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Back in college, I lived in an apartment that we called the Poo-Poo Palace.  The name came from a friend’s apartment my freshman year.  He admitted as we walked to his place the first time that he lived in a shithole and when he opened the door for me, he said, “welcome to the poo-poohpalace.”  If his place was a shithole, then my apartment was… well… there are not words to end that sentence.

We signed the lease without having actually seen the apartment.  There is a long story to this, but what you need to know is about the actual space.  There were no flat surfaces.  You could put a marble on the floor, and it would keep moving around the room because the floor sagged and buckled strangely.  You also couldn’t stand upright in certain parts of the apartment because it was the top floor and the ceiling sloped.

The furniture was broken.  A favourite trick we had was to set up the cushions on the sofa so it looked as if you could sit down, and when a new person came over and they inevitably chose the couch, they would fall through to the floor.  Hours of laughter.  Really, the only safe place to sit was on top of the refrigerator (the kitchen chairs were a bit risky).  My grandmother used to have a picture up in her apartment of me sitting on top of the refrigerator. (Somehow she never noticed that the kitchen was entirely decorated with condom posters.)  Please remember that I lived in a state that had about 20 tornadoes per year.  This old, rickety house had an storm cellar that could only be reached from the outside a la the Wizard of Oz.

More than the unsound structure of the apartment, it’s really the other inhabitants of this building which makes talking about the poo-poo palace so amusing (for years, it was my go-to story at every party) — but that will be fodder for another post.

For the sake of this post, I want to talk about the name.  Without a name, it was this apartment that made me cry when I first walked through the door.  It was so awful.  With the nickname, it became wonderful in its awfulness.  I mean, yes, I took every opportunity possible to go over to other people’s apartments and hang out there, but I think anyone who knows me from the college years will remember the poo-poo palace fondly.  The dinner parties in the cramped, galley kitchen.  It’s proximity to Espresso Royale.  How many people fell through the sofa.

Photos from our apartment even appeared in The Onion (and yes, one time it was a picture from a sofa incident) — truly, it was a wonder to behold and I almost stayed an extra year there just for the stories.  I didn’t, because I’m not that insane, but almost.

The point, of course, is whether anyone would have wanted to spend time there; if The Onion would have wanted pictures from our apartment on the front page of the newspaper, if we hadn’t all lovingly bestowed this nickname on it.  If it had simply been Melissa’s apartment, would anyone have agreed to meet in my flat?  Or would they have insisted that we go hang out in a building that has flat surfaces and functional furniture?


Josh recently sent me an essay on why nicknames matter.  That it creates a stronger bond within community, that it melds people to one another or to an entity at large.  Did I unconsciously do that when I named my site something kitschy like Stirrup Queens and early on referred to all infertile women as stirrup queens?

More than our community, it made me wonder if I’m unconsciously bonding the twins to me with nicknames so they never let me go.  I don’t think I’ve called them by their given names more than a handful of times.  The nicknames change from sentence to sentence — I have a large pool from which I draw for variation — but for over six years, the moniker rarely includes the names on their birth certificate.

More special than that is that the ChickieNob and I share a nickname, a practice that began while we were waiting for our pizza at a place in Northampton and we both lovingly started calling each other the same name.  She uses it interchangeably with Mommy, though she often also uses the name “Mrs. Ford” because she knows I despise it.


When I was in middle school, the cutest boy at Hebrew school renamed me.  We were dancing together (not by his choice — we were partnered up by the teacher.  I was in Heaven.  He was probably indifferent to bored) and talking to be polite.  He said, “it’s really confusing that there are two Melissas here.  I’m going to call you Mickey.”  I didn’t particularly want to be called Mickey, but you don’t turn down a nickname by a cute boy.  It was proof — like a badge — that he had once paid attention to me; once noticed me.  When other people called me Mickey, it was like they were taking notice of that special status.

I spelled it Mici, just because you have to be different in middle school and choose the weird spelling.  I didn’t find out until many years later that “mici” in Romanian means “small.”  Very fitting since I am little.  So for years, I was called Mici, especially people who knew me even tangentially from the Hebrew School world.  Though even those who called me that then never call me that now.

It’s funny how much I needed people to call me that back then, back when it was important for people to know that the most popular boy in the area (he went to an all-boys school in town and he was one of those boys that every girl at every area school knew) gave me a nickname.  It elevated me.  I mean, realistically, I can look back and say that it didn’t truly change my social status, but it felt like it did a bit.  It gave me more confidence.  I was marked by him and that made me feel special.  It was probably a throwaway moment for him, one that I would be beyond shocked if he remembered (I would doubt that he would even remember me).  But it changed the way I saw myself; the way others saw me.

I’ve had a bunch of nicknames in life that I haven’t loved… by which I mean I actively despised them.  But there is something about being marked, about being chosen, about being renamed that defines you.  That even with the nicknames I haven’t loved being called, I’m always touched to have been called them (with the exception, of course, of the mean ones.  There’s teasing, and then there is needling-to-draw blood.  It’s a fine line, but I like to be on the right side of it).  That I entered someone’s consciousness enough that they used their energy to rename me.

What are some of the nicknames you have owned?  What are some you have given others?


1 MommyInWaiting { 03.29.11 at 8:29 am }

My current work nick-name is Swannie – because I am a real busy body and have to ‘swn-neck’ into everyone else’s conversations. I actually love it. I agree it feels as though people have picked something up about me, not just my name, and renamed me by who I am!

My poor hubby used to be called ‘Doris’, not becuase he looks like a middle aged woman, but a play on his surname (my surname too now).

2 Kristin { 03.29.11 at 8:51 am }

When I was little, my dad called me Pooh Bear.

And, like you, we’ve given our children innumerable nicknames. When my oldest was a baby (even while in utero, we called him Woo-woo because my husband decided the doppler heartbeat sounded like the trains in the old Western movies.

3 Delenn { 03.29.11 at 9:12 am }

For a long time I would pick my son up after daycare/after school care and call him by various nicknames. It was only after he started blanching in embarrasement that I got the hint that I could not call him a nickname in PUBLIC… 🙂

His nicknames included Turkey Turtle, Squishy, and Huggy Bear.

He was the one to give my daughter her nickname of Bean (because she passed gas a lot when she was a baby). So, right now she is W. Bean or Beany Baby.

4 twangy { 03.29.11 at 10:01 am }

My nephew named me Bobby when he was about two. It’s a mix of Bob (as in The Builder) and my (bog-standard, quite dull) given name. It stuck like glue, and I love it. I confer nicknames all the time, (if I think they’ll be accepted). My husband has multiple variations of his nickname – his given name is just not adequate to denote the unique being that he is. I love him for playing along with my lunacy.

5 Heather { 03.29.11 at 10:11 am }

In my real world—I am a Momma, a Schmoo, a Toots, a Heddy (that’s what all my family calls me), and (unfortunately due to the job) Mrs. P.

My BFF in high school drove a beat up old car we named “the Radigan”….(like RAD-again)…it was suddenly THE coolest car on campus! 🙂 I get it. I love it.

6 Kir { 03.29.11 at 10:26 am }

seriously Mel, I was just working on a post about this, are you in my head? Can I still post about my name???
well my nicknames have included, Smiley, Blondie, K KK, Kirst, and of course Kir. I still remember that I was 21 when a new boyfriend called me Kir for the first time , not Kirst, not KK, but Kir and how I thought it was intimate and sexy, that I had grown up. I had never ever thought of myself as “Kir” and I loved it. Haven’t looked back since.
with the boys, I use variations of their names, Jakey, Jacoby, Gig(with the last G sounding like a J…Gigi, with the “i”) and G…I like to take their names and roll thier names around my tongue making them something else, that is something only I call them. I am thier Mommy, you know. 😉

7 JuliaS { 03.29.11 at 10:43 am }

Nicknames? My favorite: Jules – I get called that one a lot. I think the first person to start calling me that was one of my best friends from childhood. Said it reminded her of her favorite author. A few years later I was christened with the nickname “Squid” one year at girl’s camp. I was inordinately proud of that nickname for some reason. Got called “Mac” a lot too – because of my maiden name McCrary. DH used to call me “Squeaker” when we were engaged – but he hasn’t called me that in years. We were watching “All Dogs Go to Heaven” and he said the little girl reminded him of me. (It was the part of the movie where she wouldn’t shut up and go to sleep.) Motor Mouth – yup. Mighty Mouse (also a camp nickname).

“But there is something about being marked, about being chosen, about being renamed that defines you. ”

This part really resonated with me. I haven’t been called by a nickname in a really long time, and it’s been something very bothersome to me. I really miss it – that intimacy of a nickname.

Great post Melissa – neat introspection on something that seems rather innocuous and silly at first, but can really be quite profound.

8 JuliaS { 03.29.11 at 10:44 am }

PS – and I so would have come to visit you at the PooPooPalace – just because it would be a screaming hilariously awful and wonderful time! 🙂

9 Wordgirl { 03.29.11 at 11:21 am }

I love the stories about your apartment!

I am named after my mother –and so as a child in order to clarify which Pam they meant they referred to me with a junior — which then was shortened to PJ — a nickname which followed me throughout my life by family members — with the exception of my brother who pals around with a tony east coast set and so thought it appropriate to shorten it even further to ‘peege’ — which is waspy and weird in his mind and fits in with the Bootsies and the who-evers that so and so knew from summer camp…. that too has, unfortunately stuck — but only with those who’ve known me through my family (read: my oldest friend) — my stepson renamed me with a “y” at the end of my name — the only time, with the exception of a boy I briefly dated in college, that happened. In grad school for a while I was “bam-bam” – which unfortunately rhymed with my given name and was borne out of the illusion I had at the time that I was going to write a book on women’s boxing (don’t ask me.) My student’s called me Ms. K — and my favorite of all is my father — who died when I was five — who called me tiger — in some ways I think it’s only he who understood what I could withstand…(my uncle, for instance, called me kitten — a far different vision of who I was).

A friend from college who happened to grow up eating and loving Spam added an “s” to the beginning of my name — and my husband’s ex-wife — when she still hated me — referred to me as “cooking spray” —

Hmn. What a funny thing to collect all together here…worthy of a post I think!

10 Quiet Dreams { 03.29.11 at 11:25 am }

My family calls me by my initials. Because my middle name starts with a vowel, you can pronounce them like a word. For a while my younger sister called me a variation on my initials (basically putting a -y at the end) and my niece has called me Rasberry, because my initials are the first three letters of that word.

11 Elizabeth { 03.29.11 at 11:55 am }

I think my favorite nickname ever was given me by my husband: Shlebbideppity. Supposedly it’s “Elizabeth” backwards. Have you ever watched “Firefly”? He substitutes in my nickname for the name of the ship: “there’s no place I can be, since I found Shlebbideppity” and it’s really sweet, but I know how embarrassed he is about sentimentality and he’d never say something like that using my real name, it has to be rendered silly with a nickname, and that allows him to say it.

My other favorite nickname (although I hated it at the time) was from my sister: Rubber Blubber Bongo Butt. It’s just fun to say now.

12 Baby Smiling In Back Seat { 03.29.11 at 12:01 pm }

Tamale didn’t have any nicknames until about 4 months old. From day 1 Burrito was called by a nickname that’s a variation of his name but non-obvious enough that people who heard us say it always asked why we called him that — let’s say Burt. One day someone said, “If Burrito is Burt, what do you call Tamale?” And we had to say that even though DH and I never utter each other’s names and never used Burrito’s name, we only called Tamale by her proper name. After that we bestowed her with several nicknames. Most often I now call her something that’s a nickname of a nickname.

A poo-poo palace story: During graduate school, a friend moved into her own poo-poo palace. Another classmate of ours went to visit along with her husband, who happens to be totally blind. When they walked in, the wife said to the husband, “I’ve never said anything like this to you before, but right now you should be really grateful that you’re blind.”

13 HereWeGoAJen { 03.29.11 at 12:31 pm }

I’ve always been Jen instead of Jennifer and it almost bothers me when people who know me non-professionally call me Jennifer. (At work, I was always Jennifer.) My dad has always called me JB for my first name and maiden name and still does, even though I am JG now.

And who would have thought that Elizabeth would have ended up being called Dibits and Cheekies all the time, so much that when I introduce her as Elizabeth, she yells at me.

14 a { 03.29.11 at 12:32 pm }

First, an apartment story: my first apartment search was 16 years ago when I was going to train for my current job. (Before that, I took advantage of my parents and lived at home for half of college and my first few work years. They would have been lonely without me – mom especially, after my dad died. Anyway). I had a dog, so my options were limited and it was a small college town so my budgeted rent allowance was low. One of the places I looked at was this tiny house with orange shag carpeting, a bathroom that appeared to have been made out of a closet and was covered in mildew, and a second “apartment” that appeared to be what was once the back porch and galley kitchen separated from the rest of the place with a thin wooden door and a deadbolt. My friend, who had a cat, also looked at the same place. Now, we can cause each other to get the shudders just by mentioning The Orange Hovel. Fortunately, we found decent housing outside of town with the minor inconvenience of weird neighbors (all nicknamed, of course) and really ugly carpeting.

I’ve only had one real nickname – Aimless – which is a variation of the shortened version of my name. A college neighbor called me that and I don’t really think she knew quite how accurate it was. (I was actually the only one I knew with a major and somewhat formed life plan at the time. Life didn’t quite go the way I intended)

My husband likes to create new nicknames fir everyone. It might be a military thing, as a guy I work with now (also military) does the same thing. That’s why one of our maintenance guys was Sideshow Bob. And the current coworker has named the evidence tech (who used to be a lieutenant at the police agency next door) Ron Burgundy.

15 Mrs. Gamgee { 03.29.11 at 3:14 pm }

I love this post! This part… “It was proof — like a badge — that he had once paid attention to me; once noticed me. When other people called me Mickey, it was like they were taking notice of that special status.” actually made me catch my breath.

When I was in college, the majority of my friends and acqaintences called me by my first initial. My college years were the first time that I ever felt secure in my own skin and happy with who I was. And it was great to have a name that went with that feeling of security.

Recently, a relatively new friend called me by my first initial, just in passing. I was astounded at how being called “T” for the first time in almost 15 years affected me. It was like a wave of acceptance and peace washed over me. It was a wonderful reminder of that time in my life.

16 Sushigirl { 03.29.11 at 3:17 pm }

Er, possibly not very apt for a veggie, but a mici is also a little skinless sausage/meatball type of thing. If you’re a meat eater and in Romania, then it’s very nice with a half litre of Silva or Ursus beer.

I’ve never really had a nickname that stuck. But I call my husband Schnookums sometimes to annoy him!

17 Erica { 03.29.11 at 4:13 pm }

My brother sometimes calls me “E,” and my grandma did as well, but other than that I didn’t have nicknames until I met N. He loves nicknames, and now I have several. I’m not a very demonstrative person, and never would have guessed how sweet those nicknames sound to me now. And you’re right. The nicknames are markers of a special relationship; they’ve changed me, hopefully for the better (I’m more demonstrative now than I used to be, by a long shot).

Lately we’ve been calling my daughter Doot, because that’s what she says to herself sometimes as she’s walking around, “Doot, doot, doot.” Melts my heart into a warm and gooey puddle of happy.

18 Jonelle { 03.29.11 at 4:55 pm }

When I was little a close family friend called me “Jo”. They still call me this to this day. A college friend nicknamed me “Jonellybelly”. My brother when he was little couldn’t say “sister”, so they tried to get him to call me “Sissy” it came out “DeeDee”. He’ll turn 13 next month and he still calls me DeeDee.

I think the only nickname I have given is too my hubby. He is “Bubby”.

19 Christa { 03.29.11 at 4:58 pm }

My current co-workers call me Crispy because of my attitude. And I certainly live up to it…though not in front of customers or my boss of course!

20 lisa { 03.29.11 at 7:25 pm }

I had a college friend we used to call Bubbles, because she loaded up the dishwasher with regular dish soap and flooded the whole kitchen with foam! My husband used to call me Scooter Pie when we were dating (also back to college days). Now we usually just call each other Boo. I never really had nicknames that stuck before then, and I agree, it was kinda fun to take on that new identity as someone worthy of a nickname!

p.s. Jonelle, I have friends who’ve worked in India and Didi (in Tamil, I think?) actually does mean Sister. Apparently it’s a term of endearment that many women call each other.

21 Jackie { 03.29.11 at 7:47 pm }

My best friend and I called each other Homer and Garth when we were kids. We’d gotten chocolate dipped ice cream, and she thought it would be hilarious to smear the chocolate all over our faces and walk around town…apparently, with my chocolate beard, I looked like Homer Simpson. Which was fine with me, because she looked like Garth Brooks.
The same best friend and I also went through a phase of reversing letters and words when we spoke. This led to my older sister being re-named Fennijer, shortened to Fen. It stuck for over a decade.
My only current nickname is from a high school friend who told me I was “one strange cookie.” I told him that if I was a cookie, I had to be a peanut butter one. He has called me Peanut ever since.

22 Sharon { 03.29.11 at 8:45 pm }

I loved your story about the poo-poo palace!

When my sister and I were kids, we had nicknames for each other (the origins of which are now lost in the sands of time). We still use them occasionally, but truth be told, no one has ever given me a nickname since. A few of my friends call me by my surname, primarily because they already knew another Sharon before me.

My mom loves to give other people’s kids nicknames but I don’t remember ever calling us by any. Odd.

My husband and I have a bunch of nicknames for our dogs, Sebastian and Hunter. (Yes, we DINK couples have nothing better to do than dote on our canines, LOL.)

23 Missy { 03.30.11 at 1:01 am }

Like you I am a Melissa, but since birth family and friends have always called me Missy. So much so I don’t even flinch when I hear someone yelling for Melissa. I don’t really think of it as a nickname though. Most of my nicknames have sucked: wart fingers (yes I was a warty child), spanky, pis mis, L B squared (I never knew what that even meant), and amazon. My husband’s friends dubbed me Vag short for ‘vagitarian’. I don’t know where we find these people…

24 Nearlydawn { 03.30.11 at 1:16 am }

Oh, I love having a nickname, but have had few in my life…

Monkey (from Dad)
Ladybug (from Mom)
Buggs (guy in school gave me that, he’d yell it up the stairwell to find out which of the 4 floors I was on)
Pookie (from a long-lost love)
My name paired w/my Grandaddy’s surname (love hearing this one echoed in my memories, it is so strong, I can still hear it so clearly it seems he could be right in the next room)

Oddly enough, each one of those made me feel different as I recounted them, how odd, and nice too.

25 Vee { 03.30.11 at 8:06 am }

I have a few nicknames for Boo, Bubaboo, Chooch, which is a shortened version of Choocharello, I have no idea where it came from I just think it sounds cute :). My nicks are Vitz, Vitzy , Veet & Vee.

26 Esperanza { 03.30.11 at 3:30 pm }

Oh my gosh! I looping this post! Nicknames are a huge part of our family. My sister and I have about 20 variations on two themes: dork and dweeb. We are (interchangeably) dorquish, dweevish, dorquito, Dweevito (autocorrect just capitalized that for me I type it so often!) we call my parents MaDoo and PaDu and they are NaNaDoo and PaPadu to my daughter. I almost only call my partner “nugs” (he would due to know I’m writing that here). My daughter has a hundred nicknames and my cat has thousands. Nicknames are my absolute favorite! Thanks for posting this! I wish I could share them all

27 Esperanza { 03.30.11 at 3:31 pm }

I just want to add that I posted that comment from my iPhone so anything that doesn’t make sense can be chalked up to autocorrect.

28 OroAtWork { 03.30.11 at 3:38 pm }

I have no nicknames, but the Chieftain has a few that we rotate through. Mr Oro has his own nicknames.

And that pizza place wouldn’t be on lower main in Noho would it? Very popular hole-in-the-wall?

29 Barely Sane { 03.30.11 at 7:56 pm }

I just about fell over when I read poo-poo palace because it made me instantly think of a guy from a New Year’s Eve party that earned himself the nickname: Poo-Poo Tom
How did he earn it? Other than the fact that he was a friend of a friend of a friend who tagged along to this party and was a total ASS to everyone during the night, he also saw fit to crawl into a spare bed with the hostess’s BEST FRIEND and proceeded to crap the bed in his drunken stupor. No joke. Sadly, very true.
Thus the nickname, Poo-poo Tom was born. I think that incident was over 10 yrs ago and we still refer to it.
Needless to say, we never saw him again – thankfully!

30 Barely Sane { 03.30.11 at 7:58 pm }

Oh, I totally forgot, my car is refered to as the “Kink-mobile” thanks to a ladies weekend trip.
And I am refered to by my friends as Doug…which relates to a bacon incident. And DH is Magnum, courtesy of an 80’s party a few years back.

31 Mali { 04.01.11 at 12:14 am }

I had a nickname in primary school that I am still too traumatised to repeat. In secondary school my nickname was my surname – but instead of having 2 O’s in it, my so-called friends added FOUR! So it came out as very mocking. My current nickname is amongst a select group and very special to me – but I’m not repeating that either!

32 Brandy { 04.01.11 at 5:09 pm }

I’ve only had a couple of nicknames. The first was what my mom used to call me (and sometimes still does): Beady-Boodle. No idea where she got that. My brothers called me Brandella growing up and I absolutely HATED it. I don’t know why I hated it. Probably because it was my brothers calling me that. One of my brother’s friends nicknamed me Tequila (because my name is Brandy-alcohol-get it?) and I loved it. I was only around 10 at the time, so it wasn’t quite appropriate, but it was an older boy paying ME attention, so it was much like your story.

Other than that, I have had countless people tell me that I’m a “fine girl, what a good wife I would be” when they meet me. Because I’ve never heard that one before.

33 Leah { 04.04.11 at 5:04 pm }

Didn’t we once nickname each other (lovingly, of course) something along the lines of “twat”? I have a vague recollection of that… 🙂 Ah, good times.

My dad used to call me (actually, he still does) Punkin. The rest of my family used to regularly refer to me as “Hey YOU!” Sad, but true.

In middle school, I insisted on calling myself Crystal (not because I’m fond of stripper names, but because it’s a play on my actual middle name). The problem was that I never realized people were talking to ME so I had to drop it.

In high school… and I hesitate to tell you this as you could likely scream it across a crowded bar to me at some point in our futures… I begrudgingly got the nickname of Peah PeeHead. I have no idea where it came from but dammit if it didn’t stick like glue. Luckily I am game for all sorts of torment and shenanigans so I handled it with my usual grace. By that I mean that I kicked the everlovin’ shit out of anyone who called me that.

My daughter is desperately trying to create a nickname for herself. She wants us to call her Ladybug. Which is very cute, but it just hasn’t caught on. It sure beats her absolute insistence on being called Ariel for her entire 3rd year of life. That was a real drag.

We call my son The Menace. I’m guessing we should stop that because at some point (in theory) he will grow out of his horrific menace-like ways (he will, won’t he?) and perhaps then he’ll feel compelled to live up to the nickname. Sort of like a self-fulfilling prophecy.

My Mom’s car used to be called Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and I have to say that it is the most memorable nickname that I can remember throughout my whole life. We seriously thought that piece of shit car could fly and all sorts of other stuff. Was my mother deranged? Quite possibly. Did we enjoy it immensely? Absolutely.

And, for the record, I would have been at your Poo-Poo Palace every chance I got. 🙂

(c) 2006 Melissa S. Ford
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