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My father says that if you walked up to anyone in his tiny Cuban hometown and asked for El Manco, everyone would know exactly whom you were looking for. It also is likely hardly anyone would know the man’s real name.
“I don’t know if I ever even knew,” my father said, laughing.
Apodos. Nicknames. A Latin art form.
In my family we have Bombillo, Tete, Chino, Chicho and Cuca, to name just a few.
To a couple of my cousins I am Caca or Kaki and to others in my family I am Carilyn, Carucho or Cary. To my mother, I am Caridad! (With the exclamation point, mind you.) My birth certificate says “Carrie.”
So common and ingrained is the use of nicknames in my family, that when my great-uncle Pucho died this summer I had to ask my mom what his real name was. It was Raul. My whole life, he was just Tio Pucho.
Why do Latinos even bother naming their boys beautiful names like Guillermo or Alberto when they will only be known as Guille or Beto? Or, Guadalupe as Lupita or Charo (cuchi cuchi!) for Rosario. Some other common apodos: Pepe, Concha, Paco, Beto, Mano. You can see more here.
Or, what about the even higher art form of nicknames: Soccer player nicknames! Buitre (vulture), Polilla (moth), Tulipano Negro (black tulip). Oh, and the terms of endearment from childhood that follow you into old age: Gordita (see photo above), Bebita, Machito, Papito?
I put the call out this morning on Twitter and Facebook and asked our friends there for their nicknames: Chichi, Navaja, Pajaro, Bo, Raemoz, Nena, Cachito, Loca, Chango, and Joser, who also says he’s Doughboy. Alright!
OK, so what is your nickname? What fabulously, creative ones have you heard?
(disclaimer: That cute kid is wearing a Gordita t-shirt designed by my company, Los Pollitos Dicen.)