ZYTARUK: Maybe I don’t want to be pickle guy

Some nicknames are fleeting, while others stick. They can be terms of affection as well as a bully's favorite weapon

Some nicknames are fleeting

So let it be written…


There’s this restaurant pub a short walk away from the newspaper office, and sometimes for lunch I wander over there to eat some fried pickles.

Apparently my appetite for the salty little devils has not gone unnoticed. Usually the server arrives at my table and asks, like she doesn’t already know the answer, something like “Gee, what’ll it be today?”

Uh, pickles, I reply, feeling kind of self-conscious and half expecting the Vegas lights and sirens to go off. I’m then told that I’m known among the staff as the “Pickle Guy.”

“You must have a lot of ‘Beer Guys’ in the room,” I replied, seeing as I was in the pub section. And guess what? They did, and do. Stop the presses.

Feels like I’m in a Seinfeld episode. The Close Talker, Soup Nazi, Bubble Boy…

It got me to thinking about nicknames. In a past life, I was known as the “Butter Chicken Guy,” but that was entirely undeserved. Anyway, I’ve been called worse. Try going through grade school being called “Zit.” Short for Zytaruk, eh. My sister was spared that one. Instead, for some reason now lost to me, her nickname was, and continues to be, “Squirrel.”

When my uncle Fred was in the military, his fellow soldiers either couldn’t pronounce Zytaruk, or couldn’t be bothered to try, so they called him “Guitar.” No, I don’t get it, either.

Ah, the last name. It’s a mine bursting with potential nick-name gems.

Fellow reporter Amy Reid knows about that. In elementary school, she was “Amy Reid-a-Book.”

Another colleague has two nicknames, “Princess” and “Sassy.” Princess is a she, by the way.

I’ve done a bit of an office poll on who has a nickname. Some of my co-workers say they don’t have one, but I don’t believe them. Cowards.

When I was a child growing up in Winnipeg, the boys living to my immediate right and left were “Meathead” and “Bonehead,” respectively.

They were so monikered by Jeff, “Bonehead’s” older brother. Jeff, of course, was Jeff, and only Jeff, because to suggest otherwise would be to court peril, or worse.

Some nicknames are fleeting, while others stick.

There was this guy in my school, Herman. At least, I thought he was Herman. A full three or four years passed before I learned, to my astonishment, that this was not his real name, but his nickname. Jeepers, what was his real name, then?

Did anyone remember? Did he?

Likely the most dramatic application of a nickname I’d ever witnessed happened in Grade 6, during a discussion on current affairs. A boy whose name, ironically, was Ken, had put up his hand to share with his classmates that he’d heard about this new doll on the market called “Gay Bob.” The reaction was decisive; the christening swift. Ken and the doll became one and the same that morning and this endured, if memory serves me, at least up until Ken had graduated from high school.

Nicknames can be terms of affection as well as a bully’s favorite weapon. It’s application is almost universal among cultures. The vikings, for example, were especially fond of them. Just check out medievalist.net.

For the men, there was Eirik the Red, Hermund the Bent, Thorgeir the Clumsy and Thorir the Troll-Burster. Not to leave the ladies out, there was Thora Moss-Neck and, my personal favorite, Thordis the Big.

Anyway, if you’re thinking of slapping a nickname on a viking, you might want to start with something safe, like maybe “Sir.”

At least, until you get to know him a little better.

So let it be done.

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