I never remember my Dad calling me Justin.


For thirty some odd years, my Dad worked a blue-collar factory job at U.S. Electrical Motors in Philadelphia, Mississippi.  As a child growing up, I loved hearing stories about the goings on at the “Motor Mill”.

I think maybe more entertaining than the stories themselves were the names of the characters in the stories.  Dad worked with men called Goat, Squat Rock, Bear (incidentally Bear was Hot Triplet’s son), Punk, Tater, Bummer, and Tiny.

I never experienced a “take your child to work” day, so the only character I ever met was Tiny.  Tiny weighed about two hundred fifty pounds, so I could only imagine what the rest of these men really looked like.  As the character attributes and legends grew and developed in my mind, Dad’s stories brought me to love nicknames.

I even love my nickname.  My whole immediate family and most of my extended family call me Shug.  Dad gave me my nickname.  That’s one of the reasons I like it so much.

Where did my Dad come up with such a name?

Here’s the story I was told.

On the 1960’s sitcom “The Beverly Hillbillies” there was a recurring character named Shorty.  Shorty was not a regular, but he did occasionally make appearances.  When he did show up, one of his main objectives was to flirt with the secretary at the Drysdale’s bank.  Shorty’s stage name was Shug Fisher.  My Dad thought that was a great name, and, after all, our last name is Fisher, so it just fit.  The “flirting with secretaries” part also fit.  I guess you could call it a self-fulfilling prophecy.

I never remember my Dad calling me Justin.  My Mom says that when they brought me home from the hospital, that Dad held me down for the dog to see and smell of, and said, “Here’s Shug.”

My life has been filled with great people with great nicknames.  One of my favorite Sunday school teachers was Squirrel.  Scooter and Rooster were both in my wedding.  My nieces are Sweetpea, Peanut, and Jellybean.  Cash was an assistant to me as evening coordinator at Jefferson State Community College, a.k.a. Jeffy Tech.  My best friend has several nicknames including Hambone and Rabbit.  Other friends include Super K, D-Mo, Moose, Barney, Thorndog, Jo-Bo, Spanky, Skip, and of course Bubba.

Some of these names are spin-offs from these people’s given names.  Most, however, are derived from an event they were involved in, or a character trait they posses.

This brings me to one of my favorite nicknames of all time, Barnabas.  Acts 4:36-37 says, “Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means Son of Encouragement), sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet.”

“Son of Encouragement” is a great nickname.  Notice that in the verse his name was not Barnabas.  His name was Joseph.  The apostles gave him this nickname.  I do not believe that this nickname was a self-fulfilling prophecy as mine was.  I believe Joseph did something very special to earn this title.

If you read the entire book of Acts, over and over again we see Barnabas encouraging.

In Chapter 9 we see him bringing Saul into the company and fellowship of other believers.

We see evidence in Chapter 11 when, he travels to Atioch, and encourages the new believers “remain true to the Lord with all their hearts.”  Verse 24 of this chapter says, “He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith…”

In Chapter 13 the Holy Spirit sets him apart for a special work in Cyprus.

Acts 14:3 reads, “So Paul and Barnabas spent considerable time {in Iconium}, speaking boldly for the Lord, who confirmed the message of his grace by enabling them to do miraculous signs and wonders.”

Joseph was called Barnabas because he encouraged all those around him.  He encouraged like no other; like it was going out of style.  I believe he could not help himself.  It was in him and it had to come out!

So thanks to Dad – and Barnabas – I love nicknames, I love making up new nicknames, and I love to give them to family and friends alike – as an encouragement, of course!


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