Sobre Nombres

      I've always thought Ticos had an amazing talent for twisting Spanish into phrases that are both of wit and humor.  Nicknames too!  They have the best nicknames.  It's here that my article should include a precious gem of an example of what I speak but, after 23 years of living on the Osa, my Spanish is so embarrassingly poor I am ashamed to try.  I imagine they have a nickname for linguistic vacuums like me but my Spanish is so bad, I wouldn't know it.  Which brings me to my first nickname... Yigüirro.  
     Cutting my chops on the hardscrabble streets of Puerto Hellmayonnaise in the early nineties, I did my best to be a positive influence on the community and it's impressionable youth (at least during the day, as I often went off the rails as night fell).  Fresh out of the US Forest Service, I used my background in wildlife biology to volunteer at the escuela across from the plaza showing students, skulls and bones and feathers and explaining the nuances of tropical biology and conservation.  Well, one of my drinking buddies was Luis Arias, the jefe of the colectivo.  We'd drink pedo de chancho (mountain guaro) behind closed doors of the old Mini Tigre or rum and cokes next door at the Carolina when IT was the epicenter of PJ (no slight to the fabled, Crows Nest).  When Luis began calling me, yigüirro, I was honored to be nicknamed CR's national bird and began strutting around PJ like a cock o' the rock, clueless to the snickering and head shaking.  Years later, after he couldn't take my naïveté any longer, another friend informed me I was being called gay.  Apparently, butterflies and birds (national symbol or not), associate you with preferring men. I'm not sure why bats and insects are excluded. Gay women are named after particular baked goods but that's another story.  I immediately began calling Luis a cuyeo or, common paraque, however with little effect.  I am the yigüirro to a select few of the old crowd and my predilection to women won't change that.
     Another nickname of mine I still hear shouted out at festivals and bull fights is, Matamono.  Those who know me are aware of my conviction towards the well being of wildlife.  I might capture and display snakes at my home but never for longer than a month and certainly shorter if I don't have their required food available.  So, the un initiated take umbrage of my "monkey killer" moniker.  Here's the story... Returning from a tour and driving passed the old Gmelina fields by Sombrero, we spotted a Capuchin run across in front of us.  Odd, I thought. And, exhibiting a gait of unusual clumsiness.  So, we stopped the car. I got out and found said monkey in a very sad state of decline.  Labored breathing, open sores, torn lips exposing poor dentition... this dude was messed up badly!  Looking for something to end the suffering became easier when, a truck belonging to Osa Aggregates stopped to see what the fuss was about.  Surely these gold miners would be in possession of a firearm, right?  Surprisingly, everyone left their guns at home or else, feared Obama was going to take them away.  However, the tell tale "schwing" of a machete coming out of its scabbard gave me hope.  Yes indeed, a bonafide 36" Wilkinson edged blade was handed to me in order to dispatch our unfortunate ancestor.  Not one to shy away from an audience, I said some light hearted prayers for the dying, licked my thumb and drew it along the length of the blade, took aim at its parasite infested neck and whacked its head off.  For me, it was an act of compassion but to the crew of oroerosit was the day I became, Matamono.
      Other nations tend to have pseudonyms based on a deviation of the original name or thing.  Aussies are great at this and I often stop my good mate, Moyk ( I'll get to that), in the middle of a story to clarify what the hell he just said.  In fact, years back, I hosted a... "What the Fuck is Moyk Saying?" party at Martinas bar using vernacular such "eskie", "muso's" and "seppos."  Eskie, being an ice chest because they are cold.  Eskimos are cold dwelling people.  Entonces, eskie is short for Eskimo.  Muso's is short for musician (pretty straight forward).  Seppos is my favorite though and it's what gringos are called down under. Because Yanks rhymes with tanks.  And, apparently, Australia has septic tanks.  Well, in order to give the nation responsible for Donald Trump, a little dig... we became Seppos or, septic tanks.  Now, I realize this nickname has nothing to do with DT and was probably given to us when fighting side by side in WWll so don't get all bent if you're a Donald supporter.  
     So, Mike became Moyk because when he was introducing himself to the management at Lapa Rios years back, this is what they heard. "El gusto es mío. Mi nombre es Moyk."  The stunned look on the faces repeating, "Moyk?" cracked me up so from that point on, all I ever called him was Moyk.  Which works cause there might be other Mikes around but we never confuse them.  His wife and daughter call him Moyk. He's Moyk.
     However, Ticos prefer to create nicknames based on the ridiculously rich flora and fauna in which they live.  So when my friend, Thornton (aka Thorny) came to visit, I set out explaining what thorny means in English using examples from rose bushes to citrus trees.  But when walking through PJ one day in the midst of describing Thorny's nickname, I spied a pejibaye palm tree and used it as an example.  My Tico bro couldn't care less if he was named Spike, Prick or Ouch because from that instant on he became, Pejibaye.  He's been off the radar over 15 years now but I bet if he magically appeared on the main drag downtown, there would be shouts of "Pejibayeeeee."
     One of the classics though is, Perejil. Parsley.  Let me explain.  Years ago when my wife, Terry, used to walk the hill behind our place with her friend, Katie, they would stop in at Katie's place of employ, Lapa Rios, for a glass of water and a chat.  Now, I don't know if this guy, Perejil, was on staff when Moyk got his nickname but, finally the girls had to ask why he was referred to as such.  One of the women working there described the unfortunate lad like a sprig of parsley you push to the side of your plate so you can focus on the main course.  Harsh?  Yes.  But entirely poetic in its resolute clarity.