How many nicknames does the average person have? Maybe one or two? I know many people who have none at all. The question in my case is more like: how many nicknames do I NOT have? That list would be shorter.
It started with my birth name. My parents didn't want to name me Katherine or Kathleen or some other such lengthy moniker which they never intended to use, so they named me Kate. Good old Kate Elizabeth. But no one called me Kate except my childhood friend Brandon. I grew up as Katie, or Katie Babe to my mom's parents, the fantastic Larry and Ginger Welte. Kakie Espess is what I called myself before I could pronounce it correctly, and my dad called me Duckie early on, which I always loved.
When I was about four or five, I was obsessed with the name Kimberly. I had imaginary friends named Kimberly and her boyfriend (that was his name: her boyfriend), and also one named Labebo, but that's another story. "My name is Kimberly" was my response when presented with, "You must be Katie!" by our new pastor and his wife, Joe and Maureen. They had no problem obliging the silliness of that little girl, and faithfully called me Kimberly until they moved on to another church. Joe passed away several years ago, but at my sister's wedding in 2007, Maureen was there and I was once again referred to as Kimberly.
Probably around the same time as my Kimberly shenanigans, I was in a group at church called Pioneers. There were only a few other kids my age, and one night I was the only one there. I said, "I guess I'm the group!" to my leader Paul, and ever since, he has called me Groupie.
Every night during my chilhood, my dad would spend hours reading to the family, and when I was about ten or so, he read what would become one of my favorite books of all time: Swallows and Amazons, by Arthur Ransom. It's about two sets of siblings on summer vacation sailing around in boats, camping on an island and pretending to be pirates. I was entirely captivated by the character Nancy Blackett, and proceeded to take over her identity. I signed my school papers with her name for a long time. No explanation was necessary to the teacher, since I was home schooled. My mom just played along.
Homeschooling is a really great thing, if done correctly, and in my house, it was most certainly done correctly. The downside at the time was that homeschooling wasn't very common, and I didn't have nearly as many friends as I would have liked. We also didn't watch much television, so as a result, I developed quite the imagination. In the absence of friends, my poor little brother Brian was at my mercy, and when we were out riding bikes around the neighborhood, I would start in on the games. Suddenly I would yell, "WILD GOOSE CHASE" and take off so fast that he couldn't keep up. I would hide behind some wall (it was always the same one... I was amazed that he never figured out where I went.) and after a few minutes I would ride slowly and calmly toward him. He would say, "Katie, why do you always do that?" and I would reply, "I'm not Katie. I'm Constance. Constance A. Rakesfield. Do you live in this neighborhood? This is my house." And then I would point to a big blue two-story house. Of course he never bought it, but I would continue acting like this character and demand that he call me Constance. This lasted for years. Sometimes I still sign notes to him as Constance Rakesfield, with a middle initial corresponding with the first name of whatever boy I like at the time.
When I was thirteen, my dad's job moved my family to Tucson, Arizona. At that point in my life, I felt like I was too "grown up" to be called Katie anymore, and decided to use this move as a fresh start with my name. I introduced myself to everyone as Kate. It still took a while to catch on, because if my family introduced me to anyone, they would call me Katie. But before long, I was just Kate, as my birth certificate would have you believe. I went through eighth grade and high school as Kate, and most of the people who met me in that time period still call me Kate. But just like Brandon calling me Kate while growing up, there were a few people who were introduced to me as Kate but called me Katie. I didn't mind.
While I was in high school, the six Welte grandchildren (the grandchildren of the aforementioned Larry and Ginger Welte: Meredith, Amanda, Kate/Katie, Brian, Alex, and Gillian) came up with a group name. We are the Tonies. The girls are Tony #1-5 according to birth order (I'm Tony #3) and Brian is TonyAnn. We are also just T1-5. Rarely do we call each other Tony whatever-number, but we talk about Tony Days and Tony Outings and being Tonies.
Then there were the nicknames I got in school. My tenth grade Spanish class name was Katia, and in that class I had to make a comic strip. My character was a monkey, and I named her Katia el Mono, which my brother immediately started calling me. That same year in my chemistry class, I had two friends that I did all my work with. The class was pretty boring, so my official job was to keep us entertained, which I was happy to do. We did a lot of laughing in that class, and I am surprised we didn't get in trouble every day. One day I assigned nicknames to our group: Sir Talk-A-Lot and Sir Know-A-Lot loved their names and could not call me Sir Choc-A-Lot without cracking up.
Some of my high school nicknames had no reasons at all: one girl called me Adorable while someone else called me Fabio. My friend Courtney called me Kate the Great, which someone misheard over the phone as Kate the Grape. Then people started calling me Grape, and often added the title of Duchess that I had been given in the theater department to make me sound very grand: Duchess Kate the Grape. Two separate people named me KupKate, which spread like wildfire.
On a mission trip to Mexico with my church youth group, every time we heard sirens, my friend David and I would say that we had started a fire because we were so hot. Then we started calling each other Hottie and Hottia and the entire youth group picked up the names. I still get called Hottia now and then.
At some point while I was in high school, my mom started an email group called The Sisterhood of Weather, or The Hood for short. Each of us has a name, a title, and an alias. I am QOH: Queen of Hotness. I am the Hood Pirate, and my alias is Nancy Blackett. I had to jump on the opportunity to make my favorite name from earlier in life official, after all.
After I graduated from high school, I went to a Bible school called Bodenseehof in Germany. Before I went, my dad, who was stationed in Germany for two years when he was in the army, was telling me about his favorite places that he hoped I would see. There's a town called Bad Tolz somewhere in the Black Forrest that he really loved, but with the German accent he used to say the name, it sounded like he was saying "buttholes." I started joking around that I was going to Buttholes and then my siblings and I started calling each other Buttholes. This ended up being the source of my most embarrassing moment, but that is another story altogether. The point here is that I answer without flinching to the name Buttholes.
Before traveling to Germany (and no, I did not go to Bad Tolz), I came to the realization that Katie really fit my personality better than Kate did, so I used my stay in Germany to re-launch my reign as Katie. There were three other Katies at Bodenseehof, and the other Katie Elizabeth was my roommate, but this fact did not deter me. I wanted Katie back. I was not surprised to find a few who insisted on calling me Kate, and one who went with Katelyn. Besides Katelyn, I acquired four new nicknames in the six months at The Bode. My good friend Joy named me Mad Dog because of something involving me doing sit-ups on the floor and her turning the light off and walking by me and me grabbing and biting her leg. I was a crazy eighteen-year-old, what can I say?
Each semester we had new roommates, and my second term room was lovingly called the "Hoochie Room". None of us were actually hoochie-ish in any way, but one Sunday afternoon we were bored and started decorating. I think there was a fort of some sort (besides my bed, which was a bottom bunk and always had blankets hung around it so that I was sleeping in a fort.), and my umbrella ended up hanging upside-down from the ceiling. From each spoke we hung a bra. It was quite amusing, and as with many goofy things in my life, why leave it at something funny for a little while when it could live on in infamy in our memories? I made it into somewhat of a club: we were the Hoochie room, and we each had a Hoochie name. There was even a Hoochie pledge, which we later wrote on a sports bra and strung up in the middle of the "bra mobile". The Hoochie pledge goes as follows: “I pledge allegiance to the bras of Karissa, Katie, Erin and Moni, and to the republic of room 135: one nation of individual hoochies, with orange, white, and many other colored bras. Amen." We saluted the bras when reciting the pledge. I was, of course, Head Hoochie.
On another day in room 135, someone was reading a book where one of the characters played a trick on someone, so our conversation turned to T.P.ing and different tricks and variations. Karissa (Sister Hoochie) said something about potato-ing a yard. When I asked what that was, she explained that one spreads instant mashed potatoes around a front yard, and when the person living there waters their lawn, the instant mashed potatoes start to grow. Without thinking, I asked, "they grow? Into what, potato plants?" I don't have many "blonde" moments, but the ones I have are pretty good. They called me Spud for the rest of the semester. Karissa also called me Katie Butt. She still does, more than ten years later.
Bodenseehof is culturally diverse, with students from many different countries. I became particularly good friends with four girls from Slovakia, who adopted me and named me Katka. We had an International Cultural Evening with presentations from each country represented at the school, and I presented along with the Slovaks. They taught me the Slovak National Anthem and a traditional dance from their country.
A year after I got home from Germany, I was attending the University of Sioux Falls in South Dakota. On my Spring break, I drove to Virginia to visit Joy (the one who named me Mad Dog). I arrived pretty late at night, and most of Joy's family had gone to bed. As Joy's eleven year old brother Jimmy was going upstairs, he told Joy to tell "Katilya" hi for him. The next morning at breakfast, he was acting pretty shy, and we were trying to get him to repeat the name he had given me the night before, but he just wouldn't do it. I started calling him Victor because I knew he thought that name was funny, and before breakfast was over, he called me Katilya again. The name stuck, and Joy's family has called me Katilya ever since.
After just one semester in Sioux Falls, I moved back to Arizona. One night I was at Walmart in the middle of the night and ran into Kelli, an acquaintance from high school. We started hanging out, and were soon inseparable. On Kelli's twentieth birthday, our friend Rachel and we were at my house where I was making her birthday dinner and a cake. Rachel was videotaping us, and made a comment about the fact that I was wearing green and Kelli was wearing red. Using an accent like that of the Ladies' Man from Saturday Night Live, I said, "Uh... Yeth... We are Krithmith (Christmas). That ith our name: Krithmith." Later on that night, we watched the video and cracked up over our new name. Kelli was Krithmith Red, and I was Krithmith Green from then on, although we usually left out the red and green and just called each other Krithmith. Over time, Krithmith was shortened to Krimith, which has now become Krimi. We NEVER call each other by our first names. However, when Kelli refers to me when talking to other people, she calls me Katie. She met me as Kate, but after spending time with my family, it turned into Katie.
My friend Jane and I started calling each other Britney and Christina (like Spears and Aguilera) at some point as a joke and it has stuck. I'm Britney, because Jane is obsessed with Christina. Any time either of those two are in the tabloids, Jane and I will call each other up and talk in valley girl accents about all the trouble “we're” in.
When I was twenty-one, I started working for a preschool. One of the ladies working in the office was my high school small group leader Kristi, who knew me as Kate, so for the two years I worked there, I was once again called Kate. Kristi and I are very much alike, and one day we decided that people with our kind of personality are called Psycho Hose Beasts. Since Kristi is older than I am, she is PHB Number One, and I am PHB Number Two. One day in my work mail box, I found a name tag that said “Number Two”.
Some of the kids in my class could not say my name and called me Tate or Cake instead. To those kids, my friend Megan was "Bacon". Megan and I still call each other Bacon and Cake.
My ridiculous club-making tendencies lead me to form "Mother Country Mafia" at the preschool. My Russian accent is pretty fantastic. Each member of Mother Country Mafia has four elements to their name: the first name must start with the first letter of their real name, one of their middle names has to be either Natasha or Natalia, and the last name must sound Russian. I stole some of my Slovak friends' names and formed my Russian Mafia name, Katka Alena Natasha Povolna: leader of Mother Country Mafia. The mafia got pretty popular, and at one point we had eight members, which was a pretty substantial percentage of our thirty person staff. Kristi had MCM business cards made for each of us, and we never talked to each other without the Russian accents. I quit working at the preschool to move back to California, but MCM is still going strong. Every time I call and talk to any of my girls, the accents and names remain.
After moving back to California when I was twenty-three, I was staying with my sister Amanda one night while she was house sitting for our friend Michelle. We were going to sleep and I said, "Good night, Stephen."
"Yes, that is your name,"
"Okay, Roger." Stephen and Roger were very soon shortened to Stevie and Rojie. Amanda comes up with all sorts of variations of Rojie, the most common being Rojie Rojums and Rojtastic Bombastic, while just Rojums and Rojtastic are also frequently used. I even had Rojie embroidered on my pirate Mickey ears I bought at Disneyland. Before shortening my name to Rojie, Amanda had my name listed as Roger in her phone. She had just started dating the man she would end up marrying, when one day he came over to pick her up for a date and saw a text message on her phone from Roger. The phone was set to automatically show messages as they came in, so he saw that it said, “Did I make you laugh in class?” Not knowing that it was me, he got sort of jealous and asked who Roger was.
My first four and a half years back in California, I worked in an office where maintenance men came and went. When one of them had been there for a while, he asked me my name on a Thursday. The next day he called me Katie, but somehow over the course of the weekend, he changed my name to Stacey. The first time he called me Stacey, I thought he was talking to someone else so I didn't say anything. When I realized that I was Stacey, I didn't want to embarrass him by correcting him. I figured he'd be gone before too long, just like the other maintenance men, so it wouldn't matter if he called me Stacey for a few months. But he stayed. He called me Stacey for about a year and a half before I got laid off in April of 2009. I told all my friends that if they heard him call me Stacey to just go along with it. They did. One day, I wrote something about being called Stacey on my facebook status, and my friend Sarah commented about what people she interacted with over the phone thought her name was. The best one was Frank. I told her about answering the phone when people were calling for Dean, one of the only men in my office. They would ask, "Is this Dean?" I would say, "No, this is Katie. Let me see if I can get Dean for you," while in my head I was saying, "Does this SOUND like a Dean to you?" Sarah and I have called each other Frank and Dean ever since.
While working in that office, I met a girl named Norma, who wanted to call me Ken, which are my initials, and I've always hated when anyone tried to call me Ken. But Norma insisted, and I let her get away with Kenrusky and Kenboobs. But she's the only one allowed to use those names. I met my friend Marques at that office as well. We say that we are twins, and combined our names: Karques.
My friend Rocio and I are obsessed with the musical Wicked. We saw it seven times together, and we call each other "Elphaba" and "Galinda". She's the green one, I'm the blonde one. The last time we saw the show was on Halloween, so I made costumes for us to wear. Several other people were dressed up too, but our costumes were the most elaborate. After every show, we would go to the back doors where the actors would exit so that we could take pictures with our favorite characters. It was fun to get pictures with Elphaba and Galinda while we were dressed like them, and they were very amused at our costumes.
My friend Erin named me Meatball a few years ago, which is fitting, as I have recently started a meatball club. Yes. A meatball club. I know I'm ridiculous.
Most of these nicknames were not just names that were used a few times and then dropped. On any given day, depending on where I am or who I talk to on the phone or online, I can easily be called by ten different names. A lot of them are silly or come from some crazy thing I said or did, but my favorite one is neither silly nor derived in jest. Aunt Katie was recently bestowed upon me at the birth of my cousin Gillian's baby boy, Eli, and then again a year later at the arrival of my sister Amanda's son, Jackson. I'm just waiting for it to come out of the mouths of those two precious boys.