Some nicknames just happen. My brother had a friend named Walter who was a very good high school basketball player, only one night he got confused and shot the ball in the other team's basket. From then on he was known as "Retlaw." Figure it out.
One of my favorite nicknames belongs to the man who will become mayor of Marietta on Monday evening: Thunder. Steve "Thunder" Tumlin. Every town ought to have a mayor named Thunder.
"Thunder" Tumlin is a rare case where the person belies his nickname. There isn't a lot of booming, loud-voiced histrionics about the man. To the contrary, I find him low-key, thoughtful and kind. I am told that the new mayor was dubbed "Thunder" by his older sister, Harriett, when he was a child. He's lucky. Sisters can be very unpredictable and can call their brothers a lot worse things - like "goobie head" or "dumb bunny."
Alas, like VCRs and 8-track tape players and pet rocks, nicknames are no longer in vogue. I think that is because the current generation doesn't have any imagination. Look no further than the world of sports. Where we once thrilled to the exploits of Stan "The Man" Musial, "Joltin' Joe" DiMaggio, Ted Williams, familiar to all baseball fans as the "Splendid Splinter," "Shoeless" Joe Jackson, Harry "The Hat" Walker, "Slinging Sammy" Baugh, Charlie "Choo-Choo" Justice and "Pistol Pete" Maravich, today we have A-Rod. That's it. A-Rod. That sounds like a car, not a baseball player.
When I was growing up, everybody had nicknames and while they were not always complimentary, they were always descriptive. In my school there were such characters as "Four-Eyes," "Chunko," "Bedbug" and "Pizza Face." Nobody seemed offended by such sobriquets, mainly because if you made a fuss about it, everybody would know they had gotten under your skin and that would garner you a worse nickname like "Sissy Britches" or "Cry Baby" and the bullies would gang up on you at recess. It was always best to deal with the humiliation quietly and hope that the bullies would fall in a sewer or quit school and join the Army, where some drill sergeant would give them unflattering nicknames.
For some reason, I never got stuck with a nickname. I guess I didn't have any distinguishing features worth mentioning. Or maybe it was because I was always getting in fights and the other kids couldn't come up with a nickname they thought worth fighting over.
I doubt nicknames are legal in schools these politically correct days because it would probably be considered libel or slander or something like that. If parents will sue schools for telling their young darlings they can't dye their hair purple or put studs in places they don't belong or wear their britches down around their kneecaps, they will surely sue when they find out other children are calling their kid "Lard Bottom" or "Buffalo Breath." If they don't sue, the ACLU probably will. The ACLU would sue a fence post.
Despite living - and writing - in such a humorless and litigious culture, I pray that once Thunder Tumlin is sworn in as Marietta's mayor, nicknames are going to make a comeback. It may not be too long before we will be reading about Thunder Tumlin dealing with Councilman Philip "The Phantom" Goldstein on some burning issue that deeply impacts all constituents like whether the mayor is entitled to his own parking space at City Hall.
From there, the possibilities are limitless. Think about Marietta Councilman Van "The Man" Pearlberg. State Sen. "Wiley John" Wiles. State Sen. Doug "The Rock" Stoner. Congressman Tom "Peerless" Price. Congressman David "The Chameleon" Scott. "Nattering Nancy" Pelosi. Harry "The Dweeb" Reid. It is enough to make your humble columnist hyperventilate.
I wish Steve "Thunder" Tumlin the best. But I must tell you that I will miss his predecessor, Bill "Stormy" Dunaway. Now, there is a nickname that fit like a glove.
You can reach Dick Yarbrough at email@example.com or P.O. Box 725373, Atlanta, Georgia 31139.