THE IMPORTANCE OF A NICKNAME

One of Ethel’s first mornings at Stotsenburg, she went to a patient’s bedside to take his vital signs, and in return she was given a very nice compliment and a new nickname.

“Well, I’ll be damned,” the young soldier in the first bed said to her when he saw her nametag. “I was hoping they’d give me a nice nurse when I came in to have my hernia repaired, but I never expected to see a Hollywood starlet in a starched white uniform and a nurse’s cap!”

“Whatever do you mean?” asked Ethel in her southern drawl. “I’m not from Hollywood. I’m from Bible Grove, Missour-a!” (Most people from the Show Me State pronounce “Missouri” as if it has an “a” on the end.)

“But your name tag says ‘Miss Blaine,’ and I’d swear on a stack of your Missour-a Bibles that you look just like the starlet Sally Blane. You was in a bunch a’ movies…lemmy think…Silver Streak was one movie—remember that? An’ City Limits an’ a Charlie Chan movie, but I can’t remember which one! Don’t try and fool me, Sally! Your secret’s safe with me.” He winked at her, then he turned to the other men on the ward and shouted, “Hey, everybody! We’ve got us a celebrity right here in this hospital! Hollywood starlet Sally Blane is our nurse today. Say hello to her, and don’t tell her I told you!”

Then he grinned at Ethel and laughed as all the boys began chanting, “Sal-LY, Sal-LY, Sa-LY!”

By now Ethel…er, Sally was turning several shades of red, but she continued checking on her patients, tending to them one by one. And each one of the patients either whistled at her or tried to hug her or kiss her and even the sicker ones got in on the fun. One soldier in the very last bed she checked on sealed her fate.

“Well, Miss Blaine,” he said, “different spelling or not, I think you just got yourself a new nickname!”

***

By the time Sally got back to the nurses’ station that day, the women all wanted to know what was going on in Ward 3 where she had just come from.

“Oh, it’s nothing,” Sally said. “One patient kept insisting that I look like the movie star, Sally Blane. I told him her last name isn’t even spelled the same as mine. But he wouldn’t give up, and pretty soon, all the patients were calling me ‘Sally,’ and they said they believed I was her. They all said they thought I was stuck with the nickname!” Sally was almost in tears.

“Well, I think you do look a lot like Sally Blane, whether you are related or not. And I like the nickname. I think we should all start calling you Sally!”

Within a week or two, Ethel wasn’t called Ethel anymore. The nurses and the staff, as well as all the patients began to call her Sally, and the name grew on Ethel. “Yeah,” she thought. “I do like the name ‘Sally’ better than ‘Ethel!’ Besides, if they think I look like the Hollywood star named Sally, I think I’ll keep it.”

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