It’s funny how we can develop different names in life

While I was covering the early election last week, Allan Nichols came in to cast his ballot and ended up with his picture in the paper.

While I was there, I overheard him say his name was Gary Allan Nichols. I was blown away. It’s not uncommon for men to go by their middle names. I just didn’t realize that had occurred with Allan. And, so the conversation about names began.

One poll worker, who is from New Jersey (I did tell him I was sorry about that) asked why people go by their middle names so much in the south.

Good question. My answer was that we tend to name our kids after other people–parents, uncles, close friends. In order to set them apart, we usually call them by their middle names.

He said that was odd because in New Jersey, they did the exact opposite. They give babies their own first name and the namesake names go in as their middle names. Therefore, they go by their first names and not their middle names.

The discussion made me think of myself and my family.

 I, myself, have never went by anything other than Melissa except for a few close friends who used to call me Mel and, in college, when my nickname was Poochie (but that’s another story altogether).

However, my brother, Robert, is a different story.

When I was very young, we used to call him Clay, or Clay-Clay as a nickname. When mom named him Robert Clayton, she intended for him to be called Clayton or Clay. But, then, family intervened and started calling him Clay-Clay.

I vaguely can remember calling him Clay. When he was in the first grade, Robert left the house one morning as “Clay” and returned from school as “Robert.”

Mom said he came into the house straight from the bus, looked her straight in the eye and said “my name is Robert.”

Mom said she was so shocked all she could really say was “okay.” From that moment on, Robert was Robert. Not Bob or Rob as I like to call him sometimes…just plain Robert.

I guess I was so young I never really questioned what caused Robert to change his mind. I just accepted it, and he was Robert.

Our conversation at the courthouse made me wonder what caused Robert’s “identity crisis” at the early age of seven. I truly didn’t know so I thought I’d ask. So I sent him a text because I didn’t want him to answer me with his “why are you asking me this” voice.

My text read: Robert, I have to know: what made you change your name from Clay to Robert at age 7? I need to know what caused your “identity crisis.”

His reply made me laugh : “I didn’t change my name. My name is Robert Clayton. I changed (what I was called) because no one would say Clayton or Clay. It was always Clay Clay.”

With that the mystery had been solved. He didn’t like to be called Clay Clay. I don’t blame him. I wouldn’t like that either.

While we are on the subject of names, I have to admit that I’ve never understood the name Bubba. I have two cousins that we call Bubba. They have real names, but yet we still refer to them as Bubba.

They were babies when they got the nick name, and they both had older sisters. I see why the nickname Bubba started. I just don’t see why it continues even today, even in the world outside of their families. One Bubba is in his 40s, while the other is in his 20s. Both go by Bubba in everyday life. Why? I do not understand.

I also have another cousin who is a junior so instead of being called Ray Jr., we just call him Junior. It’s almost like his legal name is Junior. I wouldn’t be surprised if he had it legally changed to Junior.

Another instance is my step brother, Bo. His name is William Wayne. He’s been called Bo his entire life. He’s like my cousins because nobody calls him William. I think he was called William on the day he was born, on his graduation day, and both times he got married—only because it’s his legal name.

While I don’t know about my two Bubbas or Junior, I can tell you why Bo is called Bo to this very day. My step sister, Teresa, is about 18 months older than Bo. When they brought Bo home from the hospital, she tried to call him Bubba and missed by saying Bo. It stuck for life. I guess it’s a good thing because if she hadn’t pronounced it wrong, he’d be stuck with Bubba too.

There’s one last story about names I want to share with you.

My aunt’s name is Mildred May.  She’s my mom’s little sister. I have no idea why but when Robert and I were really little we called her “Aunt Connie.”

When I think of her, I still think of her as Aunt Connie. It’s weird calling her Aunt Mildred.

For years after I found out her real name, I thought Connie had to be short for Mildred some how like Bobby is short for Robert and Dick short for Richard.

All of this talk about names makes me laugh. I don’t know why but sometimes when we give people nick names, they just stick.

Gavin calls Jordan “bubber” and Cameron “bubbie” because when he was younger he couldn’t say brothers. They are collectively called bubbers by Gavin. It’s very cute, and it’s something I’ll never forget. But, those names are names given to each of them by their little brother. They are reserved only for Gavin’s use. That’s what makes them special to us. Gavin is starting to grow out of the “bubber” and “bubbie” phase as he’s starting to call them by their legal names. I know I’m going to miss his little voice call for bubbie and bubber, but the names will go no further. I like their legal names. After all, I gave them to the boys.

Names are important. They aren’t who we are but I believe they describe who we are.

Melissa Cason is the staff writer for the Advance Monticellonian.

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