Sunday, September 19, 2010

What's In a Name

There was a time in American history when nicknames became a persons given names.  My grandmother and her sisters were born in the early 1900's.  They each had beautiful given names but somewhere in their teens or earlier they began calling themselves by their nicknames, Mickey, Collie (pronounced Coalie), and Ce.  If I recall right they had taken these names from famous silent film stars.  By the time I knew these women I knew them only by those names.  

My progenitors shared this moniker issue with many of the early Americans.  Among those early Americans were the Fitzgeralds.  Only two of them, to my understanding, had nicknames Papa and John.

In the opening chapter of The Great Brain the stationmaster is delivering the infamous water closet. During the discussion Papa's real life nickname is used.  In the episode John explains to us readers, that Papa's newly purchased inventions always caused a uproar in town.  The uproar started because Papa bragged about his incoming order.  Then the stationmaster, Nels Larson, added to excitement by having his wife call everyone and tell them the order had arrived.  Things always reached fever pitch because Mr. Larson always delivered the item personally, which was an exception to his policy, so that people could come out and gawk.  When the water closet arrives we find the two men in heated public discussion about it's delivery.

"When he stopped in front of our house, there were about two hundred men, women, and children in the street.  Mamma took one look out the bay window in the parlor and telephoned Papa at the Advocate office.  Mr. Larson was poised over a wooden crate with hammer in his right hand, right in the middle of Main Street, when Papa arrived.  
"What in the name of Jupiter do you think you are doing?"  Papa demanded. "Make the delivery in the rear."
"Nothing in rules, Fitz, says I've got to make deliveries in the rear," Mr. Larson said.
"You don't have to open the crates right in the middle of Main Street," Papa said.
Fitz Fitzgerald.  That was Papa's nickname.  It would appear from time to time in the personal news section of Eastern Utah advocate.  At other times he was Thomas or Mr.  But he was also Fitz.

John's nickname was "Slatz".  Who gave it him or how it got it I've never known.  However, Slatz always accompanied his work and photographs during his high school years.  Other kids must have called him by it because a line in the 1923 annual calendar reads:
 November 23-Slatz resigns from office of President of Senior Class.  Winnifred Harvey fills his shoes.  Her feet will sure have to do a great deal of growing.
I don't know when nickname useage lost it's charm.  To my knowledge "Ike" Eisenhower may have been the last famous nickname. For me Slatz and Fitz will always hold a special place.  


  1. That is really interesting. I think alot of people do still have nicknames but they are not used in quite the same way and/or they do not become the name that everyone knows them by.
    It's probably a good thing too considering some of the silly nicknames we give our kids and Whoaaaa I had one in Highschool that I am glad nobody knows about anymore (wink!).

  2. I actually would have died if my nickname became my common name. I just don't think "Princess" would be taken serious by anyone but my dad.

  3. Princess, you will always be Princess to me and you know it.