My life #4 – What’s in a name?

My big sister and little sister have always called me PETE. Unless, of course, I was being naughty or annoying, in which case I was PETER, spoken in the severest tone.

Mum and Dad also switched between the two versions. Dad would often call me “LAD”, and I liked that, especially in my fifties!

Throughout Infants and Junior school I was invariably PETE.

On the first day of secondary school (6th grade in USA), during a break in all the administrative tasks, the more outgoing amongst us (not me then!) decided that we should all get to know one another. Many had nicknames that they had been known by before. Others, like me, just had their given names.

It was decided that those without nicknames should be newly christened. There were the obvious names, Ginge for a redhead, Shorty for the unfortunate smallest boy, Earl for a boy named Lee, and I got POLLY, because someone noticed that I had a large nose!

It never bothered me that I was known as POLLY all throughout my 5 years at that school. It was an affectionate name and never used with malice. I wore the name, and my big nose, with pride!

I left school and joined the army, and acquired a number to go with my name. This was one of the very first things to assault my senses and we all had to memorise our number and be able to quote it instantly, normally in the format:

“24022702 A/T Matthews. P. Sir!”

This was repeated many times in the first few weeks, and became second nature. Without this magic password I could not get fed, get clothing, see a doctor, a dentist, and, most importantly, get paid each week.

After the first couple of days it seemed obligatory that everyone should have a nickname. I didn’t mention my name of POLLY. I thought it was time to move on. This time I was awarded the name of PROF. This was apparently due to the fact that:

  1. I had no accent and spoke with “received pronunciation”
  2. I had a better education than was the norm for those joining the army at that time.

As my service progressed the name PROF gradually diminished in use and I became PETE, or PETER again.

Here I digress a little. It is necessary!

All my life I have carried various items in my trouser (and other) pockets. As a small boy I would always have a handkerchief, a comb, a penknife, probably a bit of string, sometimes a conker. To this day I still carry a handkerchief, and a spare, in case of crying ladies (or gentlemen), or for stemming the flow of blood, or cleaning spectacles. I also carry a comb (it’s an Alfa Romeo one if you must know), but the knife is hidden away in a drawer at home as it is illegal to carry most knives! (thoughts inevitably turn to American gun laws!!!!!).

In the army, of course, when on active duty, or on exercise, I carried various necessary items in pockets, in pouches, and in packs. There was weapon, bayonet, ammunition, respirator, Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical (NBC) warfare clothing, spare clothing, sleeping bag, rations, portable cooker, mess tins, etcetera, etcetera. Depending on the task and circumstances the load was lighter, or heavier, and, of course, you always went for the least equipment required to fulfill the task. At all times I carried my weapon, ammunition, respirator, and NBC kit, clasp knife, First Field Dressing and steel helmet.

Being an electronic engineer I always managed to find space for a couple of screwdrivers, a pair of pliers, a roll of insulation tape and various odds and ends, and being a practical type I always had a couple of chocolate bars, some plasters, some mints etc. I gained a reputation as the “go to” person if someone required something obscure. Chalk, aspirin, throat pastilles, nails, cable ties, you name it, I could quite often produce it!

For some reason, I cannot understand, I acquired another nickname – POCKETS PETE!

I have, of course, been called many other things during my life but I’ll pass over most of those. During army service MATTHEWS, CORPORAL, SERGEANT, STAFF, Q, SIR, MR VICE, and in the early days YOU ‘ORRIBLE LITTLE MAN!

On leaving the army I reverted to PETER, but my little sister still calls me PETE!

There are still those around who would greet me with POLLY or PROF if we were to meet.

The best names ever, I’ve left until last, they are DADDY, and DAD!

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8 thoughts on “My life #4 – What’s in a name?

      1. I was Meggy when I was little. Meg became Megatron, in the days of the transformer cartoons. And for a brief time in grade school my last name Jennings, became Junkyard which only makes sense if you are 8 years old!

        Liked by 2 people

  1. When I was a youngster, it was cool to be referred to (among friends) by your surname.
    Even if you were a girl. In fact, especially if you were a girl, because that meant you weren’t a girl.

    It meant you were what was called a tomboy. And you got respect! Nowadays it would probably mean you were suffering from gender dysphoria, and you’d get counselling.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh, I totally agree. We, boys and girls alike, ran wild when we were kids. And as no-one seemed to have much money in the 1950s, the few toys our parents bought us were unisex because they had to be shared. Mostly, we made our own: kites, trolleys, bows and arrows – none of which worked well, but that didn’t matter.

    We also built innumerable forts, and spent a lot of time fighting with wooden swords. The lid off the washing machine made a good shield. And we loved our knives, which we called pocket knives, rather than penknives.

    I was so happy when, middle-aged, I bought my first Swiss Army knife. I kept my keys on it. Alas, no more. These days I’m not allowed to take it on airplanes with me.

    Liked by 1 person

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