Monday, June 23, 2008

Rich to Rico

It's all in a name, I guess.

When I was growing up, I always went by my proper name, Richard. Sure, some of my relatives referred to me as "Ricky" or "Rick", but most people stuck with the sure thing -- Richard. My mother always reminded me (and other people) that my real name was Richard, and she preferred that everyone use that. And, I guess, so did I.

When I went to college at Northwestern, on Chicago's North Shore, "Richard" became shortened to "Rich". This happened because Chicagoans (with all due respect) cannot use a first name longer than one syllable. For example, if you typically go by the initials "AJ", you will find even this shortened in Chicago. "Yo, A! We're all going to Mike's place. You wanna come with?" That's how you would be addressed in Chicago.

So for many years, against my wishes (well, I never corrected anyone), I went by the nickname "Rich". I never really liked it, because I thought it was somewhat artificial. "Rich" does not roll off the tongue -- it sort of forces itself out, and it seems to end too soon. It's like you're meaning to say the full name "Richard", but you have to put on the brakes to avoid hitting the next syllable.

All this was finally put to rest last year. My friend Marc at work, being somewhat fluent in Spanish, told me one day that my nickname in Spanish would be "Rico". When he said it, he rolled his R's (which is, by the way, something I cannot do). I liked the sound of it, so Marc started using it all the time, and other people in the office followed suit. One group in particular, new friends from India, immediately adopted Rico and have called me nothing else since. Soon, old friends started picking up on this and calling me Rico as well. And in a final markedly affirmative statement, even my wife addressed me as Rico one day when we were out shopping.

And so it has stuck. I now appear to be Rico in almost every social context, except for our dinner club, and I'm sure that they'll begin using it after we make that next batch of Swamp Breezes.

I like the nickname Rico very rolls off the tongue quite nicely, unlike my old nickname, which I seem to have forgotten.