What’s In A (Nick-) Name?

FUN FACT: That lifelong Fallser you know probably has at least one nickname that everyone else who grew up here knows him by. Oh, how you’ll tank our insanely local quiz! And OMG, the hair in these yearbook pics… 

(Skip to the quiz here)

One of the first interviews we did for East Falls Local, was with guy called Red Dog. Of course we’re talking about McDevitt’s Tom McNicholas. Why is he Red Dog? His red hair & ruddy complexion, plus, an older brother was already called “Big Dog” so… woof! The name quite suits him, we can see why it stuck.

Our parents choose our given names, but those of us who answer to nicknames most likely have our friends to thank.


Nicknames reflect how others see you, and often provide clues to your social status, as well. Google nicknames and you’ll discover that although people of all genders employ them, men in groups really elevate nicknames to a social art form.

Guys in East Falls are a fine example: if you grew up here, you and your friends all have different handles for each other. A lot are shortened riffs on last names but even more are funny, creative, colorful, cringe-worthy… What’s going on?

Testosterone, that’s what! Friends in a group will typically rib a new guy with a nickname, testing his intentions. If Dude takes offense, they know he’s not into hanging. But if he rolls with his new moniker, he clearly wants to buddy up.


Like a mild form of hazing, a good nickname amuses the group at the expense of someone’s pride — a time-tested way to diffuse male egos, while reinforcing the inner circle of a school, neighborhood, or work place.

TRUE STORY: a significantly high percentage of Fortune 500 CEO’s go by nicknames. An informal but exhaustive Linkedin study reported 60% go by nicknames/nickname-like first names. In the business, a memorable nickname can be a shortcut to winning trust, making sales, getting noticed.

Closer to home, Fallsers who grew up on these streets tagged each other with remarkable joy and wit. They weren’t just being creative, though, they were echoing neighborhood values back when today’s “grown-ups” were school kids. Popular culture & neighborhood lore, too. East Falls was rich with references to riff on.


How many insights into our recent history you can find in these great local nicknames? Keep your eyes out for family names that go way back in the history books. Big thanks to Joe Boyle & Stitch Gardner for sharing their cool nickname stories, and bringing East Falls alive in new and interesting ways.

TESTING 1, 2, 3…  A point for every correct answer. Don’t expect to pass this Fallser Nicknames Quiz unless you grew up here 1970 – 1980’s (for your score, complete the quiz here).

1. When Women’s Medical College was open, the proprietor of Billy Murphy’s Saloon was called:

a. Uncle Billy Murphy
b. Father Billy Murphy
c. Friar Willy
d. Brother Bill


2. George Boyle always seemed to have the coolest cars and clothes, so the guys called him:

a. Barbarino
b. Slick
c. Player
d. The Man

3. Bill Dalton was known for staying out late with an older crew, which earned him the nickname:

a. Drac/Dracula
b. Dawn
c. Trooper
d. Batman


4. Rich Gardner aka Stitch because:

a. He’s a needlepoint aficionado
b. He always had stitches from a sports injury
c. He’s a funny guy, a real stitch
d. He ran slow (like he had a stitch in his side)

5. A lot of guys looked up to Joe Verdone, and called him:

a. Grand Poohbah
b. Mr. President
c. The Pope
d. The Dude

6. Matt Gardner was named for this character in “Blazing Saddles“:

a. Mongo
b. Taggart
c. Black Bart
d. Count DeMonet

7. Tony Gardner was called “Toes” after which local sports figure?

a. Andrew Toney, who shot from his tip-toes playing for the Sixers
b. Tony Taylor, the Phillies 2nd baseman who broke his toe sliding into home
c. Tony Franklin, who kicked barefoot for the Eagles
d. None of the above, he was called “Toes” because his socks always had holes in them.


8. Nobody knows why Joe McHale is called “Bois”:

a. True, it’s a Fallser mystery
b. False, he’s called Bois because he always wore bo-bos
c. False, he’s called Bois because it’s short for “Snowy Bleach”
d. False, he’s called Bois because that’s how he said “Boys!”

9. Match the brothers with their nicknames (6 pts):

___ a. Earl & Buckeye                                    1. Joe & Mike Roberts
___ b. Spider & Bubbles                                2. Bob & Steve Chicchi
___ c. Muscles & Tank                                   3. Kevin & Brian Cahill
___ d. Moose & Tomato                                4. Dan & Mike Morris
___ e. Brock & Face                                        5. Leo & Joe Kindon
___ f. Happy & Bubs                                       6. Jim & Joe Harte

10. Big Hoss (Jay Lally) is named after:

a. The way he pronounced “House” when he was a kid
b. “Boss Hog,” a character on the Dukes of Hazzard
c. “Hoss,” a character on Bonanza
d. “Hasenpfeffer,” a rabbit dish mentioned in an episode of Bugs Bunny


11. In addition to Big Hoss, there’s also Little Hoss and:

a. Medium Hoss
b. Jumbo Hoss
c. Baby Hoss
d. Hossie

12. TRUE OR FALSE? Ron Cox was called “Avalon Ron” because he sounded like Frankie Avalon when he drank.

13. TRUE or FALSE? John Lally does not consider himself a fan of Elton John, even though his nickname is “Elton.”

14. TRUE or FALSE? “Stormin’ Norman” Moore is named for his resemblance to Norman Schwartzkopf.

15. TRUE or FALSE? Mike Lally is called “Wimpy” after his abiding love for hamburgers.

16. TRUE or FALSE? Al Fiedler’s nickname is “Apple” because his head is shaped almost exactly like an apple.

17. TRUE or FALSE? Don Renner is “Radar” after the character on M*A*S*H.

18. TRUE or FALSE? Three Grispin brothers are nicknamed after varieties of Chex breakfast cereal.


19. TRUE or FALSE? Bill Novitsky was called “Heeb” because he always seemed to have the “heebie jeebies.”

20. PICK THE CHICK: Select which one of the nicknames in each row belongs to a female Fallser (4 pts):

a. Bounce b. Elsie c. Goonie d. Woody
a. Dimmo b. Dunnie c. Noona  d. Jiggs
a. Snicky b. Cave c. Mazz  d. Moon
a. Bones b. Flash c. Lemon  d. Ducky


BONUS: Which one of these is NOT a Fallser nickname?

a. Psycho
b. Greasy
c. Butts
d. Piggy
e. Ick
f. Turtle
g. Fartface
h. All of the above
i. None of the above

SUPER BONUS QUESTION! Most often on customized items, Rich Gardner spells his nickname “Stich” because:

a. He didn’t know how to spell when he got the nickname.
b. He doesn’t know how to spell now.
c. It’s an in-joke between him and his surgeons.
d. He’s cheap and refuses to pay for a silent “t.”

SUPER EXTRA BONUS QUESTION! One of the questions above has two correct answers. Which is it? Also, which are the correct answers?


One “Fallser” t-shirt to the highest score (or a random drawing of all the highest-scoring entries). COMPLETE THE QUIZ by 12/17/16, see how your score stacks up with other contestants. Drawing December 22nd during Neighborhood Caroling.


This year’s design features every East Falls street name plus schools, landmarks, and famous people, too. Soft, light-weight poly/cotton fabric, light gray with text in blue tones. Unisex, form-fitting cut.

Why wait to win? Purchase yours now at ShopEastFalls.com — all proceeds support East Falls’ only local news source, plus free neighborhood photos taken (& shared) with love every morning! Prints, calendars, more. Free delivery to 19129/19144.

Here’s hoping you can delight some Fallsers on your list with one-of-a-kind gifts from East Falls Local. Happy Holidays, and big thanks to all of our followers!


Keep the game going! Add your own nickname in the comments or email us your stories and yearbook pics.


Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.