What’s in a Name, Really?


Michelle Freed

“Come here, you little pizzlewart!” That’s what my grandfather used to yell from his throne, otherwise known as a faded gold recliner, in the corner of his living room. He called all of his grandchildren pizzlewarts, which I thought was an endearing term of love and affection. Until I found out as an adult that a pizzle refers to … ahem … a certain appendage of a non-human male animal.

I’m not exactly sure if pizzles get warts, but somehow those two words were morphed together to create the first nickname that I ever had. What that signifies, I don’t even want to know.

My next nickname that only made a brief appearance was when I was in middle school. Since my initials were M.F. (yes, you can go there … it won’t be the first time), I battled the obvious moniker as soon as my peers were brave enough to use graphic language. Thankfully, that one didn’t last too long.

Next on the list, and again because of my initials, came the somewhat disturbing label of “Massey Ferguson.” Those of you who have ever been in or around rural communities will recognize this well known manufacturer of large farming equipment, namely combines and tractors. You can imagine my sense of joy and pride. Then it was “Mass” for short – which was particularly demoralizing for a girl with curvy hips.

My high school Basic Accounting teacher called me Edith, as in Bunker. I will not divulge the reason for this, but I will point out that I have never held a job involving numbers. Other nicknames in the lineup during my lifetime? ‘Chelle, Mischka, Mich, Lovey and Mo.

When I was in college, I penned a weekly column in the campus newspaper. Writing under my given name, Michelle Freed, my editor decided to christen it “Freed At Last,” and ran it on Fridays. My columns became symbols of much-awaited weekends, and random strangers would yell “Freed ‘em!” as I walked to class. This always startled me, and triggered an immediate physical reaction; I would duck and spin, sure that I was about to witness a band of rebels freeing a group of confined freshmen being dragged to class against their will.

When I got married years later, it took me awhile to get used to my new name, but I never had any reservations about changing it. After all, my maiden name was nothing more than my father’s, which was his father’s, and so on and so forth. I loved it, but I also knew that it didn’t make me who I was. “A rose by any other name,” and all that.

Which brings me to my point. Most recently, I’ve been exploring opportunities that might just broaden my audience and expand my world beyond the northern Indianapolis area. So there are lots of factors to consider, like whether I need a haircut and should I whiten my teeth? But the bigger concern for me was this: do I write under my married name, or switch back to my maiden name? The answer you will deduce by my byline.

I began my journalism career as a Freed, and I find it fitting to go back to it now. So for the record, I’m not getting divorced. I don’t have multiple personalities, and I’m not running from the IRS or FBI. I’m simply writing under a different name, for professional reasons only.

Many of you will not have even noticed, and some might say, “I just don’t get it.” It’s okay. You don’t have to. Just continue reading, continue chuckling a time or two, and I’ll feel like my job is done. Just please don’t call me Massey … it hurts my feelings.

About author

This article was written by Michelle Freed

An Okie at heart, Michelle Freed enjoys Sooner football and Hoosier living with a particular appreciation for humor in everyday circumstances. With a husband and two kids, she has plenty of material.

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