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You Can't Hold Back Nicknames

My column on parents who loved the name Edmund but cringed at nicknames Eddie and Ned spurred a flood of reader letters. One message came through loud and clear: Parents, if you think you'll get to control your child's nickname forever, think again. In the long run, it's his name he and his friends will determine what he's going to be called. Here's a sampling of tales from the nickname trenches:

"Our son is named Christopher and we have always called him that. Always. I found out this week that his friends at school call him Chris, except when they call and ask for him. And -- he prefers Chris. Who knew?"

"Have you noticed that it seems to be the child's friends who dictate the nickname? I named my son Daniel, which turned into Dan or Danny, but most often he is called Murph -- his last name is Murphy."

"We have a beautiful daughter we named Cassidy. Cute, huh? As she got older her auburn hair became the focal point of conversation everywhere we went. She is a lovely 15 year old whose friends now call her 'REDD.'"

"When my daughter was born 20 years ago we chose the name Elizabeth, partly because it lent itself to so many nicknames that we were sure to find one that suited her. What we found, though, is she prefers the full, formal Elizabeth."

"My son's name is Nicholas and I tried very hard for it to stay at Nicholas, but my son, friends, teachers, coaches and just about everyone but me decided to shorten to Nick, which I can't stand. So I call him Nicholas and the rest call him Nick."

"At least Eddie is somewhat close to the full first name. Me, I've been called Mr. Spock and The Jolly Fisherman in high school and, for some reason, Sunshine while serving in the Marine Corps."


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

December 14, 2009 6:11 PM
By Jacalyn Cutler (not verified)

What will happen with the name
Michiella (Meekiella)? My daughter's husband is from Puerto Rico. When he says it, the name is OK, but no one including my daughter can pronounce it.

December 14, 2009 8:46 PM
By Alex (not verified)

Too apropos not to retell here. . . Years ago there was an article on nicknames in the New York Times. One of the anecdotes in this article was about a pair of parents who were dreadfully worried about nicknames for their baby boy and what nicknames could do to the developing personality of the child. So they carefully weeded out all sorts of names which would be liable to turn into nicknames and finally came up with Eric. For years, while in school, their little boy was known by all and sundry as Earache.

December 15, 2009 4:49 AM
By Elizabeth (not verified)

I have one to add.

My mom named my sister "Margaret Rose", thinking she would be called "Meg", but she goes by "Rose" or "Rosie" instead.

December 15, 2009 12:35 PM
By Enid Weinheimer (not verified)

My parents named me Enid in part because they believed there would be no nickname for it. Most people in my adult life call me "E."

December 15, 2009 3:08 PM
By abbey (not verified)

Very similar to the last poster - Our son is named Brendan which is allegedly nickname proof and he is routinely called "B" Our daughter is formally named Marguerite with lots of nickname potential. We call her Maggie, but at only 4 months old who knows where her name will lead.

December 15, 2009 5:56 PM
By Sarah (not verified)

I always wanted a nickname, but never got one. You can't really shorten Sarah, and my Granny, who I am named after, was already called Sadie, which people sometimes use.

So, when I have children I want to give them names that can be shortened, so that they have the option.

December 16, 2009 5:24 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Yes, I agree when a kid gets older you can't decide what he or she will call themselves but you can ask people to call your child by their name and not another when they are younger. Giving a non-speaking child a nickname the parents don't use is the very same as calling a child by an entirely different name. As in, 'this is my son edward. oh, edmund is a lovely name' Open your ears people! How hard is it to use the name people introduce themselves as!

December 17, 2009 7:36 AM
By Helen (not verified)

We named our daughter Sarah, which is fairly nickname-proof. But I tend to call her a pet name ("Pooh"). My son is Nathan, but we decided early he'd be "Nate" or "Natie". My husband, David isn't called "Dave" he's called "Darbs" which is a shortened version of our last name. When I'm around his buddies, they call me "MrsDarbs." So my kids might end up with some form of our sirname as well.

Also, on topic, my cousin has 3 children, all with definitive nick names (as in, on the birth announcement they had the full name and the nn in quotes)... So we'll see if Libby, Wim, and Chase remain that way!

December 17, 2009 10:47 AM
By Barbara C. (not verified)

My husband has the opposite problem. Is given name is Ricky, and everyone assumes that it's a nickname and that his given name is Richard.

December 17, 2009 4:01 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

My brother's name is Eric, as is my father's. For years, he went as Little Eric around family members. As time passed though, he simply became "E" due to sheer laziness, though it did serve as a nice distinction. Now, his friends call him anything from EZ-E to Ric to our last name. Honestly, I can't remember the last time one of his friends or I call him "Eric"

December 17, 2009 11:59 PM
By Betsey (not verified)

I'm an Elizabeth who has been called Betsey since birth. One of my oldest and best friends invented Elize for me, and more of my close friends have various nicknames for me including Boo and Bee. Betsey was okay growing up, but I use Elizabeth professionally because it seems like no one can get Betsey right, and I'm tired of being called Becky, Betty, Brittany, Bethany, etc :)

December 21, 2009 3:23 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

my good friends are named Isabella and Miranda. When Miranda was about 4, she decided, out of the blue, that she would answer to nothing but mimi. now, she is nothing but mimi. Isabella's name goes through a cycle of getting shorter and shorter the longer you know her. when you first meet her, she is isabella. after a while, bella, then, bell, etc.

December 22, 2009 1:23 AM
By Shay (not verified)

I'm Shannon. In the 9th grade (2001) my friend Michelle started calling my Slim Shady. That turned into Shay. I've been Shay ever since and everyone I've met since has needed to be told that my real name was Shannon. Nobody in my family calls me by a nickname, which kind of makes me sad. It makes me feel like there's a part of me they don't know.
Now my daughter Leila is called Sugar, but I don't know what kind of school nickname she will have. I hope it's not Lay-Lay, but it probably will be just because I hope so hard lol.

December 23, 2009 5:58 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

My name is Alexandria, which I was never a big fan of. When I was little, I was dubbed Lexxie, and that's still my family nickname to this day. I don't use it in school, because I never really liked it that much, either. In school, I go by Alex, Alexa, Lexa, Lex, or some people just called me Alexandria!

December 23, 2009 8:45 PM
By brittany (not verified)

Me and my boyfriend named our daughter Arianna and for the longest time i couldn't find anything else to call her then one day we just started calling her Onna or Nona boo.

December 27, 2009 12:29 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

We named our daughter Morgana with the intention of calling her by her full name or possibly Mora. Somehow, within weeks of birth, she was Mo. That lasted until she was around 3 when she told me one day she was "Gana". 4 years later, she is called either Gana or Morgana.

December 28, 2009 9:30 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I love the name Vincent, and would love to have a son with this name one day.
I'm okay with the nickname 'Vince', but I can't stand the name 'Vinnie'. I'm scared his friends would call him this.
It's out of my control, I know, I know..

December 29, 2009 11:43 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I selected a name I thought had good nick name potential and I gave my daughter a nick name right from the start,so that is what she is known by. However, as she gets older, she is now 13, she wants to be called by her formal name as a way of saying she is mature.

I wanted to name a daughter Chanel, but was not sure of the nick names.

December 29, 2009 1:36 PM
By Mentionit (not verified)

Confidential to "Murph"Murphy and "Darb"Darby. Yes a short form of the last name becoming a nick-name is very Preppie. I remember John "Strib" Stribbling from high school. Wonder what happened to him?

December 29, 2009 4:49 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Eric>Earache is a new one for me. My ds is named Eric and has never gotten that. The kids at school DO make fun of him by twisting around his LN though. I guess NO name is safe.

December 29, 2009 7:01 PM
By Randi (not verified)

My brother's name is Nicholas (which Mom insists on calling him), though us girls (his older sisters) call him Nick, or Nicky when we want to bug him (he hates it). I like his name, and fortunately for me and my husband, we enjoy family names and one of the nicknames of Nicholas is the first boy's name we EVER agreed on: Cole.

December 29, 2009 7:02 PM
By Randi (not verified)

Also, I went to school with a Brian Murphy whom we'd all nicknamed "Smurphy". I still to this day don't know why, he towered over everyone by 6th grade and was constantly tanned. No blue about this boy.

December 30, 2009 12:15 AM
By Crazyrn1000 (not verified)

I have a name that is difficult to pronounce and therefore has had multiple nicknames. My name is Nicko (pronounced like Nee-koh). Which is often confused for a boys name, so I used Nicki growing up. As I became a teenager I realized that Nicki sounded like a stripper name and started using that name Nicko. I love it now...its a great conversation starter. Things rarely turn out the way our parents envision them. Sometimes kids grow into their names.

December 30, 2009 2:03 PM
By A Rose (not verified)

My name is Alexa and so many people think it's a nickname for Alexandra or Alexandria but it isn't. I usually go by my full name, but some people (not any particular group, but some people) call me Lex(y), some friends call me Bob (long story...) and some Elx/Elxa/Elxy(-poo). I like nicknames that just grow around the name.

I knew someone with the last name Wasser and a first name beginning with an "S", there were a bunch of people in her high school with that same first name so she became Swas. I also know someone called Schwaz (her last name is Schwartz which is where we got it from) because there were two people with her first name in our bunk at camp.

December 31, 2009 2:20 PM
By Martina (not verified)

My parents named me Martina but my mom always dreaded the nicknames Marty and Tina. She made a point to correct cousins and my granny anytime they called me Tina. Two of my friends in H.S. called me Marty and I'm sure both were scolded by my mom at one time or another. It didn't stick, thankfully, and most everyone calls me Martina. (Although, a former co-worker gave me the nn Teenz, which I thought was pretty b.a.!)

January 3, 2010 11:39 PM
By Allison (not verified)

I was given the name Allison and everyone turns it into Alli.
I have never liked that nickname and point blank that is not my name. Yet here I am over and over introducing myself as Allison and a few days letter being called Alli?
I am a grown woman?

January 6, 2010 6:09 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

My name is Summer...I've always hated it & wanted a nick name but there just isn't one for it! & People in school still find it funny to call me Winter, Autumn & was old 11 years ago. Haha. My middle name is Nicole, I didn't care much for it either because it was so common but I preferred it over Summer so that is what my cousins started calling me & it eventually became Nicky which my cousin spelled Nikkii when he wasn't paying attention one day, that is my nickname now. A teacher of mine calls me Heather & I have NO IDEA why.

January 8, 2010 8:23 PM
By Jayne (not verified)

My husband's name is Jeffrey and all through his childhood and adolescence his mother did everything to prevent him from being called Jeff, a nickname she hates. The problem is I met him at college, and he was always Jeff to me. A decade later, she still tries occasionally to get me to switch, but I think she knows the battle is lost.

January 15, 2010 3:22 PM
By Liadee (not verified)

my name is Lia, which really seems nickname proof, but growing up i was Li-li, li, leha, small fry, and my mothers creation of penelope priscilla marie. sad part is most of those came from my cousins and not my friends

My boyfriend is Jonathan, his family calls him Jon, but theyre about the only ones. When i met him all his frat brothers and highschool friends called him Klam from his last name, and thats how I know him! My brother was the same way, My mom named him nicolas to call him nick, but somehow over time thats gone from nick to nickle to nickle pickle to now just pickle.

January 16, 2010 6:23 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I have a friend named Sarah and her NN is "Rah"

January 17, 2010 1:39 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

My real name is philippa but that is really quite often shortened to pip. Even on te rollcall my name is pip. The only problem was that i didn't know whether to write pip or philippa on school tests. The guys at my school thought my real name was penelope until i corrected them. Also Other nicknames include pipsy, punk, philedelphia and pippy wippy.

January 18, 2010 5:29 PM
By Amber the Red (not verified)

I had decided, after watching the hotrod gang call their fourth member "Snotrod" in the movie "Cars," that it really is everyone else's "right" to come up with nicknames. I always grew up as Amber, and the only nicknames I ever got -- Popcorn (for a song I'd sing at track meets), Red, Big Red and even Ambie -- were given to me by friends and associates. The parents come up with the basic name, but they really don't get much choice over the real nicknames.

January 18, 2010 9:51 PM
By midwife mother (not verified)

My daughter is named madeline emily germain. when she was little we started writing her initial on things to identify them. MEG. pretty soon it stuck and now she goes by Meg all the time. we like it but some people assume her "real" name is megan or margaret. well, so be it. our friends have a daughter named rachel and her initials of first, middle, last are RAE. her nick name is Rae so that also works out nicely. i always think parents should consider what the initials spell before they choose a name.

January 27, 2010 1:58 PM
By Amber (not verified)

My husband's name is Matthew, but his parents and my mom are really the only people who call him that. To everyone else (at work, friends) he's Matt. His mom says she prefers the full name, but she went with Matthew because she could stand the nickname. I was always said I didn't have a shortened nickname, but occasionally my mom and friends will call me by my first and middle name together. I guess it's still a nickname, even though it's longer, right?

January 28, 2010 2:09 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Sarah is a beautiful name, and I've often met women with the nickname "Sally" for Sarah.

January 28, 2010 2:50 PM
By Chelsea (not verified)

My name is Chelsea, and my parents always called me Chels, which I hate. I love nicknames, I just hate that one. People often call me C-K (first and last initial) and by my first and last name together, because they like how it sounds.

Now, I'm pregnant with a little boy who's going to be named Nicolai (Knee-co-lie). My boyfriend and I HATE the nickname "Nick" (or Nick). We really want him to be known as Nico, so let's see how that turns out! (If we tell people his nickname is Nico, they also get the pronunciation of his full name better, rather than saying it "Nickel-eye")

January 28, 2010 8:57 PM
By Camille (not verified)

I guess my name's okay..along with my middle name it sounds nice and French: Camille Lorraine...
but my name-based nicknames have been rather boring.
Parents knew they wanted my nickname to be Cami, and they chose Camille over Cameron. My dad therefore calls me Cami Sweet Lori or Ih-cuhmill-here (one of my old neighbours was a little girl with a speech impediment and when she knocked on the door she would say, "Ih Cuhmill here?"), my brother calls me Miss Lori to annoy, and my other brother calls me Chamomile, Callameel, or, most often, Camel. And most of my brother's friends call me is strange, I actually answer to it.. and once my brother's friend asked him, "Hey, where's Camel?" on impulse. Haha!
Of course at school I was called Camel for a while, then Chameleon (EVERYONE, even my teachers called me that! It annoyed me to no end but I got over that eventually), then Chamillionaire or whatever the rapper's name is. Also, my last name is Hoogland, the Dutch for highland, and some kid in grade school always called me "Nihauland" after "nihau" the Chinese for "hello" or "hi".
After that (grade school) my nicknames have become a lot more non-name-based and strange. Currently my nickname is Gleemanon with most people, and Charlie Harley/Child of the Universe (yes. Child of the Universe, haha!) with one person, and "Cuh-mill" with everyone else (GAH!! It is not Cuh-MILL!!).

Anyway, I must say, Gleemanon is a far far cry from Cami, wouldn't you say?

January 30, 2010 8:04 PM
By Louise (not verified)

My daughter, Megan, has more nicknames than anyone I know. At 2 years old she pronounced herself "Mimi" and would not respond unless we used it. That name has been morphed many times. The best was that her little friend next door, Chelsea, got Kiki bestowed by Megan. Mimi and Kiki have been friends for 20 years.

February 4, 2010 1:02 AM
By Kelty (not verified)

You'd be surprised. Almost every time I introduce myself, I get a litany of NOT-my-names:


I love my name, but it drives me insane that no one seems to have an IQ high enough to understand my name is pronounced Kel-Tee.

It doesn't help that my girlfriend's name IS Kelsey. Now it's just a pain.

February 4, 2010 12:47 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

My parents named me Lauren Christine, which I always hated. I started trying to get rid of it when I was three, but there aren't really any nicknames for Lauren. I tried getting people to use "Christine"; I tried using my initials; I tried changing the spelling; nothing worked. Eventually, I used the excuse of changing religions to change the whole thing.

February 5, 2010 10:17 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

My husband's name is Jeremy. His entire family calls him Jerry and it stuck. All of his friends, co-workers call him that. I hate it. I am pretty much the only one who calls him Jeremy.

One of my elder aunts calls him Jerome. At first we thought she had misheard his name when I introduced him to her but she told us she is aware of his real name but prefers Jerome. I think it's hilarious. Now that nickname has stuck.

My name is Samantha. I only get called that by teachers and when I was in trouble with my parents. I don't mind Sam at all but I really dislike being called Sammy.

February 5, 2010 2:10 PM
By LeAnna (not verified)

My name is LeAnna (no middle name, I suppose my middle name is "Anna"). Everyone on the planet has tried to give me a nickname and none of them stuck, much to my mom's joy. The only problem is that everyone I am introduced to always initially calls me "Leanne." I don't know why, but I really hate it. I find myself correcting them, as my mom used to correct my friends as I was growing up, "there's an A on the end..."

February 10, 2010 1:20 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

My brothers name is Jeremy, my mother started calling him Jerm at an early age because she figured bullies would call him that in taunting and if he was already use to being caled that and was comfortable then they couldnt hurt him, it worked 24yrs later everyone he knows calls him Jerm.
My daughters name is Bethani and I hate for it to be shortened to Beth so I quite often call her BethAnn. My other two are Mavryck aka MavMan and Hawkyns aka Hawkeye. Hoping this one will be another boy so I can name him Jagger aka Jag/Jagster.

February 16, 2010 6:02 PM
By Holly (not verified)

There's a kid in my year at school that is called Kenny, Everyone calles him Kenny, even the teachers. I only found out a couple of weeks ago that his name is James Kenell,and I've known him for three years!
I have never heard anyone ever call him James!

February 24, 2010 8:17 AM
By NAMES (not verified)

Oh my nicknames! This is FUN! My FULL name is Jill and I often get mistaken for being Jillian. When people ask, I say, "Just Jill." However, in high school I was known as Jilly Beans, which later got shortened to Beans and to this day most of high school friends think of me as Beans. I am actually thinking of legally changing my name to Jilliana, and still just go by Jill mostly because, Jilliana is so pretty, but also because my fiance's last name is Hill and I don't want my FULL name to be Jill Hill, I'd rather it be Jilliana Hill.

On another side note, I have 3 nephews and 1 niece, the oldest nephew (9) is named Anthony, typically we call him Tony. The second oldest nephew (3) is Alexander, his mother (my sister) and our side of the family call him Alex, but his father calls him Xander. The youngest nephew (1) is Lane, and is SUPPOSED to be called Lane, but the eldest sister called him Parkway (she's kind of mean). FINALLY, my niece (1) is Ellianna, we call her Lia and after reading this post, I find that she may like Ellie or Anna, or even her full name of Ellianna. We call her Lia, because her motehr's middle name is Leah!

February 28, 2010 6:23 PM
By Lexa (not verified)

I have a friend named Azalea Marie, and her entire family calls her Marie. Everyone else has called her nicknames ranging from Zee and Lea to Fifi. The one that stuck was Elf, and now she usually introduces herself as Ellie.

May 7, 2010 8:51 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

My name is Deirdre, and I love it, but it is really difficult to get people to pronounce it correctly. I get soo many Deidre's, Desiree's, "Deeder's" (yes someone once though my name was Deeder. I don't know how this would actually be spelled, but that's what they said), Georgia's, Gertrude's and some other weird ones. I'm not really quite sure how people think Deirdre is Gertrude. That just doesn't make sense to me.
So, since apparently when people have slightly different names, no one is capable of pronouncing them, I just introduce myself as DJ (my initials, and a nickname I was given in highschool). It's not something I particularly like doing because I like to reserve nicknames for closer friends, but it's better than being called Deeder or Gertrude.
Another nickname I go by is simply "deej" which is a variation of DJ. I'm just not a huge fan of these nicknames with people who I'm not close to because people are always like "oh, like full house," which just isn't me.

July 30, 2010 7:39 PM
By Jillian (not verified)

My parents hate the nickname Jill and tried to turn me off to it for years ("You don't like being called Jill, do you? Your name is Jillian, right?")

It didn't quite work, I honestly don't care either way (haha that sounds awful. But I really don't, I always introduce myself as Jillian and if it gets shortened, it gets shortened) so about half of my high school friends and co-workers call me that.

My parents still aren't aware of this..

June 8, 2011 10:56 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

My younger brother Patrick, has been "Patch" to our family growing up. When he got into middle school, however, we found out everyone was calling him "Pat" instead. This became heard so much by his friends that it caught on with us as well and the nn Patch has disappeared.

June 22, 2011 5:20 PM
By Alicia (not verified)

I was always jealous of those with nns (I'm from the Jennifer/Jessica generation, and an area where queenly classics like Catherine and Elizabeth reigned). I HATED the way people naturally compacted my name to Leash (as in, dog's leash? no thanks), and, let's face it, people have a tendency to find a shorter, more comfortable form of your name once they've known you a while. It's unavoidable. Even my mother does it.

When I was in grade school I tried to start using Ali as a nn, and my mom was very supportive. She bought me a rubber stamp and some other personalized trinkets with Ali on them, but it never stuck. It wasn't really me.

My grown up friends from my college years call me Cookie, as random a nn as they come, and these days I happily respond to that, or Alicia. I plan to select names with natural nn choices for my children so that they can decide what they'd like to be called.

I teach in an elementary school and parents - as much as your kid will echo your wishes ("I'm Nicolas, not Nick") through 1st grade, right around 3rd grade is where they start to make their own choices. Some stick with the party line... but many forge their own path. Get over it. Your child is a separate being, with a separate identity from you and from the ideal child you imagined while naming him. That's not an insult - he's not worse than you imagined. Just different. He might just be a (gasp!) Nick.

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