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]