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Can I Avoid Nicknames?

I am due in December, and my husband and I like the name William. The problem is our last name, which ends in "ll" as well, rules out the nickname Will. We do not like any of the other popular nicknames for William. How reasonable is it to expect that little William will be called by his full name instead of having family and friends shortening it into a nickname that is either a tongue twister, or a name we don't care for? - No Will, No Way

If you aim for the full William, you won't be alone. More and more families are turning toward the formal today, filling playgrounds with the likes of James-not-Jim and Daniel-not-Dan. The standard nicknames just sound too ordinary for today's parents. After all, it was "every Tom, Dick and Harry" who stood for the everyman, not "every Thomas, Richard and Henry."

But as many Name Lady readers have told me, nicknames have a life of their own. Parental control only goes so far.

The biggest risk factor is length. The longer the name, the more tenacious nicknames are -- especially for boys. Cross the three-syllable boy barrier and shortening is hard to avoid. That's tough news for the mom of a Maximilian or Tobias, but bodes well for your William.

The second source of risk can be hard to imagine from the pre-natal present. It's your son himself, and his future buddies. At some point between the start of third grade and the senior year sports banquet, a marauding horde of boys is likely to transform your elegant William into a Will (or Billy, or Rocketman).

So if your surname is truly abominable with Will (Will Call?) and you can't accept the slightest risk of it, William is not for you. Otherwise, make your peace with the possibility of future nicknames and go ahead and choose your favorite name. William is a classic, you and your husband both like it, and you, at least, will always be able to call your son by it.

Comments

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November 29, 2010 1:30 PM
By Jade (not verified)

We have four children and it has been my experience, for the most part, that people will pick up whatever you call your child. That is whether you use their full name or a nickname. For the most part.
That said there will still be people that will come up with their own version of what the child makes them feel and there really isn't anything you can do about it.
You may find once the baby is with you that you are no longer opposed to a nickname anyways, something other then Will, or Will related.
It only really matters what you call your child.

November 29, 2010 2:45 PM
By CP (not verified)

My nephew is a William, known to almost everyone as William, although some of the family calls him Will (his parents as well). I agree that if you call him William (and gently correct those who automatically shorten it) almost all will follow suit.

Of course, at some point what others call your child will no longer be under your control but more under his - my son Elijah is now know by some as Caveman and I have an uncle Wilfred who has gone by Pete for most of my life.

November 29, 2010 3:13 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I've been a Christine all my life, never a Chris, Christy, or Chrissy. My parents were never big on nicknames, so I didn't feel I wanted one either. They were especially staunch about not being a Chris or Chrissy, so I didn't feel I was allowed to be called those names. Today I'm happy I never shortened and even though I suppose I could have gone against my parents, I knew they didn't wish for me to have a nickname and I respected that. I rarely have to correct anyone and if I do, I usually only have to do it once. Good luck!

November 29, 2010 3:19 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I know a set of parents who INSISTED that everyone call their son Jonathan instead of Jon, and most family and family friends adhered to that pretty well - but when Jonathan went to school, all the kids called him Jon - and now he is Jon to just about everyone EXCEPT his parents.

However, on the flip side of that, I never allowed anyone to shorten my name (think Christine/Chris) - whenever anyone did, I asked them to call me by my full name and never had a problem with that. :)

November 29, 2010 3:46 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

My cousin is Matthew, not Matt. He is named after our uncle, who goes by Matt, so keeping their names distinct was a must to avoid confusion. He is only in first grade and he won't even answer to Matt. If an adult calls him Matt (which happens often if they do not know him), he does not respond because to him it is not his name. He's only 6 and he will tell people "My name is Matthew, not Matt."

Go for William, but expect to correct people often. Actually, with the multitude of nicknames for William (Will, Bill, Billy, Bucky, etc.), many people are likely to ask "What do you like to be called?" and then you or your child can make your wishes known.

November 29, 2010 4:34 PM
By Amanda (not verified)

My parents and family called me Mandy until I decided in 1st grade that I was no longer to be called Mandy but was to be known as Amanda. It stuck and no one has called me Mandy since.

My daughter is named Lillian, and I don't care if other people shorten her name, I just never did. Now she doesn't answer to Lilly, and no one calls her that. But, she is only 4, so we have yet to see what is going to happen once she goes to school.

November 29, 2010 7:08 PM
By JustSarah (not verified)

I think the most likely reason for a nickname to stick is the child himself.

My brother is Michael, and he was meant to always be Michael. And he was, to everyone, until he decided in grade 7 that he was Mike. Most of the family still calls him Michael, but he introduces himself as Mike.

And as much as it annoys my mother, it was his choice. Good luck.

November 29, 2010 8:15 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

It's kinda selfish to try to make your kid nickname-proof. I mean, you can call him William for the rest of his life, but that doesn't keep him from asking others to call him Liam or Will. You give him the name, but he creates his identity. I don't really have a name that leads to Nicknames... I was ALWAYS jealous of those who could have a long eloquent name like Jacqueline but got to have a fun peppy everyday name like Jackie. I'm Cailin. And my friends have always only called me Cailin. I wanted a short girlish nickname, and a fancy long version to go with it.

Don't try to take options away from your kid. Even if you nickname-proof his name, you aren't nickname-proofing your kid. Somehow I became Sissy to a small cousin, Bunsette to my mom's friends and Precious to my brother-by-choice.

Even my brother Alex goes by Ali and Zach begrudgingly answers to Zachary at home.

November 29, 2010 8:19 PM
By Annie (not verified)

Agreed that it's ultimately going to come down to what he wants to be called. My younger sister's name is Alexandra and my parents are pretty insistent that that's what they want her to be called. She started introducing herself as Alexi in middle school and switched to Alex in college. Pretty sure my parents hate it, but there's not much to be done...

I'm on the other end of the spectrum (Annie) and was always disappointed my name was basically already a nickname.

November 29, 2010 10:12 PM
By Jenna (not verified)

I've never liked nicknames only because I'm Jenna and on my mom and dad's side there's a Jennifer. Anytime someone calls 'Jen' you hear three people answer you and it gets annoying. All my life I've only let my parents call me 'Jen' and my peers call me Jenna. As for my kids, I like full intricate names with no nicknames.

November 30, 2010 12:35 AM
By Lysis (not verified)

My parents always called my siblings and I by our full first names, including my oldest brother William. He remained William with no nickname until he entered the workforce after college and decided to go with Will. I think this proves Laura's point: you will have some influence over a nickname but at some point, your son will decide for himself if he wants to be a William or a Billy.

November 30, 2010 1:15 PM
By Wordgirl (not verified)

I have two friends with boys named William and that is the only name anyone calls them. As long as you are firm with the name then it shouldn't be a problem. I am afraid of having our boy's name shortened in the future (if it is a boy!) but I love the full name so much I am willing to take the chance. And who knows, your kid might grow up to be something where the double-L schtick might work in his favour! Just think Will Ferrell and his $$$! Hahaha!

November 30, 2010 1:16 PM
By SMA (not verified)

At work, we have a Rob (Robert) and Wes (Wesley) and Steven - but only Steven because his dad is Steve and we work with him, too...

I have a friend who is William and prefers to be called William, and will rarely answer to anything but William.

The guys at work are convinced he is gay (he's not) for that very reason and that at every opportunity a man should shorten his name to something less... elegant.

They're pigs. But, it's just something to consider.

November 30, 2010 1:17 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

In my family, there's Philip, who goes by Phil, Tyler, who only I call Ty, Shawn who is only Shawn, and myself, Kimberly, i have had many nn's over the years, the most common being kim and kimmy. Kimmy being the most common among my friends lately. I used to refuse to be called kimmy but now i love it. The only person that calls me Kimberly is my eldest brother. It is no use trying to control nicknames,they naturally evolve and are a source of endearment often. My uncle calls my boyfriend Andrew, Drew. He is the only person to do this and i think it's nice.

November 30, 2010 1:20 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I am a Jennifer, and growing up, my mother always said "If I wanted to call you Jen or Jenny, I would have named you that". Consequently, I was Jennifer until after I graduated high school. At some point, I decided that I kind of liked "Jen", so that's what people who have known me a shorter time call me. It's all well and good if you want to stick with William (which I think is a wonderful name), but he may have other ideas sooner or later.

November 30, 2010 1:51 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I have a friend whose given name is the invented Tamaren. Her family chose the nickname Tammy for her, which she changed to the more grown up and modern sounding Ren upon starting high school.

November 30, 2010 1:58 PM
By Laura617 (not verified)

Most people would think my brother's full name is Drew-Don't-Call-Me-Andrew. He was Andy growing up, Andrew when he was in trouble, but since the 7the grade, he's insisted on Drew. Drew is on his drivers' license, he really HATES Andrew. My parents weren't thrilled but it's his choice. If you don't like a nickname, I wouldn't use the name because eventually, it won't be up to you.

My son's name is Calder (pronounced Call-der) and I can't even get his teacher to stop nicknaming him Cal. It annoys me, but it's up to your kid to correct people and boys get to the age where they would rather be cool than do what their mother says.

November 30, 2010 1:59 PM
By Allison Margaret (not verified)

Do you like the nickname Will? If so, perhaps it would be okay for him to be William Lastname whenever his whole name is used but just Will informally, though he'll sometimes be called "Will Lastname" - it's inevitable if you use William no matter what. After all, most of the time when a name is used in conversation, it's just the first name.

The key is definitely how much the kid cares about using William, not Will. Case in point: my brother and I. We are Allison and Nicholas, two names that people love to nickname, though our parents don't like the nicknames. I have always insisted on being Allison, not Ally. He doesn't care if he's called Nicholas or Nick - he likes both. So to everyone outside our family, I am Allison and he is Nick.

November 30, 2010 4:39 PM
By jenna (not verified)

if it bothers you so much, don't name him william, because odds are someone at some point is going to call him will. soo.... either change the name or get over it. not trying to be a brat, but... thats what it comes down to.

November 30, 2010 11:13 PM
By Pamela S (not verified)

I despise my nickname, Pam, always have, but it is what everyone called me growing up. In high school I started introducing myself as Pamela, but I could not make it stick. When I started college I just went by a nickname derived from my surname, didn't even tell people my given name, until I transferred to a more worldly campus and people started thinking I was a lesbian. So... I had to make a choice between letting people think I was a snob or letting them think I was a lesbian.

People at the bank, people I've been introduced to, people at church, wherever, they are constantly shortening it to Pam. Sometimes, I can handle it with humor, like when Miguel called me Pam; I called him Mike, and he smiled and got the hint. Mostly when I tell people that I refuse to share my name with aerosol grease, they will finally get the point, but it IS a constant battle.

That said, there is only one well-known nickname for Pamela, and with William, you've got more choices. Will seems to be the most common one now, but there is always Bill, Liam, (the almost unheard of now, Willy and Billy) and I even had a classmate who went by Iam (sounds like Ian).

So maybe when people are uncertain about which nickname might be the preferred one, they will wait or ask before shortening it? A certain Elizabeth I know makes me think this may be the case. I've never heard anyone call her anything else.

November 30, 2010 11:20 PM
By Kelsey (not verified)

Like everyone else has said, it's really up to your child after a certain point. My nickname (Ree) has nothing to do with my first name. Granted, it is linked with my middle name, but many people don't know my middle name.
The same holds true for my cousin Kaitlyn who is called Nate, never Kate or Katie. My point is, a lot of times nicknames aren't even associated with given names. So, your William might become Art or Van for some quirky reason, but you really can't predict it. I say choose William and go with the flow.

December 1, 2010 12:01 AM
By Sinclaire (not verified)

Our son is William and he is almost 5. We've only ever called him William and he is the one who insists on that now. He is named after both Grandpas (both go by Bill.) William is a GREAT NAME.

December 1, 2010 10:22 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

In my experience, if you don't pick a nickname for a kid with a long name, the world will pick one for you. Elizabeths who asked to be called Elizabeth were assigned "Liz" without getting to choose to be Bettys or LIbbys or whatever.

Williams might be okay because the name is only two syllables, but you can also start calling him Liam if you like that.

December 2, 2010 12:51 PM
By nedibes (not verified)

"Father calls me William,
"Sister calls me Will,
"Mother calls me Willie,
"But the fellers call me Bill!"

--Eugene Field

One more thing to consider with nicknaming: I know many men (including my husband) who were "re-named" by their wives. In my husband's case, he had mostly been known by his nickname, but I use his full name, and now that's what he's known by professionally and by our friends; only his family and mine (and probably people who haven't seen him since high school) use the nickname. I didn't set out to re-name him; I was more looking for a "special" name just I used, but of course our naming intentions are always just a hope :). I know more men re-named by spouses than women; not sure why--maybe men are more willing to be molded by their wives, or women are more attached to their first names as THEY see them (especially since most expect to give up their last names for their husband), or maybe it's just coincidence.

December 2, 2010 5:59 PM
By MM (not verified)

If you can't stand the thought of someone calling him Will than don't name him William.

Though I really don't think the surname is an issue. A friend of mine is Will and has a last name that ends with two lls and it never occurred to me that that was somehow "odd". No one really uses his nickname with his last name anyhow.

December 3, 2010 11:35 AM
By Elissa (not verified)

It's ridiculous to expect to control so tightly what people call your son, esp when you're not there to correct them! William is one of those names like Johnathan or Elizabeth that's long-established itself as a "formality" name that in reality is a mouthful to say. Your baby isn't going to live in a Jane Austen book, and people will tire easily of calling him William not Will/Bill/Billy. The boy himself will grow tired of correcting people (I correct people everyday on my name, it sucks. If I could just easily have a natural, short nickname like Will it'd be nice!) If the "obvious" nick name sounds bad with your last name, that's pretty good grounds to rule a name out. Go back to the name books! Have you though of Timothy? Same short I sound, same classic feel, same cadence and number of syllables and no pesky double l. There are lots of great names to choose that will be less problematic for you! Good luck!

December 6, 2010 1:38 AM
By Steph (not verified)

I coached little league soccer. Ages 6 - 8. I would hear the parents always addressing their kids as Jonathon, Wesley, Caitlin, Colton, Joshua etc. And the kids introduced themselves as such. But when you have 14 excited 7 year olds running around things can get kind of hectic, and I pretty much shortened every name to 1 syllable so they became Jon, Wes, Kate, Colt, Josh and so on. It came to that the kids expected me to call them that, even in calm, quiet, one on one situations because they took these as their special soccer names as a bond between player and coach.
So your son may, and probably will want to go by a nickname sometimes, even if he goes by his full name most of the time.

December 6, 2010 5:49 AM
By lothelena (not verified)

My son is named Jonathan and I'm was always with all the nicknames which go with that, except Jonny, mainly because it rhymes with our last name and sounds bad. That said, we call him Jonny most of the time because he just looks like a Jonny. I usually introduce him as Jonathan, but in everyday conversation he ends up being Jonny. We hardly ever hear it with the last name anyway because his full name is on all the official forms etc so I forget that his nickname doesn't sound great with our last name.

My SIL is another Christine who will be called nothing but Christine, just correct people and they get it. I can't imagine calling her anything else.

December 6, 2010 11:01 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I named my son "Charles" and he has always been called that - not "Charlie" or "Chuck" or any of the usual nicknames. He's a contractor/builder so no wimp and at 49 he is known as "Charles."

December 6, 2010 2:51 PM
By liz (not verified)

seriously! control freak much?

December 6, 2010 8:25 PM
By Christian (not verified)

You just have to start from the beginning and be firm with everybody. My name is Christian and my mother let everybody know that it was Christian, not Chris. You would even make sure my Grandpa would call me that when he attempted to call me Chris. My brothers Marcus and Garrett got the same treatment. I briefly went by Chris when I first went off to college, but realized that I did not like it and have been Christian ever since.

December 9, 2010 2:07 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

When ask what I called my children for short I repeated their full names...most people got the message. I knew as they got older(teenagers) their friends might come up with nicknames ,which was fine, but generally they are called their given names by family and friends now that they are adults.

December 9, 2010 5:24 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

If Will sounds sing-song at all with your last name, better bet people are going to let Will stick.
It could be so much easier for kids and adults to say it "wrong." And what if his personality is laid back? I've only known Wills. I would pick a similarly nice name or make it a middle name!

December 10, 2010 7:14 PM
By Emily (not verified)

I too think that nicknames often arise as endearments. My husband and I prefer long formal names with interesting histories and special meaning for us (our kids are Theodore, Bernadette, Adelaide & Teresa), and also with various nickname options (we often call them by their full names but sometimes we shorten their names to Teddy, Bette, Della & Tessa).

We want them to be able to choose someday to have a very formal name, or to choose any of the other nickname options. We could end up with e.g. Theo, Berni, Addie & Terri and we are actually kind of curious to find out what they choose for themselves. I don't even want to completely control their names.

As for myself, I'm an Emily who has always been called "Em" or "Emmy" by my family. I refer to myself as Em sometimes but I always use my full name when I use my last name, and I've been doing the same with the kids' names. It's been working nicely. I think it's best to accept nicknames as endearments but then if "Will Lastnamell" doesn't work than just always use his full name with his last name when it's up to you. If he chooses otherwise someday then obviously the Will ___ll issue doesn't bother him.

December 20, 2010 3:25 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

My name is Patricia, I was Patty, Patti, Pattie; until uni when I deceided I hated Patty and wanted to be called Trish. I'm thankful my parents gave me a name with many nicknames!

January 16, 2011 4:25 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

It is extremely selfish of you to expect your family to not have their own NN for your child! YOU got to name him, that doesn't mean you have the right to dictate what everyone else calls him. The relationship between your child and his family members, is not something you have a right to meddle with. IF you want to call him William or will and nothing else, that is your choice. What happens when he a friend from HS calls and asks for Liam or Bill???are you going to hang up on the kid? Or when Uncle charlie calls to wish "Billy" a happy birthday?? Are you going to get all rude on uncle charlie and say "HIS NAME IS WILLIAM!!!!" I'd hope not! Stop trying to control your family and their relationship w/your baby. Let them love him and enjoy him and leave the NN's up to them.

January 25, 2011 4:54 PM
By Carol O. (not verified)

I have a Camille who I tried and tried to get MYSELF to call Cammie or Callie when she was little and it just did not fit. Now, she wants to be Lucy (part of her nickname). We are struggling with attempting to try the name out at home, it just feels WEIRD!

I do know a lady name Jessica Nicole and her husband decided to call her Nikki and that is what everyone calls her now because he does but she does not like it. She would go with Jessica except she does not want to rock the boat. UGH! I would say "rock away baby!"

May 10, 2011 12:34 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I love how people are calling me selfish or a control freak because of my question. My husband and I like the nickname Will, it just sounds really bad with our last name. If you'd read the question, you'd see that. We considered that nicknames aren't often spoken aloud with last names, but we just wanted to know how likely it was that people would call him William, not Will. Sheesh. I've known people to go to much greater lengths to make a name sound pleasant.

We ended up going with Jonas, and I'm happy since William was a very popular name last year. Everyone who's heard my son's name loves it.

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