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To Nickname or Not

If you like the shortened version of a name and would probably use that more often than the full version, is it better to just name your child the shortened version? I'm thinking about Lexi, short for Alexa/Alexis, but really prefer using Lexi to the longer version.

- C.

If you've posed the nickname question to frends and family, I'll bet you've heard this piece of advice: Insert your baby's name into the statement "Ladies and Gentleman, President Lexi Smith" or "All rise for the Honorable Lexi Jones." The idea is that a name that sounds cute on a little kid may not be serious enough for grownup occasions. Most often, you'll find that the formal name suits the formal occasion best. It's a useful tip, but also a cliché -- and as with many clichés, the truth only runs so deep.

The last time I looked, we had a Speaker of the House named Nancy. There's a cute little-girl nickname if I've ever heard one. Nancy's a pet form of Ann, linked for generations with the cutesiest of comic strip characters. Once upon a time, a name like Nancy would have set off the "not serious enough for legal status" alerts, but it didn't slow down Nancy Pelosi.

Your little Lexi, growing up in a less formal time, is even less likely to have to explain away her short-form name or worry about the impression it gives on resumes. Accepted shortenings of longer names, like Lexi, Maggie, Kristi and Kate, are familiar and comfortable, unlikely to raise eyebrows or ruffle feathers.

So the risks of a girlish nickname may be overblown. But what about the upside? What advantage is there to erasing the formal name? The main idea is clear: you would like to mandate how people refer to your child. Naming her Lexi does just that. Legalizing the nickname leaves no room for mistakes or misunderstandings. But simply calling her Lexi would do much the same. Everyone will be happy to follow your lead; everyone, perhaps, except Lexi herself.

A young Lexi can't decide at age 13 that Alex suits her better. She can't switch to Alexa on the first day of her freshman year of college to reflect her new independent adult identity. She can't play with different names in different settings -- Lexi at home and with close friends, Alexa at work, maybe Allie with her boyfriend. Perhaps you're relieved about that. After all, you want a Lexi, and it's your choice, right?

This decision is your first shot fired in the age-old battle of wills between parent and child. Naming your child Lexi won't limit her professional aspirations and personal dreams, but it will restrict her methods of self-presentation. You can assert your control over her name, or give her more stylistic room to roam. Good luck negotiating this first of many battles to come.


Please do not add links to your comments. Thank you.

May 28, 2010 4:47 PM
By Steph (not verified)

My parents named me Stephanie with the intention of calling me Stevie. They introduced me to everyone when I was born as "Stevie" and called me only that when I was a child. I however, around the age of 7 decided that Stevie was a boys name and with the knowledge that Stephanie was my "real" name, and started answering only to Stephanie. My parents don't really care for the name Stephanie, they had chosen it only because of the nickname Stevie, and had intended it to be used only for formal occasions. To this day, my mother will sometimes say Stephanie, then sigh and say how she wished she'd just put Stevie on my birth certificate. I don't dislike the name now, but I've been away from it so long now that it really just isn't my name. So if you choose to put a formal name on the birth certificate with the intention of calling him/her by a nickname, make sure you also like the formal name, because it all may not turn out the way you'd planned.

July 3, 2011 1:40 PM
By Abby (not verified)

I know I'm late to reply to this, but I've just now found this site.
I was born in the 80's and have a nickname for a name. I was named after my great-grandmother, Abbie (not Abigail). Very few people try to call me Abigail. A few do ask, and that's understandable.
It does annoy me when people spell it Abbey. I'm not a building.
The most trouble I've had with it is people thinking I'm Amy. I've had people look RIGHT AT my name, Abby, then look up from the paper and, "So Amy..."

If I introduce myself to you, then say... a few hours or days later, you call me Amy, I get that. When you've just literally looked at my name and still call me Amy... no. There's no good excuse for that.

August 31, 2011 4:12 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I know I'm a little late in replying to this but oh well. I wanted to say how I actually have first hand experience with "nicknaming" on a birth certificate. My Mom did not want my brother to be called Alexander. She just likes Alex. So, she named my brother Alex. Just Alex.

It has never really been a big deal. It is easy to correct people, "No, my name is not short for Alexander."

One little snag in the road is that when he fills out official papers there are people who feel they have the right to add "ander" to his name. They are probably trying to be helpful because they think he needs his official name on his official papers but Alex IS his official name. And he likes it that way. He doesn't want to be Alexander. He would like his name to be accepted in it's own right. Why should it have to be short for something? What's wrong with it by itself?

I have heard on some baby name sites, "Who would you rather have operating you? Dr. Alex Bringham or Dr. Alexander Bringham?"

My answer? The one with the qualifications to be a surgeon!

May 28, 2013 1:39 AM
By hermes birkin bag (not verified)

Wonderful job. thanks.

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