Terms of Endearment

People have always called me names, but it really picked up when I started windsurfing.

WHILE MY FLAT-WATER SAILING has never been described as rhythmic or rapid, my wave sailing is lively, in the sense that a seven-car accident is lively. But that apparently wasn’t enough for the name to stick.

People have always called me names, but it really picked up when I started windsurfing. Kook was big. Grommet too. This was a start, but I wanted more. So a few years ago when the movie “Dances with Wolves” came out, I thought up a nickname for myself, “Dances with Wind.” It never caught on, for three reasons:

  1. Everybody who heard it laughed.
  2. You can’t give yourself a nickname. It’s an automatic disqualification.
  3. Webster’s New World defines dancing as something that requires rhythm, a “rapid, lively movement.” While my flat-water sailing has never been described as rhythmic or rapid, my wave sailing is lively, in the sense that a seven-car accident is lively. Apparently it wasn’t enough for the name to stick.
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At that point I figured sports and music have all the good nicknames. There are sport nicknames that work: “Boomer” Esiason and Thomas “Hit Man” Hearns. And what about blues musicians, like “Lightning” Hopkins, “Harmonica Fats”, “Snooky” Pryor and “Guitar Slim”?

There are also relationship nicknames, from the classic “Stud-Muffin”, to the simple “Sweetness”, to one of the most popular terms of endearment in the southern United States: “Sugardiddle”.

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“Hey Sugardiddle, you want to pass me them hush-puppies?”

“Sure thing Stud-muffin.”

This got me thinking about how many good nicknames there are in windsurfing.

In our corner of southern New Jersey (I live in Ocean City, the wave-sailing mecca of the East Coast of Cape May County) there are even nicknames for sailing preferences. Some people around here call wave sailors “Dunies”. That’s short for “kooks who stand on the dunes all day waiting for wind on the ocean when it’s already blowing on the bay.” People who prefer flat water are called “Bay-riders” which politely translates to “kooks who haven’t yet evolved to the point where they realize wave sailing is worth waiting for.’’.

The main difference between the windsurfers, as pointed out by a sailor named Pete Iree (more on him later) is “bayrider-kooks like to go back and forth, and we like to go out and back.”

Many sailing sites have nicknames as well. Two of my most favorite are, Ego Beach and Canadian Hole in Cape Hatteras. The Hole got its name because it was pioneered by Canadians. There is an actual hole in the bottom where sand was mined and pumped over to rebuild the beach. Ego Beach is across Route 12 from the Hole and legend tells it was named for the wave sailors who liked it when people walked across the road from the Hole, sat on the dune, and watched them work.
Still, nicknames are best when they’re attached to people.

Local sailors include “Miss Clairol” (long hair, until he got hired by the fire department) “Jim-Aaaaay!” (Jimmy), “Tom-Aaaaay!” (Tommy, Jim-Aaaaay’s brother), “Steve-Aaaaay!” (no relation), “Schneedles”, (derived from Needlemyer, the neo-Nazi in the movie Animal House who was eventually shot by his own troops in Vietnam), the aforementioned Pete “Irie-ations” (likes reggae), “Cactus” Pete (from Arizona), Pete the Stork (he’s 6-foot-7), “Little” Pete (big stones), “Spag-Head” Ed (hair like spaghetti), “Burrito” Bob (makes great burritos), “Bodog” (He bowwowed out of a bet with TomAaaaay!), “Bunion Boy” (like Paul), “Little” Mike (sails big), “Big” Mike (sails big too) and “Lakes Bay” Carl (has a company named after a local sailing spot).

There are also multiple nicknames. One sailor I know from Maryland has aliases including “Kool Daddy” Frank, “Chicken Bone” Frank, “Chicken Bone” Daddy, “Chicken Bone”, “Franco Coco”, “Franco Coco Lopez” and Frank “Popular”, most of which were coined by Pete Iree. (Who by the way, assures me that he knows sailors named Joey “Dred”, “Neal-The-Man-Who-Gets-Things-Done” and “George of the Jungle”). I’ve had multiple nicknames as well, most notably when I once made the mistake of sailing in some pretty kooky looking biker-type shorts. In less than 45 seconds, I was called “Spandex Rider”, “Buttflossy”, “Flossy, G. Floss” and “G. Splat Floss”.

To understand my current nickname, you need to know my real-life byline is G. Patrick Pawling. At my newspaper job(where the people are almost as wise-ass as the sailors I know) this became “G. Pat,” as in “Gee, Pat, who do you think you are, using such a fancy name?” When I started trying forward loops, Miss Clairol changed it to “G. Splat!” Then it was “G. Spot”(no comment). Now it’s just “Spot” or “Splat,” except for Jim-Aaaaay! He calls me “Spam,” because he knows that I know if I mess with him I’m dead meat.

My favorite nickname belongs to a firefighter named Charlie. Charlie has become “Chacci’s-Chick-Joanie”, or “Joanie” for short. This name was born during a trip to Puerto Rico. The trip turned out to be a continuous two-week roast of whoever appeared most vulnerable at any given moment. Because there was little wind, the one-bedroom house where the six sailors stayed became an incubation chamber of nicknames, sore egos, and diseases. (Miss Clairol, who was sick, took refuge under a tent of mosquito netting to get some sleep, was briefly known as “Bubble Boy.”) It was this attitude that prompted the nickname for the house: “The House of Pain.”

During the trip it was suggested that Charlie needed a new nickname. They had been calling him “Chuckie Cheese,” which apparently had something to do with his ability to manufacture fissionable gas and firing it across a room before the intended victims could escape. (Everyone’s good at something, but Charlie is multi-talented. He does a real nice back-side off-the-lip, and is a talented gas ventriloquist.) Anyway, the naming committee knew his new name would have to be embarrassing. Why? Simply because Charlie wouldn’t have it any other way. Charlie believes in the Interpersonal Communication Golden Rule. He strives to give more than he gets.

The committee seized on the fact that he declined to go sailing in mast-high waves breaking over a very sharp and shallow reef in almost no wind. Never mind that he didn’t have anything to prove, as he’s already sailed and surfed waves bigger than the House of Pain. And never mind that he could no doubt wring every neck in the group and probably all at once. Nooo, the moment he decided to do the right thing, the grownup thing, by not going out on a sketchy day. It was nickname time.

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It wasn’t long before the name “Chacci” came up. “Chacci,” the kid from the old TV show Happy Days, was good, but it didn’t go far enough. It violated Nickname Rule #2. Suddenly they got it. If Charlie didn’t have what it took to go out that day (major stupidity) he wasn’t “cool” enough to be “Chacci.” That meant he was about as cool as Chacci’s sidekick, Joanie.

It was Pete “Irie-ations” who came up with the new name, he was allowed to as he was one of the few who did go out on that hairball day. Pete used to play in a punk band called the Hai-Karates. He’s the kind of guy who would, and did, drink a bottle of hot sauce on a $40 bet, and for my money, he remains the King of Nicknames. As for Charlie’s transition to Chacci’s-Chick-Joanie, Pete Iree notes, “He accepted his sissyness (and his nickname) like a man.” Which is all a fella’ can ask.

Pat Pawling, AKA G. Splat, is a freelance writer and newspaper reporter who refuses to say what his nicknames were in grammar school.

Editor’s note: Joanie and G. Splat recently had baby daughters, with Joanie’s coming one day after Splat’s. And yes, they already have nicknames. Joanie’s baby’s name is Caroline, and Splat calls her Carolina. Splat’s daughter is Olivia, and Joanie calls her Olive.

by Pat Pawling

Pat Pawling, AKA G. Splat, is a freelance writer and newspaper reporter who refuses to say what his nicknames were in grammar school.

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