B.R.A.T.S. Tags - The Names We Go By
All of us who grew up in military families share a nickname ... BRAT. If we called each other by only that, it would get pretty confusing to determine who we were speaking about. Fortunately, our parents chose birth names for us, giving us ways to be distinguished. Regrettably, those names don't always suit how others see us and we end up getting tagged with nicknames.
Sometimes those nicknames stick with us, often replacing our birth names. Sometimes we like the nicknames, sometimes, not so much. I want to talk about ones I have carried.
As most of you know, my birth name is Terry (not Terrence). As names go, it's not a bad name but I was never overly fond of it. I've grown to like it more in my later years than I did in my youth. I always felt it was a unisex name, rather than a true, boy name. Growing up with five brothers, I took some teasing in this regard. I was able to give it back as well as I got it since four of my brothers also carried unisex monikers (Robin, Paul, Dale and Tony). Only my oldest brother, Mark, had what I felt was a true boy name. I think the rest of us got the names we did because our parents were always hoping for a daughter. They were denied.
When I was just a baby, before I was at a state where I can remember, Mom started calling me Terry Tiger, which she shortened to Tiger and finally Tag. As I grew a bit older, to the point where I could respond to it, I didn't mind being called Tag or Tiger. It always carried with it positive vibes, unlike TERRY!, which could mean something good was following or some scolding, or Terry Robert, which generally ended in a scolding.
Then my youngest brother Tony was born. This carried some confusion for me since the Frosted Flakes mascot was Tony the Tiger, it seemed my nickname was improperly anchored to Terry. I wonder if all kids think like this. Mom continued to, periodically, call me Tiger or Tag but no one else picked up on that.
Through the school years, I was just referred to as Terry, or Ter (pronounced Tare, not Teer) but mostly it was just plain old Terry. In high school it was sometimes Groves, or That Groves Guy. For a brief period, some of my friends called me Groovy Groves, or just Groovy but that didn't really catch on...thank groovy goodness. Mom continued to sometimes call me Tag or Tiger.
I didn't mind Mom calling me Tiger or Tag, she's my mom and I love her a lot. When it was her saying it, I was reminded of positive things. I was never Tiger when I was in trouble. I wasn't crazy about anyone else calling me that, including my brothers, because it was kind of derogatory in my mind, since sleeze-ball men in bars tended to be referred to as 'Tiger' by the morally-questionable women in bars on TV shows. as in, "Hey there Tiger, lonely?"
I worked during high school for a Greek man named Bobby (another nickname since his Greek birth name was long and difficult to pronounce) who called me Terry but, as he had retained a heavy accent, it came out Teddy. It is important to remember this as it will come up again later. I liked Bobby and didn't mind this small twist on my name.
When I joined the military, it was mostly Groves that I was referred to, or my rank as is so typical with the military. During recruit training, someone saddled me with Colonel Klink, after the tall gangly character in the TV show Hogan's Heroes. I'm not really certain why they thought that was appropriate for 6'3", 150 lb me. More groovy goodness, that name didn't stick.
When Sesame Street became popular, I was occasionally referred to as Grover, as were all my brothers, but again, it never really stuck. Pretty much everyone still called me just plain old Terry.
For many years, I just became known as Terry again. By this time I had grown warm to that name, having identified with many Terry's in society and history whom I admired. Then I married Eileen.
During some piece of small talk, I mentioned that Mom sometimes called me Tiger. That comment opened a floodgate. Although she never calls me Tiger or Tag, she sure filled my world with tigers. She bought me every sort of tiger or tiger patterned object. I got to know that whatever present or card I was opening, it would contain something tiger, was often wrapped in something tiger.
Also about this same time, I was posted to my high school town and I took Eileen to the restaurant where I had worked to introduce her to Bobby. When I walked into the restaurant, Bobby flew out of his chair and ran to me with his arms open, calling "Teddy, Teddy, my best boy." While the fact that he remembered me so fondly after almost twenty years, warmed my heart, Eileen latched onto the moniker and it sticks today, twenty years later. She named our current dog Teddy, so there is confusion around the house when the name rings out.
So, I continue to be called Terry by most, Tag or Tiger by my mother, and Teddy (sometimes) by my wife. In many of my online associations, I have adopted the name, Tigerbyte, as a nod to my mother but also because I have such a keen interest in all things computer (the byte part). I sometimes identify myself as an author using some form of tiger, such as my Facebook page Down the Tiger's Throat. I answer to all of them.
That is the history of my name and nicknames. Now I am curious about yours. If you are comfortable, please share your thoughts on nicknames you've been adorned, or saddled with and how/why you love/abhor them. Thanks for reading this post.
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My personal website: www.terrygroves.com
Listen for my stories on the podcast site, https://militaryfamilymuseum.podbean.com/ Brat Time Stories
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