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Some youthful nicknames linger while others fade

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It’s no secret what my name is. I mean, it’s right there in the newspaper every week for everyone to see.

That way, the people who want to send nice letters to the paper and make nice comments on social media know who to write to. I guess the people who write nasty letters and make snarky comments know what my name is as well, but I know theirs too, so it makes it even. I figure if you are going to say snarky things, it would be best to stay anonymous and fly under the radar. People who send snarky things to newspapers want their names in the paper, so that point is kinda moot.

My name is kind of ordinary. My first and last names are pretty normal. They aren’t terribly ethnic or unusual. It’s my real name, too. I’m not using a pen name for the column and living life as Francois Finkelbaum. My name is actually Joseph Weaver.

My middle initial is M, but I won’t tell you what my middle name is. It’s nothing weird or goofy, I assure you. My name is fairly Irish/Polish Catholic and pretty boring. When I was a kid, people called me Joey. It was fine when I was a kid, but as I got older, Joey sounded childish to me and I couldn’t wait to be just plain old Joe. My grandfather was named Joe and I can’t imagine anyone ever calling him Joey.

I know a guy who is older than me who is called Joey and he’s a great guy and his name suits him just fine. It just didn’t work for me. I don’t have anything against nicknames, mind you. If I did, I would insist on being called Joseph all the time. I’m not really that formal. I use it from time to time, but only for important things.

I never had a cool nickname like Lefty or Swifty or anything like that. I went to elementary school with a kid called Bunky. Bunky wasn’t his given name, but everyone, even the teachers, always called him Bunky.

He had a pet skunk, too. I don’t remember the skunk’s name, but Bunky had a skunk. I never knew why he was called Bunky. I ran into him as an adult in a bar in Baltimore and recognized him right off.

“Hey,” I said, “You’re Bunky Thomas.”

“Hey, Joe, how are you? Oh, and these days it’s Doug. Nobody calls me Bunky anymore.”

He certainly seemed like a good enough Doug to me, but I still saw Bunky when I looked at him. I didn’t think to ask what happened to the skunk.

My brother knew a girl named Mugsy. I didn’t know what a girl named Mugsy was supposed to look like and my brother told me her name was something like Marcella and she didn’t care much for it. I think she punched some kid that made fun of her name and she was Mugsy from that day forward.

I met her once, and I guess she was OK. She was a little plain-looking and normal, nothing like you would think a girl named Mugsy was gonna be like. She didn’t look much like a stevedore or a prizefighter, just a girl in jeans and a Van Halen T-shirt.

A lot of people called my brother by our last name. I guess that’s what his crowd did. Our last name is easy to do that with. I used to hang around a bunch of guys and they all called everyone by their last names. It was easier than giving each person a clever nickname. There were Ryan, Reilly, Dietrich and Bob.

Bob would have been called by his last name, but it was long and Polish and hard to pronounce, so we just called him Bob. His name wasn’t even Bob or Robert. It was Gregory and we just never called him Greg. Go figure.

There was this big kid who hung out with our crowd named Frank. His actual name was Paul, but he liked Frank better, so he was forever Frank. There was a guy in the old neighborhood who was older than us named Jobo. His name was Joe, but somewhere along the line someone called him Jobo and it stuck.

Occasionally, the older kids called him “Cuts,” due largely to the fact he was frequently flatulent. I haven’t seen him in almost 40 years, but I wonder if there’s anyone out there who still calls him “Cuts.”

If you see me out and about, just call me Joe. I answer to it most of the time. If you are formal and call me Mr. Weaver, I will just tell you to call me Joe.

As to what some of you have called me, you also can call me Joe. After you wash your mouth out with soap.

Joe Weaver, a native of Baltimore, is a husband, father, pawnbroker and gun collector. From his home in New Bern, he writes on the lighter side of family life.

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