I’m a big fan of stand-up comedy. John Mulaney, Jerry Seinfeld, Russell Peters, Key and Peele—I love them all and dozens of others. To me, stand-up comedy is good medicine—especially during rough times. Laughing for an hour or two straight is good for the soul.

Unfortunately, there aren’t too many stand-up comedians I can share with my daughter yet. Whether it’s foul language or insensitive remarks, I’m just not prepared to explain the premise of some jokes. That’s why I was so excited when I was surfing YouTube and found a stand-up special by Greg Davies from 2011. Old, sure. Funny as hell? Absolutely! Best of all, he has tons of clean jokes that my daughter would get.

So, we watched a little bit—and we came upon a joke that has never resonated more with me than it does now that I’m a parent. It’s about childhood nicknames. If you’ve got a few minutes, watch it for yourself:


If you don’t have time to give that link a click, here’s the gist of things. The joke is, children need absolutely no reason to give you or their peers a nickname. And, while some nicknames can be unpleasant, they’re almost always immensely creative! If you resent them, they’ll stick. If you embrace them, they’ll stick. There is no escape from child nicknames!

I’ve been called a lot of things in my life by a lot of people, and some of my friends still call me nicknames today. I’ve come to embrace some of them, and some still irritate me. Regardless, nicknames persist.

I asked my daughter if she has any nicknames and she said no, but she had no problem rattling off a slew of them for kids she knows. Surprise, surprise. Some made no sense to me, others were funny and some were downright mean. I was a little taken aback from having the joke of a comedian bridged into reality! I decided it was a teachable moment.

We talked about the difference between name-calling and nicknames, and how words can hurt people. She was surprisingly astute about understanding nicknames for endearment vs. nicknames that are hurtful, and I was proud when she said that she didn’t call people mean names. We talked about how calling people names might hurt their feelings even if they’re not meant to be mean. All in all, it was a great conversation and I think it made my daughter more conscious of what it means to call someone something other than their name.

I’m of the belief that an endearing nickname is a good thing. It shows camaraderie among friends. Even when a nickname starts off as a tease or a way to make fun of you, if you embrace your nickname with the right friends, it becomes a positive part of your dynamic. That said, I’m also of the belief that mean nicknames don’t come from friends. To me, it’s a good marker of who your real friends are vs. people who want to use you as a punching bag.

I’m not sure if they’ll read this, but I still call my friends by their nicknames and they still call me by mine. I’m sure my daughter will come into her own nickname at some point. When she does, I hope she can laugh at it the way my friends and I have at ours.