Rarely do I call people I like by their full first name. Based on multiple relationship factors, sometimes it takes me longer than others to shorten a first name, come up with something completely unrelated to it, or use another spin-off altogether.
I have just one daughter but a slew of special epithets I’ve given her over the years: Bean, Beanie, Bean-dip, Livvy, Liv-Lou, Lou-Lou. Similarly, I love when she refers to me as: Mama, Mama Bear, or the ever smirk-inducing, “Yo, mi madre.”
Today as I was thinking of all the names I have been called throughout the course of my life (the nice ones thank you), I realized that the creative gifting of a new moniker is absolutely my favorite kind of endearment to bestow and receive. As it goes, the best things in life are free.
Beth Anne Nappi.
My given name. The one on the birth certificate which was handed to my parents along with the souvenir forceps they used to yank me out. No. My full name is not Elizabeth and no, I did not have any idea what “nappy” meant until I went to the melting pot that is Ohio State.
It’s just Beth? Are you sure? I roll my eyes when asked this question. (In fairness, I do not roll my eyes when anyone asks if I am sure of my last name of late…)
Sometimes names are incredibly simple because nothing can trump the meaning behind them. For example, I call my Mom “Mom” and my Dad “Dad” because that says it all. No one can ever replace them or the relationship. Those titles have inherent superiority.
When my sister first came home from the hospital, I was 3 1/2 and used to ruling the roost. After trying to drown her with a cup of water as she lay in her bassinet all sweet-like, smelling good, and destined to overtake my territory, I told my Mom she needed to go back to wherever she came from because she had problems with her head. “Spothead” is what I coined her for awhile, even though I realized in relatively short order that she was kind of cool to have around for tormenting purposes or to snuggle with occasionally.
Since Spothead was no good after her blond hair came in (also cool: telling her on a consistent basis she was unrelated to me and our brunette parents), I’ve called Sarah “Sarah Beara” for as long as I can remember. She calls me “Bether.”
It’s interesting that there is never any official ceremony, tribal dance, ritual, glass clinking or cake eating that goes on when someone grants you a nickname. I can neither tell you the time nor the place someone began to call me something other than Beth; however, I can tell you what some of those names are and exactly which family member or friend bequeathed them.
Anyone I grew up with in the village = Nap. In fact, when I was with Chels (not ever Chelsea) recently, I smiled warmly when she added my picture to the Nap contact in her phone. It would not matter where in the world I was – if I heard someone say, “Hey, Nap!” I’d know instantly where they were from.
My Dad calls me BethAnnie (no space or breath in between when pronounced for proper effect). My Mom simply calls me Beth, just as she called her Mom “Rit” – short for my grandmother’s first name, Rita. I asked her once why she didn’t call her Mom, and the response was a good one: it’s not necessarily what you call someone as much as it is the tone in which you say it.
Beth-a-may-mucho; Begonia; Bethie. With love from the grandparents.
Betty. Former co-worker that still uses it every time I see him.
Grasshopper. Former running buddy and dear friend who uses it when he is lovingly imparting wisdom upon me (code for: Hey dumb ass…listen up.)
Sweetie. The suckers that clearly don’t know me well enough but are trying to win me over only to get immediately kicked to the curb for the run-of-the-mill effort.
What’s in a name? Oh so many things. They can cause you to question if you’d carry yourself any differently if you had been given another one. They can, at times, make you wish maybe you had been. They can represent a time period. They can bring back memories, evoke story-telling, provide a genealogy and give a sense of heritage that can never be taken away. They are in and of themselves a little ryhthm of love.
But most of all when a name is dressed up a bit like a beautifully wrapped gift, it connotes a bona fide meaning to both the donor and the recipient – forever solidifying the understood so much more than any unnecessary scotch tape.