There was this teenager I once knew, almost 20 years ago now, who desperately wanted a nickname. His name was David, and that’s what everyone called him. Not Dave or Davey or Heavy D, or D-Diddy or D to the Avid. Just David. His brothers, Christopher and Nicholas, were known to everyone as Chris and Nick. All in all, his parents had been pretty sensible in naming their boys, if not terribly creative.
In an age of Jaydens, Chads, Bradleys and Connors, I figured he was pretty lucky to have a nice respectable old school name like David. A name that evokes marble statues. And of all the Old Testament names, it’s one of the easiest to spell (no offense, Melchizedek). But David thought it was boring, so he went about selecting a nickname for himself, and then actively encouraging people to use it, without much success.
The nickname David chose for himself was of all things, “Hoagie.” I asked him why and he could offer no good rationale for it, just that he liked the sound of it. I guess it’s lucky he didn’t choose Gyro or Sub. But Footlong would have been a good porn name, come to think of it. Regardless, David chose to refer to himself as Hoagie and took every opportunity to remind everyone he met that he had a nickname. “Hi, I’m David, ” he would say, extending his hand, “but you can call me Hoagie.” Which mostly elicited blank stares of confusion. “Hoagie? Why” “That’s my nickname.” “Okay, David, nice to meet you.”
David was a very bright kid, and very hard-working. He studied hard, got good grades, and won a scholarship to an Ivy League school on the East Coast. New England, to be more precise. For a kid from South Dakota who grew up on a Native American Reservation and chose to name himself after a cylindrical loaf of bread filled with cold cuts, an Ivy League school in New England might as well have been on the moon.
David’s parents were proud, naturally. After they had taken him to school and gotten him settled in for his first semester, his dad, who was my coworker, pulled me aside at work one afternoon and said, “Hey, take a look at this.”
From his pocket he produced a printed newspaper from the Ivy League school his son was now proudly a student of. There was a picture of David and a brief bio. It seemed the school was as proud to have an incoming student from a Native American Reservation in South Dakota as David was to be attending.
I tried (and failed) to stifle my laughter when I read the first paragraph of the bio: “David is an incoming freshman from South Dakota. He like playing guitar, reading and watching sports. His friends call him Hoagie.” Maybe David hoped that seeing his illustrious name in print would make his dream of having a nickname a reality.
For some reason Hoagie popped into my head today. I hadn’t thought about him or his family for nearly 20 years. It didn’t take me long to find him. In fact, his is the only Facebook profile for David Hoagie Smith*.
*Last name changed to protect the privacy of Mr. Hoagie.