Q.In my family, we have had, for several generations, the custom of calling everyone by a pet name. For example, my great-grandfather was called Wozzy, although the name had no resemblance to any of his given names. The pet name is generally awarded to a child in toddlerhood, by a sibling, a parent or the child himself.
My problem is that my brothers insist on using my private, family pet name in social gatherings. I have a fine given name, and even a perfectly good nickname, but they have called me Bumpo at fraternity parties, sport events, and, most recently, in front of my major professor, whom I am trying to impress for a scholarship application.
When asked how I got the name Bumpo, my elder brother said it refers to a private part of my anatomy, which (he said) is hardly more than a bump.
Miss Manners, I am desperate to stop this undignified, juvenile practice. I would leave town rather than be subject to my brothers' cruel behavior one more time.
The follow-up to your brother's explanation should have been your giving him a meaningful smile and saying, "It's a family characteristic."
But that is not the solution. Miss Manners regrets having lapsed from her policy against retaliating in kind.
The solution is a rough family council, with all offenders present and as many members of the elder generation as have developed sense and compassion. A new family tradition must be forcefully stated, against embarrassing one another before outsiders. While making the argument for family loyalty, take care to mention some truly awful piece of information you know about each of the offenders but would never dream of telling anyone else.