My mother’s family — especially her mother’s family, the Seymours — used nicknames for nearly everyone. Many of their origins are lost now, but Mom had told me that quite a few came from her baby utterances, since she was the first grandchild in her generation on both sides of her parents’ families.
I’ve known most of them and have been thinking about a “Nicknames” post for some time. But I was spurred into action when I found this in Mom’s 1938-9 “School Days Memories” autograph book (click on the photo for a better view):
It’s a list of nicknames … first three (Jean, Dorothy Chappelle & Evelyn) are classmates, I presume; the next eight are family members.
Here are the family nicknames, as written by my mom, followed by my understanding of their origins. (I welcome any corrections or additions.)
My mother – Bubber. Anna Bell Seymour Jackson (1902-1978). This came from Mom’s first attempt at saying “Mother”. My siblings and I used it. But it was transformed further to “Biboo” (BYE-boo) by the Cardwell children of Mom’s younger sister, Edna Louise.
Aunt Josephine – Dodie, Dodo. Josephine Louise Seymour (1900-1991). These came from baby Mom trying to say “Josephine.” One can only imagine what this distinguished aunt, who was a noted high school math teacher in Selma, thought about being called “Dodo”. (One of the many questions I’d wished I’d asked her.)
Aunt Alma – Shorty, Tickle, Wer. Alma Seymour Wright (b. 1898; I must look up her death date). Alma’s siblings caller her “Shorty.” (She was the shortest of her siblings.) But my Mom and our family called her “Wer”. I don’t know its origin … or that of “Tickle”, which I don’t recall ever hearing her being called.
Aunt Mary E – Nunchie, Nunu. Mary Elizabeth Seymour Thrash (1904-1984). I don’t know the origin of this nickname.
Aunt Mamie – Dukie, Duka. Mary Pauline Seymour (1873-1943). Sister of John Michael Seymour, Sr. “Mamie” is, of course, a common nickname for “Mary”. But I don’t know the origin of her Dukie/Duka nicknames.
Aunt Fannie – Scarlet, Chew. Frances Seymour (1971-1943). Another sister of John Michael Seymour, Sr. “Fannie” is, of course, a nickname for “Frances”. But I don’t know the origin of these nicknames. to my mother’s astonishment, both Fannie and Mamie, who were unmarried, lived in John Michael Sr.’s home for their entire adult lives.
Uncle Wallis – Rocky. Wallis Andrews Seymour (1909-2004). I don’t know the origin of this nickname, but he was an athlete growing up, so that might have been an influence.
Aunt Edna – Bunchie. She is Edna Pearl Jackson Overstreet (1890-1960), the older sister of my mother’s father, Walter Mahan Jackson, Sr. I don’t know the origin of this nickname.
Other family nicknames that are not listed in that autograph book page include:
Alma Wallis Seymour (Maternal grandmother, 1978-1945) – Boowah.
John Michael Seymour, Jr. – Son. (1907 – must look up his death date) The fifth child in his family was the first son … and received this no-nonsense nickname.
Edna Louise Jackson Cardwell – Ese. (1933-2009) My Mom’s younger sister. Pronounced “ease”, this nickname seems to be a compression of “Edna Louise”. But Mom was 10 years old when her sister was born, which seems a bit old for this to be a baby-like utterance. But with their proclivity for nicknames, it’s certainly possible that her parents or another adult was responsible. “Ese the Weeze” was a later derivation.
Clifford Thrash Sr. – Dump. (1901-1950). Husband of Nunchie (Mary Elizabeth Seymour). His family had the coal delivery business in Selma. I don’t know the origin of his nickname.
Here is a photo of John Michael Seymour’s family. It was taken in front of the screened porch at their Selma home probably in the 1930s. (Click on the photo for a larger view.)
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Amid all these nicknames, it’s no surprise that Mom was also called by some nicknames of her own while she was growing up. But I had no idea that there were so many as she listed on the next page of her 1939-0 autograph book:
Here she lists 10 different nicknames that others called her, including four different ones that her dad used:
- Stonewall (Rocky)
- Sugar (Bubber)
- Pie (Chew)
- Hunk-o’-cheese (Wer)
- Bug (Margie)
- Mot (Daddy)(Mr. Eggar)
- Toad (Daddy)
- Toadfrog-Mot (Daddy)
- Squat (Daddy)
- Gorgeous (Chas. H. Morris) (sp?)
“Mot” is short for “Martha”, and Southerners commonly refer to younger friends and relatives as “Sugar”. But I’m not aware of how the other nicknames came about.
(I also don’t know who Margie or Mr. Morris are. I may be able to figure them out after reviewing all the entries in her autograph book. Mr. Eggar sounds familiar, but I don’t recall his relation to the family. I’ll edit this post when I have more definitive information on them.)
With this lush background, my next post will be about the nicknames given to me and my siblings … and our parents. Stay tuned.