There was a period of time when nicknames were popular in my family.
Just about all of my aunts and uncles had substitute names, but by the next generation, nicknames were a thing of the past.
My uncle, Willis Oatman, was called understandably “Oat.” My dad, Lester, was nicknamed “Let,” because his twin brother, Chester, was called “Chet.”
However, when he married my mother Bessie, he changed his nickname to “Les” for Les and Bess.
Mom liked the nickname “Bess,” short for Bessie. She preferred Bess instead of her birth name, Edith Josephine, which was changed when she was adopted as an infant.
My uncles had a wide variety of names other than their given first name.
Uncle Clifford was known as Uncle “Stiffy” because of his inability to turn his head from side to side. He would instead rotate his upper body to turn left and right. Thus from his neck stiffness came his affectionate nickname “stiffy.”
Uncle Lawrence, due to a wart on his nose, was nicknamed Uncle “Wart.”
Uncle Frank, because as a somewhat heavy youth, was Uncle “Fats.”
My aunt Mildred was called “Madge” or “Mill.”
Aunt Marguerite Ethlyn had the nickname “Kick” because to defend herself from her five brothers she would kick them with her foot.
Aunt Mercedes had the first name of movie actress Mercedes McCambridge, but it was shortened to Merced.
My Aunt Amy Roberta preferred to be known as “Roberta,” although the family called her “Toots,” but never to her face.
My favorite uncle was known as Uncle Scorch’s, nicknamed when, as a toddler, his hair got scorched from the coal stove in the living room.
I, like most Oatman kids, was called “Oatmeal,” “Oatbug” or “Cheerios.” But none of those nicknames caught on, so all my life, I been known as simply Larry.
In choosing our children’s names, my wife Kathleen was most concerned to pick a name that was void of a nickname substitute. Thus, our son Lane came from the name of my stillborn brother, and Alison was from Kathleen’s favorite uncle’s middle name. And no one ever shortened to Ali, never.
I guess Kathleen was more sensitive than I was, because her given name was Mary Kathleen. When I first met her, she went by Kathy.
Turns out on her first newspaper story at The Lima News, the editor penciled in her byline as “Kathy Roberts.” At that time, she was such an introvert, she didn’t say anything.
It wasn’t until we were married that I learned her first name was Mary. On the marriage license, it was listed as M. Kathleen Roberts.
Later, when we changed jobs and moved to Columbus, she decided to be known as Kathleen. But today, she likes to be called Kate, her choice. After our divorce, she reverted back to her maiden name. Again, her choice, but I personally think of her as Kathleen, which to me fits her endearing special personality.
Alas, nicknames, as William Shakespeare wrote in Romeo and Juliet, “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”
Larry L. Oatman is a writer and lives in Lima.