In nickname only

A DELIGHTFUL footnote to the long, distinguished career of Averell Harriman was his nickname, ``the Crocodile.'' He was so dubbed by his friend, the columnist Joseph Alsop, because of Harriman's toughness and wiliness as a negotiator. Far from being insulted, Harriman liked the nickname so much he used it as his code name in confidential diplomatic cables. I have longed to have a fascinating nickname like ``Crocodile.'' When I was in high school, a classmate was nick-named ``Puma.'' I thought it was the most delicious and desirable nickname I had ever heard. It implied someone lissome, sinuous, exotic, and slightly mysterious.

I would have given almost anything to have a nickname like that. But hearty, stocky winners of essay contests sponsored by the Sons of the American Revolution are not nicknamed ``Puma.''

One of those landmark class reunions is approaching, and I'm thinking of going back for it. I wonder if Puma will be there. What is she like now?

Maybe she is married to someone like the president of a huge auto company. If you were the president of a big auto company and had a wife nicknamed ``Puma,'' wouldn't you name a car after her? After all, we have Cougars and Jaguars. But no Pumas.

What a sensation if you were at a reunion and they asked what you had done since graduation, and you could modestly lower your eyes and murmur, ``Well, General Motors named one of their best-selling cars after me.'' No one has ever named anything after me. The doll is pure coincidence.

Unfortunately, at this stage in my life everyone who knows me also knows I don't have an interesting nickname. Perhaps if we make a major relocation and start over with a whole new group of acquaintances, I could introduce myself with the sort of nickname I yearn for.

My little brother did just that at age 10. I was chaperoning him and other boys to an out-of-state camp. As the boys first met and exchanged names, George announced, to my amazement and out of the blue, that his name was ``Mouse.'' And so he was known all summer.

I myself would pick something more exotic. Not ``Crocodile,'' perhaps -- too masculine. But there are lots of other sleek, speedy members of the cat family. Maybe I could be ``Cheetah'' -- though somehow that might be misunderstood. After all, I want people to trust me.

For the time being, while I wait for a nickname with the 'eclat of ``Crocodile'' or ``Puma,'' I've had to settle for ``Grandma.'' It does have many good connotations, even if they don't include lissomeness and intrigue.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
QR Code to In nickname only
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today