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Nicknames in North Carolina

Not so long ago, I spoke to a total sweetheart of a lady from out west. She thought it was the cutest thing that I named my daughters Bug & Belle. It made me giggle. When I started blogging, it never dawned on me that people would think my girls were formally named Bug & Belle. I guess nicknames aren’t as common everywhere else as they are here in North Carolina.

We do things a little differently here than everywhere else. We go around barefoot with no shame, wave at strangers, and talk a little funny to the outside ear. Of course, these things are just part of our culture; we don’t even realize that they seem odd to the rest of the country. I suppose our propensity for nicknames is no different.

How nicknames are born in North Carolina

Nicknames in North Carolina are terms of endearment. Our families give us pet names when we’re little – and they stick. Or, worse, our friends christen us in high school with something we never outgrow. Some of us have a dozen nicknames. I know, I did. 

My papaw called me Booger until the day he died. Lord, I hated that name – but I loved him too much to say so out loud. I appreciate it a lot more now that I understand he was calling me a little monster. LOL. My daddy called me Molassie, another nickname I didn’t appreciate at the time. Now I wish he was still here to pick at me with it. My mama called me hotrod when I was little – and still does when she’s feeling loving. My baby sister has called me Sissy since the day she started talking. And in middle school, my friends called me Cat and Spaz. 

Cassie is the one that stuck, though. I wouldn’t even know what to do if somebody hollered Cassandra at me; I’d probably walk right on by.

Brandon has a dozen nicknames, too. His daddy calls him Brando, which is what I’ve called him for the last twenty years. He’s his mama’s Sugar Bear. The worst are the ones he earned in high school: Old Dirty Brandon or just ODB. I won’t list the others; he wouldn’t appreciate that very much. LOL.

Bug got her nickname when she was barely three weeks old. I bought her a Ladybug costume for her first Halloween, ever since she’s been our little ladybug – or some variation thereof.

Belle has had her nickname since the day we brought her home from the hospital. Mamaw kept calling her Cali-Belle. It stuck. Over the years, I’ve gotten lazy, so now she’s just Belle.

A few of my favorite nicknames from North Carolina

It doesn’t stop there; North Carolinians get right creative when handing out nicknames. Here are some of my favorites:

  • Cobby: Papaw was called Cobby by everyone who knew him. They said he was as country as a corn cob.
  • Red: Growing up, Mama Clark was known as Red.
  • Fat Smathers: He lived down the road from us when I was a little girl. Everybody I knew called him Fat Smathers, and to this day, I don’t know what his proper name was.
  • Egg Farm: My daddy was called Egg Farm in high school. It stuck. People who knew him in Wilmington still refer to him by the place he lived.
  • Dawfus: My mama’s grandpa was named Adolphus, but everybody called him Dawfus. Even his grandchildren thought it was his proper name – it even made it onto one of his daughters’ death certificates.
  • Ebie: I’ve called my cousin, Evan, Ebie since we were little. I picked it up from a story about him pulling our other cousin’s hair. She couldn’t pronounce Evan, so she cried out for Ebie to let her go.
  • Goldie: My mama’s family calls my uncle Goldie. Which is just his proper name purposefully mispronounced. Everybody called my Grandpa Owens the same thing.
  • Bubba: Bubba is pretty popular in my family; there are at least five of them. Bubba means brother, and oddly enough, it’s what I call my nephew.
  • Bertie: My husband and his cousins called their grandmother Bertie. Her name was Bertha, so it’s fitting.
  • Junebug: Several of my cousins were called Junebug; for no real reason. 
  • Kodecker: I don’t know where daddy came up with it, but my baby sister has been Kodecker since the 1990s.
  • Buck: One of my mama’s uncles was known as Buck. Not for any reason that I know of; it’s just what people called him.
  • Slim: Another of mama’s uncles was called Slim. He was tall and thin like Stringbean Akeman.
  • Waterboy: My husband’s best friend, Jeremy, has been known as Waterboy or Bobby Boucher since 1998.
  • Monkey: One of my cousins dated a boy who was called Monkey by everyone who knew him. I never bothered to ask why.
  • Bubbles: My stepbrother, Jared, was called Bubbles because when he was a toddler, he passed gas once while daddy gave him a bath.
  • Macho Man: All of my husband’s and my brother-in-law’s friends call Papa Clark the Macho Man. He looked a lot like Randy Savage back in the 80s and 90s.

Nicknames are so inherent to North Carolina’s culture that those of us who grew up here don’t bat an eye when we’re introduced to someone called Rooster. We just know that Rooster is their nickname. We’re so used to it that we don’t even bother to ask for their real name – instead, we ask how they got their name.

Did you or anyone you know grow up with a nickname? I’d love to hear about them in the comment section below!

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