The Codfishes & Mrs. Jazz Garters

Editor's Note: For years, members of the Portuguese community have adopted nicknames for one another. This old, mysterious and rather secret custom is still in practice today. Rumor has it that the nickname of a crewmember on one of the whale-watching boats on Cape Cod is "Chocolate." While we can't explain how he earned this sobriquet, musing about its origins is an amusing pasttime.

...In introducing them, one must use their nicknames. For they have an odd custom of bestowing nicknames on one another, not in a spirit of levity, but in dead earnest. They practically forget their real names. Sometimes the sobriquets are not very delicate, but always they are highly descriptive; and once a man comes by his nickname, there is no escape. As it is always, the surname that is replaced, whole families must abide by the practice. There is the "Rat family," for instance; there are the "Codfishes"-Manuel Codfish, Maria Codfish, and all the little Codfishes; there is the fisherman who lost both his legs, "Tom Low;" there are Mike Molasses and Mrs. Jazzgarters...

Last time I took a pair of boots in to Joe Halfdollar, the old Portuguese fisherman who has gone into cobbling, I stopped to admire a great new window he had set out.

At the left side he had a big old shark-bitten seaboot, which he must have picked up off the beach, frayed and stringy around the top and show a great gaping hole in the forepeak. Under this he had placed the legend, "BEFORE." At the right side, over a card printed "AFTER," a silver high-heeled dancing pump glittered in immaculate daintiness...

By Josef Berger (Jeremiah Diggens)
Reprinted from Cape Cod Pilot (1937)
Excerpt From A Place Apart, edited by Robert Finch, ISBN 0-393-03480-1

About the Author

[email protected]

Walter and Pat Brooks of East Harwich, MA, along with Steve Sullivan of Brewster, MA founded Best Read Guide Cape Cod and Best Read Guides, Inc. in July 1988 after 30 years in newspapering and sold the business to industry leader CTM Media Group in 2016. The mission in founding the magazine was to provide a high-quality free publication for visitors to Cape Cod which would show them where to go and what to do in an easy-to-use format. Published and distributed by CTM Media Group, find the printed guide at hundreds of locations both on and off the Cape or find fun fast online at capecodtravel.com and weddingsoncapecod.com.