Monday, September 29, 2008

A Rose By Any Other Name

You can't just invent nicknames. Like funky neighborhoods, prairies and literary culture, they have to grow on their own.

When Tabitha was little, I thought it would be fun for her to have a nickname - something that we could share, just us. I fiddled around with a couple of them for a while, but it never really worked. So Tabitha she remained. And then, without even realizing it, a nickname slowly appeared. To my knowledge, I'm the only one who calls her "Munchkin." I'm not really sure why I started doing that, since she has always been tall for her age - only recently has she dropped back under the 100th percentile in height (who knew you could be more than the 100th percentile?). I wondered what would happen when she saw The Wizard of Oz for the first time, but even when the light bulb went on, she didn't seem to mind. Besides, with the possible exception of the wizard himself, the munchkins are the best part of that movie. How can you not like the coroner ("...she's really most sincerely dead!") or the Lollipop Guild?

With Lauren, it was somewhat different. Now, I realize that this is pretty much a self-evident statement. With Lauren it is always different - she is resolutely her own person, in every conceivable way. It seems to make her happy, even if it does make our lives as parents a bit more complicated. When she was a little over a year, she decided that her name was Nooie, and she insisted we call her that. So we did. It was a cute name, and we liked it very much. We were never sure where it came from - the best we could figure, it was either her way of pronouncing Lauren at the time (though if you said "Lauren," she would correct you), or it derived somehow from "Laurenelly," Kim's conflation of "Lauren Eleanor" that she used to sing to Lauren.

Lauren in her "Nooie" days.

Now, the problem when a small child creates her own nickname for herself is that there is no real standard to judge how it ought to be spelled. For me, it was self-evidently "Nooie." For Kim, it was equally self-evidently "Nouie," presumably analogous to "Louie." Eventually, we accumulated quite a list of possible spellings:

  1. Nooie
  2. Nouie
  3. Nooey
  4. Nouey
  5. Newie
  6. Newy
  7. Newey
  8. Nui
  9. Nue
  10. Nuey (like Huey)
  11. Knooey

And so forth. Who could we ask for verification? Lauren wasn't telling. Eventually, after about 18 months, she went back to being Lauren, and the problem became moot. Though we still use the name sometimes - occasionally shortened to "Noo-noo." Tabitha has added her own twist to it, calling her such things as "Naboober" and "Noobraham Lincoln."

I wonder how Nooie would look spelled out on an office door. Probably just fine.

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