McGinnis: It’s Jeffy McGWritten by Jeff McGinnis | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Prepare yourselves for a shattering confession: I hated, hated, hated the name Jeffy McG when I was first called it on 92.5 KISS FM. Absolutely loathed it.
There is a heavy dose of irony in the fact that I came to be known by this moniker at all. All my life, I’ve been pretty resistant to nicknames. Not in a standoffish way, really, though I’ve never particularly sought out a nickname of any sort. I’m more like nickname Teflon. Whenever someone would try to coin a new way to address me, the universe seemed to kick any such attempts to the curb. Nope, he’s Jeff. End of rather boring story.
A few individuals persisted, though. When you’re a kid named Jeff, most everyone tries their hand at calling you “Jeffy” once or twice. I never cared for it when my age was in single digits, and I certainly didn’t care for it any more once I crossed the double digit threshold. “Jeffy” just always felt so annoyingly condescending, even when I was at an age when everyone was quite justified in being condescending toward me.
By the time my high school journalism teacher insisted upon addressing me by the little better “Jeffrey!” — an homage to that famous Bill Cosby bit, years before referencing Cosby would become tasteless — I had worn through all patience for any variation of my name with a “y” on the end.
When I made it to college, most of my friends seemed to find my normal, everyday name perfectly acceptable, with one exception. A pal from the theater crowd seemed insistent on foisting the name “McG” upon me, as an homage to the director behind such titles as “Charlie’s Angels” and “Terminator: Salvation.”
I found this title even more repugnant than any variation on “Jeffy” my youth had foisted upon me. “McG” sounded simultaneously pretentious and lowbrow, however that might work.
So I largely remained my normal, non-nicknamed self until a little under five years ago, when my then-boss, Michael S. Miller, took me to a meeting with the then-host of the 92.5 morning show, Andrew Zepeda. They were looking for someone to act as the “American Idol” correspondent on the show, a position of some prominence since that was the year that Northwest Ohio native Crystal Bowersox was competing.
As we sat breaking bread and chatting about the specifics of the position, it all seemed to be going quite well. Zepeda said he felt his audience would “love” me, and when you’re still the amateur that I felt like, that’s an amazing high. As such, I barely even noticed the next sentence that came out of his mouth: “I think we’re going to call you ‘Jeffy McG.’”
And so it was. The sheer weight of the irony didn’t hit me until I was driving home — I would now be known to thousands of radio listeners by a moniker merging two different nicknames I absolutely detested. But oh well, I thought. It’s just a name. And I’m sure after a while it’ll fade away, and I’ll go back to my own name.
Cut to five years and a few hundred appearances on 92.5 later. I have been referred to as “Jeff McGinnis” exactly once in all that time, and that was my very first appearance. In the minds of thousands of listeners, I am now — rather permanently, I suspect — Jeffy McG.
The thing is, though, I don’t mind at all anymore. It’s remarkable what you can get used to in a name, I guess. To the majority of people who recognize my voice in “real life,” I’m not “Jeffy McG,” anyway, nor am I even “Jeff McGinnis” — I’m “That Guy from the Radio.” I never knew I had such a memorable voice until people would pick up on who I was after I said nothing more than “Thank you,” or “Could I have an order of McNuggets, please?”
I’ll never forget one encounter, though. I was at my day job, at the movie theater at Levis Commons. It had been a particularly horrible day and I was feeling every minute of the time between myself and the end of my shift. I sold a pair of customers some tickets and stood there, annoyed at the world for a bit. Then I heard a voice. “Are you … Jeffy McG?”
I looked up. It was the customers I had just served, a man and a woman. I confirmed I was, and the biggest smiles came over their faces. They told me they were big fans of my segment and thanked me — actually thanked me — for entertaining them and keeping them up to date on pop culture.
It was a pick-me-up at exactly the moment I needed it most. I thanked them profusely then, and do so again now. And at that point it occurred to me that even doing something as relatively meaningless as a pop culture segment on local radio can help brighten someone’s day just a little. Just like they had brightened mine.
So whenever someone asks me, “Are you Jeffy McG?” these days, my smile is very genuine. And I happily respond, “Yes. Yes I am. Could I get some barbecue sauce for those nuggets?”
Jeff McGinnis is pop culture editor of Toledo Free Press. He can be reached at PopGoesJeff@gmail.com or on Twitter at @jeffmac813.