I have a long and tragic history of nicknames. In elementary school I had a number of teasing nicknames, most of which were based on my red hair and/or freckles. None of them are really worth reproducing here. In middle school, I became tall and fat, giving rise to the nickname "Big Red," which had unusual sticking power. In fact, I remember being called "Big Red" intermittently well into high school, despite the fact that I lost weight and became less tall with respect to my classmates (somehow "Medium Red" doesn't have much allure to it).

In college, thanks mainly to Tyler and his undue influence on the editorial staff of the Heuristic Squelch, people started calling me by my last name. You may scoff at my assertion that this is a nickname, since it's my actual name, but think about it. How many people get called by their last name outside gym class and the military? The answer is very few. As such, when someone is commonly called by their last name, I think that qualifies as a nickname. This was the first nickname that I actually approved of in earnest, for three reasons. First, it finally allowed me to escape the fact that 60% of males born in 1978 are named Matt.* Second, my last name means something really cool in Gaelic, something I discovered in high school. Third, despite the fact that Tyler probably began referring to me by my family name as a form of affected disdain, for once it was a nickname that had nothing to do with my physical appearance.

In law school, I narrowly avoided being tarred with the nickname "Hot Lips," a handle which is objectionable on far too many levels to get into here. I dodged that bullet by insisting that my official nickname would in fact be "H-Bomb." Nobody agreed to call me "H-Bomb," but anyone who tried to call me Hot Lips got an earful about the propriety of "H-Bomb." So the two cancelled each other out, and most people stuck with my last name.

Now, as I'm embarking on my professional career, it's time for a new nickname. Fortunately, I've found one. It has nothing to do with my name, my hair, or my skin. It is based, rather, on my abysmal neophyte golfing abilities. It came to me last weekend as I quadruple-bogeyed yet another hole at Tilden Park. I came up with a nickname that was self-effacing, and yet captured my status as a rising establishment hack. The name? "Three-Putt." It's a good nickname because it has a number in it. My golfing partner liked the idea, and said it was too bad that we didn't work at the same firm, since he would be happy to spread that around for me. So now all I have to do is find some golfers at my firm, shoot a few rounds with them, and diligently avoid improving my putting skills.

* In Cub Scout Camp one year there were not only multiple Matts, but there were two Matt H's. As such I was identified as "Matt Ho." Why it never occurred to me to use that as a nickname I'll never know.


I always thought the over-popularity of the name "Matt" among people of our age was the main reason for people referring to you by your last name. I think the practice is very common; we refer to the other Aaron as "Hammack" and there are a ton of guys from high school whose first names I seriously can't recall because they were all named the same friggin' thing so we only ever called them by their last names. I personally prefer the last-name-as-nickname because it's by far the least insulting and elicits the fewest dumb questions about the origin of the nickname. Except, in my case, for some reason no one ever asked me why I was called "Shorty". I don't know how I feel about "Three-Putt". Personally, I wouldn't go around advertising the fact that you play so much golf at your young age that you have a golf-related nickname... but that's just me. But mostly I'd get away from that one because you'll just have to tell the same story over and over until you no longer find it amusing. Just imagine in 20 years or so, you're at the firm Christmas party and some newbie junior associate looking to fit in asks you why you're called "Three-Putt", and you, tired from 20 years of practice and having put back a few dry martinis jump down the kids throat and make him cry. Ah, the dangers of nicknames and martinis.

On a wholly unrelated note... today, a girl asked me what "nomenclature" meant. I couldn't think of a definition for her because I was so shocked she didn't even have a concept of what it meant. Also, last week, some guy asked in open class what "ethnocentric" meant. Man, how are so many people doing better than me when I at least own a dictionary...

I'd like to endorse both "Big Red" and "Hot Lips".

Ben Narodick.

Nuff said.

I referred to you using my own nickname for a while, but then I either just got sick of it or you went to Los Angeles.

I also endured the red-head bullshit names but they didn't seem to be applied too consistently since anyone who called me something like Big Red I considered to be an asshole and not my friend. Eventually, "dr. v" was coined by one of my friends and instantly stuck with very little evangalising done on my part. So, no, I didn't invent it myself to create a false sense of self-importance.

Whatever you say, Matt Ho.

Try "Brainy Jaynie."

When your golf game improves (I know you're still a rookie)...will your nickname change along with it?

When you're shooting for par or better you don't want to have the nickname "Three Putt" (unless for nostaglic reasons only). Will you change it to "Par/Even"? What about if you're shooting better than par, will you change it to "Birdie/Eagle etc."?

I call him Huey.

While i would never eliminate disdain as a motivation for my doing anything, the actual reason why i started calling Matt by his last name was because my best friend's name was (and is) Matt, and i am not articulate enough to keep them separated without arbitrarily changing one of their names.

Matt was, incidentally, also born in 1978.

At the risk of outing myself on your blog: You'll always be "Hot Lips" to me. Contrary to your post, your H-Bomb tirade never deterred me.

Word to that. Pretty much only Something Awful forum posters know Matt as HBomb, and that's because he got to choose his screen name. He'll keep dreaming, though.

ah, I did not mean to insinuate anything about your weight or size when calling you big red. Rather, I think of you as a tasty gum.

ah, I did not mean to insinuate anything about your weight or size when calling you big red. Rather, I think of you as a tasty gum.

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This page contains a single entry by hb published on October 6, 2005 5:28 PM.

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