Nickname blog's final chapter.
Nickname blog's final chapter.

Nicknames and the nick of time

Here at the end of 2011, it's time to wrap up the nickname blog. For those of you who have been a faithful reader of the past 25 blogs, a sincere thanks.

Nicknames have been, and will remain I believe, an intriguing aspect of our everyday culture. Just ask "Snooki" or "The Situation," or "The Balloon Boy."

As you can imagine, I'm frequently asked where this passion for nicknames came from. And I always find myself providing the same simple answer; from within, and that epiphanies like this, occur in times of brokenness.

The other answer I give is also consistent. Most of the time, "The thought of doing this is absurd, but the thought of not doing it is even more absurd." This notion came to me via Gregg Levoy's seminal work "Callings: Living an Authentic Life." Get it and read it.

I started this nickname nonsense back in the summer of 2008, at a time of personal brokenness, and soon after I had returned from a short, self-imposed silent retreat and sabbatical at a monastery in northeast Iowa, some 200 miles from Milwaukee. Every year, I try schedule a week for a time for spiritual renewal, reflection and meditation, to remove the static in the attic, so to speak, in an ongoing attempt to live my life from a place of meaning.

Shortly after returning, I was sitting at a local coffee shop, when the desire to pursue and invest energy in the story-telling opportunities embedded in nicknames, came to me. I have always been fascinated with etymology and onomastics. But I have also been enamored with nicknames, and the obvious intimacy of them. So often, they tell a great story, and are also verbal short-hand for what makes someone tick.

As I have come to learn, some people's entire lives have been defined or re-directed by their nickname. People like "Wheels" and "Fifi the Hat Lady" and "Boots" Gordon, and "Pablo" Solomon, and so many others.

Ever since then, the Universe has been moving the ball down the nickname field for me, in spite of me, and opening doors and providing opp…

Throughout hockey history, the NHL has been a steady source of nicknames.
Throughout hockey history, the NHL has been a steady source of nicknames.

Hockey nicknames really light the lamp

Boy's high school hockey in Wisconsin is well underway, and the players are already putting the biscuit in the basket, and lighting the lamp. They may are also developing some nicknames, not unlike some of those that have come from the NHL. And if you are a high school hockey parent, you may or may not be privy to some of the nicknames being slapped across the ice among the teammates.

Throughout hockey history, the NHL has been a steady source of nicknames. There was of course "The Great One," Wayne Gretzky, who now spends most of his day trying to manage the sultry Tweeting habits of his smoking hot daughter, Paulina. And thank God she looks a lot more like mom than Wayne.

There was also Teemu Selanne, or "The Finnish Flash" and "The Russian Rocket" a.k.a. Pavel Bure. Or how about former hockey star Guy LaFluer, saddled with the nickname "The Flower." Yikes. Then there was Mark "The Messiah" Messier and "The Golden Jet" Bobby Hall, and of course "Mr. Hockey" Gordie Howe.

Heck, even some of the goalies netted their own nicknames. There was Andre "Red Light" Racicot, and Russian born goaltender Nikolai Ivanovich Khabibulin, simply known as "The Bulin Wall." But my all-time favorite NHL goalie was a guy named "Gump" Worsley. He was the second-to-last professional hockey goaltender to play without a mask, and he looked like it.

Here in southeast Wisconsin, I'm a fan of the local high school hockey scene, so I tracked down a few nicknames from the Homestead High School hockey team.

Homestead has a team that is frequently ranked in the Wisconsin Prep top 10. Current team member nicknames include Thomas "Fazzy Bear" Fazio, Peter "Young Blood Winna" Schmitz, and Will "Tuck Duck" Tucker, along with Kevin "Killa J" Haslee. There is also Adam "Acon" Connolly. And in the recent past, Homestead hockey had Luke "Burb Lyfe" Lawlor and David "Trebz is Nuts" Trebatowksi. Not all are hockey-specific nicknames per say, but these have taken on a life of their own for all the ska…

Football and nicknames have quite a history.
Football and nicknames have quite a history.

College football rivalries worthy of a good nickname

Does the new Big 10 Championship football game need an ongoing nickname? I think so. And the next two weeks of the season are as exciting as a loose ball in the end zone. The conference championships, and the remaining BCS spots, are still very much in play. The big games can't get any bigger.

It only stands to reason then that some of the top college football rivalry football games have been nicknamed throughout college football history. And like all things "nicknamed," the list is a long one. More than likely, you are very familiar with the high profile, Division I rivalry nicknames. They have been seared into our college football consciousness for years. A few of the more well-known games include:

"The Backyard Brawl" – Pittsburgh vs. West Virginia
"The Border War" – Kansa vs. Missouri
"Bedlam" – Oklahoma vs. Oklahoma State
"The World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail" – Florida vs. Florida State
"The Game" – Ohio State vs. Michigan
"The Civil War" – Oregon vs. Oregon State
"The Golden Boot" – LSU vs. Arkansas
"The Battle for the Bone" – Fresno State vs. Louisiana Tech
The Battle for the Leather Helmet" – Boston College vs. Clemson
"The Sunshine Showdown" – Florida vs. Florida State

This rivalry list could be as endless as all those painful Geico and Aflac TV commercials that make you want to jam a toothpick under your fingernail.
Those of you who know me well know I have an undying passion for the obscure. And any good college football fan would have to be a double-knit lint-head to overlook the goofiness to be found in some of these Division II and Division III rivalry games.

For my money, the best rivalry nicknames in Division II are:

"The Anchor-Bone Classic" – Grand Valley State vs. Ferris State
"Battle in Seattle" – Western Washington vs. Central Washington
"The Old Hickory Stick Game" – Northwest Missouri State vs. Truman State
"Top Dog Game" – Butler vs. Indianapolis

And last but not least, the best of the rest in Division I…

Wanna rob a bank? You might get a nickname out of it.
Wanna rob a bank? You might get a nickname out of it.

Nicknames for bank robbers are right on the money

In these economically challenging times, have you ever thought about robbing a bank?

If you have, it's likely your first two questions might be, "How much money can I get?" and second, "Will I get caught?" Actually, the second question is more important than the first. But a third question may very well determine if you do end up getting caught. And that question is, "How nickname-able are you?"

For years, people in law enforcement and the FBI have known that the odds of catching a bank robber improve dramatically if they assign a nickname to the assailant. How it works is pretty simple. Bank robbers who are given a nickname can generate instant media coverage, and instant public awareness, which can often times accelerate capture and arrest. It's a lot easier to find the "Mr. Magoo Bandit" than a guy named Scott Larson, or someone nicknamed "The Geezer Bandit" who was recently featured on America's Most Wanted.

As I understand it, FBI agents get together with local and state police across the country, to discuss bank robberies and other unsolved crimes that they believe aren't getting adequate publicity. So what they do is identify leading suspects with nicknames to grab the general public's attention — which in turn can add bit of levity to their daily grind of crime solving.

Eventually, these nicknames appear on wanted notices that are then sent to news media outlets. Believe it or not, then the FBI also posts them on Facebook.

Some of the more well-known bank robber nicknames in U.S. history include "Pretty Boy" Floyd and "Baby Face" Nelson, as well as "Slick" Willy Sutton. Nothing like a good Depression in the 1920's to motivate people to start robbing banks.

More recently, there has been a lot of bank robber nickname visibility in Colorado. It seems as though Colorado is one of the top bank robbery states, averaging 150 a year. In the past year or so, the FBI's Rocky Mountain Safe Street's Task force has nabbed "Super Sleuth" and "Tom Thumb" and "The Shaggy Band…

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