Appalachia

Nicknames

Tipper Pressley

I’m into nicknames…not hard to guess since mine overtook my real name a long time ago. 

In case you haven’t heard the story—my older brother Steve named me Tipper when I was learning to walk. He’s five years older than I am and like any good big brother he was always worrying about his baby sister. Granny had some sort of walker thing she put me in as I was learning to walk and Steve was worried I was going to tip over. His fretting about me tipping over soon led to them all calling me Tipper.

I was always Tipper at home, but was way to backward at school to tell the teacher I preferred to be called Tipper. It was only as a young adult that I realized I thought of myself as Tipper not my given name so I started going by Tipper all the time not just among family.

Sometimes we give folks nick names to clarify who they are.

My friend Jackie was talking to me and she mentioned new Bob. She went on to explain she had to call him new Bob because when he showed up there was already a Bob on the place and having two confused things so she called one new Bob and one old Bob.  

The girls and their cousins were talking about how little Mark used to get so mad at them for calling him little Mark. But it was a necessity since there was already a big Mark around. As I listened to them I was reminded of a man that lives down the road. We called him John-John or little John when we were kids because his daddy was a John too. He grew up just like the rest of us did, but every time I see him before I can stop myself I say “Hey John-John.” I don’t think he minds, at least I hope he doesn’t.

Pap was into giving nicknames when we were growing up. To name a few there was Rooster, Lead-foot, Cutie-Pie, Bluebird, Pickle, and Mud-turtle. They all played on Pap’s baseball team. Some of those boys are now fifty something year old middle aged men walking around with the names Pap give them so long ago.

A couple of years ago I ran into Mud-turtle. He’d been gone from the area for years. I asked him if he was Mud-Turtle. I could see him trying to connect me back to his childhood days so I told him who I was. He said “I had forgotten they called you Tipper now I know exactly who you are.” 

One of the first cell phones Chitter had always changed her sister’s name to Copie. There’s been quite a few cell phones between the first one and the one she uses today, but we all call Chatter Copie because of that first phone.

Tipper

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33 Comments

  • Reply
    Leslie Haynie
    September 8, 2020 at 6:09 pm

    One time I complained to my mama that I didn’t have a nickname and she told me to pick either squint eye or peg leg.
    I hushed after that.

    • Reply
      Quinn
      September 9, 2020 at 9:57 pm

      This made me laugh so hard!

  • Reply
    Barbara Sue SusieQ :)
    September 8, 2020 at 5:31 pm

    Well I came by Susie from my maternal granddaddy, who simply liked the name…I’m really Barbara Sue( never cared much for Barbara ) ,only ones who called me that were teachers . My Paternal granddaddy’s name was William Ezra but granny called him Ez-ree…. daddy was William Ezra Jr. yet called Bill or Ju-nee. My momma’s name was Mary Louise… no nicknames for her… although everyone called her by both names together… My Mother’s daddy was William Henry, yet nicknamed Jack. Many times a son or a daughter would be given the maiden name of his mother as part of his/her name … which made for unusual first/middle names like Fletcher Etheridge ,Overton Henry, Strother Hyde….

  • Reply
    Gigi
    September 8, 2020 at 4:30 pm

    My oldest brother and I nickname one another. We were little tots. So one day we were under the porch playing with cars and dirt roads we fixed. We just decided to give each other a name. So I named him Dennie and he named me Bo. We have never called each other by our real names since.

  • Reply
    JanL
    September 8, 2020 at 2:02 pm

    I’m loving this discussion of nicknames. I’m one of 9 children, my parents did NOT believe in nicknames or shortening the names. As adults several of us have received shortened versions. My first husband gave me my first nickname by shortening my given name to ‘Jan’ – why? because his previous girlfriend’s name was Jan & he found it simpler to continue calling that name!! I should have known there might be a problem in my future!!!
    In our neighborhood, there were children with similar names so we had a Big Bryan and Little Brian, a Big Steven and a little Stephen. The Bryan/Brian combo was ok, but Little Stephen resented his name so the neighbors had to start calling them by their last names instead.
    Thanks for sharing how you came to be ‘Tipper’ – what a sweet story.

  • Reply
    Leonard “Rascal”Barnett
    September 8, 2020 at 1:23 pm

    My nickname is Rascal my ole grandpa nicknamed me Rascal when I was ah tadpole not mor than 3 year’s old.Ya see I got in to thing’s a whole bunch and every time I did I got my hand slapped and called ah Rascal like get out that you Rascal ( WHOP) all at the same time and with a rhythm too! My cousins had nicknames too like Doodlebug,Jasper,Slim,Cookie,Porky,Dilly and Tinker just to name a few. I am still called Rascal to this day. I am 70 year’s old and have lived through a war,a career and everyone has called me Rascal and for the most part I have lived up to the reason for my nickname. I am ah Rascal!

  • Reply
    Gaye Blaine
    September 8, 2020 at 1:07 pm

    My daddy was great on nicknames for me, his daughter. Try: Snipe Johnnie. Pisley Jik.
    I have no idea where he picked these monikers from but he was born 1903 and came from a family that had great humor in them. Probably to cope with hard Gaye

  • Reply
    Sallie the Apple Doll Lady
    September 8, 2020 at 12:51 pm

    I can’t help but wonder how or why my dad’s brothers had nick names in addition to their already shortened common names. Henry was Chic, JP was Slick, Ralph was Shorty, Ed was Scobe, Pete was Goobe and Dad, Roe was Ike. My sons were given nick names as were their friends in high school band. Mother was Aunt Bead to her family because she wore beads around her neck. I’ve known many people with nicknames, some seem given for obvious reasons but some have mysterious origins.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    September 8, 2020 at 11:54 am

    My best friend growing up had the nickname “Beanie” and “Charliebean” partly because of his love for pinto beans but more because of the effervescence that they produced. My cousin Neal’s nickname was “Tatter” like a worn out cloth. His momma also called him “Tude” and “Tudie”. I have no idy where those handles came from. My sister who was next to me was called simply “Sister” for a long time.
    I had a nickname which stuck with me for a long time but I don’t like it and I won’t answer to it. It took me many years to shake it off. Most of the people who called me by that horrid nickname knew I didn’t like it, but did it anyway. Most of them have passed on. Although I had no hand in their demise I must admit I thought about it sometimes.
    So, call me Edwin, call me Ed or call me Mr. Ed. I won’t answer to anything else.

    • Reply
      Leonard “Rascal”Barnett
      September 8, 2020 at 1:27 pm

      Well honey like it or not you should tell us your nickname and I promise I won’t call you by your nickname.Okay?
      Love Y’all

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    September 8, 2020 at 11:37 am

    Tipper,
    Harold named me Rabbit cause I got so many when I was in High School. I got an e-mail from my cousin a while back and she talked about one of daddy’s brothers. His name was Howored ( spell-check still doesn’t work ), but she called him Rhone. I hadn’t heard that since he died. ( Just remembered how to spell it…Howard. )

    Daddy was the second-oldest child in his family and they called him “Jew” , He was just Daddy to us. He had an older brother, his name was Judson, they shortened it to Jud. Coaly was his nickname, but the third Oldest brother was named Frank. Toots, was one of the girls, her name was Iris. I know nothing about Eldie, just that she had jet-black hair. I don’t know how Tobe got his nickname, but his real name was Ray. They called the Preacher, Sperge, or Dude, his real name was Carl.

    I don’t know why, but almost everybody had nicknames. …Ken

  • Reply
    Garland Davis
    September 8, 2020 at 11:35 am

    The story goes that shortly after my birth, my dad’s sisters came to see the “New Baby.” One of the aunts asked, “What did you name him?”
    My mom replied, “Garland Gray..”
    The aunt said, “My god that is a mouth full, I’ll just call him Buster.”
    When I first entered the Navy I was a cook and baker. I was called “Cookie,” “Doughhead”\,” or “Stewburner.”

    • Reply
      Garland Davis
      September 8, 2020 at 1:11 pm

      Because of my first name, someone hung the nickname “Judy” on me during highschool!

  • Reply
    Yecedrah Beth Higman
    September 8, 2020 at 11:29 am

    My name is “Yecedrah”!! It is pronounced E’ Cee Dra. I wanted to be called anything but that, when I was growing up!!! My friends and family always pronounced it Ceedra, which is what I go by now. I was at one time called “buckshot” never cared much for that either. However, my name always caused a stir because people couldn’t pronounce it when they first saw it written on paper. When I was very little I called myself “Alice”. I grew up in a very small town in Arkansas so every one knew my name wasn’t Alice. I thought of changing it when I grew up but by that time I was used to all the trouble it caused me. I just wish I could have had a really cute nickname, like Tipper, for instance!!

    • Reply
      Ron Stephens
      September 8, 2020 at 12:55 pm

      I think your name is lovely, and so unique. (I know children don’t want to be different but we mostly grow out of it.). I expect folks don’t have trouble remembering your name.

      In my wife’s family was a “Selia”. I have wondered how Selia was pronounced in Appalachian. I think it maybe was ‘Seal yah’. I can’t imagine it having been ‘cee lee ah’. She may well have ‘gone by’ a different name entirely.

      • Reply
        aw griff
        September 8, 2020 at 5:48 pm

        Ron, I had a Grandmother named Cecilia and they called her Cee lee. Maybe they left the a off of Selia.
        BTW I too thought Yecedrah was a very nice and unusual name. At first glance I thought it was an American Indian name.

    • Reply
      Leonard “Rascal”Barnett
      September 8, 2020 at 1:45 pm

      Buckshot was a nickname my grandpa had,my daddy and me.But in the small town I grew up in the old timers that knew my grandpa when he was makin Shine back down in the holler called “ Lonesome Woods” and he was tryin to make ah livin for 9 kid’s and ah wife,so he did ah little stealin too! Well the story goes he was stealin ah man’s chickens and the man shot in the dark and well he hit my grandpa in his backside but he kept on runnin.The small town only had 1 country Doctor and his name was Doc Croft so he was the one my grandpa went to ,to have the buckshot removed from his hind-end,well word got around pretty quick that ole Doc Croft dug some buckshots out Lester Barnett last night,” so it wasn’t long that everybody in and around Crofton,Kentucky was callin my grandpa “ BUCKSHOT”! So that is how that nickname was born for 3 generations of men in my family.

  • Reply
    Bobby Garrett
    September 8, 2020 at 11:29 am

    I had an Uncle whose son called him POP.His Grandchildren called him POP POP.His great grandchildren called him POP POP POP!

  • Reply
    Sherry
    September 8, 2020 at 11:28 am

    Oh I was reminded that a cousin of mine in Tennessee was nicknamed Boogie. Our family says Whenever a boogiewoogie melody came on the radio, she would jump up & start dancing. I grew up calling her that all my life until as a young lady she finally convinced us she was Edith…but she is still, lovingly, Boogie to me.

  • Reply
    Sherry
    September 8, 2020 at 11:18 am

    I love this post. I was fascinated with a family my Dad knew growing up in northwest Arkansas. They had 5 boys named Bink, Bunk, Boo, Beau & Bander Bainter. ☺

  • Reply
    Tamela
    September 8, 2020 at 10:24 am

    Figuring out how nicknames came to be is an engrossing pastime. After seeing pictures of you as a toddler holding a sippy /tipper cup with a weighted bottom (so it would “tip” over) I thought perhaps that was your “security thing” so you maybe you were called “Tipper” because of something about you and your “Tippy Cup” – – I like the true story better! Nice to have such a loving brother.

  • Reply
    PinnacleCreek
    September 8, 2020 at 10:01 am

    My Dad was always giving nicknames. My Mom had a lovely name, Lola, but he did not like and always called her Squirt. By far the oddest was an ole time preacher named Ed. His son married my Aunt and his name was Ed. To differentiate they always called them Big Ed and Little Ed. I adored my Uncle Ed (Little Ed), but sure puzzled by my Dad calling this very tall strong hefty man Little Ed. Dad called him Little Ed until Dad died even though Big Ed had had long passed on. I have lots of cousins who changed their name to a more preferred as they got older. I continued to call them their boyhood name.

    • Reply
      PinnacleCreek
      September 8, 2020 at 10:15 am

      These nicknames can be a serious problem later in life when dealing with state and Federal IDs and documents. I once admitted a patient who had a nickname and had shortened his last name which was Italian. He had lost his ID, and our office liked to have never found him in the system. Even the hospital had passed on the alias to us to admit him. What a mess! I am certain they finally retrieved the correct info, but the person who gave the report to us was not advised.

  • Reply
    Linda
    September 8, 2020 at 9:56 am

    Thanks for sharing, Tipper. I wondered if that was a nickname or not. May I ask what your given name is? Our Italian surname is a mouthful….10 letters long that starts with B and ends in an I. Most couldn’t pronounce it. My brother‘s friends called him Boogie and I was Little Boogie. Thank goodness we moved and I went to a different high school where I was just Linda.

    • Reply
      Tipper
      September 8, 2020 at 7:24 pm

      Linda-my given name is Mary Jane 🙂

  • Reply
    Gene Smith
    September 8, 2020 at 9:27 am

    My nickname, Injun Joe, was hung on me by family because I stayed in the woods and prowled creekbanks as a boy. The Joe part stuck until I was an adult. My wife worked in a small-town medical clinic, and the doctor asked her to go get Goat’s chart. She didn’t know his real name. Neither did the doctor. Someone in the office eventually found Goat’s records.

  • Reply
    Shirl
    September 8, 2020 at 9:05 am

    Dad’s name was Thomas all my life and most of his, but that wasn’t his given name. Story has it that when he started school the teacher asked him his name and he said Thomas. His real name was Duran. Maybe it was hard to pronounce or maybe he wanted to be called a different name than his dad was already using. Thomas was the name he used when he became employed, got his drivers license and received social security benefits. He earned the nickname Big Tom due to his height and broad shoulders. I wish I had asked how he got stuck with a nickname like Hawk eye. I only know some of my close relatives by their nickname. Makes me wonder how in the world people came up with names like Booed and Pooey.

  • Reply
    aw griff
    September 8, 2020 at 8:58 am

    I had an uncle they called Big Roy and his Nephew was called Little Roy. Little Roy was the younger and was 3 or 4 inches taller than Big Roy. That confused me when I was a boy. I thought the taller one should be called Big Roy. My Wife had two Aunts named Dorothy. One she called Aunt Dorothy and the other she called Dorothy Ned, Ned being the Husband. I would know immediately which Aunt Dorothy she was talking about.
    Nicknames made me think of a woman I use to work with. It wasn’t a very flattering name but she walked with a shuffle almost dragging her feet. She was nicknamed Scooter.

  • Reply
    Ed Karshner
    September 8, 2020 at 8:57 am

    I love nicknames. For my whole life, I didn’t know my great aunts had real names. They were Aunt Sap, Aunt Pudd, Aunt Winkle. My cousins were Speedy, Doodle…they were Uncle Runt’s kids.

    I worked in the factory with guys named Banty, Crazy Ray, and Scratch-n-Sniff (don’t ask).

    My daughter is Tater (sometimes Tater Corn) and my son has always been The Boy, except his sister started calling him Jojo at an early age and that’s stuck.

    As long as they’re not mean spirited, nicknames are fun.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    September 8, 2020 at 8:34 am

    Those nicknames have a way of sticking. I knew someone called Wad and even though we lived across the holler from his family’s place I was in high school before I found out his name was Arliss.

    We also have a family mystery about names. My great-great-great grandfather (I think it is) on my Dad’s side has “Captain” on his gravestone. He was in the Mexican War in the 1840s but there is no record of a Captain Harrison Jones. So was his given name ‘Captain’ or was it a nickname used on his stone? In my wife’s family line there is also a General Jones but the ‘General’ is his given name. And in Colonial America the tags ‘Junior’ and ‘Senior’ were used to simply distinguish between two people of the same name in the same record regardless of whether related or not. So the two John Holloways in upper east TN identified as Jr. and Sr. may be father and son. Or they may not be related at all.

    I have been called lots of things but no one particular has stuck with me through the years.

    • Reply
      Ed Ammons
      September 8, 2020 at 12:19 pm

      I did a quick search of my online family tree and found 43 men whose given names were General. I found 12 Majors, 11 Commodores, 4 Colonels, 3 Captains and 2 Admirals. No Sargents or Privates.

  • Reply
    Margie Goldstein ( Gypsy)
    September 8, 2020 at 8:15 am

    I love nicknames! When I was in school EVERYBODY had one whether you liked it or not and some were positively cruel in nature. There’s names today I give like “Big Talker” who tells tales sprinkled in some vague truth and brags on himself. We got Buttman who’s last name is Butt and he’s a strange odd duck. Oh I could go on but nicknames sometimes tell a lot. I like how you came by Tipper. Your brother must’ve truly loved you looking out for his baby sister! Have a good day! Mine has been weird already and it’s just getting going….

  • Reply
    gayle larson
    September 8, 2020 at 7:39 am

    Sometimes folks give themselves a nickname. My brothers name was James Henry but he was used to being called Jimmy. So when someone asked his name he would say Jimmy Henny. He had trouble with Rs. He became Henny forever after.

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