Why even have a nickname?

iVillage Member
Registered: 02-13-2011
Why even have a nickname?
Sun, 02-20-2011 - 10:15pm

Lately I have been wondering why people give their child a "real" name just so that they can get the nickname they really love? Why not just name them the nickname? For instance, I have a friend who named her daughter Tabitha just so that she could call her Tabby (she was okay with Tabitha, but didn't love it). My real name is Deborah but I have always gone by Debbie, and Deborah seems almost foreign to me. I personally don't like Debbie or Deborah, but I'm so used to Debbie that I couldn't change my name. I even named my son Theodore but only call him Teddy, when I actually call him Theodore it feels strange. When we were choosing the name whe thought it was great because it would have the option of Teddy or Theo and Theodore when he was older, but now I know I could never call him Theo or Theodore. I know people think that if your child becomes a doctor they need a "dignified, serious" sounding name they can fall back on, but I am wondering if this is really true? If my doctor says her name is Izzy versus Isabella will I really think less of her? I previously posted the names for a girl Jombi, Dicey, and Lilou (I realize these are extreme examples) but I have found that generally people are okay with these names if they are a nickname for something else, but if they are supposed to stand alone they really hate them. Why is that? Just curious, not just for my own strange name fetish but in general. I would especially like to hear from people who went by a nickname their whole life and then changed to their real name. Why did you do it and was it hard to change?. Also, I'm curious if other mothers have named their children names just to get the nickname if you ever call your child by their real name and it feels weird.

iVillage Member
Registered: 12-31-2010
Sun, 02-20-2011 - 10:50pm
That is such an interesting question to me! I have a given name that could be easily shortened into a cute nickname, but I went by that nickname for all of 2 years, from 12-14, before I started introducing myself by my full name again.

I remember reading a book when I was a kid in which one of the characters hates her name because it is a nickname for her 'real' name, and she determines to come up with names for her future children that can't be 'parsed into nicknames'. She comes up with Josiah, Nathan, and Melissa - and is very disappointed later when Josiah decides to go by 'Joe' and Melissa by 'Missy'. Both of those nicknames seemed kind of obvious to me! But that one thing got me thinking about that same thing - why do we name a kid something knowing that eventually they will go by a nn?

Maybe it is because the nn is in some ways a 'pet' name given by close friends or family. If the person is the type that doesn't mind sharing a nn either because the nn is not to intimate (like Lilou or something) or because they are not the type to care whether someone knows them well or not before sharing a nn. Some are so culturally expected by now - Andy, Debbie, Jim, Ed - that it is rather unusual to meet someone who introduces themselves as Andrew, James, Edward, or Deborah. Do we think that these people are more guarded or pretentious or something?

I can't figure out my own thoughts on this other than to say for some reason that 'simplicity' concept from that book stuck with me. What better than to have a name that is simply your name? No nicknames, no going by your middle name.....just, my name is John and I go by John and John is on my paycheck and my driver's license etc. My husband's name, Scott, is so perfect in that respect. Yet that desire for a 'simple', straight-forward name has led me straight into nickname-as-firstname territory because I really like the name Sophie! I can't figure out how I feel about that. Is it bad to give a child a name that in some cultures is a nickname for something else? (Although I think from my research that Sophie is just the French variant of the name Sophia/Sofia, and not a nickname at all.) Will a 'Sophie' always feel a little incomplete for not having a 'real' name? Will she always feel too girlish, or informal or something?

Sometimes I really wish naming was not such a personal decision! Our modern culture doesn't give us much to go on than personal opinion, imo. ?
Avatar for ribrit
iVillage Member
Registered: 02-24-2001
Mon, 02-21-2011 - 10:52am

I think in some cases, it is because they want a more adult name to fall back on, but the nickname they like. In some cases, they are like my mother (who I completely disagree with) who claims "you can't name him that, you have to name him _____, that is just a nickname for _____" Ironically, my name is Lisa which is technically a nickname for Elisabeth. But she names me just Lisa.

Avatar for dr_kae
iVillage Member
Registered: 03-26-2003
Mon, 02-21-2011 - 5:42pm

For me, it would be because I like the idea of flexibility from childhood to adulthood.

iVillage Member
Registered: 09-20-2010
Mon, 02-21-2011 - 8:58pm
For the most part, I agree with you. I don't like the idea of naming a child something JUST so you can call them a nickname. It's one thing if you really like the full name and the nickname just sort of comes out naturally. For instance, I really like the name Catherine. It's common, it's old, I know...but I like traditional names. (And nowadays "traditional" names are actually LESS common). Anyway, I would consider naming a daughter Catherine, but I also like the nickname Cate just as well.

My name is Stephanie, but most of my family and nearly all of my friends just call me Steph. I don't have a preference, really but I like the fact that I could go by either Stephanie or Steph. Naming a child a "proper" name so that they have the option of losing their nickname later is a good idea, IMO. Even if, as a parent, you can't imagine calling your child anything but the nickname you've attached to them, they may want the option to choose later on. All that being said, I still don't agree with parents giving their kids a name they don't really like simply to get a nickname. I think many people are actually moving away from that perceived formality. I went to school with a girl named Carrie. Many people assumed her name was actually Caroline or Carolyn, but it wasn't. Her parents just liked the name Carrie.

iVillage Member
Registered: 12-16-2004
Tue, 02-22-2011 - 9:03am

I am named

iVillage Member
Registered: 04-07-2010
Tue, 03-01-2011 - 3:43pm

Nicknames are a great way for parents to name children and have options.

Lilypie Maternity tickers
iVillage Member
Registered: 10-08-2008
Thu, 03-03-2011 - 3:12pm

I 100% agree! I am NOT a fan of doing the completely different nickname thing AT ALL. My name is Robbi and everyone always asks me if my real name is Roberta and I always say "No my mom was