Tapinosis (ta-pi-no’-sis): Giving a name to something which diminishes it in importance.

I’m 29 and they call me “Goo Goo.” It has got to be the worst nickname ever or anywhere. It is worse than “Dooley Burger” or “Biltong Butt” or, for sure, “Cabbage Breath.” As far as I know, it comes from the sound I made before I could talk. It was cute back then, but now I carry it everywhere—my boss at work even calls me Goo Goo: “Hey Goo Goo, bring me the Potcher real estate file.” The nickname has faded into the woodwork. It just seems “normal” to everybody to call a 29-year-old man Goo Goo. I used to say “please don’t call me that,” but I gave up. People would say “Ok Goo Goo,” or “Whatever you want Goo Goo,” and then just go on calling me Goo Goo. I thought, maybe if I changed my nickname I could escape Goo Goo. My Name is George Matlock. I though that “Mat” would be a good nickname. When people called me “Goo Goo,” I would say “Please call me Mat, it’s short for Matlock, my last name.” Not a single person honored my request, not even my mother. In fact, she was insulted and threatened to die at home instead of St. Martyr’s Nursing Home, where all I would have to do is visit every month, pawning off her end-of-life care on the good Sisters.

After exhausting all my nickname excising strategies, I decided to move somewhere far, far away from where “everybody knew my name.” I settled on Botswana, where I could get a job as a broker working in a diamond exchange. As far as I knew I was a complete stranger to everybody in the whole country of Botswana. I became Mat Matlock. Good solid Mat Matlock. Every time I said my name was “Mat,” a chill ran down my spine. I had “Mat” monogrammed on my shirt cuffs. I had a white hat that had “Mat” embroidered on it in giant red letters. I wore it to play golf. I had a water bottle that said “Mat.” Next, sitting in my living room on a Saturday afternoon, I was considering a “Mat” tattoo. The doorbell rang. I opened the door. It was a postman hand-delivering a piece of mail “forwarded all the way from the USA.” As the postman handed it over, to my horror I saw it was addressed to Goo Goo Matlock and it was from Publisher’s Clearing House. I asked the postman if anybody else had seen it. He said, “Well, Mr. Goo Goo, of course.” When I heard him say “Mr. Goo Goo,” a pain shot through my chest and I fell on the floor. I woke up in a hospital room. My wristband said “Goo Goo Matlock.” I tried to smother myself with my pillow, but I couldn’t figure out how to do it. A nurse came in my room to administer my meds. She said, “Now, now Goo Goo, I’ll be taking care of you. We’ll get that mean old heart attack fixed.”

When my nurse said “Goo Goo,” all my anxieties faded away. Her “Goo Goo” had a magical effect. “How did you find me?” I asked. She looked shyly at the floor. She said, “I’ve always been here Goo Goo.” Again, I felt the magical inflow. She told me she was the guardian spirit I had unwittingly conjured as a little boy when I had said “Goo Goo” in my crib. She had nicknamed me “Goo Goo” and had implanted it in my mother’s head, and had spread it far and wide. I was dumbfounded, a little scared, but mostly angry. “Why did you make me suffer all those years, hating it, and being humiliated, every time I was called Goo Goo?” Tears came to her eyes—they were beautiful as they sparkled in the hospital room’s institutional light. “It’s about the lessons we must learn in life” That did it! All the suffering bullshit. It hurt. It was awful. I didn’t learn shit. I grabbed the water bottle from the bedside table, and aimed it for her head. The bottle hit her square on the forehead and her head burst into pastel-colored flames. There was a little man’s head inside her head yelling “Goo Goo” and laughing maniacally. Suddenly, she disappeared and my hospital wristband said “Mat Matlock.” The postman came to visit and he called me “Mat.” I was free!

Everybody was happy to see me when I came back to work at the diamond exchange. A huge blue diamond had been mined while I was gone. I was anxious to see it, so I went down to the vault to check it out. It was in a glass case with a name card leaning against it: “Goo Goo.” I felt like I was falling down an elevator shaft. I was shaking, pounding my forehead, and laughing maniacally. I was given an additional 2 weeks leave from work. I sought out a famous shaman from Zimbabwe. Together, we got on the internet and, along with numerous charms and potions, we Googled, and we found the Goo Goo spirit hiding as a photo of a Caramel Gooey Bite on a Quest Candy site—a very clever ruse for a Goo Goo. The Shaman whipped up a piece of anti-Goo Goo code, spoke an incantation, released the code on the Quest Candy site, and scrambled the Goo Goo once and for all.

Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (rhetoric.byu.edu).

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