It has nothing to do with Linwood Boomer, creator of Malcolm in the Middle, the dog in the 1970s Here's Boomer, Canadian television personality Boomer Phillips, or with being a Baby Boomer.
There are three reasons.
Warning: the third is dirty.
1. My Grandma Prater died when I was 7, so I don't remember much about her, except she was plump, brown, had a thick Southern accent, and a jovial sense of humor.
One day my cousin and I were roughhousing at her house, and we bumped into a bureau containing her collection of ceramic figurines. A priceless blue jay toppled and fell to the floor with a horribly loud crash!
We were terrified. We thought she would get a willow switch from the hill and wallop us.
But when Grandma Howard came running in from the kitchen, she wasn't mad. She laughed.
"Why, aren't you little terrors? I'm going to have to call you the Buster and you the Boomer. Now run get a broom and help me clean up this mess."
After that, we called each other Buster and Boomer, but only when we were alone. They were secret names, representing a special bond between us.
Cousin Buster and I drifted apart when we grew up. He died a few years ago.
The Boomer causes mayhem with his monumental voice. First he yells "Boo!" like a ghost, but he discovers that he is even more powerful with "Boom!"
I wanted to be strong and powerful, too.
One day at recess we all decided to pick secret nicknames. My boyfriend Bill was Mad Dog; Joel was Robin (Batman's sidekick); Greg was Barnabas (the vampire from Dark Shadows); David Angel was Muscles. I was Boomer.
We went around calling ourselves Robin, Mad Dog, Muscles, Barnabas, and Boomer for months. I demonstrated my power by sneaking up behind random people and yelling "Boom!"
Eventually most of the guys grew tired of the game, but Bill and I continued to call each other Boomer and Mad Dog until we drifted apart in junior high.
Ok, the third reason doesn't involve a long-lost friendship:
Which can be embarrassing in an apartment with paper-thin walls.
In 1997, when I first moved to New York and was living in graduate student housing, I invited Yuri the Russian Meteorology Major to a Christmas party, and afterwards to spend the night. He claimed to be straight until the moment we climbed into bed. Then, suddenly out, he was quite energetic.
In the morning, we got up, dressed, and walked out into the living room, where my straight roommate Max was sitting in his bathrobe, drinking coffee.
Max was the Roommate from Hell, completely obnoxious, but not homophobic. He looked at us and grinned.
"Negro got himself a fine piece of a** last night!" he exclaimed in his annoying faux-black accent. "Now I know why you be letting out all them sonic booms."
"Sonic boom?" Yuri asked. His English was still faulty.
"Yeah, man, boom -- you musta turned him inside out! I wish some of these honeys knew your tricks!"
Now Yuri understood. He blushed and nuzzled against my chest.
"Well, that's my nickname," I said, remembering Rock Island. "The Boomer."
After that Yuri always called me Boomer. Eventually he forgot what it meant, and just started introducing me that way, so I am Boomer to all of his friends, and to everybody in Florida and London.
Today, if anyone asks, I tell them about my Grandma Howard and the broken blue jay.
See also: A Boy Named Angel; Gay Panic and the Obnoxious Roommate.