The wonderful world of nicknames. When you are born your parents bestow on you a proper/given name, your full name. Most likely the only time our full name is ever used, other than graduation and other formal settings, is in a moment of anger by a parent to a child. When we hear our full name, we know instantly we are in trouble. At one point or another in our lifetime if we are lucky, we will all be given a nickname. The origins of some nicknames are easy to determine, the shortened version of the first name or perhaps a play off the last name. While other nicknames upon first hearing them it is hard to determine their correlation to the person. These nicknames, the ones that leave no clue to their inception, are usually the ones with the best stories behind them. They give you a glimpse into the persons life, their friends and most likely the crazy antics of a person’s youth. Well loved nicknames will accompany us from our youth into our old age. Many people have multiple nicknames, each corresponding to a time or group of persons in their life. I would be one of them.
My given name is Denise Kay Robinson. My middle name came from my grandmother, Nana Kay. I feel very honored to be named after such a remarkable woman. When my daughter was born I passed on the honor, I gave her Nana Kay’s proper name, Kathryn. Growing up my parents, cousins, sister and friends called me Denise. My Dad’s sisters, my aunts, called me by another name, Nisey Kay. When I was younger I hoped in time I would out grow Nisey Kay. I believed the name sounded young, immature, a name you would call a baby. I never outgrew the nickname, even at the age of 47, at family gatherings, beach week reunions, my aunts still call me Nisey Kay.I wouldn’t have it any other way. With time I have come to embrace my nickname. With age, came the understanding Nisey Kay was given to me out of love. It is my aunts' term of endearment towards me. My family nickname continues and has been 'passed down'. I look forward to the day when the newest member of our family will lovingly call me Nisey!!
When I was younger, other than Nisey Kay, I was never given any nickname that stuck. In high school, when I lost my voice Alex Militich dubbed me Mr. Ed. He called me that his entire senior year, when he left for college he would address his letters to me Mr. Ed Robinson. Thankfully the name never caught on with our friends. It would be during my college years that three nicknames would be bequeathed upon me. Each has it’s own crazy history. The first nickname was given to me by my gymnastics team, the second by a group of friends I hung out with at Navy Football games, the last was given to me one crazy night while walking through the yard at the Naval Academy. These nicknames have managed to survive the past twenty five plus years.
When I first enrolled at U.M.B.C. I had no idea they had a competitive gymnastics team. Every freshman was required to take a gym class. Wanting at least one class where I could guarantee myself an easy A, I registered for gymnastics. The first day of class, I changed and arrived at the gym early. That would be one of the few times I was ever early for a class. As I entered the gym I noticed the floor mat was set. To me it was inviting me to ‘play’. There was only one other person in the gym, a small blonde woman dressed in warm-ups sitting against the bleachers. She looked very young, I assumed she was another student waiting for class. I stretched for a few minutes, then began to tumble from one corner of the mat to the other. I wanted to unwind, have a little fun before class.
Back in the old days, when a gymnast tumbled we did a three step run with a power hurdle. The run allowed a gymnast to get the most power out of a short run, maximize the length of the mat. A few passes later, when I ended in the corner of the mat closest to the blonde she smiled and asked, “I am just curious why do you turn your feet out before your hurdle?” I told her I never realized I did. She laughed, said I reminded her of a duck running. Then she added I should never change my run, it worked well for me. When the class began a few minutes later, I was shocked when the small blonde stood up, introduced herself as Kathy. She would be our class instructor, she was also the gymnastics coach at the college. After class I was invited to join the gymnastics team, I was informed the next practice was that afternoon at three she hoped I would come.
I was nervous as I walked into my first college practice. The girls had been conditioning together all summer, I was a freshman, a newbie, I was afraid I would not fit in. As the team began to stretch Kathy called me over, I stood next to her as she introduced me to the team, announced she had seen me tumble earlier, they were going to love the height I got on my tumbling passes. After the introduction we were all told to line up in the corner of the mat to start floor drills. Slowly standing tumbling progressed into running tumbling. As I took my turn I could hear a couple of the girls confirm, yes she does turn her feet out. Apparently the coach had already told several of the senior members of the team about my unusual tumbling hurdle. At the end of drills, before the team broke off to practice on individual apparatus, we were allowed to let loose, show off a bit. Each girl after completing their fun pass, would return to line and receive high fives from the rest of the team. As I returned to the line after one of my passes, Teresa a senior on the team, gave me a high five then very loudly congratulated me with, “Way to go Waddles!” From that moment on, at every practice, every meet, every road trip I was no longer Denise, I was Waddles.
Dinker would be the one nickname that has stuck with me through the years. I have come to love the name, Dinker. The name was given to me by a group of friends who I hold dear. They are truly the nicest bunch of people I have ever met and known. For those of you who do not know me personally, I graduated from Arundel Senior High School in 1981. Growing up a good friend of my sister and I was Gary McCarthy. Gary grew up a few streets over from us. After Gary graduated from Arundel he attended the United States Naval Academy. He became a member of the class of 1983, 7th Company. Some of my fondest memories are the tailgaters in the parking lot of St. Paul's church just off of Farrragut Road with the guys from 7th company. I cannot recall the exact date it happened, or the football game when it first occurred. I am positive I recorded the occasion in one of my old diaries but for now all I remember is one afternoon after a football game I was standing in the parking lot enjoying the food and company when several of the guys from the class of 83 instead of saying hi Denise as they walked by, they greeted me with “Hey Dinker”. Every time someone would call me Dinker I was puzzled but I also laughed. I was positive beer had something to do with the guys strange behavior, that or a bet. After my high school friends began to address me as Dinker or Dinker Doodle at the tailgater I confronted the first person who called me Dinker, Jeff Armstrong. Puzzled I asked him why all of a sudden everyone was calling me Dinker? He informed me the guys had determined I had been hanging out with them long enough, I needed a nickname. They voted, it was Dinker.
As time passed more and more people began to call me Dinker. I soon found I was no longer introduced as Denise, only Dinker. The more the name stuck, the more I wondered why that nickname? Many times I would ask the guys how they came up with Dinker? Each time I would be met with smiles and laughter but no one would give me an answer except it fit me perfectly. The beginning of 1983, I convinced Jeff he was not allowed to graduate from the Academy without telling me why Dinker, what did it mean? Finally a few weeks before he graduated, after 2 years of being called Dinker I was told the origins of my nickname. As the story or reasoning behind my nickname was revealed I was not sure if I should be embarrassed or laugh. I determined it was better to laugh. Some women might have been offended by their reasoning, how the guys of 7th company derived Dinker, I was/am actually flattered. Jeff revealed to me the guys admired the fact I was a gymnast, more specifically they loved my gymnast butt. It was, as he described it, perfectly dinky, not too big, not too small. 'It' sat upright, looked great in jeans. Hence the girl with the great dinky butt was dubbed Dinker. I never asked exactly when and where they came up with the name, or how the subject even came up, some things are better left unknown. I enjoyed the compliment from some very dear friends. With age I no longer have the small perfect dinky butt, but the nickname Dinker has stayed with me and I wouldn't have it any other way!!
For some reason during my college years, I could flip, turn and leap on a 4 inch wide piece of wood, the balance beam, and rarely fall. On that piece of gymnastic apparatus I was graceful. Take me out of the gym, in normal life, I was a klutz. Hand me a drink minus a lid, ask me to walk further than a few feet some how or another I ended wearing it. Either I would spill it on myself or someone would bump into me. I seemed to be a magnet for flying liquids. I won’t complain, my being a klutz led me to meet one of the nicest men, who gave me a crazy nickname and an even funnier story.
Throughout my college years, I spent many weekends with my best friends, Valerie and Mary at the home of Captain and Mrs. Flight. The Flights lived on ‘Captain’s Row” on the grounds of the United States Naval Academy. Weekends at their home consisted of good food, the ‘beverage of your choice’, great conversation, Trivial Pursuit, pool, all kinds of fun and hanging out with friends.
Normally when something was spilled I was able to move, avoid the drink that was heading in my direction. Only a drop or two would end up on my clothing. This particular Friday night in the fall of 1982 I was not so lucky. I was sitting against the wall, between two people when I reached across the table and knocked a glass over. I was unable to move out of the way of the cascading liquid. I was drenched from the waist down. Thankfully the glass was filled with water and not beer. Mrs. Flight offered me her son Fred's white works pants to wear while my skirt was in the dryer. It was going to be a while before the skirt was dry and I would be able to head downtown. To pass time while we waited, for some unknown reason the three of us decided to walk across the Academy to the sailing center to see if the rumors we had heard from other girls were true.
There sits on the deck of the sailing center several pairs of huge binoculars. They were installed so tourists could look at the sailboats on the Chesapeake Bay. The previous summer one of our friends discovered by ‘accident’ the binoculars had another useful purpose and passed the information on. If you turn the binoculars inward, you get a great view of Bancroft Hall. I can't remember whose room we were trying to find, but we were all enjoying the search! I laughed hysterically at the commentary as my friends scanned the rooms of 'Mother B'. After a successful mission, the room located, the message taped to the window read, the three of us headed back across the yard towards the Flight's house.
As we were walking through the yard, next to Bancroft hall, we heard a loud voice with a deep southern accent yell, "Hey White Works!” I froze, I knew the statement was directed at me. We all looked up trying to see who was yelling at me. It was nighttime, the light from his room was behind him, we could not make out who was yelling, or what he looked like. As I stared up at the darkened figure in the window he pleaded, “Hey White Works, talk to me! Tell me your name!” I laughed in embarrassment when he asked me to go out with him. When I didn’t answer, he began to plead his case for a date. He told me numerous times "I was the best looking thing he had ever seen in white works." He asked again what my name was. Not knowing who he was, or what he looked like, I didn't give him my name. I simply told him thank you for the compliment but no thanks. The four of us yelled back and forth for a few minutes as he tried to persuade me and/or my friends to at least give him my name. Give him a chance and some hope to find me again. It was a simple request, he was harmless. That was the least we could do for him. If not he was going to have to go through his life only knowing the woman of his dreams as white works the woman who refused to tell him her name. I still remember the sound of his sexy southern accent call out as we walked away, "White Works come back I just want to know your name!" Later at Fran’s the three of us laughed over drinks at our adventure through the yard, the unknown mid calling me white works. We didn’t know who he was or what he looked like but we all agreed we loved his southern accent.
A week later, Mary, Val and I found ourselves once again hanging out with friends at Fran’s. Along the far wall of Fran’s is a row of tall bar tables. As I made my way through the crowd along the tables, searching for a friend, I noticed a guy was staring at my butt as I walked by. A minute later I heard a very loud southern accent exclaim, "Hey White Works!” Just as I had done the week before, I stopped when I heard him yell. Apparently I do not have a good poker face. I tried to act innocent, like I didn't know what he was talking about. I was unsuccessful, Bo busted me. When I froze, the look on my face, he knew I was the girl he had seen in the yard the week before. He jumped from his bar stool, grabbed my hand and announced I was not leaving this time until I gave him my name. He kept laughing out loud repeating over and over he knew I was white works when I walked by, he recognized my butt. There was no way he could ever forget what my butt looked like in “them white works.”
After I promised I would not walk away if he let go of my hand, he introduced himself as Bo Stephens, 16th company. He added he was the best looking, most charming man I was ever going to meet. Then asked what my name was, I smiled and introduced myself. Even though I had finally told him my name was Denise, he preceded to introduce me to all his friends at Fran's as White Works. With each introduction he would tell his buddies my butt was the best damn thing he had ever seen in “them pants”. As the drinks flowed, the night became later, I was even introduced several times as White Works the future Mrs. Bo Stephens.
I met his brother Billy Bob a few weeks later at UMBC. I learned at the party where Bo got his wild outspoken nature, it seemed to run in the family. Billy Bob was not shy and just as outspoken and forthright as his brother, Bo. I learned in the course of our conversation, somehow I had been the topic of discussion between brothers a few times. When I turned to walk away, go get another drink, Billy Bob said loudly, “Yep Bo is right you do have a great ass!”
I would run into Bo and his friends numerous times before he graduated from the Academy. Each time he would greet me with the familiar call, "Hey White Works!” Bo made me laugh, he made me smile but I would never go out with the handsome man with the sexy accent from Ozark, Alabama. He found a much better match for himself the summer of 1983. Later he would marry his beautiful nurse!!
Fifteen years later at the USNA class of 1984 reunion tailgater I ran into Bo. He was still handsome, still had the same sexy accent. I laughed when he introduced me to his wife as, “This is White Works! The best damn thing I have ever seen in them pants!”