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Weymouth Grammar School 197378-80: Nicknames

Note: this article is not intended to cause anyone offence: it's just a recollection on what things were like in the WGS jungle...

Nicknames are a peculiar thing: they are often devised by others (people rarely nickname themselves; a famous exception was when footballer Paul Ince allegedly tried - and failed - to get his team-mates to refer to him as "The Guvnor" whilst at Manchester United) as a sign of familiarity and affection for someone, but just as likely invented as a means of ridicule or belittlement (particularly by cruel adolescents). When at school, I recall quite a few people in our year having nicknames - I was going to list all those that I remembered for posterity (along with given names), but then thought it better to keep things anonymous, not only so those concerned may avoid the possibility of once again picking up a hated nickname they thought they had shrugged-off years ago, but also as I realised that some of the rather more uncomplimentary ones may have not actually been known to the unfortunate incumbent at the time.

Of those that were "in the open" so to speak, most fell into the following fairly predictable categories: corruption of surnames ("Spud", "Cozz", "Woody", etc); having famous namesakes ("Syd", "Jimi"); resemblance to someone or something ("Olly"). An example perhaps more particular to our environment was those becoming known after their initials, as embossed on those dreadful briefcases we had to cart about in the early days ("Pad", "Iech").

Of the more unusual nicknames, some were perhaps unsurprisingly disparaging: apparently one kid was bestowed the rather unfortunate soubriquet "Bogey" because one was hanging off his nose on the first day at school, and another likely got lumbered with the epithet "Weed" due to his less-than-robust physical state and manner - despite their uncomplimentary nature, both seemed to bear these names with good grace (or at least stoic acceptance) throughout their schooldays (according to a classmate Bogey revelled in his, and even insisted on being addressed that by the teachers rather than his given name - perhaps he thought it had something to do with that icon of cool Humphrey Bogart?). Another was dubbed with the perhaps less-than-flattering nickname "Larry Lamb", probably due to his curly locks resembling lambs' wool. He always seemed at ease with it, but events indicated that may not have been the case - who knows? I myself attracted an unwanted and rather demeaning nickname for a while, that fortunately whilst never became known to all and sundry like the above, still bothered me enough to have a detrimental effect on my behaviour whilst at school. However, whatever their intent, some nicknames remained a mystery (to myself if no-one else) - "Perro" may simply have been so-named because of his surname, but perhaps for other more mischievous reasons. And as for "Ted", whilst I don't think it was derogatory, it completely foxed me.

Perhaps the most memorable nickname actually belonged to a girl (inevitably, most were given to boys): a group of kids in one form were for some bizarre reason given the names of characters in the Fred Flintstone cartoon by one of their teachers. I am still yet to know who "Barney" and "Betty" (if anyone) were, but it was only years after we left school that I heard that this was the reason one particular kid was known as "Fred" in some quarters. And of course the girl in question became known to one and all as "Wilma"  - I suspect that most people outside her class thought it was her given name, or at least had no idea what her real name was (myself, certainly)... I wonder if she's still known as Wilma to her friends and acquaintances today?

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