nicknames

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Is This Nickname Workable, or Weird?

My name is Maria Alejandra, which is Spanish. I'm studying abroad, and nobody can pronounce my full name. I go by Maria for now, but there are about 20 of us and it gets quite confusing. I want to start going by "Malendra." It's a play on both my names and I like the sound of it. However, after doing some searching I've realized that that's a name commonly used by Indian men. Do you think it would be weird if I took it as my name?

–Need to Shed Some Syllables

Making a contraction of a name starting with Maria is a time-honored tradition: Maria Teresa becomes Maite, or Maria Soledad is known as Marisol. So your nickname idea makes a lot of sense.

It's also smart to have some cross-cultural sensitivity about names. If you had invented the name Aditya for yourself, I'd caution that it is a familiar, and hugely popular, name among Indian men and boys.

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Does a Nickname Disqualify This Middle Name?

Is Theodore Edmund a nickname disaster? We love both names. Both honour family. But can we use both in the same name, considering the risk of a deadly nickname combo like Ted Ed, Ted Ned, or even Ted Ted? You can just imagine the nurse at the doctor's office when she catches the joke. Or are we overthinking it, with Theo the new normal nickname for Theodore? In fact, could we even be so bold as to name this baby Theodore and save Edmund for a sibling?

–Not Ready for Teddy Eddie

I'd say this one goes into the "overthinking" column. Middle names are almost never reduced to nicknames. And what’s more, most people won’t even know what Theodore's middle name is. Even doctors, nurses, and teachers who might happen to see the middle name aren't likely to give it much—if any!—thought.

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All the Nicknames Are Taken!

Can Laney be a nickname for Eleanor? I love the name, but both Ellie (in this case, short for Elizabeth) and Norah (as a full name) are taken by other kids in my family, and Nellie was a beloved dog.

–Still Love Eleanor

Sure, you could use Laney as a nickname for Eleanor! Parents have lots of leeway when it comes to pairing up names and nicknames. I think a lot of people will really like the combination of old-fashioned Eleanor with more contemporary Laney.

You could consider Elle or Ella as nicknames for Eleanor, but those might be too close to Ellie. Or you could use the full Eleanor and skip the nicknames altogether.

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This Nickname Needs an Even Better Nickname!

Can you please give me a nickname for my friend Maggie?

–Friend in Need

Not really—for starters, Maggie is already a nickname—but the good news is that you're well positioned to give your friend a nickname yourself. This is just what friends are for! Does she need a nickname because she doesn’t care for Maggie? Or just for fun, as a symbol of your close relationship? Let's look at each possibility in turn.

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Is This Nickname Fine, or Far Removed?

We are trying to decide on a name for our fourth child, a girl. I love the name Philomena (family name on my side, plus my husband's name is Phillip), with the nickname Mena. My husband doesn't love Philomena and really isn't into Mena. He suggested Philippa with the nickname Pippa. I do not like Philippa, so I thought we might compromise: Philomena, with the nickname Pippa. Is that too much of a stretch?

–Give-and-Take

Yes, it's kind of a stretch. Philomena and Pippa have little to do with each other. But that doesn't much matter. There are plenty of nicknames out there that have taken a long journey from the original given name (like Polly for Mary or Peggy for Margaret). And regardless of tradition, you can use whatever nickname you like.

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No More Nicknames, Please!

My name is Anastasia. I'm almost 25, and I have always been called by nicknames: Annie, Ana, Stasia, Nastia, Anya, Stacy, Tasia (only people like my mother, father, sister, and best friend are allowed to call me Annie). But I'm slowly getting sick of always hearing nicknames and never my full name. As soon as I introduce myself, people ask what my nickname is. I don't know what to do to get people to use my full name. Is Anastasia really too much of a mouthful? I hear it so little and I do love my name. Do you have any advice?

–Anastasia, Please!

It's clear that this really bugs you. But it’s not clear whether others really know that. So your first step is to make your wishes known, clearly and firmly, but also politely. It will be easiest with new people. If they ask you if you have a nickname, just say “No!” with a smile.

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Is This Nickname Unstoppable?

I love the name Harrison for our baby boy (big brother is Henry). But we're worried that people will call him Harry, a nickname we're not too fond of—my husband despises it! Do you think the nickname is unavoidable?

–Not Wild About Harry

No nickname is truly unavoidable, especially these days when plenty of boys are named Thomas and Michael—but never go by Tom and Mike. We're quite used to hearing full names instead of nicknames, and both parents and children are comfortable saying "It's Daniel, not Danny" until they get their point across.

But some nicknames are more likely than others. There are a few risk factors that come into play. One is when a name has a single, obvious nickname, like Chris for Christopher, or Beth for Bethany. Another is a formal name of three or more syllables.

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There Must Be More Baby Names Like This One!

Today, I came across the name Benton. I really like it because it's unique, but it still has familiar sounds: It has the nickname "Ben" and the trendy "-n" ending all rolled into one! It got me wondering: Are there any other names like Benton out there?

–Been Thinking 'Bout Benton

I love this question because there are so many ways to look at it. And no matter how you define "names like Benton," there are plenty of choices that fit the bill. Benton's brother could be a new invention like Daxton, an old surname like Wickham, or a new take on a chart-topper, like Jules or Harris.

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Is This Nickname a No-No?

My beautiful 8-year-old daughter is named Ilana. Though we both love her name, she more closely identifies with the nickname we have called her since she could speak, Nani (nah-nee). She wants to start going by her nickname not only at home but at school. Looking into the name Nani, it may actually be a Hawaiian name; but we are not Hawaiian. Is it acceptable to have everyone start calling her Nani even though it is not commonly known as a "real" name? Is it a nickname that should only be used in the family or is it something that could be used all around?

–Nani's Mom

I'm going to start this column off with a little test. Quick, Nani's Mom, which of the following celebrities are familiar to you: Mary Elizabeth Gore, Josephine Lauder, Rafael Cruz, or Elizabeth Jean Philipps?

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Must the Nickname Match the Given Name?

Normally I'm against the idea of calling a child by a name other than what you actually named her, but I'm wondering if it's socially acceptable to do it. My husband and I have agreed on a particular name for a few years, but this whole pregnancy I've been referring to the baby as "Daisy." Would it be totally off the mark to give the baby a first and middle name that in no way relate to Daisy, but still call her that?

–Name Her, Name Her Not

This kind of nicknaming is not only accepted, but classic: think Eldrick "Tiger" Woods, Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin, or Mary "Sissy" Spacek. But you're right that it’s less common today than it once was. Contemporary parents often favor full names without nicknames: James but not Jimmy, Elizabeth instead of Beth. Or they go straight for the nickname, especially in the U.K., where names like Rosie, Evie, and Lexi are climbing popularity charts.

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