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Stories My Dad Told, What’s in a Name

My father was a plumber and an electrical repairman as well as a general do-it-yourself repairman. He taught me many valuable lessons.

Dad and his rabbit haul.

Dad and his rabbit haul.

A Big Scot

My dad is a Scot from a long line of Scots that goes back to the 13th century, as far as I could research it. His last name is Scott. That’s easy. It was a great name to grow up with. Easy to spell and fun to swirl the ‘S’s in my signature. My dad liked the name too because he preferred to be called Scotty. He was Scotty in the Air Force, Scotty to my mother and Dad to us.

We are descendants of Uchtred, son of Scot, who lived in the first half of the 12th century. How would you like to grow up with a name like that? From Robert Bain’s “Clans and Tartans of Scotland,” the author relates…

"The Scotts, one of the most powerful Border clans, take their name from a race that invaded Scotland at an early date and filtered into many other countries. Uchtredus filius Scoti witnessed charters [signed property deeds] between 1107 and 1128, and from him were descended the Scotts of Buccleuch and the Scotts of Balwearie."

There are very few surnames that lend themselves to this nickname. Smithy, Jonesy, and Scotty. Do you know of any other surnames that can be used in this fashion?

“Tigers die and leave their skins; people die and leave their names.”

— Anonymous

Dad in mid-story with my sister and little niece.

Dad in mid-story with my sister and little niece.

Nelson

Dad's first name was Nelson. It was like having two first names. He hated Nelson with a purple passion. Most of the time he wouldn’t tell anyone his first name and folks began thinking that his name was Scotty Scott. They questioned his parents' sanity but not his. But as you know, there are times when your first name comes up: your birth certificate, your marriage certificate, your driver’s license, and job applications. So his employer knew his name was Nelson. But as the poor man became more and more muddled by Alzheimer’s, he began calling the house looking for dad with this greeting: “Hello, Mrs. Nelson, can I speak to Scotty.” My mom and I tried to explain to him that his first name was Nelson and his last name Scott but it confused him and we stopped trying.

Dad liked to be called Scotty. He wasn’t the only one. When we visited Indiana, at the home of his older brother, there were Scottie Dog statues at the head of the driveway. I knew right away that his older brother, Junior also preferred to be called Scotty.

Dad relaxing with a cigarette between his fingers and coffee nearby.

Dad relaxing with a cigarette between his fingers and coffee nearby.

Hate for Your Name

It was rare when I heard my father’s first name used as I grew up in his house. His mother used Nelson to address him but few others. I can understand that. In a house full of Scotts, it would be hard to call them all Scotty. My dad told me his grandmother was the only one who got away with calling him Nelly. Maybe this is why he hated the name so much. Did his school chums call him Nelly? If they tried it they got a black eye, I bet.

For the longest time, I didn’t like my name either. Mostly because at that time there was a TV show called “Dennis the Menace” and I got labeled with that often. I was not amused. My name was not Dennis and I certainly was no menace. The topper was when an elderly school teacher blundered and branded me, Dennis. Everyone laughed and I was mortified. School children can be so cruel.

In high school, I had a dear girlfriend whose first name was Timothia. Everyone nicknamed her Timmy for short. She hated it so much that when she turned 18 she had her name legally changed to Evelyn.

Dad watching the kids ride a pony.

Dad watching the kids ride a pony.

“Our names are labels, plainly printed on the bottled essence of our past behavior.”

— Logan Pearsall Smith

Nicknames

When my dad came home for a visit after joining the Air Force at the age of 17, he began referring to himself as “watashi” which means “I” or “my” in Japanese. He never told me how he got ahold of this word but he must have met some Japanese national in the Air Force who taught him a few words. However, by using it to refer to “I” or “my” in the proper context, the family began using it as his name. They knew he didn’t like his first name and they couldn’t very well call him Scotty in a house full of Scottys. So dad became Watashi. I found it funny when we visited that they didn’t even know what it meant but dubbed dad Watashi.

My dad nicknamed me Neesiebuck even into my 30’s. I have no idea where that nickname came from; he never told me. But it was a nickname no one else used so I have missed it greatly since his passing. My aunt used to love to introduce me to strangers and friends: “This is my niece Denise.” I’ll never know why she thought that was so amusing, but after she passed from a rare lung cancer, I missed her introductions. I never thought that would happen.

Dad labeled my sister Sherry Bucky Beaver. The reason doesn’t have as much to do with the slight overbite she has as much as when she was 2 she would stand in front of the TV and sing with the jingle for Ipana Toothpaste. If you aren’t old enough to remember such a thing, there was a big animated beaver singing, “Brusha, brusha, brusha, new Ipana Toothpaste.” The beaver’s name was Bucky Beaver. Sherry would stop everything to run in front of the TV and sing with that beaver so dad called her Bucky Beaver. That makes more sense to me than Neesiebuck.

My eldest daughter is named Luna and I liked to refer to her as Looperdooper. It was very sing-song to me and she seemed to like it. When she was in a foul mood I would sing a little ditty I made up: “Oh, I love my little Looperdooper, too bad she hates my guts…” Okay, I know it doesn’t rhyme, but it made her laugh every time.

Parents Choices

Sometimes the moniker we saddle our children with can be a real source of torture. It is hard to pick just the right name that has meaning and rhythm as well as few sources for school children’s amusement as possible.

My mother told me of some friends she had in school. Their last name was Hogg. That’s a hard enough name to grow up with but to make matters worse, their parents named them Ima and Ura. Ima Hogg and Ura Hogg. I’d run right down to the courthouse to change that as fast as possible. Mom told me that once they married their name was changed but that only took care of the last name. They still had to contend with the first.

My cousin grew up with the nickname "Pudge" and even at 30 people called her that.

My cousin grew up with the nickname "Pudge" and even at 30 people called her that.

Names have power”

— Rick Riordan, The Lightning Thief

Final Thoughts

Is anyone ever happy with his or her name? The unfortunate thing is that no matter what your name is, kids will find something they can make fun of. It is the nature of the beast and no way around it. If you have an answer, I’d love to read about it in the comments below.

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