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Meet the Columnist

Columnist, Sheila Moss, is humor writer from  Tennessee. She writes  a weekly human interest column about daily life and the funny things that happen to everyone.

   She has written for  the Daily News of Kingsport,   Griffin Journal, Oakridge Now, Atlanta Woman Magazine, Aberdeen Examiner, Angleton Advocate,  and Smyrna AM, a supplement of the Murfreesboro Daily News Journal. She has been published by Voyageur Press, McGraw Hill, and the good folks at Guidepost Books.  Her articles have appeared in numerous anthologies and other publications, both in print and online.

    She is a former board member and past  Editor of  the, website of  the National Society of Newspaper Columnists, the oldest and largest professional organization for columnists. She is the Web Editor of Southern  and  a founder of the Southern Humorists writers' organization. She is writer, editor, and webmaster of

    To carry her weekly column in your newspaper, or to republish an article, please contact her. It's that easy. 

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What's in a Name?...

Whatís in a Name?

I donít know why, but I donít have a nickname. Names and nicknames are said to have a powerful influence on our lives. 

Iím not really talking about computer nicknames or even CB radio handles, as we used to call them, names like "motor-mouth" and "roadrunner." Iím talking about the colorful nicknames given by friends or family because they seem to describe looks or personality, names like Sparky, Curly, Stubby, or Buzz. These nicknames have more individuality than real names, which often come from literature, favorite movie actors, or rich relatives whom parents wanted to flatter.

Now some purists will tell you such names are not nicknames at all, but "pet names". Nicknames, they say, are those that are a shortened version of a real name or derived from the original given name. 

This sort of nickname makes sense, in a way. Calling a person Beth instead of Elizabeth is much quicker and easier than saying the entire name, Iíve never quite figured out some nicknames, though. Bob for Robert or Rita for Margaret makes a little bit of sense, but Dick for Richard makes none at all to me.

Some families seem to be more into the tradition of nicknames or "pet names" than others are. My late husbandís family always favored nicknames. His name was "Dumps" until he was almost grown. That was a shortening of the nickname "Dumpling" given him as a baby His brother was Bubba. His sister, whose real name could have been easily shortened, was instead called Sis. 

You must be careful what you call your kids as childhood nicknames can stick. His older brother Gerald, never became Jerry, though - probably because he was so big and mean that nobody dared give him a nickname.

Come to think of it, what sort of nickname could be given to shorten a name like Sheila? I looked on several lists of nicknames to see what I could find, but the only suggestion was Cecilia. That is not a nickname at all but simply another form of the same name. So much for that idea.

The trend nowadays is just to name the child what you are going to call them. My mom was ahead of her time as she named my sister Patty instead of Patricia. When Patty was a child, she always got mad if anyone shortened her name to Pat. Now she likes to be called Pat and doesnít want to be called Patty. Go figure. 

If the trend to name kids what you call them continues, there will be a lot of kids called "Be Quiet," "Go Play," and "Donít Spill It."

Some nicknames seemed to be simply a way to keep from getting two people in the family with the same name mixed up, like Junior when son is named after dad. At my house we had two Davidís, Big David and Little David. When Little David became bigger than Big David, Big David had to become Dave. Now Little David is called Dave. It all gets very confusing.

Some people say that when they were a kid and their mother called them by their real name instead of their nickname, they knew that they were in trouble. "Come here. James", instead of "Come here, Jimmy," meant serious stuff was brewing. Maybe thatís why I donít have a nickname. I always stayed in trouble.

At least computers have given us a chance to recycle those forgotten nicknames or to acquire one that we never had. I only wish that I could think of a good nickname for Sheila. One online friend who will go unnamed sometimes calls me Shesh! But, what sort of nickname is that? On the other hand, I suppose Iíve been called worse things.

Maybe I should just be happy to be who I am and not worry about being one of the few people in the world who never had a nickname.

Copyright 2002 Sheila Moss

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