Reader write-in: What's in a (nick)name?

Puff-ed up with love By Theresa Taraldsen My father, Jerry Walczynski of Duluth, has a nickname for everyone he loves. His nickname is "Walleye" and the grandchildren call him "Grandpa Walleye." He got his nickname because when he was young, grow...

Puff-ed up with love

By Theresa Taraldsen

My father, Jerry Walczynski of Duluth, has a nickname for everyone he loves.  His nickname is "Walleye" and the grandchildren call him "Grandpa Walleye." He got his nickname because when he was young, growing up at Island Lake, he spent all his free time fishing for walleyes.

The nickname he gave me is Puff because he said I was like a little puff when I was born. When I grew up and became a computer nerd, he upgraded my nickname to

He called my brother, Bret, Shnoodick (it means "string" in Polish) because he ate so much as a kid but was thin like a string bean. My sister Tami he named Wilt after Wilt Chamberlain because she has always been tall and has very long legs.  My sister Dena he called Squirt because, as he stated, "She was just a little squirt" (and the youngest). He never called us by our real names growing up and still only calls us by our nicknames.  Once we had our nickname, we knew we were special.


Now grown, we have our own children and each one has a special nickname. He didn't pick their nicknames right away.  He waited to see what traits stood out.  His grandchildren are known as: Bud, Toots, Scooter, Sweetpea, O-Man, Foobear and 'Tunia. Each nickname fits them and is very special.

Taraldsen lives in Duluth.

That's Ms. Magoo to you

By Laurie Burg

My daddy (Ed Burg) named me Magoo when I started to walk because I ran into everything -- walls, tables, etc. "Mr. Magoo" was a hot comic back then, and there also was a mongoose named that at the zoo (Magookergumba was the long version).  To this day, my dad still calls me Magoo and I'm 54 years old.

Burg lives in Duluth. Her father is from Duluth and lives in Ely.

Physical traits

By Dan Mattfield


When my son began to crawl on the carpet, I started calling him the Rugster. My daughter had a round face at birth and I dubbed her Punxatawny.

Mattfield lives in Grand Rapids.

Evolution of a name

By Stacy Barnes

My husband, Jeff, is the king of nicknames. He has a nickname for everyone in our family, from our son to our baby on the way to our pets. Even his mother-in-law has a nickname.

Jeff's nickname for our 3-year-old son, Thomas, currently is Witz.  I say currently because his nicknames seem to evolve and change. Thomas started out with Bucksnort on the day he was born. In his short three years it has changed from Boy to Poika to Littlest One to Dwitz to Wititz to Witz. 

It's quite funny when we are in a store and Jeff says, "Witz don't touch that." We definitely get some funny looks when onlookers hear that name. The funniest part about it is that our son's name is Thomas and through all of his nicknames, his father has never called him Tom, the easiest nickname of them all.

Our baby on the way already has the nickname of Ram Rod or Littlest Littlest One.  I am sure that this new baby will have his own special nickname on the day he is born.


Barnes is from Cloquet.

Popsicle madness

By Mike Kapalin

I nicknamed my third child and only daughter Animal. Sara was a blond moppet who was so cushy and snuggly that on the soft scale she was somewhere between a new puppy and a stuffed toy bear.

One day, I had paperwork to attend to. I left Animal with a PB & J sandwich and a glass of milk at the lunch table. I told her that when she was done, she could have half of a Popsicle and eat it out on the front steps. I told her not to share the box of Popsicles with the rest of the neighborhood (who practically lived in our front yard) because we didn't have enough to share.

Five minutes later I returned to the kitchen. There was a sandwich with a few bites gone and a half a glass of milk on the table. A chair was pushed up to the refrigerator. The freezer door was wide open and waves of cold air spewed forth. Animal and the box of Popsicles were gone. I ran to the front door. Animal was in the driveway of the house across the street handing out Popsicles. I ran over and spun her around to face me.

"What are you doing?" I asked. "I thought you were kidding," she said. I didn't know whether to spank her butt or pick her up and hug her. I did both! A little of the first, a lot of the second.

Kapalin lives in Superior.


Bunny Girl

By Rachelle Davis

When my sister (Kalysta Davis) was a baby, she used to lie on her side with one arm propping up her head and the other on her hip in classic Playboy-bunny style. Our dad (Aaron Davis of Duluth) started calling her Bunny Jean (her middle name) or the Bunny Girl.

She grew up loving bunnies and she is in high school now and has had a bunny for four years.

Davis lives in Duluth.

Nickname's background a little fuzzy

By Lacie Porter

For as long as I can remember, my dad (Chuck Porter of Barnum) has called me Booger almost exclusively. I've heard a couple of different stories. In one story, he claims he got it from the movie "Revenge of the Nerds" after the little guy who picked his nose all the time. The other story claims I was just a nose-picker, I guess.


He came up with it when I was little and it has stuck ever since. My sister still calls me Booger in public and I often get strange looks. In my teenage years I might have been embarrassed, but truthfully I don't even notice anymore. Lacie, Booger -- they both sound the same to me! Thanks Dad, for the association of my name with a not-so-appetizing bodily component.

Porter lives in Superior.

Unflattering, but obvious, nicknames

By Julie Porter

My sister, Kara Raymond, and I were born 13 months apart. While growing up, our dad (Bud Robillard of Duluth) gave us not-so-flattering nicknames. Kara is Crab and I am Pooper. No further explanation is needed.

When we gather for family occasions, we are asked "Are you Crab or Pooper?" I am certain that some relatives do not know our real names.

Our dad has passed on, but the nicknames have been going strong for more than 40 years. To this day, Kara and I are best friends (until she reads this). Whenever you see Crab, Pooper isn't far behind.

Porter lives in Hermantown.


Some good carbs

By Sarah Engebretson

My father (Andrew Engebretson of Balsam Lake, Wis.) nicknamed me Noodle when I was little. He got the nickname from "Little Putt-Putt," a children's book written by Francis Kirn about some kids and their little boat. There was a character in the story named Noodle and he thought it was cute, so gave me that nickname. He nicknamed my younger sister, Margaret, Dumpling and collectively we're known as the Carbohydrate Sisters.

Engebretson lives in Duluth.

Soft skin

By Kristin Wick

When I was born, my father (Dale Wick of Duluth) nicknamed me Fur Fawn because my skin was as soft as a baby fawn, and for the patch of baby fuzz on my lower back. He still calls me Fur Fawn to this day and I'm almost 30!

Wick lives in Duluth.

Feisty bobcat

By Molly Bergum

Everybody calls me Molly except for one person, my dad (Kent Bergum). You might think that what my dad calls me is the weirdest nickname ever for the name Molly -- Bob. My dad calls me Bob. Bob is short for Bobcat. It all started when I was 6 (now I'm 9) and I fought with my brother all the time. He said I fought like a bobcat. He said that I was feisty and persistent. The nickname just stuck.

Bergum lives in South Range, Wis.

Magical connotations

By Jennifer Svatos

At our house, our 2-year-old son, Nolan, is sometimes referred to as Nolini, as in the Great Nolini, thanks to my husband Steve's play on the Great Houdini. Steve first used this when Nolan was just a few weeks old, while cuddling him on the couch, and it stuck.

The Svatos family lives in Virginia.

Bedtime ritual brings nickname to light

By Amanda Bach

When I was a little girl my dad (William Bach of South Range, Wis.) called me Bug.  It stemmed from our nightly ritual of saying "sleep tight, don't let the bedbugs bite -- especially the big bugs!" It ended with him saying "bink" when he turned out the light.

My family nickname is now Nan, courtesy of my sister being unable to pronounce my name, but once a year on my birthday I look forward to getting a card from my dad that has my name on it, Bug.  I'm just glad his first nickname for me, Poopers, didn't stick.

Bach lives in Superior.

Early 'adventures' feature boys

By John Gustafson

When my boys were young, I spent time making up stories for them at bedtime, naptime and around the campfire. The stories revolved around the adventures of the brothers Olas and Xander. They were mysteries, adventures and monster stories.

A favorite story that had multiple variations was "The Marshmallow Monster of Nine Mile Lake." My sons' running commentary, ideas and questions led the stories in unpredictably silly and fun directions. Needless to say, the stories were not productive in getting the boys to fall asleep quickly. In time the boys realized that the names of the adventure brothers were their own.

Nicholas and Alexander are young men now. They are both in the Army (10th Mountain and 101st Airborne) and have had their own "adventures" in Iraq and Afghanistan. Their Army buddies have nicknamed them Gus and Cheese. I still go by Olas and Xander and wish that their adventures could still be silly and safe.

Gustafson lives in Duluth.

'Forgetful' dad has long list of names for kids

By Jody Dobosenski and Amanda and Dave Lepisto

Our father, Gary Lepisto of Duluth, often pretended not to remember our names. He'd say, "These are my children Jody, Amanda and what was your name again?" or "Hey you, I can't remember your name, come here." Toivo, Guido, Eino, Chico and Gretchen are just some of the names he uses. It doesn't matter if you are family, friend or an athlete he coaches, no one is safe.

These terms of endearment are just some of the things that makes our father the best one out there. Even though he would pretend to be forgetful, he instilled in us the gift of being silly and having fun.

The Lepistos and Dobosenski live in Duluth.

Most grow out of nicknames

By Rebecca Johnson

My dad (the late Albert Wippler of Little Falls, Minn.) came from a family of 12 children. He and one brother were the only two with blond hair and blue eyes. The rest all had dark hair and brown eyes. His family called him Swede.

My dad had nicknames for four out of his seven children. As far as anyone could remember, my older brother and sister, as well as my baby sister were spared any nicknames. No one knows why.

The third in the birth order was my sister Jeannie. She was called Trinkets because she was a tiny little thing. Next came my sister Donna. Her nickname was Chubber for all those cute little rolls of pudge. Then there was me. I was called Gooffus because I did goofy things to make him laugh. Last, my younger brother Steven was called Banana Nose. I think he must have grown into his nose, as it's not that big.

I think we all outgrew our nicknames except me. I work at an assisted-living facility and every time I work I make "my people" laugh. Dad, you called it right. 

Johnson lives in Proctor.

Different, but special

By Donna Horngren

My nickname, Emsley, came about when I was 3 or 4 years old when my mother began taking dance lessons in Duluth from an instructor named Donna Rae Emsley. My parents became good friends of hers. Somehow her last name became my nickname via my dad (Donald Kohlts of Duluth) and he has called me that ever since. While it may not be as endearing as many nicknames might be, it sure has made a special bond between Dad and me.

Horngren lives in Duluth.

Croatian cutie pie

By Kathie Gregorich

My grandmother immigrated from Croatia in the early 1900s. She always called me Chookie, which means "cutie pie" in Croatian.

 My father, George Gregorich of Duluth, has rarely called me by my first name. It has always been Chookie. I love that name and I will carry it with me forever.

Gregorich is from Duluth and lives in The Villages, Fla.

Nicknames all around

By Jill Bianchet

My dad (Patrick Bianchet of Duluth) had nicknames for most everyone in my family.

He and my mom met when she was a new nurse at St. Luke's in the early 1950s, and back then nurses were addressed by their last names. My dad rarely called my mom by her first name -- it was either Wivell or Wiv, which was her maiden name.

Being a typical teenager in the 1970s, I liked sleeping late and just showing up. My dad nicknamed me the Queen for my late-morning appearances.

He called my brother Henry (his real name is Michael). I never knew why. My sister was Jods (her name is Jody). My niece is named Sarah but he would call her Sarah-Beara.

This is our fifth Father's Day without him and we miss him on this day.

Bianchet lives in Duluth.

Pieces of a name

By David Aubid

On their birth days, 21, 19 and 17 years ago, my wife, Candi, and I gave our three children official American culture names. These names are Ojibwe language words.

Michaa means "something big" and his nickname is Mitch. Wendaanimak means "where the wind is coming from" and his nickname is Wayne. AAnakwadoons means "little cloud" and her nicknames are AAna or AAnii (Ah-nee). The Ojibwe language pronunciations are mih-chah, wayne-dah-nih-muck and ah-na-kwa-doonce, so the nicknames are the beginning sounds for their (Ojibwe language) American culture official names.

Aubid, who is known as Niib, lives on Mille Lacs Reservation near McGregor.

Dads know best

By Greta Worley

I think dads are the best at giving nicknames because they always know what's best. My dad (David Worley of Duluth) gave me the nickname Bunny because when I was little I would never stop jumping around. Not even for two seconds. I acted sort of like a bunny.  Now my nickname is totally Bunny. I love my nickname!

Greta, 7, lives in Duluth.

Still sliming, but not as much

By Casey Strom

When I was little, my dad (Rick Strom of Duluth) and I used to watch a TV show named after the movie "Ghostbusters." There was a character on it named Slimer, who was a mischievous little guy who was actually made out of slime and "slimed" everything and everyone he touched. My dad and I sat together and he got "slimed" by me -- with food, juice or whatever I ate or spilled. That's why he calls me Slimer to this day.

I was very interactive with my food when I was young -- I got it everywhere and on everyone. I have long since outgrown "sliming," but the nickname still sticks. When my family came to see me at my basic training graduation from the U.S. Navy in Great Lakes, Ill., I got pizza on my white Navy uniform, which sent us on a hurried grocery store trip to get stain remover or else I wouldn't pass Navy inspection.

Strom serves in the U.S. Navy and is based in Norfolk, Va.

Just a bear in the morning

By Jamie Parrott

My father is Randy Parrott of Duluth and he is the best man in the world. He raised me and my older sister for 16 years by himself. He did everything he had to do to just get by. He always made sure that my sister and I were happy.

He has always called me Baby Bear because every morning when I was a child I would come downstairs with my blanket and crawl into his lap and watch cartoons. He said that no one could talk to me for at least a half-hour or so because I was like a baby bear.

If my sister bothered me or he tried to move me I would kind of make a grunting noise like a bear. I was not a morning person, in other words. I would just curl up in his lap and take my time to fully wake up. I also have Baby Bear tattooed on my lower back. I have always wanted to make my father proud, and that's why I joined the Army. He is truly my idol and I believe he should be recognized for everything he has done for my sister and me.

Parrott is a U.S. Army soldier stationed in Germany.

Nicknames cover all occasions

By Leslie A. Peterson

My daddy, Willard E. Peterson, had a number of nicknames for me, the most endearing being Princess and Sweetheart. However, he also called me Snicklebritches (heaven only knows why) and Legs because I had long legs and could reach things.

There were two more -- Sunshine because he said I brightened his day. And Snooks because I was a fan of Fanny Brice and would sit by the radio and listen intently to the comedy sketch "Baby Snooks." He was a wonderful dad and a man to be emulated.

Peterson lives in Duluth.

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