Middle School Nicknames

The informant is a 14 year old male living in New Jersey. I asked by the informant about any jokes that are told between him and his friends, anything that makes sense amongst them but not necessarily to other people.  Following is the transcribed conversation talking about some of the nicknames the boys have for each other.

Informant: We call my friend Zach “roast beef Reda”

Me: What is reda?

Informant: Reda is his last name.

Me: Why do you call him “roast beef Reda?”

Informant: Because we have a theory that he doesn’t brush his teeth and there are little bits of roast beef in his teeth from the week before.

Me: Great. When did you start calling him this?

Informant: We started calling him it a year ago and pretty much always call him that.

Me: Does everyone call him by this nickname or only his close friends

Informant: Only close friends call him that.

Me: Why do you guys still use this nickname?

Informant: It gives us a reason to laugh in school.

Me: Okay. Are there any other people you have weird nicknames for?

Informant: This kid named Zach Crowe. We call him snack Crowe.

Me: Why?

Informant: Because he is really small and used to have to go to the nurse to eat a snack in the middle of the day. We don’t know why he has to do that, but he stopped having to go half way through the year. We still call him snack Crowe, though.

Me: Do your friends like these nicknames? Like are they offended by them or do they not care?

Informant: They don’t care that we call them those names because its been a while, but initially they were kinda annoyed.

My analysis: Common practice among middle school aged kids to make fun of each other and use “inside jokes” as a social interaction.  Middle school is an awkward, transitional period, and making jokes about seemingly insignificant things is a way of showing what group you are a part of and which people are your friends.  In this case, the boys took two seemingly meaningless things and blew them out of proportion to the point where they were humorous.   To other people, these nicknames are not really that funny or relevant, but that is precisely what makes them significant to the boys.