• 46°

Mack Williams: What’s in a nickname

In addition to our name, ěGod -givenî by our parents, there are sometimes nicknames given to us which become stuck (like spent chewing gum) to ourselves, sometimes so much so that the official name on the birth certificate is eclipsed by the unofficial one.
In many instances, these names are assigned to a child based on his likes or dislikes of the time, in everything from favorite foods to favorite play activities.
Friends are sometimes the bestowers of the unofficial name, which sometimes, is identical to the nickname of the parent, with the the inclusion of the prefix ěLiíl.î
Parents sometimes feel the need to give certain nicknames to their children, the particulars of the childrenís forming personalities seeming to call for some nomenclature more individual and additional to what is printed on their birth certificates.
In addition to parents giving names to their children, subsequent to those listed on their birth certificates, their offspring sometimes return the favor by assigning AKAs to them.
The nicknames given to our parents by my brother, Joe, and me were, I daresay, unique and probably not heard around Rowan County back then, or since.
Some of the more common nicknames of which I can think of lately are the ones given by grandchildren to their grandparents, such as Paw-Paw (also the name of a particular kind of ěpatchî), Mee-Maw and the name Nana.
The nicknames that Joe and I assigned to our parents were ěBunkî and ěHammie.î
My motherís maiden name was ěHamlet,î so the origin of ěHammieî is easily figurable.
I think that my grandmother Hamlet also went by that nickname, because I remember seeing an old letter to my mother from her in my baby book with the letter being signed ěLove, Hammie!î
My mother would send letters to me at college, and later to me and my family, signing them ěLots of Love, Hammie!î
Sometimes, when my late wife, the children and I would visit my mother in Salisbury, we would eat at the now-closed Hamís Restaurant on East Innes Street.
The iconic working model train of that restaurant chain made me think about my railroading father, ěBunk,î and the restaurantís name reminded me of my mother, ěHammie.î
My fatherís first name was ěBernard,î which he always pronounced in the British fashion, as heard in the pronunciation of the British general from World War II, Bernard Law Montgomery.
I heard my father referred to by his railroad friends as mostly ěWillie,î and sometimes ěBernie,î but I have no recollection at all of how Joe and I came to refer to him as ěBunk.î
Our father loved jazz, classical and old-time mountain music. One Christmas, my brother got him a record of the old jazz artist Bunk Johnson and his band, titled ěBunk Johnson at Preservation Hall.î
I also remember an old cold medicine commercial of the time which started out with the words: ěHas a cold got you down, Bunkie?î
Back in September, following the homecoming service of Saint Paulís Lutheran Church, to which my friend, Rita Lea, and I had traveled from Virginia, she asked me if I would like to visit my ěMom and Dad.î
She used the more usual and proper terminology.
I told her that I would, so we walked down that gentle slope of Saint Paulís cemetery, and there paid a visit to ěBunk and Hammie.î

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