Thursday, July 24, 2008

Bey-Bey an' 'em...

Q: What's up with all the nicknames like Pookie, Shay-Shay, Lee-Lee, Huggy Bear, etc?

A: What's in a name? A nick-knack, patty-whack, give Jerome a bone type of name at that! The nicknames anointed to black folks can be just as perplexing as the name that appears on their birth certificate.

Growing up, the neighbors had a thing for giving out nicknames to many of the kids on the street. Their family consisted of a, "Q", and a "Mopey". They Christened my brother with the nickname "BB" and me with "Den-Den". The others in my family were never called by a nickname other than my father who preferred to be called "Micky" (he had this nickname WAY before I was even a zygote) - which, I might add, is not part of his official name in any sense.

Typically nicknames come from some derivative of the person's name. For instance, my adult nickname is "D". Some people will even call me that without even knowing a lot of people called me in college. However, with the simple one-letter nicknames come the more ostentatious moniker and these nicknames, like that of the first, middle, third and fourth names, can get out of hand.

Black folks like to feel special when it comes to their name. It's kinda like how Jennifer Lopez is often called J. Lo and everyone knows who you refer to. Black people want to be very distinct with their name and be a star. Typically... the person with the biggest voice, the most attitude and a fucked up name, will have a nickname. However, sometimes it's based on their personality, something they've done or a physical attribute (i.e. Big D). It's that shit that makes us feel like we've "arrived". "Arrived to where?", you might wonder - You know.. that we've arrived at 106 and Park and we have a nickname like one of those rappers.... L'il Wayne, L'il John, Bird Man, Jay-Z, Jazzy Jeff, L'il Kim, P Diddy/Puffy, the list goes on. Obviously there are a lot of short mofos out there.

It's almost a must to give a black child a nickname because when they're young they can't even spelled their grab bag name (please check the blog on Black Names)! Chardonay Chablis Williams would then go by CeeCee.

As I was researching for this entry I came across Nae-Nae. I asked Nae-Nae how she got her nickname.

"Well you see... I had axed my momma why she named me JeanNaté. She said she just thought it was pretty and it smelled good. I never knew why she thought I smelled good. I thought babies just smell like baby powder. Anywayz. When I was a kid, I had problems spellin' my name - cause you know it got them capital letters and that accent mark. So I told people to just call me Nae-Nae. It was just easier that way, you know what I'm sayin'? Now err-body call me that and I'm 39 years old! Ha Haaaa... and Stillllllllllll smellin' good. You heard me?"

There's somethin' to be said about the two syllable nickname. Any GOOD nickname must consist of only 2 syllables. That's why JeanNaté went to Nae-Nae and Puffy went to P Diddy.. but then realized that he didn't follow protocol and dropped the "P". Now it's the D.. the I.. the D... the D.. the Y y'allllllllll. He doesn't write rhymes. He writes check - thought ya knew!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'm white and I've had the nickname "Nae-Nae" since I was two years old, because another two year old my mother babysat couldn't say my first name, so he tried to say "Renae" and... I was "Nae-Nae" from then on.

Of course, growing up, whenever any of my black friends learned my nickname they'd look mixed between surprised and humored, and told me they'd never heard a white girl with such a nickname, yet in middle school I had two white, female friends with the exact same middle name, nickname, and one even got her's from her two year old brother who couldn't say her first name.

I've always been a good sport about all the jokes, even when classmates would sing "ape-ples and bah-nay-nays" to me as a kid.