(Former managing editor of the Beaverton Valley Times and The Times, serving Tigard, Tualatin and Sherwood, Mikel Kelly handles special sections and contributes a regular column.)
Our subject for today is nicknames.
This topic came up the other day when I was looking up former presidents and learned that, according to the Internet Public Library (ipl.org), the nickname of Millard Fillmore, our 13th president, was 'The American Louis Philippe.'
Which, of course, has got to be one of the dumbest nicknames of all time.
Even if you did know that Louis Philippe was the last king to rule France, let's face it, it doesn't exactly roll off the tongue. And what the devil does it mean, anyway?
Now, for those who just fell off the avocado truck, a nickname is supposed to be, in the words of my friends at Wikipedia, 'a short, clever, cute, derogatory or otherwise substitute name for a person or thing's real name.'
I think we can all agree that Millard Fillmore's nickname was about as memorable as his presidency.
Not that all of the other presidents had such cool ones, mind you. Grover Cleveland was apparently also known as 'Uncle Jumbo,' and Woodrow Wilson sported the informal handle of 'Schoolmaster in Politics' when, obviously, he should have been just plain Woody.
But at least they had nicknames. Some chief executives did not. Warren Gamaliel Harding's nickname, according to the same Web site, is 'none,' which is a disgrace. How about 'The Only Guy In The History Of The World With That Weird Middle Name?'
One of the cardinal rules about nicknames is that you're not supposed to make up your own. They have to be, you know, bequeathed to you by someone else. All 'Seinfeld' fans know this; they remember George Costanza declaring that he would be known as 'T-bone.'
The name stuck, of course, but not on George. They all started calling another guy in the office that.
I don't usually tell too many people any of my own personal nicknames, but since we're all friends here, I'll admit that as a child I was called, on more than one occasion, Smelly Kelly.
I know you think that's probably due to the cruelty of children, but you need to understand that my wife continues to call me that to this day.
States have nicknames, too, but contrary to the rule about giving yourself one, these are not only made up by the wearer, they are chosen by groups of people, making them even more ludicrous than anything George Costanza might have come up with.
We live, for example, in The Beaver State. Georgia is The Peach State, and Texas is The Lone Star State. To discover true nickname pretentiousness, though, look no further than New Mexico: The Land of Enchantment.
Do I hear a second for changing New Mexico to The T-bone State?
Hearing none, we'll move on - to city nicknames.
There are lots of good ones: The Windy City, The Big Apple, The Big Easy, Motor City, Beantown, Sin City, etc.
Portland, as we know, has a lot of monikers. Besides being known as The City of Roses, it also answers to Bridgetown, Stumptown, PDX, River City and Rip City, just to name a few.
Eugene is The Emerald City, and Salem is The Cherry City, but how about our own towns here?
It seems redundant to make any mention of large rodents when referring to Beaverton, so I'm thinking Traffic Town might be appropriate.
It gets mentioned often enough that I'd suggest we call Tigard The City With the Lowest Tax Rate Around. But The Dog Park City isn't bad, either.
Tualatin might either be called the City of Crawfish or, perhaps more gritty and real, The (Sometimes) Underwater City. OK, do I hear T-Bone city?
Sherwood, of course, should be known from now on as The City of Blue Lamp Posts. If the community ever gets to the point where enough people agree that those old-timey posts should be painted after all, the name could easily be changed to The City of Black Lamp Posts.
King City is a tough one. I don't know of any kings living there, so I'm thinking the town might be best served by something poetic, like The Gateway to Tigard.
Or, for those with a more negative attitude, it could be The Gateway Out of Tigard.
And that ought to be enough to get you talking, so discuss amongst yourselves.