What’s in a name?

My friends call me Massive. And many of them still don’t know my real name. But I don’t have a problem with that. In fact, I like my nickname. It’s short. It’s unique. And it’s easy to remember.

My nickname is an adjective without a noun. So it makes people think. And wonder about that always absent noun. It causes embarrassment. And disappointment. But I’ve had other embarrassing and disappointing nicknames too.

My first nickname was a question. At five, before I knew a word of English, I was sent to a boarding school in India. There my teachers and fellow-students talked to me, encouraged me, persuaded me, and yelled at me, all in English. To all of them I replied, very courteously and patiently, “ga-che-mo?” – what is it? So Ga-che-mo? automatically became my nickname.

My second nickname was a noun. It was short and to-the-point. By the time I could speak English, my friends must have decided to get back at me for the countless ga-che-mo’s I had inflicted on them. So they called me Pot Brush. Very specific. But cruel. In fairness though, my hair was wild and my head big. So I would have looked like a brush used to clean – how should I put it? – toilets.

My next name was definitely uninteresting. I must have lost my colourful personality by then. My friends called me Toby, an abbreviation of Tobgay. Very boring.

Later I was called Big Darb, the only adjective-noun combination of a nickname I’ve been blessed with. “Darb” is Anglo-Indian slang for “head”. So even at 15, my head continued to attract undue attention.

And then I went to Sherubtse College. In my first week in Kanglung, Sonam Phuntsho, who now is the director of trade, called me Jaws. Incidentally, Sonam and I went to the same school and grew up in the same hostel. I now wonder if he was responsible for many of my nicknames. Come to think of it, it’s very possible.

Anyhow, I was satisfied. And secretly grateful. I liked Jaws. It was short, unique and instantly brought to mind Spielberg’s famous horror movie. What more could a boy ask for in a nickname.

But Sonam wasn’t satisfied. He decided to draw even more attention to my well-defined mandibles. So he called me Massive Jaws. My friends called me Massive.

The rest, as they say, is history.


Facebook Comments:


  1. Interesting and funny.
    ‘toilet brush’ sounds awful though!

  2. Ode to Massive, et cetera

    hey hey (ga-che-mo? … !) Massive,
    you can laugh at yourself exclusive!
    in front of everybody and anybody,
    and even a Pot Brush too, Toby!

    man, you’ll never get a Big Darb that way,
    for donning a bright orange kabney.
    you’ve just earned your silver patang,
    unlike others that shame the hips they hang.

    hey hey (ga-che-mo?) Massive,
    glad it’s Jaws who carry the adjective!
    and a very good thing it belongs to you,
    to shore up our democracy, all alone too …

    [Ap Zeko, 1/01/2009]

  3. Tshering Tobgay says

    My oversized head has been the object of jokes and laughter, love and joy, of distrust and suspicion. But never an object of peotry.

    Many thanks Ap Zeko. I’ll treasure your wise advice.

  4. Good Afternoon Gentle men,

    Its great to know your nick names,
    well, you have mentioned that ” MY oversized head has been the object of jokes and laughter” Ha! it was your days in the past but i feel the size of your head is big because you were gifted by god, so that your big head can contain we the people of BHUTAN.

    in my school days,i even heard some of my friends call you as ” BE SOME BODY” …….. that was when you and Apa kuenley started Vocational Institutes in the country…….

  5. acho i didn,t know that u had so many nick names keep up the good job

  6. dear OL,
    this was a fun entry to read, didnt have to get those brain gears into overload with all the thinking like your other posts. BUt then i think u have been giving us good food for thought because i cant help the gears going. what occurs to me is that you are a great writer. Now that may be a quality you are blessed with, alone. But i have noticed many people of your generation do rather well, too. my dad writes better than me, my kid brother is terrible, and he is trying to earn a bachelors degree now. whats going on here? are older people smarter, or did u just get better education back then?
    maybe u dont agree with me, but i have noticed the latest graduates, boy oh boy, they can not write! can not form a proper thought in their head, can not put a proper line down on paper. what do you think?


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