WHITTLE: Not Only States Have Colorful Nicknames
DAN WHITTLE, Courier Columnist
Sunday, July 15, 2012 4:06 am
If you thought Tennessee’s first state nickname was the “Volunteer State,” you’d be wrong.
Native Americans beat that state nickname by hundreds of years, long calling what became Tennessee “Big Bend” after the crooked Tennessee River that snakes through the state.
Perhaps Tennessee’s most colorful nickname is neither of the above. One or two others will be listed below.
Having a love for history, my favorite nickname for a famous person goes to “Give em’ Hell” Harry Truman, the tough-minded former president from “Show Me State” Missouri.
My choice of most famous person nickname is fabled St. Louis Cardinal slugger, Stan “The Man” Musial, now in his 90s. His nickname smacks of class, and goes back to when the Dodgers played in New York, when a fan remarked in the 1940s: “Here comes ‘that man’ (to the plate) again.”
One of my favorite regional nicknames is Phillip “Wormy” Winn, a pal of mine who could eat a pile of Melinda “Mo” Brown Black’s infamous baloney sandwiches, patently thin-sliced on one side and thick-sliced on the other side at old Brown’s Grocery (1935-2006) in downtown Lascassas.
“When ‘Wormy” would load up on baloney, he was good to work another half day on his farm,” Mo verified.
But how did a “girl” get a nickname like “Mo?”
“I grew up in Brown’s Grocery, and that’s what the local regular guys started calling me as a young girl, and it stuck,” Mo confirmed.
In our family, most of us were given nicknames.
Colorful nicknames seem to run in the Whittle family. Older brother Van, now deceased, coined most of them.
“P**s City” ranks as very worst nickname that surfaced publicly in my family, when late older brother was having serious Crohn’s Disease-related surgery. As they were putting him under for the knife, Brother muttered: “P**s City, they’ve got us this time.”
To which, the surgeon looked up and asked attending medical people: “Anyone ever been to P**s City? Is that in Tennessee?”
I’m sworn to family secrecy not to reveal who was saddled with the nickname, “P**s City.”
“Granny Grunt” was a most accurate nickname given one of our grandmothers, one of the most negative family members in history. “Woe” was another accurate nickname given to a female family member for basically the same reason.
But it was our sister, June, who saddled brother with his “Bibber” nickname.
He more than got even, when he labeled sister with his classic “Best Hoe’r” nickname. It’s not what you may be thinking. It had to do with sister’s prowess in chopping and “hoeing” weeds out of the cotton fields.
Perhaps our family’s nicest nickname title goes to cousin Robert Terry “Good Boy” Reed, who never seemed to get in trouble back during our childhoods.
It wasn’t until 2005 that I found out how I got my first nickname of life, to wit, “Little Black Boy.”
“It was because you had such dark complexion, due to your Grandmother Whittle being full-blood Choctaw, and her parents were full-blood Choctaw,” shared an uncle shortly before he died in 2005. “That’s why we called you ‘Little Black Boy.’”
Pete was another childhood nickname, after my godfather, L.A. “Pete” McCann, who had a huge protruding belly.
As a small farm boy, I also had a huge belly. Now in mature years, history seems to be repeating itself.
Perhaps the Great State of Tennessee’s most colorful nickname came during the Civil War when soldiers from other states labeled it the “Butter Nut State” due to unusual tan coloring of homemade soldiers’ uniforms.
Another of Tennessee’s colorful nicknames was the “Hog and Hominy State” due to pork and agriculture production.
But, it’s the “Volunteer State” nickname that’s stuck around permanently, currently etched on Tennessee license plates.