Today’s nicknames are not just for kids

By Grant McGee

Are people still calling you by your nickname?

I thought about this after seeing a quote from the British essayist William Hazlitt (1778-1830), “A nickname is the heaviest stone that the devil can throw at a man.”

I suppose nicknames hurt when you’re a kid, but a lot of stuff can bug you when you’re young. I think when you’re older nicknames become a shared joke amongst friends. It makes me think of the old saying, “we wouldn’t make fun of you if we didn’t like you.”

I remember some of the names people have called me over the years. I wonder if I hadn’t moved around as much if there’d have been one nickname that would’ve stuck.

Maybe “Lizard Man.” That was from junior high school. It came from hunting lizards, snakes, frogs, toads and such.

In college I went by “Buffalo.” That one came from someone lost in time who was making reference to my leather jacket with fringe and my square-toed boots (I’m told real cowboys don’t wear those; most easterners don’t know that though).
It would be years before I’d have another nickname that stuck, if only for a short time.

For a while in Roswell my friends called me “Harley” because I rode a 150cc scooter back and forth to work. For those of you not familiar with the size of motorcycle engines, a 150cc job sounds like a lawn mower.

Briefly I was known as “The Paul Revere of Roswell” after an event in which I woke up from a nap to find a huge thunderhead bearing down on the city. A tornado warning had been issued. Concerned for the safety of a friend teaching a class, I hopped on my scooter, clothes all wrinkled from my nap, hair uncombed and zipped through the streets of Roswell yelling, “Tornado, tornado warning” to the folks standing in their yards looking at the ominous cloud.

There were nicknames when I drove an 18-wheeler. In the beginning I went by the old one from college, Buffalo, for my CB radio handle. After hanging around Frank (my Trinidadian co-driver) for a while he decided to call me “Belly Mon.” Over the thousands of miles we rode I had told him a few of my many stories about my matrimonial misadventures.

“Ahh, Grant,” he would say with his Trinidadian accent, “back home we would call you a Belly Mon, because you have to have a big belly to deal with as much as you have and still keep smiling.”

Making a routine delivery I stumbled into the nickname that stuck for the rest of my truck-driving career.

Delivering a load to a retail store in Palm Springs, Calif., I made a wrong turn and ended up in the town of Rancho Mirage. I found a lot where I could turn around. I got stuck in some sand I hadn’t seen. I want to tell you the whole story someday. It involves the Rancho Mirage cops, an audience of retirees and a huge tow truck.

Anyway, when I got back to the office I had a new nickname: “Sandman.”

So if folks are calling you by a nickname, I hope it’s a good one.

I figure if you call me by a nickname, maybe you’re a friend.

Grant McGee hosts the weekday morning show on KTQM-FM in Clovis. Contact him at: