On the subject of nicknames ...

Things can get punchy in The Evening Sun newsroom around two or three in the afternoon. By then we’ve all been at it for 7 or 8 hours, and are trying to eke out that last bit of research, cram in one more phone interview or finish up one last story before heading home for a bit of a breather before we schlep off to whatever board of ed or town meeting is on the agenda for the evening.

During these times, when the thinking part of the brain has already moved on to greener pastures, any manner of conversation may occur. Usually prompted by a simple, random declarative statement or observation, topics run the full gamut from the strange to the strangely profound, not to mention anything in between.

Random is probably a good way of describing the subject of nicknames, which came up on Monday afternoon. Actually, we - Mike McGuire and I - were specifically focused on finding a nickname for Tyler Murphy, who had called in sick for the day.

I admitted to Mike that I think of Tyler as TMurph. Both because that’s what I type in to pull his name out of my e-mail address book, but because it reminds me of the Tyrannosaurus Rex’s abbreviation. Although I originally made this connection after he was particularly ornery one morning, as it turns out, it is incredibly apropos. It seems “the Ty-man,” as our favorite Fred’s Inn waitress calls him, has something of a talent for drawing dinosaurs.

Mike didn’t like my suggestion, though, since I guess he isn’t a fan of nicknames derived from a person’s actual name. His personal preferences lean more toward those based on an individual’s appearance, unique talents or obscure sports references. In the past, it seems, he has been know as Chunk (no longer appropriate given his current svelte physique), Chewie (I hear he does a mean Wookiee impression) and Maktar (after basketball player Makhtar Ndiaye, not the Tunisian town.)

I decided that Mike needed a new nickname as well, since I wasn’t feeling any of those monikers. I told him that I liked the ring of “Maggie McGuire.” Apparently, his parents did, too. And they beat me to it - when they named his sister. And back to the drawing board, I go.

That was about the time when he started quizzing me about my past nicknames. My policy in this regard is “admit nothing.”

If someone were industrious enough to scrounge up an old copy of my high school yearbook, they’d no doubt find a veritable gold mine of blackmail-worthy nicknames I’ve refused to answer to over the years.

But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve developed a strict zero-tolerance policy.

Few, if anyone, are allowed to call me anything other than the name that appears on my birth certificate. And absolutely no bastardizations of that name are allowed.

Doubt me? Just ask Tim, lifelong friend of my esteemed editor, who has been trying for much of the last year to stick me with an unfortunate nickname which I will not put into print. I refuse to give it any credence, or to answer to it in any way shape or form.

To most of those who knew me during my formative years at Oxford, I was “Missy.” (As were the other five Melissas I graduated with.) And I don’t mind if my former teachers or classmates from those years still call me that.

Occasionally my family members will call me that as well, which always surprises me since while my friends were all calling me Missy, I was always Melissa at home. They only switched to Missy, when I started introducing myself as Melissa around about the time I graduated from high school.

I’m sorry, who is the Contrary Mary? Not that you can really argue with the woman who gave birth to you.

I’ve had a few other nicknames around the house, but nothing has really stuck in the long term. My father called me Dickens when I was a wee tot. My brother Ken dubbed me Missy Musket at some point. Since I have no middle name of my own, he and my brother Dennis have taken to filling in that blank for me. Therefore, I am occasionally known as Melissa Sue or Melissa June.

The only true exception to these rules are a group of friends I have from the years I lived in Northern Virginia. Most of them have been affiliated with the military at one point or another, so from the start I was “Stagnaro” rather than Melissa. And giving my penchant for the written word, they would occasionally refer to me as “the bookworm.”

But then, through an unexpected twist of spell check, they came up with something a little more unique. Now, nearly a decade after one of them took a liking to the suggestion spell check offered up in place of my last name, I am still referred to as “Saguaro,” or sometimes “the Saguaro.”

I guess they never bothered to look it up to see what it really meant, preferring to think of a saguaro as some kind of lizard that enjoys lazing around, sunning itself all day. Not a bad image, I’ll admit. But I like the actual definition.

If you’ve ever traveled in the American southwest you’ll recognize the name of the tall, iconic cacti which is practically the state tree of Arizona.

I can be a bit prickly.

Particularly when someone tries to saddle me with an unwanted nickname.

Follow me on Twitter @evesunmelissa.

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