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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.


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


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.


Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on March 27, 2021:

Devika Primić,

I'm so glad I was able to reminisce about such happy times. Thanks for commenting.



Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on March 27, 2021:

Hi Denise I enjoyed reading your stories from your dad. It is amazing to read about and se that you have compiled these stories with perfection. You were lucky to share such special times with your dad. Have a good weekend.

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on March 24, 2021:

Linda Lum,

That's interesting about "Wally" and generational names. I hadn't thought of it but you are right. My mom's name is Betty and you just don't see that used today at all. Thanks for commenting.



Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on March 24, 2021:


I think Brenda is a nice name too. I don't know that my parents had any other name in mind for me before I was born except for David and naturally they couldn't use that one. haha. Thanks for commenting.



Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on March 24, 2021:

Bill Holland,

Wow, your dad must have been a pistol. I think that's something my dad would have done too. Thanks for commenting.



Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on March 24, 2021:

Ann Carr,

It was your question about my dad being a Scot that prompted me to write one more about names and nicknames, so thanks for that. I think we get our ideas wherever they pop up. That's why the comments are so important. I've gotten so many ideas from others' comments or prompts. Thanks for sharing about your name. Do you know about Anne of Green Gables? Have you ever felt your name needed an 'e' at the end to be more dignified and regal as Anne puts it in the book? Thanks for commenting.



Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on March 24, 2021:

Rosina S Khan,

How pretty, Rose's fragrance! That's a lovely name and meaning. My middle name is Elaine but it doesn't mean anything. I'm not unhappy with it but I don't use it much. Thanks for commenting.



Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on March 24, 2021:

Dora Weithers,

Yes, it was fun to recall the nicknames and childhood antics. I like your name, it's sweet. I've learned to love my name now, unless someone is mad at me. Then my name can sound so harsh with the hard D and the snaky S. Your name couldn't sound harsh even if someone said it while angry. Thanks for commenting.



Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on March 24, 2021:

Pamela Oglesby,

I'm glad you like my name. I think your name is nice. It is funny how some people just aren't happy with their name. Denise is supposed to be a derivative of Dionysius the Greek god of debauchery, drunkenness, and partying. It totally doesn't fit me as I hate parties, would rather spend my time alone with a good book and a paintbrush, and I've never been drunk a day in my life. I don't like the taste of wine so I don't go there. Was I mis-named? I guess we don't really have to live up to the meaning if we don't want to. I've learned to love my name since Dennis the Menace is no longer popular. Thanks for commenting.



Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on March 24, 2021:


I love the story of your name and its meaning. I would never have known it was more commonly used as a boy's name. Kids can be so mean. I'm glad you have found confidence in your name and glad you are shining your lamplight here. Thanks for commenting.



Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on March 24, 2021:

Peggy Woods,

That's terrific information. I will have to check that. Thanks for commenting.



Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on March 24, 2021:

John Hansen,

What great stories about nicknames. I think the "handsome" nickname is sweet. That's one you shouldn't mind. Thanks for commenting.



Linda Lum from Washington State, USA on March 23, 2021:

Denise, my maiden name is Wallace and my Dad was called Wally by his friends. My name's pretty basic, and I've never minded it, but have you recognized that certain names are generational? My name (and Debra, Kathy, Donna) label you as being born in the 50s and 60s. No one uses those names now.

BRENDA ARLEDGE from Washington Court House on March 23, 2021:

Great article. I enjoyed reading it.

I can imagine your dad not taking kindly to Nelly and yes, those kids probably had a black eye.

Whenever I watch sports on tv I wonder what the parents were thinking of...some of those names are doozies.

As for me, with a name like Brenda, I was okay.

Except for my dad used to call me Wendy.

It was actually another name they had thought of naming me...but didn't.

But dad tells everyone it's because I talk too much. I definitely should be called Wendy...but with an I.

I guess that was just my little brain thinking outloud at an early age.

Great writing & Loved the pics too.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on March 23, 2021:

Loved it! I was named William, but everyone called me Bill. The nuns tried to make me only use William until my dad's Irish temper rose one afternoon, and he told the nuns, not so gently, that if his son wanted to be called Bill then he didn't think Jesus gave a shit. lol

Ann Carr from SW England on March 23, 2021:

Great family memories, Denise. Names can certainly be tricky.

My Dad was christened Ernest Robert (after his father and grandfather respectively). He hated the name Ernest and the only ones who ever called him that were his parents! To everyone else and in his profession he was Robert or Bob.

I'm one of the few people I know who actually likes her names, Ann Frances. Although I've been married, I've now reverted to my maiden name (Carr). It's strange that no one ever picked that up at school; I don't remember anyone making the link to 'car', for which I was grateful. Mum called me Ann because she didn't want anyone shortening my name; very few tried calling me Annie but I gave them short shrift! Frances was after my aunt, and my niece is called that too!

My daughters aren't keen on their names but I think they're lovely; Samantha (but she's happy with Sam and that's what we've always called her anyway) and Lorna (after Lorna Doone, then one of my favourite characters). Trouble is, lots of people get it wrong and call her Laura, or they don't know how to spell Lorna (Launa, Lawna).

Such is life. I find family names fascinating too and I love your line of ancestry - how interesting. My line of Carr goes back to the Scottish borders - they were cattle and sheep reevers (hustlers) and quite a violent bunch by all accounts!

Your hub is so interesting, as always, and you've had some wonderful responses regarding others' names. Brilliant!


Rosina S Khan on March 22, 2021:

This was certainly a fun read. Your Dad's stories never end and I would definitely like you to continue.

My sister never liked her middle name Mowsumi as she was teased by guys addressing her that and expressing their love for her. Now she removed her middle name and her passport bearing her name doesn't have a middle name. But we call her Sumi- a short form of her middle name.

I am super happy with my own name, my middle name initial is S and stands for Surovi which means fragrance in Bengali. I stand for Rose's fragrance and so I am contented with me. My family calls me Surovi and I am also okay with that.

The rest of my siblings are satisfied with their names.

Thank you, Denise, for a wonderful article.

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on March 22, 2021:

I like the sound of Scotty, but Nelly? I guess that a grandmother has license to choose whatever names she likes. Look how much fun there is in recalling the nicknames in your household. A fun article!

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on March 22, 2021:

This is another interesting story about your dad, Denis.I think the name Denise is good. I also like think the name Nelson is pretty good, but he did not.

I was okay with my name as long as they didn't call me Pammy. Pam or Pamela was okay with me. My father's name was Douglas Wayne, but he always went by Wayne. It is funy how some people don't like their names.

Misbah Sheikh from The World of Poets on March 22, 2021:

Very nice article. I liked your dad's name "Nelson", is a good name.

I enjoyed reading it.

My name is Misbah, it's an Arabic name, means a lamp, my grandfather gave me this name. When I was a kid, I feel hesitation in telling people my name as my name is much common among boys. Mostly this name is carried by boys, when I was doing my Bachelor's, we have a very famous cricketer in Pakistan named Misbah ul Haq, many friends used to bully me because of this.

When after my Bachelor's I gave My NTS exam, there I saw Students were sitting in the examination room with Alphabetical order, there I met few more girls named Misbah. That day, I gained confidence on my name.

My grandmother always used to tell me, your name means lamp, and lamp spreads light, like this you will be beneficial to everyone. You will spread your light and will shine in the world.

I actually always liked her this philosophy.

Thanks for sharing

Blessings always

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on March 22, 2021:

Nicknames can be funny ones at times. I enjoyed your story. By the way, you might be interested in this:

Ima Hogg never married and was a philanthropist who donated her home and grounds to the Houston Museum of Art. That is a joke about her sister being named Ura. If you can find my article about Bayou Bend in Houston, you will see her mansion and grounds. Or look up her name online.

John Hansen from Gondwana Land on March 22, 2021:

Such an enjoyable article, Denise. You certainly have some great stories thanks to your dad.

I have a nephew, Lance McLaughlin, who hates his first name and insists on being called “Macka.” His siblings all call him that as well even though they share the last name.

Names and their variations are quite interesting, but, yes, kids can be cruel. I was given different nicknames at various schools and times.

Aussies have a habit of using opposites as nicknames e.g. if someone has jet black hair they get called “Snow”or “Snowy” or red hair they may be called “Blue” or “Bluey.” My name being Hansen at one stage had a few girls changing that to Handsome...so of course other boys who didn’t like me delighted in the use of “Ugly” or “Ugg.”

With my friends I was referred to as “Hanso” or “Scone” rhyming with John.

Dad just gave all us kids weird off the cuff names, like “Jellybelly” or things like “Cobber” meaning mate or friend.

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