I’m Not Playing The Nickname Game


“No, Hooper with an H”

I can’t tell you how many times I have had to correct people about my name.  When I have had to tell someone my name they usually get it wrong and they interpret it as being “Cooper” or “Hopper”.  It’s frustrating but I’m used to it.   When I give my name at restaurants I usually give my first name because they always mess it up.

My name is Milton Hooper.

I have had this name all of my life.  My first name was given to me from my Pa-Pa, my mother’s dad.  His name was Milton.  So, with that I was called “Little Milton” around the family so there would be no confusion.  I’m sure most of my kinfolks on my mother’s side still know me as “Little Milton”.   Of course, most of them know absolutely nothing about me now.

Milton wasn’t a very common name growing up.  Of course, kids are mean.  I’ve been called “Milton the Monster”, “Uncle Miltie” and “Milton Bradley” among other names I won’t repeat.  I’m not sure why people have always felt the need to default my name to a nickname instead of my given name.   I honestly never call anyone a nickname unless that’s what they want to be called.  I’m not sure why that thoughtfulness isn’t reciprocated.

I usually have let people slide with calling me “Milt” or “Hoop”.  I don’t have a lot of issues with that really.  The problem comes when, as an adult, people want to tag me as “Miltie” or “Uncle Miltie”.   I will tell you point blank that I do not like it and I will not joke about it either. What’s the deal with that anyway?  Why do people think it’s okay to immediately jump to a nickname other than your real name.

I once had a co-worker who started yelling “Miltie” down the hallway when she needed something and when I didn’t answer she came to my office and asked if I had heard her.  I informed her that I did not answer to that name and that my name is Milton.  She was taken aback by it but this is MY name right?  What is this?  High School?

In my younger years I used to be afraid to nip this nickname thing and let people get away with it.  I don’t anymore.  I had another co-worker recently who had just been moved into an office near me and when I passed by he referred to me as “Uncle Miltie”.   I stopped and walked up to his desk and told him we weren’t going to do the nickname thing.  My name is Milton, not Uncle Miltie.  He looked at me as if I had offended HIM.  Are you kidding me?  I have a right to MY name don’t you think?

milton2Honestly I don’t understand the Miltie/Uncle Miltie thing.  I know it is supposed to be because of that past comedian Milton Berle but that’s not me and it doesn’t give anyone the right to nickname me that.  Okay, so you might think I’m being too sensitive about my name.  It’s not your name is it?  Why should people assume to hang a nickname on anyone?  For one thing, it is about showing respect to others.  Honestly, being called Miltie is condescending to me.  It puts me on the same level as being looked at as a child.  I take it as being disrespectful.

So what’s the deal with people giving nicknames anyway?

It is probably a subconscious thing that people what to feel as though they have some sort of ownership of you.  This nickname tag makes them feel special in some sort of way that they have tagged someone.  Endearing nicknames are sometimes motivated by admiration or love, although some condescending nicknames, even done innocently,  ultimately depersonalize people.  Purposefully mispronouncing someone’s name is an intentional statement of power, a disrespect that essentially said “you are not important enough for me to call you by your given name.” At some level, when people really matter to us, we do invest time and care in learning their name and in saying it correctly. So it makes sense that not learning and using their preferred name would suggest the opposite – that we don’t care enough to do so.

Hello…my name is Milton Hooper.

Don’t even get me started on my middle name.



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