Who’s the Bigger Jerk?

19 Jan

For those of you reading this without the joy of meeting me, my actual given name by my parents is not the name you see above. In fact, many people refer to me by names other than “Phat Man.” While this is positively demoralizing, I have come to accept the fact that some people will refuse to call me by my nickname. Nevertheless, some call me by my given name, some by a nickname, some by my family [last] name. There are a myriad of names by which I go, and I have come to terms with all of them.

Maybe it was because I grew up playing sports, maybe it is because I am bad at remembering names, maybe it is because I have a way of coming up with unique things, or maybe I’m just a student who at an early age was fascinated with the nom de plume, but whatever it is, I come up with nicknames for a good number of people with whom I come into contact. Some are names that I find so worthy, that for me it becomes their most common name. Other people are so difficult to endear with a nickname that they become known without one.

At any rate, what this all means is that I have a series of names by which I refer to people that may not sound normal. Recently, I realized that some people are not fans of a special name. This kind of shocks me, as I have always loved receiving them (and I haven’t always had good ones, like Rug Rat, Budger, The Jerk, Big Mouth, and, of course, Phat Man). So, when someone tells me that they don’t like nicknames, I find it difficult to believe. Some are even so bold as to suggest that it is completely inconsiderate and downright wrong to make up a name for someone.

Now, this is where I can start by saying, I feel I’m in good company. Jesus gave out nicknames. The most famous is that Simon became Peter (or, if you prefer, Cephas). It is also true that at least seven of the disciples had two names by which they are referred in the Scripture. Jesus was a fan of giving people new names. And if Jesus can do it, I feel I certainly am not automatically wrong for doing so.

But this brings up the next point. If someone does not like their nickname, how rude is it to continue to use the name. There are several distinct points that make this a more difficult issue than it seems. First, once you have called someone a name for years, a simple switch can be difficult, especially in a regular conversations. Second, when you are someone, like me, for whom nicknames are an endearing element, giving it up almost suggests that you no longer value that person as a friend. The third point takes a little more development, but it has to do with the nature of reaction to rules.

Basically, there is something within us as humans that when a person goes overboard attempting to get you to do avoid a given behavior, the natural reaction is to do it. For example, even as a child, when your mom says to not take the brownies, we automatically are more desirous of the chocolaty goodness. When we are told to quit picking on the little guy, we seem to relish the opportunity more. When we are told we can’t do something, it becomes our goal. Similarly when someone tells us not to call them by a certain name in a way where they seem to suggest we cannot do so, our reaction is to show them we can.

Which I guess leads to the question. Am I a bigger jerk for wanting to call someone a nickname that was given out of a general fondness for the individual? Or, is the person who rejects my gift of a nickname by telling me that I cannot call them such a name a bigger jerk for pushing it?

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2 Responses to “Who’s the Bigger Jerk?”

  1. Jenni January 20, 2012 at 7:07 pm #

    Your "gift of a nickname"? 🙂

  2. Jenni May 7, 2012 at 7:30 pm #

    ah, yes… one of my favorite “Ask the Phat Man” blogs of all time…

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