza, Eliza is reserved for vampires and 1920s aristocrats. Second red flag: she tried too hard to force it. Suddenly she would only respond to Eliza, after being Elizabeth to everyone for almost three years. This doesn’t work. “No, I am no longer Sarah, everyone must now call me BRICKHOUSE.” No way, Sarah, we already know you, reinventing yourself for no reason earns you only ridicule. Be cool, don’t be insistent, nicknames are a marathon, not a sprint.
- Introductions. Meeting new people? Slip in your nickname with confidence. “Hi, my name is Reid, but everyone calls me THE MAGNIFICENT.” If it follows #1 then you have a new convert! This method is simple and effective, especially in new settings.
- Befriend the Nicknamer. I am a monster, a nicknaming monster. My girlfriend in very quick succession was called Marmot, Smarmy, Ladybird, and Double Butt (and somehow she doesn’t hate this!)—all in a matter of days. I am a nicknamer. Some people have the gift—find these people, and befriend them. If you’re a positive influence on their life, they will share their gift with you. Be a nice person; hang around someone who can make a name stick; and one day a name as venerable as “Double Butt” can too be yours.
- Settle. Do you already have a nickname? Is it offensive? If not, then don’t get greedy. Some of us (ahem) have a weird name and have never had a nickname last more than four days. (Oh Diesel … how I miss you.) Everybody wants a cool nickname (like the FEARMAKER—oh man, that’d be awesome!) but it’s not always in the cards. Be content. Love the one you’re with.