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Nicknames as Southern as sweet tea
As sure as a South Georgia boy shows up for the second grade snaggle-toothed, he’s going to have a nickname. I didn’t have to wait that long. Before Big Dink ever saw that I had his blue eyes, I was destined to be Little Dink.
Monikers are as Southern as sweet tea. Just ask George Irvin Perdue III. Don’t know him? Sure you do. He’s the governor of Georgia. Sonny knows that he, like me, could have been tagged Bo, Buster, Bubba, Booger, Hoss, Rooster, Pig, Catfish, Turkey, Cooter, Pork Chop, Jet, Fuzzie, Skeeter, Speck, Slim, Chubby, Peanut, Toad or Frog.
And let’s not leave out Kinky, Shot, Rawhide, Tinker, Pee Wee, Shorty, Rock, Zip, Slick or Snake.
Or Peachy, Tootsie, Dimples and Bunny - girls get nicknames, too.
I’ve known all of the above, and they’re good folks who I’d like to show up at my next pig pickin’. Considering the nicknaming possibilities, I suspect our governor is happy with Sonny. And I’ve tried to change my name only once.
My birth certificate reads, William Henry NeSmith Jr. I could have been William, Will, Willie, Bill, Billy, Henry, Hank or Junior, but my folks liked Dink. I grew to like it, but the early days were rough. Kids enjoyed toying with - or were confused by - my name.
Fifty years ago, in Cameron Bennett’s yard, the grown-ups were sitting on the porch while the kids scrambled around looking for fun. We were having a large time, with one exception. None of the Bennett children could catch my name. After repeating “Dink” a dozen times, I made a playground decision. I changed my name.
“Just call me Henry,” I said.
As the sun slipped beneath the pines, a Bennett lad dug his bare big toe in the dirt and asked, “Mrs. NeSmith, can Henry spend the night with us?” Puzzled, she asked, “Henry? Who’s Henry?”
My playmate nodded in my direction and said, “That little boy over there.”
That was the last time I tried that trick, but it won’t be the last time I explain the origin of my nickname. It’s not in cursive script in the front of our family Bible, but the legend goes back to 1922. An aunt had come to see her nephew, William Henry NeSmith, who had just been born in the remote Decatur County community of Recovery. Rocking the newborn, she exclaimed, “Well, he certainly is a cute little stinker.”
Offended, my grandmother fired back, “My baby is no stinker.”
Her sister recanted, “Well, he’s a fine little dinker.” Dinker stuck, and after a couple of years, the “er” fell off.
So when I came along in 1948, while it could just as easily have been Bo, Bubba, Skeeter or Slim, it became Dink.
Fast-forward several decades. New acquaintances still squint when they hear my name for the first time. I often am called Dean.
Some folks say, “Nice to meet you, Richard.” They aren’t sure they know me well enough, yet, to call me Dick.
It’s fun listening to introductions of my wife, Pam, and me.
Many times we’ve chuckled hearing, “I’d like for you to meet our good friends, Pink and Dam.”
Dink NeSmith is president of Community Newspapers Inc. in Athens. Send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. This column was printed in the Athens Banner-Herald.