The Catalyst

A Writing Teacher Writes (plus some writing prompts and recipes)

What’s in a Name? August 18, 2012

Filed under: Vignettes,Writing Prompts + — Christopher P. DeLorenzo @ 3:22 pm

This prompt was inspired by two stories I heard on NPR about men who had changed their names. The first was about a man who legally changed his name to Tyrannosaurus Rex; The second man changed his name to Beezow Doo-Doo Zopittybop-Bop-Bop.

Click on the cocoa links above to read the two articles yourself (or listen to the Podcast options) and see what you write in response. The writing we did that night was humorous and playful.

Here’s what I wrote:


In my family, we invent strange names. It was my father who started this; he would make up stories with characters named Charlie Pafuffnick, Petie Pistolazzie, and Joe Cobisfraden. If you got sick, he said you had “the gurnz,” and when he told us stories from his childhood, they included baseball teams with names like, “The Little Potatoes Hard to Peel,” and boys named, “Ticky Ticky Rimbo Rimbo Alamatikka Binuska Shutz” (who, unfortunately, fell in a well and drowned).

I guess this goofiness of his had an effect on his five offspring, because we invented nicknames for each other, which were sometimes interchangeable. For instance, anyone could be called Merle, or Merlene, Joe, Joeline, or Little Joe. Marty, my oldest brother, was called Mitty or Mitten, Danny’s nickname is Anz, Jerry and Mary became Jyrock and Myrock (or Jy and My, for short), and I am constantly referred to as Christ, which understandably shocks most people the first time they hear it.

(Even Dad had his nicknames, including Pop, Pop Pop, or The Little King.)

In addition to this madness, we all have our own words for anything that is diminutive and precious (as in a cute little dog or a chubby baby). My sister calls these Chinny Chons (or if exceptionally cute, Chinny Chon Chons), Jerry calls them “Witto Tinies,” Danny calls them Little Mookies, and I call them Choochies, or Little Chooch. (I should note here that Choochie can also be used as an adjective, such as, “That choochie demitasse I bought in Italy last year,” or a “choochie snack,” which is perhaps, a small cookie.)

We referred to Mom as Connie, which she thought was stupid (her name was Catherine, but her Confirmation name was Constance, and we enjoyed teasing her about that). Her friends called her Cass.

Mom had a few nicknames for body parts; boobs were referred to as “things”—as in, “Why does Barbara Eden always have to walk around with her things hanging out?” And the butt was referred to by just about any other name: Kulo, Tuchis, or Tush. Mom liked butts, and often gave mine an affectionate little pat, exclaiming, “Cute little tuchis,” which was pretty much a reflexive compliment, since my sister and I inherited her butt (thanks, Mom).

It’s all second nature to us, but it continues to surprise newcomers. Once, a  friend of my brother’s—who had been to several holiday meals at our home—learned that a mutual friend was joining us for a meal for the first time. “You’ve never been to the DeLorenzos for dinner before?” he asked. The friend shook his head. “Oh it’s great,” he continued, “but you should be warned: nobody there speaks English.”


One Response to “What’s in a Name?”

  1. What’s in a name? What’s in a word? Made me think of The Jabberwocky. Edward Lear.

    `Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
    Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
    All mimsy were the borogoves,
    And the mome raths outgrabe.

    “Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
    The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
    Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
    The frumious Bandersnatch!”

    He took his vorpal sword in hand:
    Long time the manxome foe he sought —
    So rested he by the Tumtum tree,
    And stood awhile in thought.

    And, as in uffish thought he stood,
    The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
    Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
    And burbled as it came!

    The Jabberwocky,
    by Edward Lear

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