Position: Features Page Editor
College: University of Kansas
Major: Elementary Education
At my house I’m rarely called Emily. But, call me Emmers, Sissy, Goose or Batgirl and I’ll respond to them all. This all started when I was a newborn baby and would wake up crying in the night. My dad would drag himself out of bed and scoop me up out of my crib and wrap me in my hand-knitted sea-foam green blanket. Pacing circles around the downstairs of our house, he would feed me my nighttime bottle and half sing, half talk, “Emmers milky-mouth McBemmers” as my bottle dribbled out of the corners of my mouth.
Even though I’m not able to remember being sung to during the night, my dad has told this story to me countless times, always with a nostalgic look in his eye. After hearing this story over and over, I have come to associate a lot of happy memories with that unusual nickname, Emmers milky-mouth McBemmers. I’ve grown up in a family that enjoys making nicknames out of nicknames themselves. The combination of these two has left me with a pre-determined fate: I’m a nicknamer.
I’ve heard it time and time again.
“Emily, you have a nickname for EVERYONE,” they all say.
I smile and nod in acknowledgement. And I’m coming up with one for you as we speak, I think to myself.
My favorite part about my nicknaming habit is when my friends steal my beat-up phone and attempt to text someone on it. In between contacts such as“Cornbread Baby Kirsten,” “Pikachu” and “Monkeybutt,” they usually give up any hopes of ever finding the person they intended to text. The question that usually follows is, “Why do you call people those names?”
Although I’ve tried many times, I can’t quite convey why I continue to call people those names. Sure, some of them have funny stories behind them and some are quite clever. However, I don’t think the important part of the nicknaming lies in the actual name or the play on words.
To me, nicknames are special. They are endearing. We feel special when we hear our names spoken, and even more so when someone else puts their own twist on it. It’s the reason why you get butterflies in your stomach when your name is called at an awards banquet or when your crush texts you. Your name is what sets you apart. It is what makes me Emily Catherine Kerr. And that matters.
Throughout my time in high school, I’ve had ever-changing ideas about what matters. Freshman year, I thought it mattered what group of people I ate PB&J sandwiches with at lunch and sat with at basketball games. Sophomore year, I decided that qualifying for the cross country state team was equally as impressive as running in the olympic trials. Junior year, I was convinced that if I didn’t receive a top-notch score on my AHAP essays, the world was going to stop spinning on its axis. However, this has all changed senior year. I think I’ve come to terms with the fact that I’m not the fastest, smartest and most popular person to ever walk the wonderful halls of SME. And that’s ok. What I’m beginning to realize matters most is the nicknames that I leave behind.
I just recently opened my senior letters that we wrote in Mr. Nickel’s class freshman year. Amidst the large pile of scribbled memories and inside jokes, a couple of lines from a letter stood out to me in particular. They read:
“So you gave me a nickname. You probably didn’t realize it at the time, and still don’t, but giving me that simple nickname made me feel wanted, I guess? I guess I just felt like somebody cared and actually wanted to be my friend, as opposed to just tolerating me.”
I’m being completely honest when I tell you that I began writing this column before I had even opened my senior letters. Maybe I’m dramatic, but small goosebumps formed on my arms when I read those lines. I couldn’t believe that I was reading actual proof of what I was fumbling to describe in this column. It felt really good knowing that my dorky puns and alliterations did actually make someone feel better about themselves.
And for that reason I don’t regret any of the nicknames I’ve come up. Sure there have been the bad ones: monkeybutt and Aids. Sure there have been the long ones: kiksteriniolio and santa claus pants. And sure there have been the punny ones: korn on the kov and darb the carb. But through the creative and the not-really-that-funny names that were given, I hope that some have made you feel loved and important.
Because that’s all nicknamers really want. Just ask my dad.