Venom: The Power of Nicknames

By Dontrell Birt

It was dark, and then there was light, although it took two seconds after my grandpa flipped the switch. There was a sudden, loud “click.” The house had been sitting in the same spot through different weather for 30 years. We had just had a storm. Afraid of the sudden dark shadow hovering over my small head, I hit my grandpa with a pop and the force of a two-second swing. My grandmother burst out with giggles. She laughed so hard that you could see it travel to her stomach. The soft warm color sheets shook and wrinkled as she moved around. Then my grandmother said, “Stop, Venom.” She laughed more. In my head, nicknames signify something to me. We should behold the name that we were given when we were younger from a family member, friend, or significant other because it is a deep reminder of happiness and joy that you have with the person.

We all have a time in our lives when we are labeled to be a hero or a villain from various intentional and unintentional actions. I didn’t try to hit my grandfather, but my reaction of fear sparked a sudden move into my body. I have been known to lash out. I have hit vicious and grumpy children with my bright red and lime green fire truck toy. I have also gotten dull-gold applesauce, liquid like mash potatoes, on my granny’s soft cool grey carpet. I didn’t intend to do these actions. I think a part of it was being as young as I was. But there were things I’ve intended to do that were bad as well, such as going to play a game with my friends where you knock on the doors in the neighborhood and run off. It would make the neighbors mad, and sometimes they would call the police. I heard the name again--“Venom”--when I was escorted to the doorstep of my granny’s house by a very tall police officer. I remember getting a little warm from sitting and waiting on the chipped white porch swing until my granny answered the door. The police officer continued to press and press his pale finger through the small circular light as if he thought no one was home. He shook his head vigorously, and you could hear the keys on his body shake and the house scream “ding ding ding ding.” Then the squeak of the door started to crack, and she said, “Yes officer, can I help you?” 

He replied with an angry tone, “Your grandson has been interrupting the peace in the neighborhood.” 

“Get into the house, Venom,” my granny said. But she wasn’t angry. She gave me a side-eye with a wrinkled smirk on her face. When I heard the nickname, it made me feel as if I was special. I ran into the house past the tall officer, and I heard the door slam shut.

Even though they come out at some of my weaker moments, the good things that nicknames give me are placement, warmth, and emotion. Every time I just hear someone say the name that they have given me, I feel appreciated. Like I said in the previous paragraph, we all have a time in our lives when we are labeled to be a hero or a villain. When I am labeled to be anything--when someone makes an assumption about my character--I can turn to the playful nicknames from the people I love to find myself again. For example, when my mom calls me “Trell,” she’s happy with me. When my grandmother says “Venom,” she is teasing me, showing that she is acknowledging me. I know there is happiness that comes with the person saying it. I feel that we all have an emotion toward the nickname that we are called just not even knowing it. Or we might even not catch what we are called and acknowledge by that friend or other meaningful person until they are dead. A nickname makes you feel emotional intimacy. A nickname makes you feel friendship. And it also makes you feel trust.