“You know all I’d get for my trouble is a snappy one-liner. And if I’m really lucky, maybe a new nickname.”[Jack, on why he wouldn’t offer Sawyer help]
He was perhaps the most inimitable character on Lost, yet my native Southern accent was close enough to his that I can make my wife smile by saying, “Hey there, Freckles”. By his standard for nicknames, this one for Kate was pretty banal. But it was still so essential Sawyer in its pitch-perfect delivery and folksy charm, it is impossible to not want to mimic.
Oh, Sawyer and the Nicknames. Lost could melt your brain with its supernatural elements, flash sideways episodes and general island mysteries. It would melt your heart with character background stories, unprecedented plot lines and tearjerking conversations. So how in the world in a saga so evolved, detailed and original, did something as simple as a man calling everyone else a different moniker every week become so significant? That is the magic of Sawyer.
He often literally made me ROTFL
In one episode he called Hurley “Deep Dish” and I not only laughed so hard I had to pause the show, but I also kept laughing every 2-3 hours for the next several days. Once he called Jack “Amarillo Slim” and I had a similar reaction. But to me the funniest of them all was when he called Lapidus “Kenny Rogers”. That was just too spot on. Again, I laughed uncontrollably at that moment and then again the next day. In fact, I was walking back to my apartment from Walgreens and the quote hit me and I started giggling. Then I started guffawing. Then, as a grown man walking down Diversey Ave. in Chicago, I started laughing so hard and so boisterously I had to cover my face in my own shoulder. I probably sounded like I was crying I was laughing so hard. And I bet I looked like this:
The time he called Lapidus “The pilot who looked like he stepped out of a Burt Reynolds movie” was equally as clever. But nothing in the whole run tops, “Hey, Kenny Rogers”.
I would say that of all the other characters, Hurley got it the worst (or best) with Sawyer’s nicknames. In addition to “Deep Dish,” he deemed him “Jumbotron,” “International House of Pancakes,” “Stay Puft,” “Mutton Chops,” and “Barbar” (a mispronunciation of “Babar,” which Hurley quickly corrects, adding to the humor). Since Sawyer typically found some obvious physical attribute and started there, Hurley’s large frame was an easy target. But he didn’t rely on the lazy insults. His wit was too sharp.
He could talk some trash
And he was often at his best when the nickname came packaged with an insulting full sentence context. Some of the funniest of those would include:
“Who are we to argue with Taller Ghost Walt?” [to Locke]
“Captain Arab’s in, too.” [about Sayid]
“The whole camp’s upset about what happened to Tokyo Rose.” [about Sun]
“Calm down, Chicken Little.” [to Hurley]
“I am helping, Short Round.” [to Walt]
“Dr. Do Rag doesn’t trust me with his antibiotics.” [about Jack]
” Looks like Crouching Tiger and Hidden Dragon got something good.” [About Jin and Sun]
“You really the #1 draft pick, Grimace? [to Hurley]
“What? You got union trouble down at the sand factory, Norma Rae?” [to Bernard]
I traded Mr. Miyagi the last of my water for a fish he caught. [about Jin]
“Yeah well ‘him’ says that even though Pipi Longstocking and the Grape Ape are ideal candidates for the Dirty Dozen, I’m just gonna say we might wanna bring along the Red Beret!” [to Jack about Kate, Hurley and Sayid]
“Fun time’s over, Mongo. Why don’t you hit the buffet?” [to Hurley]
“Well, look who’s Hooked on Phonics.” [to Jin, after he’d learned some English]
And he knew so much literature and history!
One thing I could really appreciate about that list, besides the obvious hilarity in the put-downs and sarcasm, is that Sawyer was a reader and had a surprising depth of knowledge of literature and fictional characters. Yet he knew lower class entertainment as well, evidence by him twice calling Miles “Enos,” the bumbling sidekick deputy from Dukes of Hazard.
Of all the nicknames I haven’t mentioned yet that deserve to be chronicled, I think him referring to Faraday as “H.G. Wells” is the best. Some others in contention would be: “Captain Bunny Killer” (Ben), “Zorro” (Paulo), “New Otherton” (where the Others had lived), “Skeletor” (Roger Linus’ skeleton), “Cheech and Chong” (Alex and Karl), “Dr. Quinn” (Jack), “The Ghost of Christmas Future” (himself), “Twitchy” (Faraday), “Gizmo” (Ben), and “Buddy with the eyeliner” (Richard). And I would be entirely remiss as a Seinfeld fan if I didn’t mention that he called one of his cellmates, Munson, “Costanza”. Worlds were colliding!1
And there are so many more, it would be impossible to cover them all. Because Sawyer and the nicknames was a relentless and running gag on the show, hilairously delivered with a legendary accent. And it was a significant part of the appeal of his character. Between blowing your mind and ripping your heart, Lost needed some levity. And it brought it regularly. Sawyer nicknames were such a simple yet impacting way to do so.
- As they were for The Lord of the Rings fans when he called Charlie “Hobbit”. ↩
- Good (And Bad) Bible Passages To Teach Empathy in Race Relations - June 12, 2020
- Five Truths From Revelation That Should Unite the Church (Part 2) - May 29, 2020
- “Seinfeld” and The Pantheon of Legendary One-Off Characters - May 14, 2020