or, What's your handle?
This nonsense kept me awake much of the night; or, I couldn't sleep anyway and this is the sort of thing running through my mind.
When I was a child I had a friend named John W. Dreibholz. His family called him "J.W." and so did we all, pronouncing it Western-style, "Jay Dub Ya". This soon enough was truncated to Dubby, and thus he was known ever after. So far as I know. Where are you now, Dubby?
Nicknames and handles other than their given names are part and parcel of many people's lives. I had an Aunt Mildred whose first name was Sarah. Her son and I may be the only two people left who know that. Her nickname was Mickey. I've a cousin whose first name is Samuel, but he goes by Gene. Those who use their middle names as their moniker but keep the first initial in their signature "part their name on the left" according to H. Allen Smith. H. Allen did a study of people named Smith and observed that, in an apparent effort to counter the commonness of the surname, many Smiths gave their offspring odd or unusual first names. He said he had even met a man named 5/8 Smith. My Beloved Beautiful Better Half parts her name on the left, and on occasion I find myself saying to her, "Gee, JoAnn. . . blah, blah, blah."
My friend Chuck, who will probably read this, may have another given name, but so far as anyone knows he is Chuck. I also have a nephew named Chuck. Most of the Richards I know are either Rick, Ricky, Dick, or Rich. My spouse has a son whose name is Ricky. That is not a nickname. His given name is Ricky. Robert is nearly always Bob, sometimes Rob, or Bobby, except in the case of my nephew, who is Robert. I have a friend who is my age. His given name is Bobby. Do not call him Bob, or Robert, for neither of those is his name. Another contemporary is named Billy, also not a nickname. My daughter Ivanelle, known by all as Ivy, has a father-in-law whose parents named him Jacky. He had it changed to Jack as soon as he reached his majority.
I have known, or now know, many Patricias. But they are variously Pat, Patty, Patti, Patsy, or even Trish. None of my acquaintances go by Patricia. Same with Cynthia: Cyndy, Cindy, Cyndi, Cyndee. When in high school, I had a girl friend whose name was Elvis. When we were in our early twenties a certain man named Elvis hit the scene and became wildly popular. My friend started calling herself Peggy, by which she was known ever after.
My father had nine siblings, all of whom had nicknames, some of which I cannot recall. It is hard enough trying to remember all their real names. I have for the most part avoided nicknames of my own. though on occasion a kid might holler "Red" as we were playing ball. Otherwise I have always been David, except that I allowed my late second wife and her family to call me Dave. I had a good friend, also David, God rest his soul, who called me Davey and I called him Dave. You may call me David. Or vanilla.
Xavier is often "Zay" or simply "X", but what of the girl whose name is Xanthippe? One might think she would adopt "Zanta" or "Tippy" or "Tipper," but no, she is Xanthippe. I had a couple of Penelopes in my classes. Penny is a fine nickname for Penelope. More recently, I met a woman who was introduced as Penny, but her given name is Carla. Go figure.
Then there are some guys who really need a nickname, men such as Shirley, and Francis, and Evelyn. Which brings us to the unisex names. So many of them. Andy, Bobby, Dakota, Dale, Kim, Merle, Murphy, Max, Riley, Harris, Lee, Lou, Lynn, Jean, and so on. You have to meet the person before you know, unless they checked an M or F on the application form.
In addition to the selection of a name, spelling of the name can be an issue, too. For example, Michaela, a nice enough feminine form of Michael, has been transmogrified into numerous spellings. Mikayla is quite common, and not bad; then too, there is Mykayla, MacKala, MaCalia, and someone recently jumped the shark with Meighkeighleigh. The kids are offended when someone misspells their names, but I fault the parents for this nonsense.
I am not even straying into 21st Century territory here, what with the manufactured, tortured, and ridiculous handles some people are tagging their kids with. Child abuse comes in many forms.