* Warning: Please be advised that due to the nature of this article, it has some strong, graphic language.
For the longest time, my brother Mark and I had a favorite nickname for each other: `Freakfurt’.
It didn’t mean anything. It just sounded derogatory, and we relished the underlying notes of vulgarity in it during our growing up years.
The other reason we called each other `Freakfurt’ was because our Mom wouldn’t allow us to say the sort of rude stuff that a lot of other kids could get away with: like `get lost’ or `shut up’. Somehow, `Freakfurt’ passed under her radar, so we could safely use it to express our contempt for each other even when she was around.
Of course, there were many more colorful names that we called each other in private. Such as “Penis Wrinkle”, “Sphincter Face” and “Butt Whiz”.
It seemed really important to me at the time to have an arsenal of outrageously nasty names, ready to be pulled out of my back pocket and hurled at Mark when he was least expecting it. And he was no slouch at slinging a few well-timed zingers at me either. (“Did you look in the mirror this morning? Bet you were surprised to see your Sphincter Face!”)
I remember my younger brother had a favorite made-up phrase that he and his buddy Jed Williams had even set to tune: “Popcorn penises pissing around the world”. It meant nothing of course, but it mentioned a rude part of the anatomy and a rude bodily function, so it sounded powerfully good to our young, pre-teen years.
`Wad’ was a solid one we added at the end of anything gross – like `Phlegmwad’ and `Poopwad’. `Bucket’ was popular because it made everything sound so full of it – such as `Crapbucket’ or `Jerkbucket’. Then there was the addition of `face’ — `Fartface’, `Dickface’ and so on.
We were impressive little insult generators, and that was how we related to each other.
It was a `boy’ thing to do. And I daresay, it still is. The male ego is a mysterious thing and sociologists who have studied name-calling as an act of bonding among men, say it is a universal and time-honored activity in all-male groups.
Firstly, name-calling signifies a special relationship. You got to be extremely comfortable with other male friends in a group of two or more to be giving derogatory nicknames to each other.
Secondly, it reduces tension. We may not be hunting-gathering homo sapiens any more but the male, caveman instincts are still very much alive within us and they can surface quite easily in a social situation if we’re feeling threatened or undermined in any way. With rude name-calling, the battlefield is leveled, so we can all let our guards down, relax and just enjoy being out `with the boys’.
Thirdly, it separates `others’ from `us’, which makes men feel secure within the circle of their core, all-male tribe. Outsiders, for example, cannot be calling us those same nicknames because they’re not one of us. If they did, it would be a serious breach of etiquette and frankly, quite insulting.
Lastly, it’s just fun. Men are very interested in the physicality of things, and the best nicknames are imaginative descriptions of gross physical characteristics because we can all laugh and enjoy the humor of it. (Which is why name-calling does not cross over so well with the fairer sex. Imagine women calling each other a `Turd Burglar’ or a `Fart Blossom’!)
Personally, I never minded the mental image of a scrotum that always came up when my circle of male friends, and even my high school principal called me `Scrody’. I thought it was funny too, and didn’t mind them enjoying a moment of light-hearted humor at my expense.
And now I do it with my son. We call each other a whole host of wildly creative, utterly disgusting, scum-pus-oozy names and it’s a dad-and-son, boy’s club ritual that we both enjoy.
For example, if he’s leaving for school in the morning, I’ll see him off with a “Bye, Buttface!” And my 5-year-old will respond: “Bye, Diarrhoea Face!”
It’s just a matter of time before I am pulled up by a horrified mom for the kind of boy-speak my son is probably teaching her kid. Thankfully it hasn’t happened yet, but I do know that day is coming…