Thursday, February 2, 2012

The Name Game of Life

There are many people who believe that a name can greatly influence a person's character. We have all at one time or another said something like, "He doesn't look like a Thurgood," or, "He doesn't look like a Theresa," or whatever, because we assign certain characteristics to different names. Knowing that, does each person subconsciously identify with the given characteristics of his or her name? That's a good question. Thank you. You're welcome.

Names help define who we are. They help differentiate us from others, but oftentimes they esablish connections to others, such as when we name a newborn after a family member. Last names also establish a connection to your lineage, obviously. They also can reflect your ethnicity. You may not look Polish, but when people hear the "ski" at the end of your name, or see a "cz" somewhere, they know to start making pollack jokes.

The significance of names can really be seen with nicknames. A first name is bestowed upon you without your input and many times it means nothing more than your parents liked the sound of it; but nicknames are based on something about you, be it your freckles and red hair, your raggedy clothes, where you grew up, your huge glasses, or your tendency to throw up in the hallway in 3rd grade. A nickname can really say a lot about you.

I've had many names. My actual first name is somewhat unique, and I think it has influenced my character and personality. Most people say I'm very unique. When they say it, it sounds more like "odd", but I know what they mean.

Geoff. I love the letter "G". It has a lot of symbology to it, religious, numerical, and so forth.

Illuminati? Of course it is.

I love writing the letter; it's very loopy and circular. It was one of my first nicknames, G. I had to choose a nickname for the 8th grade yearbook, and that's what I chose. Which doesn't really count as a nickname because I chose it, but a few people somewhere had called me that, a few times at least. And it wasn't a cool thing, like "I'm a 'G'", it was just that my name started with "g". That's just lazy. Like when people call me "Jeff with a G". It shows a lack of creativity, but I still like both.

I love the fact that "G" has many different sounds to it. I love that my name confuses most people. They either look at the first letter and assume my name is Greg, or they pronounce it "Gee-off". That's what most of the kids at my day job call me now. I kinda like the sound of it. It's a nice change from "Jeff", and I love the fact that my name changes from situation to situation, because I often feel that I do the same thing. My name and I are dynamic.

A few of my past co-workers called me Mr. G. That has a nice ring to it. Professional, but you don't know if it's a legal profession or not, so there's an edge to it. I was called Mr. E when I was a substitute teacher. I'm a sucker for puns, and I like thinking of myself as mysterious rather than just weird, so that one was cool, too.

When I moved from Hartford to West Hartford after 8th grade, I was given the name "Hayofredo" by my freshman Spanish teacher. I have no idea if that's how you spell it, but it was pronounced "Hay-yo-fray-doe". Supposedly that was how you pronounced Geoff in Spanish, but I think there was a mistake in his translation because I haven't heard that before or since. My friend in the class soon shortened it to Hayo and that spread to the basketball team, and then to most of my friends back in Hartford. That was my original rapper name (classics all day, son). I even had 13 volumes of "Hayo Mixtapes" with nothing but the best hip-hop songs in the world all expertly mixed on 90 minute cassettes (still got 'em).

Then I went off to UConn, where I befriended a crew of people on the 3rd floor of Batterson Hall in the Northwest dorms. This group came to be known collectively as "EAD", a mock fraternity of sorts; the initials were not greek, however. Everybody was given nicknames, and one person, who came to be know as Barf, bestowed upon me the name of Thug. This name, like Geoff before it, has gone through, and continues to go through, many changes. Some of the names that the original "Thug" has morphed into include, but are not limited to: HayoThug, Thuggy, ThugNug, ThugNig, Thuggery, Mr. Thug, Thug Life, Thuggeriffic, Thugyeezy, Thugnology, T.H., T.H'er, T.H.U.G., T.H.U.G. Nuh!, Thugnificent, Thuggernator, Thugnuts, Thuggalugg, Thuggish Ruggish Bone, and Thugnugget, to name a few.

Many people ask me how I got the name, and I try to be as vague and elusive as possible, but I'll try to give a decent explanation now.

Basically, it's the same story as 'Pac's, except more real.

As I said, the name was bestowed upon me by my then-soon-to-be college roommate during my freshman year. I visited Batterson dorms one Thursday night (as per tradition) and the guys were all saying "What's up Thug!" After I finally realized it was me they were talking to, I asked what it was all about. I was told Barf gave it to me because I was a white boy from West Hartford that knew a lot about rap (paraphrasing, but pretty accurate). Now, despite the fact that it was 1998 and rap was very mainstream at the time, with white people making up the majority of rap sales (even pre-Eminem), and despite my dislike for the automatic association of rap with criminality, and despite the fact that I was not technically "from" West Hartford, it was true that I listened to mostly rap and had an expansive knowledge of the genre. As a rap fan, how could I not like the name? It was ironic and un-ironic at the same time. It's like a paradox (my favorite word, and situation). From then on, most people I met in college did not know my real name. Many still don't.

Now to get back to my point from the introduction (circle, circle); has my name influenced my character? I think that it has, and I also think I have influenced the name, and its many variations.

The name obviously has very negative connotations; therefore, I can attempt to change the image of a "thug" by possessing positive energy and spreading love. I may do things that people stereotypically categorize as things that "thugs" might do, like listen to rap and sell crack, but that doesn't mean all of the stereotypes are true. I can listen to rap and spread love (and crack) at the same time.

There are also connotations of the word "thug" that I do like. It implies a possession of street knowledge, and I certainly learned a lot on the mean street of Ansonia in Hartford's South End and then the mean road of Brookmoor in West Hartford. It also implies a person who lives his or her life without concern for society's rules and standards, someone resistant to the judgmental views of the common folk. It was that aspect of the persona many rappers attempted to portray that was so interesting to me; it's not that I particularly like guns and drugs and wild sex (I LOVE those things) but I admired and enjoyed the fact that rappers were living however they wanted to live, or at least pretending to live that way. Living like that takes courage, and that's the courage of a thug, and that's what I try to embody. In fact, I wish I was more thuggish at times.

I believe I influenced the name, too, and by that I mean the name has adapted to me. It started off as Thug, then morphed into Thuggy, which is what most people call me. Thuggy is like a more friendly version of Thug. When I first meet people, they are a little put off by calling me Thug, but Thuggy takes the edge off a bit.
Something like this, only not as corny or as likely to ruin your childhood.

The name reflects my view of myself as a sort of anti-hero, like The Punisher, or Walt White. I'm the guy that lives outside of society's rules, but ultimately fights for good. And this song plays whenever I enter a room.

Or maybe I just like it because it's funny. A pretty normal looking white guy named Thug. That's funny.

But why is it funny? Because when most people hear the word "thug", the image that immediately comes to mind is a young, black man. That's fucked up. All those negative connotations of a "thug" are automatically transferred to young black men. Any time you hear someone make a reference to "thugs", what are they actually saying? Listen closely. "Thug" has become code for "black male", just like "urban culture" has become a euphemism for "black culture". Some people have even said to me, "You're name is Thug? But, you're white!?" or something to that effect. That says a lot about our society and the preconceived notions, and straight up racism, that still exist. "Thug" has basically become the accepted form of "nigger". Now that would be a hell of a nickname. Hmmmmm....

So what's in a name? Well, everything that you want to be in a name. My nickname could have very well died in college, as Barf's did, but the fact that I embraced it, and in some sense embodied it (in whatever way possible, be it ironic or otherwise) helped it stick with me throughout the years. And like any good nickname, I did not come up with it or attempt to prolong the use of the name, which I really think is the key to longevity with any nickname.

And now my name has taken on another life, in the form of Prof. Thug., short for Professor Thuggy. I love it because it represents the yin and yang of my persona, a balance that exists in us all, some of us simply embrace it more openly than others.

And, once again, everything comes back around full circle. My born name starts with a G, and my socially bestowed name, Thug, ends with a g. That's some circle ish right there.

I Love You All...Class Dismissed.


J.J. Treat said...

I remember there being a "Barf", but for the life of me I can't remember who it was...

Nick Jake said...

Awesome.......Love this should not have left out the final nail in the coffin for why it is Thug.......see: Wu-Tang/ Dorm Performance :-)

Barf and