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JUST ANOTHER POINT OF VIEW: A good nickname is really, really hard to find

I would like you to know that I fully understand there is no possibility, at this late date - even in my own fevered brain - that I am ever going to be considered cool. If it were going to happen, I have now accepted, it would have been before I hit my 60s - and certainly not as I prepare to pass that sobering milepost to age 65.

But I can't help thinking that I might have had a better shot at it - achieving coolness, that is - if I had had just one name.

My mom was such an inside-the-box thinker. When she and my dad were pondering what to name their first-born child (me), back in early 1947, let's face it, they were stuck on the idea that this kid would have a first name, a middle name and, of course, the last name they both shared: Kelly - which, in the original Irish means, "Buy me a drink and I'll tell you a story."

She did go a little crazy on my first name. Armed with one of those books boasting "10,000 names to call your baby," she settled right away on the handle phonetically pronounced my-cull but was soon attracted to the M-I-K-E-L spelling (which, in the baby names book, came with a bunch of baloney about being Scandinavian or something).

For a middle name, they turned to my paternal grandfather, John, which very well could have been the original inspiration for Madeline Kahn's two-word critique: "How ordinowy."

Of course, we now understand that really, super-cool people have just one name. You know - Ellen, Sting, Madonna, Cher, Nate, Oprah, Adele, Beck, Bono, Drake, Rihanna, Gotye, Flea, etc. Geez, they're everywhere, these one-name cool people.

It is, however, reaching to add "The" to your name. The Edge might be cool himself, but it's in spite of his name, not because of it. I'm pretty sure The Edge (as a name) is no cooler than when I used to be known as The Dork. And, for the record, it's more correct to refer to me now as the person "formerly known as The Dork."

One of the great leveling realisms in life, of course, is that society will not normally allow you to pick your own moniker. It's tried all the time, and just about everybody agrees it doesn't work.

Remember when George Costanza tried to make everybody call him T-Bone? I understand that it was a made-up situation (that's because I know that TV and real life are two separate things), but it's an apt illustration of my point.

Also falling into the category of self-proclaimed nicknames that didn't really take was Michael Jackson's decision to be called The King of Pop. Oh, he probably got some spineless, favor-currying media types to use that title, but nobody in the real world was buying it.

In a related anecdote, my grandmother used to like to dig out a letter I wrote to her when I was 7 or 8, in which I declared I was going to be known from then on as Mike Fink, King of the River - in homage to a character in a Disney story about Davy Crockett. But even she didn't call me that, and my grandmother was convinced I could do no wrong.

I should have known that a six-word nickname would not have staying power, but I had no way of knowing back then that the true path to greatness might lie in one-worded names, and the fewer syllables the better.

Prince, the famous musician, not only went with the single-syllable approach; he also enjoyed for a number of years the unique status of being represented by a mystical, other-worldly symbol that existed on no keyboard anywhere.

How cool is that? Super-cool, I'd say. If my mom had only had a book called "10,000 Obscure Symbols to Represent Your Baby" - but of course she didn't, so I was doomed to go through life with a simple name that everybody misspells and often mispronounces.

In all honesty, I spent approximately the first half of my life fending off monikers that society in general tried to pin on me, and this brings me to the second big point I hoped to make about this topic: More often than not, it seems to me, nicknames are inspired by something negative and generally unwanted by the bestowee.

When I think back to the ones I remember from high school, military or college years, the nicknames that stuck were almost universally attributable to a mistake, a flaw, a horrendous incident or simply a characteristic about the person that they wish would be forgotten but, thanks to the nickname, they aren't.

For a while in the Navy, I was known as Snail. My dad often called me Lard-butt, and my wife calls me Smelly Kelly. I don't like any of those, and I don't really want to talk about them.

Hey, if one word is cool, one letter should be even cooler. How about just calling me M?

Former managing editor of the Beaverton Valley Times and The Times, serving Tigard, Tualatin and Sherwood, Kelly is now chief of the central editing and design desk for Community Newspapers and the Portland Tribune, and he contributes a regular column.