The Goldendale Sentinel - Headlines & History since 1879

By Amy Reeves
For the Sentinel 

Where'd that come from? Nick-Name


Where’d that come from?


A nickname is a substitute for the proper name for a familiar person, place or thing. Usually it is given out of affection, sometimes nicknames are given in ridicule. Nicknames are usually awarded or gifted to, not chosen by, the recipient.

According to my research, the term goes back in time before last names where used. People would sometimes use ‘eke’ (pronounced like ‘eek’) names, which means ‘other name.’ Over time, people referring to "an eke name" (circa 1300), meaning ‘additional name,’ is derived from the Old English phrase eaca which means to increase. This eventually morphed into ‘a nekename,’ in the fifteenth century. However, I can find no information as to why an ‘n’ got put on the front of the word.

For example; Miller’s Tale by Geoffrey Chaucer:

The Miller was a stout carl, for the nones, Ful big he was of braun, and eek of bones;

Which roughly translates into:

The Miller was tough man for this occasion, He was big in his strength and in his bones.

I have been bequeathed with some entertaining nicknames in my life time, some endearing and some, well, we are just not going to go there and besides that, I would not even begin to try and spell them.

Moms always come up with the best nicknames for their kids. My kids are Buggy, Boo Boo, Rump Roast, Brother and Mini-Moo. We, as parents, tend to use nicknames at the most inopportune times and embarrass our children to the point they wished they had anyone other than us as parents. While at a little league baseball game—it was the bottom of the inning with two strikes and two on base—my youngest daughter got up to bat and hit the ball so hard it bounced off the fence in the outfield. She stood there watching the ball and I jumped up and screamed “Run Mini-Moo, RUN!!!!” After the “I am so embarrassed I am going to die” look was directed at me, she took off running and came into home plate at the same time the kid that was on second base did. If looks could kill, I would not be writing this today.

In all fairness, I think for all the grey hairs we give our parents they are allowed to have nicknames for us and we should suck it up in public when we are lovingly called by said given name. My own mother had this uncanny ability to forget, mostly in public when there was a really gorgeous guy my age standing near, what my name was and I would hear “Pooh-Little what do you think of this?” Now that I am in my late forties, when she calls me Pooh-Little, I love it! I am glad my dad remembered I had a name and does not call me Snot Box in public anymore. However, if he did, I would suck it up because it is just one small way for parents to show that they love us.


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