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Grocer guru anoints family, friends with nicknames

Staff writer

The art of nicknaming is an extension of the Greg Carlson experience.

“It goes on forever,” Greg said with a faraway look in his eye, pondering a legacy of nicknames he bestowed upon friends, family, acquaintances, and Carlson’s Grocery employees.

“Uncle Denny started it,” Greg said. “He called me Clyde and my brother Mitch was Clam. Uncle Denny was one of those old-timers with a southern accent that would say, ‘Gosh darn it Clyde what the heck are ya doin’?’”

Good question Uncle Denny. How does “Clyde” do it? Where does Greg find inspiration for his perpetual fountain of nicknames?

“You never know when a nickname’s going to come,” Greg’s brother Mitch Carlson chuckled. “I don’t know where he comes up with the stuff.”

Greg’s wife, Linda, said he’s had the gift of naming ever since she’s known him, but he’s never given her a nickname, to which Greg jokingly replied, “At least not any that I say in front of you.”

“He always writes them into the kid’s schedules at work,” Linda said, explaining how some employees have asked her what their hours were because they couldn’t locate their real names.

Greg acknowledged the silliness of some nicknames, and though some don’t always like what he dubs them, he hopes it helps create a fun work environment.

For Greg, most nicknames just happen, or come to him in a play on words, like Zantac, his nickname for Zan Fine, who is one of the many Carlson’s employees Greg has given alternate names.

Greg said he couldn’t remember all the nicknames he’s dished out, let alone the origin for his inspiration.

He does, however, remember Stick and Stump, Greg’s nicknames for Melissa and Chassidy Carlson. Those stemmed from when each girl was younger and one was taller.

“I’ve always called Jandee Moore, ‘Jandee Poo-Poo,’” Greg said. “Then there’s Bink and Digger down in Florence, and Zoom, Spook, and Skeet (that’s Dad.)”

Some nicknames originate from pop culture references drifting in his stream of consciousness.

“We call ol’ Justin Rahe ‘Beebs’ because he did this Justin Beeber hair flip thing, and we used to call Mark Tajchman Ernest T. Bass [a fictional character on the Andy Griffith show],” Greg explained. “Then there was Adam Palic. He just looked like a Norman.”

Greg said Adam reminded him of Norm from the ’80s sitcom “Cheers,” a character that was perpetually slow and late to work.

“Norm has gone a long way,” Greg said. “The high school kids printed Adam’s nickname on a T-shirt after he was in an accident a few years ago.”

Greg’s nephew, Puff, whose real name is actually Chase Carlson, knows Norm, too.

“Sometimes I forget that Norm’s name is really Adam,” Chase said. “Greg started that.”

Nick Carlson, who admits to having inherited his dad’s nickname trait, said Greg’s high school friends used to call his dad Kirby.

“People seem to like all the nicknames,” Nick said. “It shows them you’re kind of treating them like family.”

Last modified Dec. 10, 2014

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