Wednesday, March 28, 2012

What's In A Nickname?

Names are fun to research, sometimes, to find the derivations or hidden meanings. But what about nicknames? Many are obvious. In my own past I have known a "Fats" (obvious origin), "Chubby" (the same), "Red" (hair color), "LeanJean" (the opposite), and many more. One in particular stands out in my memory, because of the circumstances that led to it.

One of my dear friends in college, a fellow trombonist who played in the faculty brass quintet as a student (I played tuba), was Horton Monroe. Horton hailed from Old Hickory, Tennessee, home of President Andrew Jackson and named for Jackson's nickname, interestingly enough. Horton had blazing red hair, but somehow that monicker never seemed to stick to him. But read on...

There was an area of Cookeville, Tennessee, our college town, known as the Triangle (gee, another nickname--who'da thought?), where three streets met to join that shape. It was home to several establishments where students liked to hang out (for food, of course). One such place featured "fast food," but also had a patio area with a juke box and several coin-operated critter-based rides for the kids. One of the rides was a red pig, and of course one night we dared red-headed Horton to ride the pig. He climbed on, and the poorest one among us, Steve McBride (another trombonist), who never had enough money to even eat regular meals (he was paying his own way through school, as his farmer parents wouldn't support his desire to become a music teacher), whipped out a dime (big bucks in those days) and stuck it in the slot. Horton rode the entire dime's worth, uttering an occasional "Heeyah, Pig."

Apparently the word got out quickly about Horton riding the pig. The Belle of the Music Department, Patty Raines (later Ferrell), walked into the student lounge the next day, and seeing Horton sitting there, quietly intoned, "Pig-gy." And Horton was "Piggy" from that moment forward. He hated it, but he had no say in the matter. Patty had spoken.

Now that we've reached our Golden Years, everyone seems to have finally relented, and Piggy has become Horton once again. But the memory of "ride-em piggy" will never fade. Long live Piggy (er, Horton).