Name That Nickname by Skeeter Philpot
I’ve been called Skeeter by everybody I’ve ever known for as long as I can remember. Hardly anybody remembers why. Maybe I’ll tell you someday.
In the meantime, let’s talk about other people’s nicknames.
If you ever spent any time out on the water, down the slips, or around the packing houses, your chances of ending up with a nickname were strong. Eddie Walters is called Seaweed. Willis Seward they used to call Fish. I grew up with a kid they still call Hardcrab. Every generation of us has probably counted a Tadpole or two among their numbers.
Some family trees have harvested a bumper crop of nicknames. Off the top of my head, the Leggs I remember include Chick, Jinx, Baby Jane, Zeke, Plug, Tidly, Guinea, and Nip. The Hoxters? Dimples, Brose, Corner Clay, Hopper Clay, and Shep. The Thompson clan has produced a Butterball, a Rocky, a Lummy, a Bummie and a Choo Choo.
I have known at least five guys in this county called Buck. Add in the Dukes and Tinks you’d have an easy dozen. And there were, of course, the Cap’ns. Always the Cap’ns.
Teeny wasn’t. Barrel Head was.
Turkey. Stringbean. Tater. Mater. Watermelon. Pickle. Pie.
Muskrat George. Parson Island John. Dick Turkey. Bull Johnnie.
Kitty Duncan’s dad was called Babe until he went to school, at which point his teacher told him he would not be allowed to register until he was provided a real name. He returned the next day sporting the very dignified handle of Charles Lindbergh Collier. Most everybody still called him Babe.
I believe the way we talk is who we are. Even if they’re unflattering, nicknames are a term of endearment within our circle, a sign of being included. And I guess by nature, of being shut out, too.
There aren’t as many of us around with lifelong nicknames these days. Maybe because people aren’t as lifelong close as they used to be, maybe because people move away from here and from the names we give them. Or maybe it’s just because fewer people work the water nowadays. Just try telling your state-job coworkers that your friends call you Dingle Hoofer, Fatback, Jerk, or Hitler.
But there are a few of us left. I was at a party a while back and introduced someone to Chopper, Tucker, and Squeeze. It was suggested they sounded like a team of plastic surgeons.
“But we’re not,” one of them said, “we’re just Eastern Shoremen.”
The exchange made me think about all the people I have been blessed to know by nickname, and that just made me smile.
Skeeter Philpot feels like a rose by any other name would be cheaper.