Friday, 5 February 2016

hey na na what's my name?

In my father's home island of Grenada (and possibly the wider Caribbean) there is a long tradition of nicknames people may have acquired in their childhood which last their whole lives. The tales accompanying these nicknames are hilarious and ridiculous and usually known within the immediate community. Without revealing any of the ones I've been told for fear of betraying confidences I can safely say that after hearing such stories I longed for my own nickname.  

But that's the thing you see, you can't give yourself a nickname; one must be bestowed upon you.

I noticed that these fabled nicknames were often strange, silly, rude or way too descriptive but rarely were they denounced by the bearer.

So I looked back into my youth to see if there were any moments where a clever moniker may have been procured.  Back in the late 70s an old football buddy of my Dad's took to calling me Boney N as I struggled to coordinate my lanky frame running around the pitch sidelines akin to a baby giraffe.  

I didn't mind this so much as Boney M were a huge household favourite but hardly likely to be entirely appropriate with my post40s motherly curves. Find me someone brave enough to call me Flabby N and I'll show you an ex-friend.

So I fast forward to the early 80s, now resident in solo cultural Essex with my brown face and two afro plaits elevating my presence in primary school to exotic wonder. 

Discovering a strength in me that was able to gravitate above uncomfortable situations such as being asked if the rest of me was brown under my clothes; or playing games at birthday parties where kids were hidden under blankets with their hands sticking out for the birthday girl to guess who was who - and then being asked by an adult not to play as it was too obvious who my hands belonged to; or being surrounded in a circle in the playground with a group of children singing Brown girl in the ring.

And there they are again. Boney M. This time without the smile. Could Brown Girl have stuck as a nickname. Well it's a little obvious don't you think? Not much effort being put into that one at all. And what happens now when an old friend calls out "Brown Girl" to get my attention in a London street?  Probably a cascade of other brown females turn around in consternation at being referred to so rudely followed by a barrage of abuse. So no, that one's out.

Just sticking with that Brown Girl thing, I recently heard an old Desert Island Discs episode with Kelly Holmes and felt affinity when she chose that same record as her castaway choice. Yet she had used her experience with the song as a positive despite our stories being similar. 

So as I head to secondary school there is a vague memory of being called 'Stick' for awhile - my gangly frame now stronger and athletic but again. Without labouring the point - a moot nickname these days.

And that's it.  Could I trawl the vestibules of my ex-students memories I'm sure some interesting versions of my name would appear. 

2005 brought along the only nickname I'm pretty much stuck with. Mummy. That'll do for now.

Do you have a nickname  - how did you get it? What nickname would you choose for yourself?

This post was inspired by Post40Bloggers #writingprompt18 : Nicknames