Popcorn Brain: A Nickname and its Meaning

Popcorn: a hard corn variety that swells up when put under heat and burst open creating a different version of its original self. The slang term for popcorn is being busy, active, or occupied.

Brain: A major organ contained in the skull which coordinates the sensations felt all over the body. Keeper of our intellectual, physical, and emotional memories.

I love to look up the definitions of words and I think we can learn and grow more by doing this. Words have deeper meanings and words can also trigger us in both good and bad ways. One of the things that triggered me was the nicknames that my father gave to me when I was young. He gave me two, but for this post, I will focus on one of them.

I had to be 6 or 7 when I was at the kitchen table with my mother, father and two brothers. I said something. I don’t remember what I said, but I do remember what my father said. He looked at me and said, “Uhhh… popcorn brain.” I heard some laughs from the family but what I remember feeling most was embarrassed. After the laughter, my older brother came up with a song and sang it,

“Popcorn brain…popcorn brain, Debbie has a popcorn brain.”

Again, laughter followed.

I don’t know why my father gave me that nickname or why he said it, but I know that I didn’t like it. I imagine that whatever I said must have been a random thought, and had nothing to do with the conversation at the table. That’s all I can think of as to a reason for my father to come up with that nickname.

I wasn’t outgoing when I was young, and as I think back to my childhood, I’d say I was introverted. I’m not sure what causes us to be extroverted or introverted. I’m not even sure if things like giving a child a nickname can create an introverted child, but I would think so. I think abusing a child in any way can have lasting effects. I also remember that after he called me that, I didn’t want to talk anymore. I felt stupid, and was afraid I would say something stupid again.

So here are some questions…Is a nickname good or bad? What do they mean and can they cause a trigger? Is it abuse, and can it cause a lifetime of insecurities?

After the night I heard the nickname for the first time, it stuck. It was something my father used often. My older brother occasionally would say it and I got terribly upset. I couldn’t tell my father not to call me that because he was the parent. I would tell my brother not to call me that, which of course when you’re a kid, makes matters worse. It just opens the gate to being teased on things we don’t want to be teased about.

Obviously none of my friends knew my nickname. It was bad enough to have to deal with it at home., It wasn’t a nickname I ever wanted, and I remember hating it. I know other people had nicknames, but they weren’t the kind of nickname I had. Nicknames like princess, slugger, angel face, doll. My nickname was degrading, insulting, and humiliating.

When I got older, I was bothered by how the memories of that nickname triggered me and how it was connected to me and my spirit. I did a deep self-analysis as to why. Just because my father nicknamed me that, it wasn’t true. It didn’t make sense to me, and I didn’t personally connect with it. Honestly, I saw it as emotionally abusive. It bothered me that I internalized it, and carried it around my entire life. It was often an emotional trigger and when the thought or memory popped up, I felt the sadness inside.

A decade ago, I decided to reinvent that nickname. I analyzed the word popcorn and I envisioned popcorn flying in all directions. It was like a burst of thoughts, and to me that wasn’t such a terrible thing. I am like that as I have a very curious mind. I want to know how things work and what they mean. When I was in my addiction back in 2002-2003, I became obsessed with defining words. I would look them up in the dictionary and rewrite them in a notepad or on index cards. When I did that, I discovered that words have different meanings. The same word can mean different things, and I gained insight into what they meant to me. I felt like I was redefining my own personal dictionary of words that I had in my head. I got a clearer understanding by looking deeper into them and what they represent.

When I thought about popcorn and how it could be defined as “innovative ideas popping out of someone’s mind,” I liked it. Thoughts that come flying, often a load of them all at once within seconds of each other, it’s just like popcorn popping. I like to think of myself that way, and so popcorn brain for me has a new meaning. I can connect with this new meaning as part of who I am. I’m a person who has a lot of ideas and who loves to dig below the surface to get a better understanding.

I think that’s how we need to look at things sometimes. If there is something that is sticking with you and you don’t like it, investigate the definition of the word or words and find a definition that works for you.

  • We don’t have to be what others think or say we are.
  • We need to remember that no one knows us better than ourselves.
  • We need to not let others define or judge us.
  • We need to figure out how we want to define ourselves.

Let others worry about their own lives, and we’ll take care of ours.

The other nickname that my father gave me was “Dumbie.” I’ve worked through this nickname as well, but that’s a story for another time.

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