Nicknames and other quirks
Since I address myself often enough in this book and always use different names, I would like to shed some light on this aspect and do a little research into the causes. I hope that the leaps in time can be tolerated, as this is the subject in particular.
I also hope for -hilaration, not only with regard to my own story, but also with regard to the sometimes original, sometimes simply funny incidents that occur again and again in player circles, which are responsible for the word creations or nicknames.
1) A little potpourri
The things mothers think of. I got the name just like that. No relation to Dirk, no reason. But I did listen to the name. At school it spread like wildfire. And today, when I speak to some dear old school friend or even Angie, it can happen that I hear it again: “Butzi.” Somehow I have a distant relation to Narcissus… simply to fall in love with.
Little by little, my father found Butzi just too childish. He expanded Butzi to the somewhat more mature form. “Bazzon.” A really big boy, but one with a nickname.
Well, this little story is really only worth mentioning for one particular reason. I’ll explain briefly: sure enough, once again it was my father who dug up the name, put it into practice and very quickly found imitators. It was a really long time that I was called like that. “Bomba” here, “Bomba” there. When I first saw the name written, and nicknames really aren’t written that often, pay attention, nicknames are usually called, I was really taken aback. My cousin noted in the sandy beach of our Danish permanent holiday island Tunö : “Bomber.”
Well, the fact that I was in a certain way, one could even say extremely, football-crazy, could not have escaped anyone who had anything to do with me. And I think it’s conceivable that I played quite well at one time. But that I was given the name as a tribute to the famous FC Bayern goal scorer, Gerd “Bomber” Müller? That was a bit too much of an honour. But I had no direct influence on how I was called. Or did anyone ever listen away?
d. Bolle Schlotterlunge
Bolle himself must have slipped out at some point to someone in the family. Bolle, the Bolle in the crazy hit song “Bolle reiste jüngst zu Pfingsten…” was, after all, a Berlin original. Or was it just a disparagement of “Bomber”, after the relatives had also realised that they had reached a bit too high with it? In any case, it was shouted at me for a long time. Again, I didn’t ignore it but reacted. My name was “Bolle”.
A little story by the way: My parents used to tell me about the incident when I, 4 years old, sucked a much too big sweet and it slipped down the wrong throat. It was reported that all means of getting it out again didn’t help. Allegedly, my complexion had already turned bluish when my father had the saving idea: he grabbed me by the legs, my mother gave me a huge slap on the back and — I spat out lots of blood. But somewhere in that blood the sweet must have got caught. It was out, my breathing started again, I was alive.
Many people report moments when they were very close to death and afterwards they are always much more grateful for every day they are allowed to live. And although this experience is not in my conscious memory, I also feel this gratitude, because I know that it was quite close. However, how this traumatic experience keeps returning unconsciously and how I also have proof for myself that it happened, I notice again and again in dreams. And this one dream keeps recurring: I take a deep breath and swallow a sweet that is stuck so tightly that I realise at the same moment that it will never come out. It means certain death. I then wake up, of course, it is only a dream. My pulse doesn’t change much either. More like, “Oh, him again…”
Nevertheless, the trauma remains. I’m always afraid when I swallow. You could call it a real neurosis. However, I can also prove the lack of uniqueness: My father used to tell me about his own father, that he had “a doctor-certified narrowing of the gullet”.
But whether worrying about it happening again increases the likelihood of it happening again is something we should probably ask Murphy himself about.
In any case, it still happened from time to time that I choked. Once I wanted to try out what happened to Snow White and choked on an apple. The panic was back, you can’t breathe and you cough as much as you can. Since you can’t get air to cough, I guess it’s something else you do, but the piece has to come out. And I succeeded, sure. You may have swallowed before, after all. But I sat there for a while, quite marked by the event, and probably my knees were still shaking. But I said to my brothers sitting there, “My lungs are shaking.” Well, now you know: laughter and nickname with surname: “Bolle Schlotterlunge.”
I have a few curiosities in common with my school friend Jürgen Griesing. Jürgen was given a few nicknames himself, including “Grinsnich”, which he owes to our good old French teacher Herr Doktor Hoppe, who mistakenly read him out as “Grinsing” in his first lesson with us, or simply the name “Gupsy”, as I still call him today, but we also once went on a late-winter cycle tour. But it really was a sunny day and winters in the 70s still deserved their name. So we cycled through the Grunewald in glorious sunshine and thaw.
When our bike tour took us past my former primary school friend Angelika Haselbach, who actually opened her window and chatted with us for a while, which had a lot to do with memories, the decision was made: We will meet again and again on the same day. Only on this particular day, the word “every year” had to be omitted. A glance at the calendar taught us: it was 29 February, in 1976. Nevertheless, it has become a tradition. In fact, we do not lose sight of each other. And a 4-yearly meeting has a certain style, doesn’t it? So for 32 years until today, both hands have been enough to count our meetings. But at least it has worked out, every time, and we do our bike tour again.
Gupsy, who, by the way, has insisted ever since that his name is spelled “Yybsy”, which is not only the only word with a double y, but actually contains this unusual letter a total of three times, was suitably original. He continued to deface my name and to this day does not spare the effort to make a really hair-raising “Bowlitschek” out of it via the diversions Bolle – Bowle. Well, you don’t have to find every nickname beautiful at the same time…
The history of this name has not even been handed down. My uncle, of course Klaus, who is still mentioned several times as my favourite uncle, simply called me “Ommentaschen” on his numerous visits to Berlin and in my early childhood.
So I was surrounded by nicknames, so to speak. But I was also quite good at handing them out myself. But since I had no influence on most of the nicknames given to me, I decided without further ado to give myself one. Now Pauli may not be overly original, but I simply liked it, based on the comic figure.
I simply and consistently called myself Pauli. Anyone who asked me what my name was received the answer: “Pauli”, from 1973 onwards. I would like to limit the share of the story here to my classmate Matthias Schulze. I had to sit out one class in the 9th grade. Well, I’m simply taking this opportunity to get rid of the frustration I’ve built up over the years. Of course I was just too stupid, I realise that. It’s just that when you’re growing up, you like to come up with different theories. Mine went something like this:
It was my parents’ divorce time. It affected me much more than I wanted to admit to myself (and others) for many years. It also involved constant moving. My mother moved to Kreuzberg and I also wanted to be with her. But a journey every morning from Kreuzberg, SO36, to Steglitz is not exactly short and overly pleasant. My father didn’t want that at all. Later my mother moved to Lichterfelde. Besides, the constant, vicious arguments gradually destroyed my ideal world. Reinhard Mey must have just entered adulthood when he politely thanked Annabelle and even asked her to destroy his (“Oh, Annabelle, be so good, destroy my perfect world”). I was not quite so welcome. In short, my body reacted and I just got sick. Apart from my battered soul, which simply switched to “fear” in all circumstances, so did the body. This is called “psychosomatic”. I got boils, a real furunculosis. It changed all the time, but mostly on the region I had chosen to sit on. Apart from the fact that I had pain in all other parts of my body, I could no longer use this area for any other purpose. So I had two choices: Stand in school or not go. I did both in roughly equal measure.
My teachers also got a huge share of my displeasure with life. Submission was absolutely not my motto in life. I contradicted and resisted wherever I could. This earned me several entries in my class book, which I was proud of at the time. But when it came to grading, I had to do without concessions here and there. My French teacher in the class (not Dr. Hoppe) simply decided to give me a 5. I had to reckon with that, as I only and exclusively provoked him. I can still see his face turning red when he met me. But I didn’t expect that the physics teacher would also wantonly choose a 5. It was probably a conspiracy, in which my maths teacher also got involved and simply gave me a 3, which in this case really didn’t reflect my aptitude quite 1:1. But my classmates had noticed that I only “intervened” in the lessons when the teacher, who is not mentioned here, made a mistake. Then she, too, always got this red rash on her face. Well, two 5s, in central subjects, no compensation, a vote, one vote too many, as I later learned (not all teachers had joined the conspiracy; thanks expressly to Mr Frase), the repetition of the 9th was decided.
But I had already discovered chess, which was an excellent way to devour all my energies and distract my thoughts from everything else. On top of that, a classmate had been sitting with me. Matthias Schulze. And he was the one I wanted to mention here. Matthias, for his part, had one outstanding characteristic: the yard break was far too valuable to him to sacrifice it for eating a break-time sandwich. So he ate his sandwiches during class in inimitable fashion. Well, he was already called “Schulle” anyway, and especially in Berlin they like to say “doof wie…”, so what could be more natural than to call him “Stulle”?
So “Stulle” sat next to me when we came to our new class. The teacher asked us our names as an introduction. I stood up without a word, went to the blackboard, took a piece of chalk in my hand and wrote down: “Pauli” and “Stulle”. In the time that followed, my teachers didn’t have too much fun with me either. Above all, however, they did not succeed by any means in getting me to stop writing my name on all my classwork. “Pauli”. In retrospect, I must confess that even with the greatest of thought, I could not think of any appropriate means of punishment to dissuade an unruly adolescent from doing such a thing. Should I give the boy a 5? Or a point deduction? Well, I myself wouldn’t be able to cope with myself as a boy at today’s age either. My youthfully nasty, authority-undermining measures were already quite cleverly chosen.
At this point I simply have to tell you two little incidents that are directly related to this unruliness. Our really esteemed teacher, Mr Siegemund, once asked a girl in her biology lesson to read out her homework. The girl had to admit, slightly embarrassed, that she had not done it. Whereupon he said: “And the neighbour didn’t either?” The neighbour, as expected, answered: “No.” Whereupon he: “Well, read it out, please.” The girl: “Why, I didn’t make them.” He, a little old and new(nmal)-, in summary not at all clever, in turn: “But you said ‘no’ to my question ‘the neighbour didn’t either’, so you must have made them?”
Whether this way of looking at logic served him in the long run, you must now judge for yourself. Anyway, he once had supervision to stop the children from leaving the school building during yard breaks. I went straight to him and asked, “I’m not allowed to leave here?”. He said, “No.” And, poof, I was through. Another time I met him in the stairwell. The question was inevitable. “Mr Siegemund, aren’t you cold?” He, gullible but naive: “No.” “Well, then you’ll have to dress warmer.”
Has a pedagogue perhaps been lost on me after all? How do I educate my teachers?
The long hair gave some people the idea of simply making “Paula” out of Pauli. Well, that’s how it goes with self-assigned nicknames. You get them slapped around your ears, too.
i. Bad luck
After I once again told my long-time chess companion, Klaus Bischof, with full conviction about another tragic defeat in chess, with the addition: “My name should be Pech”, he replied: “With my first and last name”.
The story of this name was so pretty that I even dedicated a separate chapter to it.
k. Horacio Neumann
In 1991, my father, with good intentions, sent me a clipping from the Berliner Morgenpost, which reported on the German Subbuteo Championship in Berlin. I had almost forgotten about the game over the years, but the pieces and playing field had been carefully preserved. And the word “carefully” can really only be associated with me in absolutely exceptional cases, but in this case it was true. The game had really meant something to me in its time. But even up until that day, I always had positive memories of it. The only thing missing, even with good will, was the playing partners.
But I immediately called the organiser, Marcus Tilgner, and we agreed on a date. I gathered my archaic pieces and all the material I had and met Marcus, at his place of course. For good reason: time had not stood still. Playing boards, playing pieces, goals, everything was, compared to my time, improved. But almost the first thing that caught my eye was a poster on the wall: “North German Subbuteo Championship in Berlin 1974”. It was the poster of the only important tournament I had ever taken part in! Was it all by chance or divine providence?
In the first game, I got a real beating: 0:6. But Marcus confirmed: “You can tell you’ve played this game before.” So I had started my comeback. Because it was simply fun under these conditions. Little by little, the results came. But really only little by little. Because at my second North German Individual Championship, in 1992, I initially came last. But at least there were a few small partial successes.
One of the other participants was a really funny guy, never at a loss for a saucy quip. Frank Schulz. And we really became friends later on. But the first time we met, he was playing with his old squad from Nottingham Forest. Like me, he used to play in championships with friends, but only in England. And his team was Nottingham. By the way, the playing figures at Subbuteo are relatively real and even have back numbers. So Frank played with his ancient team and still knew many of the names of the old warhorses, all original names, of course. And he diligently commented on his moves. Who passed to whom and who shot at goal etc.. Only with his number 4 did he come to a standstill. But only for a very short time, because Frank had quite an active imagination (he runs an advertising company), and had created a name in a flash: “…plays to Kevin Neumann, …. on to…”. At that moment I intervened, because the name Kevin Neumann sounds rather strange. “In the Bundesliga there was once a player called Horacio Neumann. Strangely enough, he played in the Cologne team in the same year, because Herbert Neumann also played for Cologne. I know this because I can well remember my first childhood encounter with this problem, two identical surnames but also the first names starting the same. It then always said Ho. and He. Neumann.”
Not only had I stopped Frank’s flow of comments with this absolutely superfluous rebuke, but on top of that I made a fool of myself all round with this assertion. “Listen ma uff. Horacio Neumann, such nonsense.” Well, I researched everything – for once, my memory wasn’t playing tricks on me. But I can’t fight the nickname any more. When it comes to Subbuteo, at least I’m Horacio.
Not enough curiosities. A short time later, a player joined our subbuteo club Sparta Spreeathen. His name: Frank Neumann.
In football, nicknames are always relatively quick, especially in Berlin, where people are not entirely unjustly accused of having a loose mouth. There, too, I made a comeback attempt. First, for a few years in the recreational league on the small pitch, with the team that Frank Schulz had founded, with the illustrious name “Aktivist Runder Ball”. There I was not only the Horacio but even had the pleasure of being called “Zico”. But I’m sure that was only because someone had rearranged the letters of Horacio a little, but creatively…
Nevertheless, I still dared to join a real club. Real football, men’s football, on the big field. The palpitations at my first matches were almost like those of childhood. And here and there the old childhood dream returned: I’m substituted for Hertha BSC in a Bundesliga match, I succeed in everything, including the decisive goal. In complete contrast to the usual dreams, where you don’t usually get off the mark, here I’m storming unstoppably across the pitch. He can come back again.
But one of my many neuroses, as reported above, is difficulty swallowing. As an antidote, “fathers little helper” so to speak, I have taken to running around with a bottle of mineral water on all appropriate and inappropriate occasions. You can wash down a lot to the rescue, after all. I couldn’t break this habit when I was playing football, especially as it was quite possible for me to get thirsty during a match. My bottle was always on the sidelines. And what do you call a person with such a clear recognition value, and in Berlin at that? Exactly, “Wasserpulle.”
2) On the Kiez
In the neighbourhood, and the players’ scene and the red-light milieu are not only geographically close, people are generally on a first-name basis. Unfortunately, the variety of first names is more exhausted than that of surnames. How do you help yourself? Correctly, by adding a suffix to the first name in question that makes it clearly identifiable. So there is “Bouletten-Manne” (I wonder why he is called that?), but also “Taxi-Gerd” and “Bildhauer-Peter”, you may also come across “Post-Werner” or even “Veilchen-Rudi”, I became “Biber-Dirk” by analogy. But I would advise you not to do business if you ever meet “Minen-Willi”…
“Rommée-Micha” and “Nasen-Detlef” certainly didn’t get their names by chance either.