Yesterday was my grandmother’s 80th birthday. As I scrolled through my phone to find her number so I could call and congratulate her on turning 24, I didn’t look under “G” for grandma or “D” for Donna.
I looked under “H” for Hot Lips.
I can’t say for certain when I began calling her that, but I remember it had something to do with wanting her to feel fun and sassy after her divorce from my grandfather.
The nickname has stuck so powerfully in my mind that I forget most people don’t refer to their grandmothers as Hot Lips. I can’t imagine addressing a piece of mail to her that didn’t include that label (nor can I imagine her mailman’s disappointment if I ever did).
I’ve had a lot of nicknames in my life. For much of my childhood, my father called me Buzzard Snot, or simply “Buzz.”
I pretended to be annoyed, but secretly loved it. It said a lot about the dynamic of our relationship and my father’s unique sense of humor.
In my adult years, I’ve been Tawnanananana, TF, Tawnita, and my personal favorite, TnA. Each of those makes me think fond thoughts about the person who dubbed me that, and I’ve been known to sign email messages with the appropriate (or inappropriate) moniker.
In my third contracted romantic comedy, my main character is named Riesling. Her family owns a vineyard, and the name comes from a variety of grape that produces wines ranging from extremely sweet to bitingly dry.
A bit like the character.
The only person who calls her by her full name is her ex-husband, and he does it to tease and annoy her. To most people, she’s Reese, Reesey, Peanut Butter Cup, or Hot Tits.
You can blame her grandma for that last one.
Each of those nicknames says something about the person who calls her that and the relationship they have with Reese. It was a fun dynamic to explore, and one of those subtle ways to “show” characterization instead of “telling.”
Do you have a nickname you’re willing to share? Do you tend to use nicknames in your writing? If so, do they serve a purpose in characterization, or are they just for fun? Please share!
And let me know which name you’d like me to use if we ever meet up at a book signing. I'll be practicing the "Buzzard Snot" signature, just in case.