Margot Robbie is proof that you can never give up an embarrassing nickname.

Margot Robbie at the Sydney premiere of her new movie Babylon - Getty

Margot Robbie at the Sydney premiere of her new movie Babylon – Getty

After all, Margot Robbie is one of us. No, we may not all have made the smooth transition from daytime television to Hollywood, or let alone twice nominated for an Oscar. Still, we can relate to the actress’ experience attending the premiere of her new movie Babylon earlier this week in Sydney. While giving a red carpet interview, 32-year-old Robbie said to a friend, “Hey Maggot!” behind a barrier. Robbie turned with a mixture of joy and anger to wave to the source. “I saw my schoolmates,” she explained to her interviewer. “We’ve been friends since we were four.”

No matter how successful, rich, famous or beautiful you are, you can never escape your childhood, which means you can never escape a nickname. Few things can cut time and space like a nickname you picked up when you were six years old. Maggot sounds like an obvious riff from Margot, but it’s also been suggested that it may have something to do with Robbie’s historic commitment to metal band Slipknot.

If ‘worm’ is somewhat inconsistent, it’s only because the Robbie we know today was by no means a larva. But nicknames are rarely straightforward. For every Edward named Ed, probably the most boring of all nicknames, there are many more whose origins are obscure or buried deep in early life.

My friend Will has been commonly known as Bass since middle school. It was around when the Big Mouth Billy Bass singing fish was popular, but we can’t be sure that was the reason. It was called ‘Boom Boom’ when we were young. Again, I have no idea why. More understandable was a tweet I saw while remembering someone named Campbell Baxter, known as Two Soups.

Ashley Giles aka &x002018;King of Spain' - Getty

Ashley Giles aka ‘King of Spain’ – Getty

Nicknames in Britain inevitably have an element of class. Like horse racing and drugs, nicknames are one of the hobbies that unite the working and upper classes. There’s a Gavin & Stacey Smithy for every Wodehousian Bingo Little. However, the boarding school, where children stay out of parental control for a long time, is a breeding ground for names not on their birth certificate. Persecution is inevitable. Shame on the big-eyed new student who is away from home for the first time, gets water spilled on his sheets by his classmates, and is therefore doomed to be called ‘The Crack’ for the rest of his life.

Nicknames are vital for sports stars who must quickly bond with their rival colleagues. It’s easy to see why Alistair Cook is called ‘The Chef’, but you may not know why Ashley Giles is referred to as the ‘King of Spain’, until you learn that a group of cups proclaiming him ‘King of Spins’ have returned with misprints.

A similar thing seems to apply in the military, where, as far as I know, hardly anyone is called by their real name. Perhaps in environments with strict enforcement rules – school, military, or sports, where who you are is more important than what you do – a nickname sounds appropriate. This may be why new partners are often so resistant to school nicknames. A girlfriend knows William, an intelligent and sophisticated professional. It doesn’t need a ‘Boom-Boom’. Or so we hope.

The other characteristic thing about nicknames is that you can’t give them to yourself. When your last name is Cumming, you try everything to avoid the ‘Cumming Or Going’, ‘Cum-Cums’ or other compassionate last name riffs that come your way as a teenager. But no one called me anything I wanted to be called. Even my work email calls me Edward.

In that sense, there is something quite human about a nickname. No matter how hard you try to project yourself into the world, the world has other ideas. Sometimes a nickname finds you. This is not to justify cruelty or bullying, but it is heartening to realize that there are people who will always see you without the armor of adulthood. That’s why Margot Robbie looks so happy when she hears her friends call her by that old name. They don’t see a perfect superstar, but their old mucker has risen to an absurd state. I’m sure they’re proud, but they also see the ridiculousness of it all. Even on the red carpet, we are all wolves at heart.

Do you have a nickname you can’t miss? Tell us about it in the comments section below

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