Although I had a brief dance as a youngster during my St. Charles years with “Grinny” as my sobriquet, after my pals saw my name in print enough, that silent “d,” something most would say is the only silent thing about me, morphed my nickname to “Grinder.”
From an etymological standpoint, the nickname really is simple, not one which lauds, as was the case with Babe Ruth’s “Sultan of Swat” or Jackie Gleason’s “The Great One,” just the first part of a last name with an “er” suffix appended.
From the start, I liked the moniker, thankfully, because once people begin calling you something that your mom never could have envisioned, you’re sort of stuck with it, that is, unless you decide to break in a whole new circle of friends.
Along life’s path, I’ve been blessed to pick up several dear friends, many of whom have interesting nicknames. Let’s see. I’ve gathered a Shag (Mike Schepp), a Buzzy (Denny Bauman) and a Grogan (Harry Johnson) mixed in with several others.
I often wonder whether former NFL defensive tackle and current football analyst Anthony McFarland is all that comfortable with his nickname, Booger.
While at 6 feet and 300 pounds, McFarland, I suppose, could have persuaded people to stop using it, at least to his face, I’m guessing over time he probably got used to it.
As for my own, I can remember the thrill of seeing my nickname used on family vacations back to my father’s Boston area, where submarine sandwiches were called grinders and the word often appeared on windows of sandwich shops. This was back in the 1960s long before the term for those delightful cylinder-configured overstuffed sandwiches made its way from New England across the Mid-Atlantics to the Heart of It All. For the first few times on those family vacations, I insisted my sainted mom make it a Kodak moment with me pointing to the sign, as if it were some sort of a testimonial.
Lately, I’ve seen somewhat of a re-emergence of the use of my nickname on the public airways. As a matter of fact, my lawyer pal Brad Kelley, who, if he had a nickname back in his Boston beginnings, chooses to keep that in the past, perhaps, as Booger McFarland should have thought about doing, shot me a tongue-in-cheek email as soon as he saw that Fox was going to air a show called “The Grinder,” a legal sitcom starring Rob Lowe. Brad offered to represent me should I wish to file some sort of copyright-infringement lawsuit.
While I’m pretty sure the legal beagle that lurks within most lawyers has compelled Brad to watch the show, to be honest, I’ve yet to watch the first episode. Except for old movies on TCM and sports programming, TV shows are more rumor than reality for me, now that I’ve lost my Don Draper, the maddest of those men, and Walter White of “Breaking Bad.”
This theft of my nickname, I noted, last fall has also made inroads into sports programming. My pal Bob Riepenhoff (nickname “Riep”) sent me a text with a picture of football rock star analyst John Gruden, who started calling unglamorous and gritty gridiron standouts “Gruden’s Grinders.”
And then, just when I thought the thefts were subsiding, I was scrolling through the on-screen channel listings to see if perhaps I’d stumble upon “Key Largo” or another black-and-white movie with Humphrey Bogart (nickname “Bogie”) and Lauren Bacall (who, her second husband after Bogie’s death, Jason Robards, nicknamed, certainly derisively, “The Widow Bogart,” I’m guessing after their 1969 divorce).
While surfing, I saw on the line for the channel Nicktoons, a show called “Wild Grinders,” according to the show’s website an animated series based loosely on the life of show’s creator Rob Drydek’s life as a professional skateboarder.
I suppose there are two ways I could look at this whole unauthorized use of a handle bestowed upon me when I was in the second grade and watched closely by Sister Joseph Andre (not sure if any nuns gave themselves nicknames although, sometimes, shamefully, my little miscreant mates and I did).
I could either call upon the considerable legal acumen of Counselor Kelley and start filing or file all of this under a category titled, “Imitation is the most sincere form of flattery.”
Hmm, I may be calling you, Brad.
John Grindrod is a regular columnist for The Lima News and Our Generation’s Magazine, a freelance writer and editor and the author of two books. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.