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After about a full 60 seconds after I meet you, my mind will immediately race to the next thought of… “I wonder what this person’s nickname will be.” I take this seriously. Sometimes it takes years to find just the right one, but eventually it arrives, and I’ll pretty much refer to you by it for the duration of time that I know you. If you request a change, I become spiteful and think of something embarrassing and mocking. Just ask Cap’n PattyCakes.

I have been reading Alain de Botton’s philosophical novel On Love intermittently over the past year or so, and I recently came across a passage re: nicknames. In this chapter he explores the thought process arriving at intimacy. Now naturally I don’t have these feelings for everyone – but I think it’s phenomenally rational way to explain dubbing people close to my heart something else entirely.

7. Aware of the other’s characteristics, we acquire a need to rename one another. Love finds us with a name it did not invent, a name given to us by parents at birth and formalized by passports and civil registers. Given the uniqueness the person locates, is it not natural it should find expression [however obliquely] in a name others do not use? It is a victory over the past, a symbol of the rechristening and rebirth afforded by love. I have found you with a given name, says the person, but I am renaming you to label the difference between who you are to me and who you are to others. You may be called X at the office [in political space], but in my bed,* you will always be “my…”

*please note this phrase was left unaltered strictly for the poetic impact, and not because there is a correlation of nicknames and my bed.
February 2008
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