Why Nicknames Are Funny And Popular. And Offensive

Nicknames. Name-calling. Sometimes they’re funny. Sometimes offensive. And other times we have mixed feelings about them.

Nicknames take on some kind of character or thing. Recently at work, my colleague Julien added to my long list of nicknames. Coming over to my desk one afternoon, boisterous Julien said, “Since you love monkeys so much, I’ll call you Cheeky Monkey Mabel. Cheeky Monkey!” I looked up from my desk, wondering if he was serious. And if the name would stick.

Ships have all sorts of wacky names and nicknames | Weekly Photo Challenge: Shadowed.

Ships have all sorts of wacky names and nicknames | Weekly Photo Challenge: Shadowed.

When we know someone well, we might give them a nickname out of friendship or love. Nicknames liven up the day, and sometimes it’s why we call each other by nicknames. When I shuffle through the office door in the mornings, eyes semi-closed, it’s actually quite entertaining to hear Julien chirpily say and smirk, “How is Cheeky Monkey today?”

There are times others find our real name hard to pronounce, and so they call us by a shortened version of our name. ‘Mabel’ is an old fashioned name, and I’ve met people who have never heard of it and struggle to pronounce it. At this point, I’ll say, “Just call me Mabes”, and they’ll happily call me this one syllable word.

And so perhaps some call us by a one or two syllable nickname because they’re lazy, lazy to learn how to pronounce our names right.

Maybe we call someone by a nickname because we want to buddy up with them, try to get a little closer to them. Back in high school, one night I was chatting on the phone to one of my classmates whom I met a few months ago. Suddenly, my mum yelled at me in Cantonese to eat a banana – but she said banana in English. My friend overheard, laughed and called me Banana. From that day onwards, we became fast friends.

Nicknames and name-calling can get offensive when race comes into the picture, and when it’s done in poor judgement. I’ve heard people refer to Asians living in Melbourne as banana: yellow on the outside and white on the inside, that Asians living in the western world act more white than Asian. Certainly not all of us fit stereotypes.

When name-calling gets offensive, it can get hurtful too. ‘Skinny bones’ is a phrase I’ve heard directed at me all my life. Fair enough, since on one hand I’m skinny to the bone. On the other, what many don’t know is my struggle with putting-food-in-mouth. Sadly, when nicknames become hurtful, it may be something we choose to put up with – we’re too polite to say anything and everyone has a right to an opinion.

The Enterprize sails away, tall, strong and proud.

The Enterprize sails away, tall, strong and proud.

Most of the time, nicknames are said with a dose of good humour. In laid-back Australia we have nicknames – or references you can call slang – poking fun at the state we’re from. I live in Melbourne and that’s in the state of Victoria, the state some Aussies are fond of calling ‘Cabbage Patch’ and Victorians ‘Cabbage Patchers’ because of the state’s fairly small geographic size. Bananas grow in tropical Queensland, and the moniker ‘Banana Benders’ is sometimes used to describe Queenslanders.

It takes creativity to come up with nicknames. My work is one creative bunch. Magician Mandy is fond of calling me Maybeee. Luscious locks Asha calls me Maybel-leeny. Both sound like Maybelline, the beauty brand. A bit of play on words here.

Then there’s fashionista Felicia who greets me with a classy hand wave along with “Good morning Miss Mabel!”, which I’m very fond of. Miss Mabel. It’s simple, has a nice ring to it, and sounds like a name and person you’d respect. Does it triumph Cheeky Monkey? Perhaps. It’s hard to decide which one takes the cake.

Nicknames. Sometimes we like them. Sometimes we don’t. Sometimes we just don’t know what to say to them.

Do you have any nicknames?

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138 thoughts on “Why Nicknames Are Funny And Popular. And Offensive

  1. It is a fine line between a nickname of affection and a nickname of offence..When used in affection and humour, others aren’t always conscious of where to draw the line so it can be either humorous to some, or mocking for others. Of course, if someone is offended, then that boundary has definitely been crossed. Australians might need to be mindful of that and not assume everyone loves a nickname. If I can generalize for a moment, I would say Australians do love using nicknames, particularly the men, calling their ‘mates’ a variety of names. If they have a short name like Todd, their mates will lengthen it, and a long name will be shortened or replaced it with a random term like slugger etc. Crazy! Some people are quite strict about their names, not wanting it shortened at all!! It is of course, their choice. I have a shortened name, and one day, I decided I wanted it lengthened!! One can tell how long someone has known me by how they address me. We hear our name for so many years of our life, nice nicknames could be a welcome change! From an expat cabbage patcher, turned banana bender!!!

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    • You are so right. Nicknames can mock too. I think it also depends on the individual’s sense of humour, and whether or not they can take a light joke or variation of their name.

      Australian men and their nicknames have always fascinated me. It’s sort of a blokey thing, I suppose, and I never really got it. Something uniquely Australian. I haven’t heard of this culture in the States or the UK (feel free to correct me if I’m wrong).

      “nice nicknames could be a welcome change” Love how you put it. Sometimes with a nice nickname, we feel like we’re assuming a more interesting identity or persona 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I love Miss Mabel, but Cheeky Monkey Mabel is cute too, although a bit of a mouthful, so wouldn’t think it will stick. People find it difficult to give me a nickname, and the nicknames they give me are ridiculous. GoAnna, SpAnna… They make me cringe. But, I did rather enjoy being referred to as Miss Anna, all through my trip in Asia people referred to me as Miss Anna, it is respectful and sweet. Cool idea for a post, got me to thinking of allllllll the names I have been called over the years. Wow. Many of them not cool. LOL!

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    • I think Miss Anna sounds good! I never knew people could get the name Anna wrong. It’s simple and quite common, and I think a bit posh.

      That is so sweet of everyone in Asia to call you Miss Anna. Sometimes it’s hard to pronounce last names (since a lot of them are heritage-related), so they call us by our first name with an initial at the beginning.

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  3. Thanks for linking to my article about Banana/Egg. My wife is Japanese, and my 24 year old daughter teases her Caucasian boyfriend that he is an egg because he is so interested in Asian culture. He has done university work in Hong Kong and Japan, and recently they both visited Singapore – so in that context saying he is an “egg” is a term of endearment.
    I agree that nicknames can border on being racist or offensive in other ways. A couple of people have said that I have “Yellow Fever” because I was attracted to Japanese.
    By the way, I was born in Geelong, Victoria and Victoria is sometimes referred to as “Mexico” being south of the border.
    Great blog! I I started following you. My nickname is “Caveman” (a variation on my family name of Cave).

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    • “Egg”. I don’t think many people would like to be called that, including “banana”. As we get older and travel, we experience new cultures and lessons, and over time our identities change. Our nicknames change too, some of them might not make sense to us (in the future).

      Sorry to hear that you have been called the term “Yellow Fever”. Those who called you that probably misunderstood.

      I visited Geelong for the first time a couple of months back. The town isn’t as culturally diverse as the city, but the locals there were so welcoming and cheery. I felt right at home. Very glad to have connected with another Australian blogger. Caveman. Interesting.

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  4. I remember having a classmate who had (and still has) the nickname ‘Bunny.’ It was common knowledge, even the teachers called him Bunny. Then, one day a teacher said ‘James, sit down.’ We were all looking at each other with blank stares – ‘Who is James?’ Well, after being classmates for a long time, we finally learned his real name. True story! 🙂

    I don’t really have any nicknames but I know they are very popular in Taiwan. My brother-in-laws nickname is ‘Ju-gi,’ meaning toad in Taiwanese. Apparently, when he was younger, he couldn’t sit still and was constantly moving. I don’t think he finds it offensive and I don’t think he actually cares.

    Personally, I like the ring to ‘Miss Mabel.’ It sounds smart and sophisticated.

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    • I wondered why your classmate got called Bunny. Maybe he liked rabbits. Maybe he wanted to be cute. I would have thought a name like that would be more appropriated for a girl 🙂

      Oh dear, your poor brother-in-law. But it’s hilarious and good that he doesn’t mind. I am sure you have a nickname, Constance. Constance is not that much of a common name in Asia, I think…

      I like Miss Mabel a lot too. Cheeky Monkey sounds like I’m getting up to no good 😀

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      • I have a colleague whose surname consists of two parts, but the second part is Bunn. He is a tall muscly guy who plays football, and he got the nickname “Bunny” (from Bunn), and he is also known as “Fluffy”. Even the managers call him Bunny. When someone uses his real name the response is – who are you talking about?

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        • @ Mabel: I honestly have no idea how he got the nickname. I still see him around town whenever I go back to Canada (you know, small-town) and people still refer to him as ‘Bunny.’

          Actually, my students in Taiwan had a great laugh when they found out my surname as it sounds similar to the a certain type of food in Chinese. However, I deserved it for associating their surnames with words I already knew like vegetable (Cai) and yellow (Huang).

          @charuzu That is a very interesting story. At least there is some reasoning behind the name – however, it is not the case for the ‘Bunny’ I know.

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          • Hearing Charuzu’s story, I am inclined to think that there are many people out there nicknamed Bunny…so maybe that name is not one to be ashamed of.

            Your students are certainly very cheeky, Constance. But with good reason. Students are always so eager to nickname their teachers – and I think it actually makes class so much more interesting 🙂

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        • “Who are you talking about?” I’ve heard that response many times before, and I think it’s usually said in a light-hearted manner most times…or it could be a sign that the person really doesn’t want to be called that nickname.

          Bunny is a very cute name for a grown up, sporty guy. Maybe he has a softer side, you never know. And then the nickname would be very fitting.

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  5. I have nicknames and that is quite typical of where I am from. In the Philippines, we love calling people by nicknames to show our affection for the person. Back home, we think that calling a person by his given name is a bit formal so we give friendly, informal names to our friends. Sometimes, one can tell from which group a friend belongs by the name he/she uses to call someone. For example, if someone calls me by the name my family calls me, that person is someone who is from my childhood. If a person calls me by my first name, that someone is somebody I knew from grade school, and so on. When someone starts bending my name this way and that, that person is sure to be a close confidant. 🙂

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    • That is so interesting to hear how nicknames work in the Philippines. I’ve met a few Filipinos with long first and last names – very formal and a bit of a mouthful.

      It sounds like you have a lot of nicknames growing up, and today as well. Sometimes the more affectionate you are with someone or the closer you are to someone, sometimes the nickname sounds ridiculous. I am sure it’s not the case with you 😀

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  6. oh, I think I lay Cheeky Monkey – it is so playful and only one that knows you can bestow. Maybelline is also cute. IN fact, I like all of the names except for the one that you do not like so much. Those names tell you that your friends regard you with affection. 🙂

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    • My colleague Julien will be happy to hear you say that. Cheeky Monkey is certainly very unique. At the end of last year he was also giving a nickname to my nickname Cheeky Monkey. He started calling me Cheeky – such as “Cheeky, what are you doing with the the papers?!”. It’s hilarious, no question about it.

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  7. My name (Cat) is a ripe ground for nicknames, and people have always come up with their own takes on it; kitcat, cat-bag, cat-man-du, and now china cat. In China, ‘mao’ (chinese for cat) is already a nickname and Chinese people think its hilarious that my real name is Cat in English.

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    • I have a Hong Kong/Australian friend named Catherine, and she asked me to call her Cat. Maybe I should call her ‘mao’ for fun? She sometimes calls me ‘gweilo’ – partly in reference to a book I was reading about an English man who spent part of his childhood in HK in the 1950s.

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      • I have actually had colleagues called Katherine and Kathleen, and they went by Cat (or Kat, same pronunciation) as well.

        A lot of my friends and relatives in Asia nickname Caucasians ‘gweilo’ or ‘gweimui’. Or ‘ang moh’. Some of my Caucasian friends find this insulting, some do not. I suppose it depends on one’s personality and their sense of humour.

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    • Oh my, that is a lot of nicknames you have there. I never thought people played with the name Cat – it’s so simple and straightforward to say and it’s a lovely name. I’m guessing the Chinese over there look confused when you say Cat is your real name 😀

      The Chinese do have many variations in Chinese for Christian or English names. Some of my university classmates have called me “Mei-bo”.

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  8. Cheeky Moneky, not a bad nickname 🙂
    I am also a person who always comes up with some nicknames. I think the nicknames for my wife are changing every quarter year and for Nathan at the moment every single month.

    I don’t try to insult people but mostly the nicknames are the thing which pop up first into my head when I see these people for the first time or depending on a certain situation how they react to it which will switch on my nickname giving function in my brain.

    Miss Mabel is not bad but Cheeky Monkey certainly is my favorite right now 🙂

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    • The kind to come up with nicknames? Then you must be very entertaining around the house, Crazy. Your wife and Nathan must be very amused all the time and go along with it. I am sure you will have one for me if we do hang out at some point 🙂

      You really have a bit of an imagination there, nicknames popping into your head when you meet people 😀 Good enough imagination to write stories and of course, a book!

      In the comments here so far, Miss Mabel wins by a long shot over Cheeky Monkey!

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      • Perhaps the other people are just not creative enough 🙂

        Especially Nathan gets new nicknames often as he is changing so much so quickly. For example in the beginning his name was Churchill as he really looked like that. In between he had great names like monkey/ hoazi, little piglet, worm and so on…

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        • I am sure one day Nathan will have a nickname for you and you will share it with us 🙂

          Churchill. Historical figure and who would have though Nathan would look like him 😀 I am sure he will make a good Pokemon too!

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    • Thank you. The Enterprize was a marvel to look at. It was much smaller than I thought, actually. I have another photo of it in a couple of posts back (Finding the Asian Australian Identity).

      Thanks for stopping by, roamingpursuits.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Even though we know it, it is is still awesome to know you love monkeys 🙂

    Banana was one of the uncomfortable names that I (Le) have experienced (and think I may have commented on previously on another post). I was called “Google Girl” at one of my old jobs because I would always say, “I don’t know, just google it!” Or I would say, “I’ll ask google”. LOL! But that name didn’t carry to the next job.

    Nicknames are cool or fun if they make you connect (i.e. whether it be a personal joke), nicknames are not soooo cool when one person decides to “name” or label another, based on an attribute that is sometimes not in their control or not a positive one and then only THEY think its funny and the feeling is not mutual.

    Thought-provoking piece. Well written yet again!

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    • Yes, I remember you saying something about banana in a previous comment. Poor you, I hope you don’t get called it again. It’s a name and topic I want to write about someday, though. Should be interesting. “Google Girl” sounds like a very smart name. Very computer and tech savvy, very quick, on-the-ball person 🙂

      You summed up nicknames in your second paragraph there. Nicknames aren’t cool at all if it’s negative and demeaning. That is just a personal attack in that instance.

      Of course, we all know that I love monkeys 😉 Sometimes my colleague drops ‘monkey’ and calls me ‘Cheeky’ instead. Always miss the monkey bit!

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  10. Great post! In Thailand, everyone has a nickname or “play name”. And they are not always Thai. I’ve had God (seriously), Guitar, Ball (short for Balloon, of course), Beer (yup), Nut, Pear, Apple, and so on. Weird, huh!

    And I’ve had many nicknames over the years and I’ve liked them all, honestly. You can call me Lani Bear Princess, if you like 😉 Miz Mabel (love your name, by the way)!

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    • ‘play name’. I love the sound of that. Sort of like make-belief name. I think all kids have that, or love coming up with names for one another.

      God? Beer? Nut? Those are really random names, Lani. I don’t know what you did to deserve them…but I suppose it’s all in good nature.

      Lani Bear Princess. I LOVE it ❤

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  11. Cheeky Monkey is cute! Love the nicknames! Yes, I got some nicknames too. They were related to my well known habits 😀 Mostly I like the nicknames given by my friends and colleagues, that means they know me 🙂 Great post Miss Mabel!

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    • I agree with you Cheeky Monkey is cute…but also it sort of sounds like I’m up to no good or am hiding something. I hope your nicknames weren’t anything too odd and you like them, sounds like you do. Sometimes when we have nicknames, we know who family are and those who matter to us 🙂

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  12. I can’t say I have had a lot of nicknames or been called a lot of names. I can see how there is a fine line between hurtful and cute. I have to be careful not to call people ‘dear’ or ‘love’. I’m a bit over the top in my warm language and I realize people can be offended by such labels.

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    • Here in Australia, a lot of people call each other ‘dear’ and ‘love’, and also ‘darl’ (short for darling). Not a week goes by that I don’t hear it said to me especially on the phone at work, if not, then said to someone else or heard on TV.

      ‘Sue’ is a very simple and straightforward name. You should be thankful 🙂

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  13. Ahh Oz, the mecca of nicknames. I don’t think I ever met anyone there who didn’t have one. Most girls had their names shortened to sound like boys’ names: George, Gene (for Gina), Lee (for Lisa, I got that one)…
    I like Miss Mabel! It’s cute, but sophisticated at the same time. 😀

    I have a few nicknames. Ri / Ri-chan is one of course, then there’s Lees as well, because two syllables are too much to handle. 😉 Had Lucky, “the Swede”, Liz (even though my name’s not Elizabeth)… Lees is the most common I guess, not too fussed about it. ^^

    I like giving people nicknames when a situation calls for itーnamed one guy I know “tabechau-kun”, which means “eats (with the implication of either regret, scorn or an accidental happening-kun”. He’s really skinny, but will eat anything and everything on the table/in the room if no one stops him, so it fits. 😄

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    • “the mecca of nicknames” I LOVE how you say that about Oz…’Oz’ being the nickname of Australia 😀 I wonder how familiar are the rest of the world are with the nickname ‘Oz’. I don’t think many outside of Australia knows it refers to Australia.

      That is quite a number of nicknames you got, and they sound so cute. I like Ri-chan, and Lucky. I don’t know how they came up with Liz, maybe you look like a Liz 😛

      Your friend is a good sport for liking the nickname you gave him. That sounds impressive. Someone with a high metabolism and can fit in a decent amount of food in his stomach. Well-deserved name!

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      • Haha, true! Maybe not so many people know that. I feel like when I moved to Australia, I had to learn a new language in many waysーthere’s a nickname for things, as well as people! Ute, muso, journo, seppo and pommie are some of my fave, haha! 😄

        I think they just assumed Lisa was already a nickname for Elizabeth. (Technically correct in Sweden, but I was named *just* Lisa, so still weird for me!)

        My friend *is* a good sport! He also pretty much doesn’t mind anything, as long as you give him food, haha! 😉

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        • Hahaha! You’re familiar with the names muso, journo… They are all my favourites too and a lot of Australians are very proud to call themselves those names. Sometimes when I meet a person here they will introduce themselves by their nickname. I don’t know, I find it hard to call someone by their nickname if I don’t know their real name ^^’

          Lol, you do not come across as a Lisa to me. Lisa reminds me of the character in The Simpsons 😀

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          • Haha, I know what you mean with feeling a bit weird about using people’s nickname’s straight off. Although I was talking with some friends last night and used a nickname for a mutual friend… and suddenly couldn’t remember her *actual* name! T-T The dangers of nicknames!

            Haha, hmm, I wish I was as smart as Lisa Simpson! Although I’m glad my family is less crazy. 😉

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            • It is a problem when you can’t remember the person’s real name. There used to be a guy at work whose given name is Brooke. At first we wanted to nickname him Brooke Shields (the actress) but he looked a lot like Brad Pitt, so his new nickname became Brad Pitt. Once when I started speaking to him, I called him Brad… then I couldnt remember his real name. I thought of Brooke, but recalled the actress. My memory recall went in to a spin and I got so confused I couldnt use any name at all.

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            • Oh no! I hope you remembered her name again soon after. That must be embarrassing…but at least you recognised her face!

              I’m not that smart, though did decently in school. That’s why no one called me Smarty Pants, which I think is an arrogant nickname 😀

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  14. Nicknames – it’s a fine line between pleasure and pain, as you point out. my parents gave all us kids short names that they thought people couldn’t mess with, but it didn’t stop the nicknames or the name-calling.
    I liked it when the blokey men in my life used to call me ‘Frank’ when I was a child – god only knows why, considering I’m female. It was a very white working class Aussie thing to do in those days. I didn’t so much like some of the rhyming slang nicknames my class mates chose.
    Choosing a name for my own son was tricky because of his dad’s Ghanaian tradition of naming him after a relative. I quite liked his uncle’s name Odame (O dar me), but I knew it would turn into “OH Dummy” in the playground, so it was off the list.

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    • Agree with you there’s a fine line between pleasure and pain in the context of nicknames. Depends on our sense of humour too. I suppose some of us (maybe more men) might be more relaxed about it, others not so, depending on our mood too.

      Frank. Maybe they called you that because you were honest and never told a lie?

      It seems that many parents think about possible nicknames for their children when naming them. I wonder how much do nicknames influence this choice. That is very interesting to hear that you didn’t go with Odame for your son, but with very good reason, of course.

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      • I think the ‘Frank’ business was just completely random Mabel, for their own amusement. I don’t know about parents considering potential nicknames – when I look about me I’m convinced some don’t give it a thought or they would have made different choices.

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    • Thank you, Cardinal. You have good taste. I like Miss Mabel a lot too.

      That is good your name is straightforward to pronounce. No one teasing you in the playground, then, I’m guessing 😛

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  15. The worst I’ve had is Zipper. When I was on road trips with my friends in the UK, whenever I was waiting for them to do something, I would zip my jacket up and down repeatedly. I don’t know why I did that, it was just one of those random actions that came by itself. Soon, every time they see me, it would be: “Hey, Zipper is here!” and then they start imitating that pulling up and down action. Oh well…

    I think Cheeky Monkey is pretty cool! 😀

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    • When you first mentioned Zipper, I thought it had something to do with pants zip and…well, let’s not go there. No minds going to the gutter on my blog 😀 But reading your story, Zipper fits you well. I think you instinctively zipped your jacket up and down because you’re bored.

      I like Cheeky Monkey too…it sounds like I’m up to no good 🙂

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  16. Miss Mabel is my favourite. Sweet, and yet sophisticated – very fitting! We tried to give our children names that would not get them shorteners…but nicknames seem to pop up whether you like it or not…David got Davve and Emma got Em. My own name is terribly long, Ann-Christine, and soon got shortened to Tina.
    In school we always nicknamed our teachers – I don’t know if they do that nowadays? Names describing their appearance or their shortcomings – and sometimes their pros. Those names are sometimes puns and impossible to translate into another language.
    I agree – the line is thin…

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    • Thank you, Leya. Miss Mabel is a lovely name and I have to thank my colleague for that!

      I don’t know how your name got shortened to Tina. I suppose Christine sounds similar to it. I thought many would call you Ann instead.

      I’m sure cheeky students still nickname teachers behind their backs these days 😉

      It is a fine line. Sometimes nicknames seem harmless, but some of us simply preferred to be called by our full names. One is better off being cautious about shouting out a new nickname to a roomful of people.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I am pretty sure you had some nicknames, Sandy, and it just eclipsed your mind. Perhaps Dee? Or maybe Sally which sounds like your name, but I can’t see how that would fit… You can always come up with a nickname for yourself too!

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  17. Outside my family members, other people have never really given me any nicknames. Maybe a few people who were trying to shorten my name have, like in school, but I think being called ‘Dom’ just sounds strange.

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    • It’s interesting to hear you say being called ‘Dom’ is odd. I’ve known a few Dominic’s and they are all good with being called ‘Dom’. Is there a reason why? Perhaps you prefer being called by your full name, and I’ve met people like that too.

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  18. nicknames … we can’t live without them. somehow, its inherent in us to recognise the X factor in someone (an action, a style, a habit, a resemblance, etc. ) and associate it to something else. i remember, back in school, we gave each other nicknames based on the position/how we play our football.
    miss mabel sounds wonderful, elegant with a touch of class!
    as they say (there is research backing this too), names with similar first alphabets/syllable always works well, think ‘marilyn monroe’ 🙂
    wishing you a good summery weekend, miss mabel.
    ken

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    • Nicknames and the X-factor. I like that relationship. I wonder what name you got in your younger days. I suppose if you were the goal keeper you’d be called goalie. Or if you always scored goals you’d be called striker or magic feet 😀

      Alliteration certainly gives names a good ring to them. Miss Mabel. Rolls off the tongue easily, thanks to my colleague.

      It’s a cool summer weekend here, Ken. I hope you’re not having too much of a hot tropical one 🙂

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  19. I always enjoy your thought provoking blogging, but it does dismay me that Aussies still seem to be narrow minded in context with our multi ethnic society.
    I moved from Western Australia to south east Queensland 41 years ago………I learned that I was no longer a “sand groper” (so named for the insect/bugs that lived in the sandy soil around Perth)
    Until you blogged it, I had never heard the tag “cabbage patchers” for Victorians…but I became well acquainted with” Mexicans”………anyone who lived south of the border between Qld and NSW, or south of the “banana curtain” I became an AUSTRALIAN rather than giving loyalty to a particular state.
    As for nick names…. mine became “curli” or kurli…….an abbreviation of my married family name. I do like your Miss Mabel though, and monkey or monkey face can be a term of endearment from theright person 🙂

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    • We’re quite the opposite. I’ve never heard of Victoria being called Mexicans until Charuzu (fellow Australian) mentioned it in the comments, and now you have mentioned it too. It must be a generational thing. And ‘banana curtain’. That’s a new one but the way you explained it makes sense.

      Good on you for being Australian – we really should all follow your example 🙂

      I hope you were okay with the nicknames curli or kurli. I suppose it’s a short form of your name. On a bit of a tangent, I’ve known people who have curly hair hate being called ‘curli’.

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      • Hi this is Charles (Charuzu correponds roughly to how Japanese people pronounce my name – cha-ru-zu).

        I looked up “Mexican” as a slang term for Victorians and learnt from urbandictionary.com: “Now obsolete, this was Australian slang for residents of Victoria, the southern-most mainland state of Australia. The Rio Grande in this case is the Murray River which is the border between Victoria and New South Wales.

        This term was especially popular in the late 80’s/early 90’s when Victoria was virtually bankrupted by an incompetent state government, in other words we were poor folk from south of the border. Thousands of Victorians migrated to the northern states.

        Things improved from the mid 90’s and this term has pretty much died out.
        Queenslander: “Bloody Mexicans moving in all over the place. Next thing they’ll want to bring daylight saving with them!” ”

        Charles
        (sometimes known as Charlie or Chuck)

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        • That is interesting to read. Thank you for sharing. Mexico sounds like a cool term for Victoria. Maybe some day it will make a comeback, who knows. After all, we’re all talking about it here! A bit of a random thought – you try explaining to a foreigner why Victoria is/used to be called Mexico, they might get confused and think that a big bunch of Mexicans live in Victoria.

          Hi Charles. Great to know your real name, and know I know why you also go by Charuzu. I usually hesitate to call anyone else by any other name than presented on their gravatar or blogger name – hard to know what offends and doesn’t just by looking at words.

          Liked by 1 person

  20. Miss Mabel, another insightful post… Nicknames are kind of fun, part of growing up and while most of the time “we” dislike the nickname when we get it, as we grow the name usually becomes a good thing. I have a couple friends who I still call occasionally call by their nicknames, but we now almost always just use our regular names. Within my family, though, we all call each other by our nicknames…they are endearing 🙂 Cheers!

    Like

    • I remember we talked about nicknames a while ago…and that inspired this post. So thank you for that 😉 It’s interesting you say we dislike nicknames sometimes, though it’s nothing rude. Growing up, my dad would call me Marble and I never liked it. And I still don’t. That name makes me sound like I’ve lost my marbles…

      I hope your family didn’t give you any embrassing nicknames 😀

      Like

      • Marbles…that is cute, I think I now know what to call you 🙂 Ha, ha…I had a nickname of Grundel (and no one really knows where it came from), and today it is rarely used ~ but when it is, I love it. My sisters call me Grunt which is short for Grundel, and was funny for them (and which I use to hate) but now like it quite a bit too 🙂 Cheers!

        Like

        • Grundel? Isn’t that a character from Ghostbusters. Maybe it came from there, or maybe not. Or it could be some other character. Hahaha, shortening nicknames. Some of my classmates used to call me Marbs, short for Marbles.

          I remember at some point you mentioned you were also called Randy. Now that’s more like it 😀

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  21. So many names and so many views. It is true. So many nicknames can be hurtful. But some are great. I’ve had quite a few nicknames. As a kid people called me Maati, the Finnish form of my name. More recently I’ve been called Mahatma and Mathias. I’m not sure why but they don’t appear to be hurtful. But nicknames also seem to come and go. Who knows what nicknames might show up tomorrow.

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    • Mahatma and Mathias are quite distant from Matthew. Hard to see how those nicknames were derived, maybe it has to do with personality. In Australia, someone who is named Matthew usually gets called Maati.

      I don’t know if you get insulted if people call you Matt. I think I have in that past and if I have insulted, my sincere apologies for that.

      You are right. Nicknames seem to come and go. I don’t get ‘banana’ too much these days. Maybe Cheeky Monkey will drift away at some point too.

      Like

  22. Interesting post as always Mabel, and not something to which I’ve given much thought. But now that you mention it, nicknames abound here on our little island! They’re all affectionate and well-meant so that’s good news. My friends call me Tee, or Teener, or even Bobeen-a term of sincere affection used when my very good friend is noting something special about me. But I know what you mean about how names can sometimes inadvertently be hurtful like your skinny bones moniker. Happily, I think most times a nickname is a positive sign of friendship. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!!

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    • Thank you, Tina. Your friends are very sporting, giving you all those nicknames which all sound very cute. Tee in particular sounds very cheery and loving. I also think nicknames can be used to calm someone down – or when our close friends are trying to get our attention and make us listen or pay attention to something 😀

      I love your positivity. We need more of that!

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  23. In my family, it’s very important to take pride in the names we are given at birth as there are carefully selected due to their traditional meanings not just because they sound good or are the same as some celebrity or another. To be called by your proper name is a sign of respect, as it is to refer to someone else by their true name. I have allowed some to call me “Al” without getting bent out of shape but I do prefer Allan.

    I’m usually quite good at adequately saying the names of people I meet whose names are difficult pronounce but when I’m not sure I ask them outright to help me say their name or something else that they are comfortable with.

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    • “To be called by your proper name is a sign of respect.” Well said, and a very important point. It’s similar in Chinese cultures. My parents were very insistent on teaching me the proper pronunciation of my Chinese name when I was little and made sure I got all the sounds correct, and made sure I knew what each of them meant.

      Always wise to ask someone how to pronounce their name if you don’t know. Pronouncing names that are foreign to us is hard and somehow we seem to go along with the wrong pronunciation sometimes. In Australia, there are Westernised versions of certain Asian names.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah. I’ve had my fair share of rude nicknames and names. But all of them are memorable in their own way.

      I am sure you have many nicknames too. I remember you wrote about it on your blog at some point, and some people pronounced the second syllable of your name wrong 😀

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  24. I like the way you handle this from both sides Mabel. Your name is a favorite as it belonged to a dear family member. I think the names I didn’t like were the ones that just came out without much thought like rhyming my name with something – mine was “Hoser.” I had a hard time not chuckling at the names my kids were given but I could always tell if they were in fun or meant to be mean. I like Miss Mabel.

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    • Thank you, Leslie. Great to hear there is someone in your family called Mabel. I haven’t actually met another Mabel in real life. We seem to be quite rare. I hope your kids were given way more fun nicknames than mean ones. Either way, they are memorable, and the bad ones make us tougher people.

      I like Miss Mabel too 😀

      Like

    • No wonder many of my Indian friends go by shortened names. Many of them introduce themselves by their nicknames, and it’s only after a while once I’ve gained their trust they’ll tell me their real, long names. I don’t know if this is the case with older Indians.

      Saby. I think that’s quite easy to pronounce 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  25. I myself do not prefer to have a nick name even if it sounds good. Having a sensitive mind may cause some troubles in social communication. I find it hard to explain my feeling about those name-calling things. In short, there are many mixed meanings in a nick name and you can not completely define whether a person is really friendly or just offensive. The feeling of a nick name also depends on the context of specific situations, the voice of the speaker, the mood of the people who owns the name. Too many troubles… I would like to call people by their real name and if they wish to have any nick name, I will let them make the choices. By the way, this post is written in a beautiful manner, Mabel ❤

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    • You summed it all very well in a paragraph, Khan. Much more shorter than what I’ve written 😀 There certainly is a lot of doubt surrounding nicknames. Not only whether a nickname is offensive or not, but when exactly do we start calling someone by their nickname can give us a headache too.

      You are smart – calling others by their first name. Sometimes that may be formal but it maybe be better than embarrassing yourself. Thank you for the nice words 🙂 ❤

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  26. Great post… very thought provoking, Miss Mabel ;-). Our reaction to nicknames does depend on the person they are coming from and their intent (or what we attribute to them)…. the first nickname I remember was given to me by my cousin who was just witty in coming up with crazy – funny names for all of her siblings and cousins. I dreaded any of my school friends finding out. They did one day, and I was soo mortified. Instantly I went from “Miss Brains” (long story) to something ridiculous 😦
    In college and then business school my friends gave me the nickname Kan…. And as you can see I have stuck with it till today.
    Maybie sounds cute. But Miss Mabel would be my vote 🙂

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    • Miss Brains sounds very respected! But oh no that it turned sour. It’s terrible when someone twists our name into something completely different until it becomes embarrassing. But as time goes on, they usually fade away!

      Kan. I think that name really suits you. I can’t imagine calling you anything else 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  27. Gee, I haven’t seen your blog in my reader lately. I clicked on your name via the comment you left me. First off, beautiful photo! Second..,cheeky monkey LOL! I used t have a nickname but I ruined it because I used to be addicted to an online game and I used my nickname for my character. Now it just reminds me of wasted time in my life. But fyi it was Lulu. My stepdad who I adored nicknamed me that 30 years ago. 🙂

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  28. Hi Mabel…
    Really nice pictures of shadowed there. Love them both….
    I called myself as Ryan (Febriyan is my full name) but when I introduced myself as that, many will say Ryan Jombang (he’s a gay criminal from Jombang – one of the city in Indonesia). Thus, I usually introduce myself as Ryan – No Jombang. 😀

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  29. hahaha interesting topic!! I have had so many nicknames throughout the years, but none were offensive… some of my friends call me Lanny, my family calls me Laninha (is the diminutive form in Portuguese), or “pequena”, which means shorty (because as you already know, I am short 😀 ).
    I dont like the idea of calling you cheeky monkey 😦
    I like Miss Mabel 😀
    In Brazil many people like to call the other by the first 2 letter… for example: Mabel would be Ma, Natalia would be Na 😀 people from Sao Paulo life to do that!!

    Like

    • I like Lanny! It suits you and glad you didn’t find it offensive. Shorty? I don’t like to be called that too, but you really can’t be as short as me. So when we meet one day, you will feel tall standing next to me 😀

      You can call me Miss Mabel, then. After this post, it has become a popular name for me!

      Interesting to hear how people give nicknames in Brazil. So in Brazil they will call your dog Enzo, Enz 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • hahaha I like Lanny too… I always find it weird when people call me by my name… it sounds like my mom complaining something to me hahaha

        The nicknames in Brazil dont work for every name, haha so for Enzzo it wouldnt work… but people would normally say “Enzinho” 😀 funny!

        Liked by 1 person

  30. I love Miss Mabel. It’s got a classy ring to it. I’ve been called nicknames all my life, some Cantonese related, some derived from my English name. Miss Pixie (obviously not my real name). That’s one 🙂 I think 80% of those were born out of love, while the 20% have racial slurs to it which I didn’t like.

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    • Yes, I certainly agree Miss Mabel has a classy ring to it. Sounds sophisticated too.

      Miss Pixie. I like it. It sound very demure and fashionable 🙂 I haven’t had any Cantonese nicknames…but it seems like a lot of them sound and mean rude. So I can understand if you don’t like some of them.

      In Asia, like Singapore and Malaysia, many Asians like to nickname Westerners gweilo or gweimui. Some find it offensive, some don’t. Depends on the person’s perception and sense of humour, I suppose.

      Liked by 1 person

      • That’s true – the gweilo gweimui is so common. I think for the most part they mean well…but I would understand why people would get offended. I have been called gweimui by relatives all my life!

        Maybe I should think of a classy Canto nickname for you….how do you like 寶寶(Bobo)? Hahaha you can always reject it 😉

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        • Loosely translated, gweimui means white girl devil or foreigner or outsider. so I can understand why some Westerners feel insulted by it. My parents are very fond of that term :S

          Haha, I think Bobo sounds cute. I don’t mind that nickname, but some might think it’s a boy’s name 😀

          Liked by 1 person

  31. I have got so many nicknames.
    At my recent working place, I am called ‘Bamby’…cute version of Bambang.
    At home I am called ‘Nono’ and also most of my friends. Some also call me ‘Bamz’, ‘Mas Bam’, Om Bang’, ‘Nano’, ‘Ryan’, even ‘Betty’. Hahahaha..
    Most Indonesians also call behind each others by using funny nicknames, based on their physical appearances, or gestures. Hehehe

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  32. At school my nickname was Sieve Face because of all my freckles. Now I did not mind that, but because I also had ginger hair, I was often referred to as ‘carrot top’ or people would ask my mother if she had left me out in the rain because the top of my head looked rusty!

    As I grew up, those Nicknames left me, but at my last place of work I often called people by nicknames, but always friendly ones. They in turn did the same to me and it was a little bit of fun.

    I think partners often give each other nicknames as well but they are always between just those two people unless the name slips out amongst friends. It’s never happened to me but it has to some of my married friends whom I found out had nicknames such as ‘Bunny’, ‘Monster Man’ and ‘Lamb Chops’ 🙂

    Like

    • Sieve Face. First time I’m hearing such a nickname and that sounds very, very cruel. A lot of people in Australia have freckles, but I’ve never heard anyone get teased or called a bad nickname for having freckles all over their face, arms or legs. Carrot top? I’ve heard that here before, and it seems very insulting to the receiver. Sounds like you paid those people who called you names not much attention. About right.

      You do have a good sense of humour, Hugh. Nicknames in the office does lighten the mood when the work day gets dull. I am sure your work place was chuckling most days.

      I don’t know why my Spam folder took a shining to you. It takes a liking to certain curse words, which your comment doesn’t have. Maybe it liked the words ‘Monster Man’ 🙂

      Like

  33. Mabel, I just loved this post 🙂

    Many a guys who studied with me in school and colleges still identifies me with my nick name 🙂

    It’s attributed to my straight hair which was so hard to comb and keep them sit quiet 🙂 (still it’s same but has become a bit soft)

    Even you can guess what it could be, yea, my very own nick name was “porcupine” 🙂

    But, as you said, some time it’s used with the intention of hurting us or make fun of us and that was so true during my school days.

    My close friends never used this name and only my enemies used it and that too in front of girls 🙂

    I used to feel so offended and most of times a small fighting starts 🙂

    But in college days, there was no scope of fighting and feeling bad about it, so I started taking it sportingly.

    There was one funny or rather interesting incident a couple of months back,

    We were hiking in a beautiful hilly area and reached the summit by almost sunset, as soon as I reached there, I heard some one loudly calling me by my nick name…

    I couldn’t believe it, I was hearing it after almost a decade, I found my college friends there and it was an incredible experience 🙂

    Thank you so much for sharing one more very interesting topic, Mabel 🙂

    Have a beautiful day 🙂

    Like

    • Thank you for sharing this story of your childhood with me, Sreejith. Porcupine. What a name, given to your out of friendly teasing and friendship. I would have never guessed that such a nickname belonged to you.

      You are so right. Nicknames bring with them lots of memories. The first time we hear a nickname directed to us is usually a time we will remember for life. In a sense, a nickname comes with a persona, a persona that embodies us very well and how can we not be sporting and play along when it’s all in good humour.

      Nicknames essentially become extensions of ourselves 🙂

      Thank you, Sreejith, for this beautiful reply.

      Liked by 1 person

  34. Since I first learned of the meaning from an uncle in Canada, I happily describe myself as a banana – being a London-born Chinese raised in Sydney from age 9. However, I would not apply the description wholesale to all Asians living in a city like Melbourne, let alone the country. I do not know what the diaspora is like in Melbourne but among the Asians in Sydney there is a healthy mix of locally-born Chinese (ABCs, if you like) and first-generation migrants who still retain much of their language and culture, so it’s quite diverse!

    Looking at a few of your other pieces, I can understand your tension in negotiating Asian and Australian identities. With regards to racism, I copped a bit of it as a child in my first few years in Sydney. But perhaps I’ve been fortunate in my school environment and society’s maturity in recent decades in that since then I haven’t really had to put up with it. I really don’t think Australia as a country needs to follow the American path of turning everything into a racial issue, throwing in token people in the media for the sake of over-zealous political correctness in racial representation and throwing an uproar of outrage when it doesn’t happen.

    I don’t know if my personal experience is of the norm or perhaps an anomaly in Sydney. But among my church family in Sydney’s north-west, we are flourishing with people of all nations whereas 25 years ago my parents, brother and I were the only Chinese among a Caucasian congregation. Our representative Bishop of Western Sydney is Ivan Lee, a fellow Chinese Aussie, chosen not because he’s Chinese but – as with everyone – because of his godly character, faithfulness and leadership. Contrary to popular misconception, Jesus isn’t from or for ‘white man’, he’s for everyone!

    Coming back to the topic of nicknames, I haven’t really been too fond of them but that’s mainly due to my personality. Of the few which stuck, the one which was most popular from my school days was initially from an unpleasant class-mate making fun of my three-word surname that was a result of my Sino-Mauritian heritage. I wasn’t happy with the nickname, but it caught on with friends for whatever reason so I learned to mind it less. After all, I don’t think many can claim to have a background like mine – a Sino-Mauritian-British-Australian!

    (Apologies for the length, what was originally a comment on bananas unwittingly turned into a mini-essay. PS I happen to think Mabel is a nice name, even if it seems rather old to the current-day ear.)

    Like

    • From having lived in Melbourne for the last few years, I’d say the Australian-born Chinese is similar to Sydney’s. A good mix of first and second generation migrants and ABCs with most of them congregating in suburbs such as Box Hill and Glen Waverley (the suburbs with the most Chinese and Vietnamese populations). I do get the feeling the different types of Asians in Melbourne (e.g. Koreans, Vietnamese, Japanese, Chinese) are inclined to mingle together, which is in line with your church description.

      It is interesting to hear your thoughts on America throwing token ethnic people in the media for the sake of racial representation. Australia does seem to be more discrete when it comes to representing diversity in our media with sprinkles of non-Anglo faces and voices – but we certainly have a long way to go perpetuating multiculturalism.

      Your background is unique, and sounds like you are proud of it. It’s funny how we can grow to like nicknames or names that we find insulting when we first hear them. Nicknames often come with the intention of breaking the ice, or with one person trying to buddy up with the other.

      The longer comments tend to be the more insightful and entertaining. Really appreciate it.

      Like

      • Hey! Just a quick note to say thanks for taking the time to reply to this and the other comments I felt compelled to write today. You seem quite the prolific writer so I can imagine how busy you are. For various personal reasons I have steered clear of ‘blogs’ and social media in general (as one might guess from my lack of a recognised log-in), but your commentaries seem unusually balanced and insightful (a rare thing in my experience, particularly in younger generations) so it looks like you’ve gained another reader here!

        Like

        • All good, Simon. Thanks for reading and for the insightful comments. They were a refreshing read and well-sounded opinions. In such a diverse world, certainly there isn’t only one opinion that floats around. The more perspectives there are, the more there is to learn and that makes the world interesting.

          Like

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