Sunday, July 18, 2010

Reflection from a Sunday: Literary License, A Southern Tradition

The old bible: The keeper of family lineages
Me: "Sir what does the 'J R' stand for in your name?"

JR: "It stands for J R."

Me: "No, I mean what's your real name."

JR: "It's J R."

Me: "Like on your birth certificate?"

JR: "I ain't never seen my birth certificate. Matter of fact, I ain't sure I even have one. But that is the name my mama and my daddy wrote in the front of the bible when I was born."

*Note: Back in the day (and probably still) folks used to keep track of lineage by scrawling down births and deaths in the front of the family bible. Many of my Grady patients, especially those in rural areas, weren't born in hospitals and never received birth certificates.

J R. That was his "God-given name." Not J R, short for John Ramsey or James Robert. Just J R, short for. . .well. . .J R. Just another one of those random things I love about working at Grady and the south in general. Like, what exactly went down in the moment when he was named? Somebody said, "Let's name him J R!" and somebody else said, "Jasper Ralph?" and somebody else said, "Naw, just J R." And that was the end of it. (Picture me looking so, so amused as I type this.) Aaaaah. . . . there is something about the deep south that gave folks such literary license when naming their children back in the day. King David, Queen Esther. . . .of course, the daughters named for fathers like "Charlesetta, Henrietta, and Lou-ella". . . oh and my favorite-- the middle initial that doesn't stand for anything in particular. . . just a letter and nothing else . . .awesome.

Okay, before you accuse me of making fun of my patients, I can assure you that I am not. As a matter of fact, I would be a hypocrite to do any such thing. And to help you understand just what I mean by this-- and to explain why I'm so. . .uh. . . creative--I'll share with you a piece of my own family history that, I promise you, is 100% true.

The Draper Family

Manning is my married name; in fact, when I first started working at Grady Hospital, my name was still "Dr. Draper." Anyways, my father's name is William Ralph Draper--but everyone calls him "Tony." Why? Because at some point in his life, somebody looked at him and thought he looked more like a "Tony" than a "William." Yep. Now my brother and all of my brother's friends mutated Tony into their affectionate nickname for him: "T-Tone." As a matter of fact, the name "T-Tone" has even evolved into a verb that is used to describe any tirade where someone gets torn a new you-know-what. We call it "pulling a T-Tone." (Dad used to be pretty feisty back in the day. . .what can I say?)

For example:

"I was in Kroger and the cashier lady threw my change at me and rolled her eyes! It was crazy!"

"Whaaaat? Then what happened?"

"I called the manager but she was lucky since I was two beats away from pulling a T-Tone up in there."

Although I have been pushed into "pulling a T-Tone" on a few folks in my lifetime, I don't call my dad by that name. I call my dad "Poopdeck." For me, it went from Daddy to Pops to Poppy to Pappy to Pappy Poopdeck (like Popeye's dad) and now just Poopdeck. Might sound crazy to you, but understand--this is what my family does. We butcher names until they are minced meat and unrecognizable--but as an act of love.

Friend: "Hey Kim, why does your sister call you 'Mizzolini?' "

Me: "She used to call me K.D. and then she changed it when I got married to K.M. but then she changed it to K-Mizzle (as in fo' shizzle) and then that just became Mizzle. It kind of goes back and forth between Mizzle, Miz, and Mizzolini."

Friend: "Uuhhhhh, yeah okay."

My mother's name is Cheryl. But her nickname growing up was "Sugar." So a lot of people call her "Shug" or "Shugsie" (or as my younger sister calls her "Boog-sie." Sigh.) I don't call her that, though. One day, I randomly started calling my mom "Toonces" (as in Toonces the driving cat from SNL.) I think it was because we were riding in the car and she was gripping the steering wheel like Toonces one day, which amused me. I have called her Toonces ever since, and when she calls me, she even says, "Hey, it's Toonces." Funny.

Poopdeck (Dad) is one of 11 kids, just about all of whom were born in their house (told you that was true.) His father, my late grandfather, was known to everyone as "Pipes." My father's eldest brother could not properly pronounce the word "papa" so he said "pipe-a." Pipe-a became "Pipes" and stuck. The real country folk say "Pipe" even though they think they are saying "Pipes." (Just an observation.) My maternal grandmother was called "Mudear" by everyone, short for "mother dear." Not really unusual for rural Alabama or the south in general. But that's where the not-really-unusual ends. . . .

The Draper Saga continues. . . .

Back to dad's eldest brother. His real name, written in the front of the bible, was Ponce de Leon Draper. Yep. Ponce de Leon. Like the dude who discovered the fountain of youth. Yep. Like that main thoroughfare in Midtown Atlanta. Oh, and the eldest sister's name was Mattie Henry Draper. Family legend has it that it was originally "Matt Henry" but somehow that became "Mattie." And that middle name? Um, yeah. . .you read that right. Henry. Why? Well for starters, Pipes middle name was Henry. And he just sort of thought Mattie Henry was a pretty name. Nice.

The Edsel Ford

Another son came along that Pipes and Mudear named, sigh, Edsel Ford Draper. Yep. Like the car pictured above. My Uncle Edsel Ford later legally changed his name to Edward Ford. But that doesn't really matter considering no one in our family ever called him either of those names. Most folks knew him as "Chief" or "Wolf." Why? I'm not sure. I mean, it's not like he looked like a Chief or a Wolf nor did he have the personality of either of those things either. In fact, he was the most incredibly gentle, easygoing and sweet-spirited man ever. Uncle Chief was one of my most favorite uncles. Isaiah was born on his birthday, but I didn't have the heart to name the kid "Edsel." (Sorry, Uncle Chief.)

It gets better. Another brother was named Hiawatha Draper. Oh yeah, no typo, Hiawatha. As in Hiawatha, the founder of the Iroquois Nation. Sigh. No middle name, thank goodness. Guess my grandparents felt that "Hiawatha" was enough for the poor kid. The family all calls him "Skeeter" since he used to be skinny like a . . well. . .mo-skeeter. But the rest of the world? Oh yeah, baby, they call him by his sho' nuff and bonified name: HIA-WATHA. And the best thing about him is that he totally owns the name and has somehow made it cool. Talk about bad ass.

Isaiah and Uncle Hiawatha a.k.a. Uncle Skeeter

Hungry for more of my lineage? You shall be fed! How about my dad's younger brother who's sho' nuff, front of the bible name is . . .wait for it. . .wait for it. . . .Woodrow Wilson Draper. Woo hoo!! Is that awesome or what? There's also Eula Bernice, who everyone calls "Renee." Why? I don't know. (Hell, why not?) Oh yeah, and I almost forgot-- Billie Joan Draper, who we all knew as "Auntie Tina." Maybe she looked more like a Tina? You got me.

More funny Draper Family factoids. . . .

I am perpetually amused by the fact that my dad was the fourth son, yet his dad decided that after naming the first three boys Ponce de Leon, Hiawatha and Edsel, that he'd name the fourth one William--after himself. How random is that? Well, if you believe like me that nothing is ever really random you'd have to just accept that, just maybe, there was some method to Pipes' madness when he divvied out all those whoppers. Ponce de Leon? Edsel Ford? Woodrow Wilson? Really Granddad? Really? (Oh yeah, and in case you wondered-- no matter what anyone says, I will always believe that the only reason dad didn't get Pipes' full moniker William Henry Draper was because the name Henry had already been taken--by his sister.)


And so the moral of this is simple: names around Grady and down south can mean everything or absolutely nothing. Some are on birth certificates or just written in the spines of old family bibles. The good news is that in these parts if you do get a name that you don't like--don't worry. The chances that anyone will actually call you by it are pretty slim. :)

P.S. If for some reason I call you anything other than your name, now you know to charge it to heredity and not my heart.

the Moo-Mooskis

With love,

The mother of Isaiah (aka Zay Zay aka Poops aka Poopy Santana aka Sunshine Boy) and Zachary (aka Zachariah aka Zacharoony Positoony aka Zack Attack aka Pooda aka The Great Poodowski aka Toogie aka Zachy Poo). . . .both of whom are collectively known as Thing 1 and Thing 2 aka The Cocopugs aka Los Chimichangos aka Mommy's Moo-Moos aka The Moo-Moos aka The Moo-Mooskis. . . .

Any funny names in your family?


  1. Been catching up on the Dad calls me "slug" (I used to get up at 5AM to watch least I was lazy with a purpose) and my brother "mudfish" (because he should have been born a fish)

  2. Okay, so Uncle Chief was named after Henry Ford's brother "Edsel Ford", not the car...then again, the car was named after the brother, so...maybe that's moot.

    I asked Mudear about Daddy being named William, she said that Pipes said, "Imma name this one after me, because he's going to be my MIDDLE CHILD." UM...he was the 7th Draper Kid!! I asked if she replied, "fill-in-expletive, are you crazy??" But of course she didn't because she wasn't one to cuss, AND she had 4 more kids after Daddy!! Mudear was a SOLDIER!!

    And can't believe you forgot Uncle Skeeter's son, ROMYANDANA DRAPER... And of course our cousin Rome named his son ROMYANDANA JR!!

    Signed "The Midget from Tokyo", also known as "Plinko"...

  3. LOL! Love this post! I am the queen of the nicknames, so I laughed all the way through this!
    Daddy = Scoopy
    Mommy = Boogsie (which came from Sugar, Shug, Shugah-Boogah... Boogsie!)
    Will = I still call him Willy Dee
    Deanna = Skleeana... not sure why, but I say it every time I talk to her on the phone
    Kimberly = of course, Mizzle, Miz, Missolini...

    JoLai aka Spunky, Spunky Onions, Pookey, Scoop Dog, Jojee, Josie, Bumble Bee, Busy Bee, Bizzle, Biz... and I think of my my favorite random nicknames: Fred.
    In college, my roommate, Marisa, noticed that I wiggled my toes a lot. She started calling me Fred, as in Fred "Twinkletoes" Flintstone (remember when Fred would go bowling & tiptoe as he bowled?) Yep, she's been calling me Fred for nearly 20 years because of that. LOL!


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