Name Calling

How Does One Address Relatives?

By Jeff Salter

There’s a minor debate about whether this topic was originally suggested by me… or one of the resident foxes. If it was by me, I don’t remember what I was thinking about. True — in my family (growing up) we had nick names for just about everybody… whether related to us or not. Heck, we even had half a dozen names for our family dog!

I won’t share all the examples I can think of, in the sense of the privacy of the individuals involved, but I can tell y’all about a few.


I don’t recall exactly when this occurred, but it was probably during my junior high school years. Our dad began referring to my brother and me as “Bud.” As in this illustration: since we had only one bathroom at that point for five of us, there were often times when Dad would be shaving and one of us would be brushing teeth, and perhaps another was dealing with other matters in that same facility. My dad’s comment – if somebody jostled him (while shaving) – would be something like, “Watch it, Bud.” For some reason, my brother and I found that to be something of a challenge, so we both began calling HIM “Bud.” [Note, my sister continued calling him “Daddy.”] Thereafter, whenever my brother and I addressed our Dad, in person or by letters, we’d call him “Bud.” For me, than continued right up until the final 16 weeks of his life, after his diagnosis of colon cancer. It was a difficult adjustment to make, after some four decades of calling him “Bud,” but shortly before he died, I began calling him “Dad” again.

Our mother’s nickname came by a circuitous route. She was a music major in college and a life long lover of classical music. One of her favorite composers was Smetana and one of his pieces that she really loved was the Moldau. So out of the blue, my brother began calling her “Moldau.” Later, for reasons that I either forgot (or never knew), that name was shortened to only the first syllable, “Mol” — but pronounced (and spelled) as “Mole.” [Note, my sister continued calling her “Mother.”] [At age 96, Mom is still living, BTW, and currently adjusting well – it seems – to the local nursing home.]

I could list many other examples of names that we (as kids) used for those around us, but let me shift over to how names were developed by our own son, as a toddler. Dave was the first grandchild for my parents and my wife’s parents, so he had the honor of naming all four grandparents. [Well, I think Rita Williams selected her own name, Nana, but I no longer remember for certain.] My father-in-law, Charles Williams, was called “Daddy” by his daughters and “Charles” by his wife. When Dave was just learning to speak (and addressing Charles), he uttered something that I heard as “Gaw” but others heard as “Gar”. It seemed pretty clear Dave was trying to speak the name “Charles” but just couldn’t quite get there. It wasn’t long, however, before Dave discarded those earlier efforts and settled on “Grandpa” — and it’s possible he was assisted in that transition.

For my parents – introduced to you in the paragraphs above – Dave settled on “Papa” (with the accent on the second syllable) for my Dad, Augie Salter. [Note: I’m wondering if my father selected that name himself… but can’t recall now.] For my mom, Dottie Salter, Dave selected the name, “Mamou” — which I’ve always spelled like the town in southwest Louisiana, but others in the family have spelled as “Mamoo.”

Being the first and oldest grandchild of those two families, Dave’s names stuck and his sister and cousins adopted their use as you’d expect.

Fast-forward a generation, to our own first born grandchild — Jacob. He named my wife “Mimi” and she was pleased with that. Since I didn’t want to take a chance on being stuck with a name like PeePaw (or whatever), so I made a pre-natal executive decision that I would be called “Pop.” [Turns out that name was already in the extended in-law family… as H.D. (Hubert) Jasper – Denise’s uncle – was called “Pop” by his grandkids (cousins of our children).] Anyway, my name is “Pop” for the six grandkids. As each grandchild was added, they just grew up hearing “Pop” and “Mimi” so they haven’t known anything else.

I could regale you with the origins of names like “Mad Dog Mathis” – for a resident half a dozen blocks from our family home – but I’ll save that explanation for another Hound Day.

Any unusual nicknames in your family? For you? or created BY you?

[JLS # 420]


About Jeff Salter

Currently writing romantic comedy, screwball comedy, and romantic suspense. Fourteen completed novels and four completed novellas. Working with three royalty publishers: Clean Reads, Dingbat Publishing, & TouchPoint Press/Romance. "Cowboy Out of Time" -- Apr. 2019 /// "Double Down Trouble" -- June 2018 /// "Not Easy Being Android" -- Feb. 2018 /// "Size Matters" -- Oct. 2016 /// "The Duchess of Earl" -- Jul. 2016 /// "Stuck on Cloud Eight" -- Nov. 2015 /// "Pleased to Meet Me" (novella) -- Oct. 2015 /// "One Simple Favor" (novella) -- May 2015 /// "The Ghostess & MISTER Muir" -- Oct. 2014 /// "Scratching the Seven-Month Itch" -- Sept. 2014 /// "Hid Wounded Reb" -- Aug. 2014 /// "Don't Bet On It" (novella) -- April 2014 /// "Curing the Uncommon Man-Cold -- Dec. 2013 /// "Echo Taps" (novella) -- June 2013 /// "Called To Arms Again" -- (a tribute to the greatest generation) -- May 2013 /// "Rescued By That New Guy in Town" -- Oct. 2012 /// "The Overnighter's Secrets" -- May 2012 /// Co-authored two non-fiction books about librarianship (with a royalty publisher), a chapter in another book, and an article in a specialty encyclopedia. Plus several library-related articles and reviews. Also published some 120 poems, about 150 bylined newspaper articles, and some 100 bylined photos. Worked about 30 years in librarianship. Formerly newspaper editor and photo-journalist. Decorated veteran of U.S. Air Force (including a remote ‘tour’ of duty in the Arctic … at Thule AB in N.W. Greenland). Married; father of two; grandfather of six.
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15 Responses to Name Calling

  1. kathleenbee says:

    I enjoyed reading your article. My kids have picked up the nickname “Meow” for me. Usually it’s my oldest who comes up with all sorts of names for me and the cats. Sometimes the cats get insults which I complain about, but it’s all done with affection. For some reason, my middle son is sometimes called Boylie and I call my youngest all sorts of names like baby or pumpkin or sausage. Poor thing! I’m interested to know what will happen once my kids have children.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. jbrayweber says:

    I’ve had lots of nicknames from friends, some that shouldn’t be spoken in polite company. True story. LOL! Obviously, my name has been shortened to Jenn. I’ve also gone by J-bray. And Wild Child.
    My dad’s name is Vannoy, but since he was a toddler, he’s been called Butch. Don’t recall why. My mother was born Patsy but it was legally changed to Patricia as a teen, everyone calls her Pat. From time to time, my parents call each other Alice and George. (I think it has to do with some TV show.) My grandfather’s name was Winfred and he went by Bill. *shrug* No clue how you get Bill out of Winfred. I called him PoPo. My grandmother went by Mamma-san. They lived in Japan when my dad and his siblings were teens and I guess the name just stuck. She loved that culture and brought it back to the States when they returned in the ’60s.

    Fun topic!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Jeff Salter says:

      Love the name “wild child” — and the imagination just races.
      Yeah, some of these old guys with “old” sounding names sometimes just made up their own names. Two around here which have stuck out to me are “onion” and “Stretch.”
      I spoke with Onion one day and he explained the origin of his name. Too involved to go into here.
      But when I heard about Stretch, I naturally assumed he’d be tall and gangly and likely had been star athlete on the basketball team back in the late 1930s.
      Nope, he’s about 5 foot 6. Nobody has yet explained (to me) how he got the name Stretch.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Patricia Kiyono says:

    I agree with you and Kathy – it’s often the eldest who chooses the grandparent names, unless the grandparent chooses and teaches it. That’s how I got dubbed “Regular Grandma” when my granddaughter realized she needed to distinguish between my mother and me. Her brother, when he started talking, followed suit.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Ahhhhh family names! Now there’s a topic!
    My mother named me Stacey and my brother, Brian because she didn’t want us to have our names shortened or nicked. It didn’t work because I could say Brian so I called him Bunny. Then, when I could spell, it came out Brain. Sigh.
    My grandparents were Bigmama and Big Daddy, on my mom’s side. They just were always that. My other set was Nanny and Uncle Bobby. (I think I was in my mid 20s before I realized I truly was calling him “Uncle” because he was my step-grandfather. I guess I always thought his name was Unclebobby. Go figure.
    My mom emphatically stated she was NO ONE’S Bigmama…so she became Gammy and my dad was Gramps. 🙂

    Fun piece.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. I am so glad to see all the names and hear the stories. I feared that tomorrows would be too long, but Now I hope that I am half as interesting as you have been,(I still think this was my idea!)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jeff Salter says:

      I agree, it must have come from you. Because — although my family does have some very interesting names — I cannot reveal the best ones to y’all (here on cyberspace).
      Anyway, looking forward to what the Friday Fox has to say.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. trishafaye says:

    When my nephews were younger (about 25 years ago), they couldn’t pronounce ‘Grandma Burk’ and she became ‘Ma Duck’.
    My ex started calling my youngest son, Justin, ‘Jay Bird’. I don’t even remember how that one came about.
    For a few years my boys called me ‘Joe’ – started when my oldest started calling me ‘Jo Mama’.
    This was a fun post, reading about the nicknames in your family.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I like Pop. My dad has always been grandpa or even Gramps by his grandkids until my Wyatt came along (the youngest grandchild) who called my parents Meemaw and Meepaw for the longest time, them he called my dad Prepare until about a year ago when he started calling him grandpa because that’s what everyone else calls him. But he still calls my mom Meemaw though nobody else does.

    Liked by 1 person

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