Ian McMillan: Big Mac and Little Mac... do they mean me?

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Greetings from Tufty, and Mac. Hello from Macka and Mack the Spoon and Maccy and Big Mac and Little Mac. Hi there from Mace, Mesa and Minky Monkey Manky Mac. Oh, and a resounding Good Morning from Nobsta Nutts, but we’ll get to him later.

I’m talking about nicknames. Ian’s never good enough for some people; they like to alter your name and give you something more decorative, more personal (although what could possibly be more personal than your name?), more inventive. Of course this doesn’t include sports people who just put “-y” at the end of someone’s name: Smithy, Jonesy, Giggsy, er…Rooney-y.

My mate Terry from Speke had that Scouse thing of shortening your name. He called himself Teh and he called me Ee. When I worked on the buildings there was a bloke called Billy Mush (not his given name) who gave his workmates rhyming slang names. So Ron was Off And, for Off and On and Pete was Smelly for Smelly Feet. My name confused him for a while until he came up with Baked. For Baked Bean. Get it? “It’s as close as I can get, mush,” he said apologetically. Tufty was what some lads called me at junior school because my hair stuck up in unruly tufts and not because I resembled the old road safety squirrel (younger readers: ask your grandma). Then I got variations on my second name. I quite liked Mac as it made me sound like a private eye. Macka was okay but when I started secondary school I thought that Maccy sounded a little bit girly although it did have a bit of a sporty tinge to it. They called me Big Mac because I was plump and Little Mac because I was smaller than a kid in lower sixth called McSomething (not his given name. I just can’t remember it). Mack the Spoon happened just after we sang Mack the Knife in Mr Sanderson’s music class and Mesa, which became Mace, happened just after we talked about Mesas in Mr Lawton’s geography class. Minky Monkey Manky Mac was what a big boy shouted at me on the school bus; I didn’t reply, retaining dignity through my tears. Luckily it didn’t catch on. Schooldays create unfathomable nicknames. Why was Paul called Pud? Why was Mr Smith called Algy, Graham called Pez and Keith called Chafe? We’ll never know, because the language of nicknames constantly changes and shifts.

And that brings us to Nobsta Nutts. Nobsta is a rapper from Swansea who also worked in a bingo hall. I once interviewed him for a radio programme and I asked him about his nickname. “Well, my real name’s Dorian,” he said, as though that made complete sense. I nodded blankly. He realised that he had to explain, as though to a child. “So I’m called Dorian, so my mates call me Door, like front door. Then they called me Doorknob. And then, when I became a rapper they called me the Nobsta because I’m like a gangsta!”. I could see he was getting impatient and had to go and call some more bingo numbers. “So why are you called Nobsta Nutts?” I asked, feebly. He looked disdainful. “Because I like nuts” he said. Obvious.