Friday, September 6, 2013

Nicknames, Monikers, and Atrocities,

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.


Jim said...

My dad is a random nickname generator, and I had more nicknames than I could remember. The ones I liked best were Jimbo, Mobo, and Mobilene. I use the last one as my online handle to this day.

I have an uncle Richard that the family calls Dick, but his name is really Francis. His older brother Jack's real name is George Edward.

My mom's mom's mom always went by Sue, but at her funeral I learned that her name was really Eileen P.; no Susan anywhere in there to be found.

Shelly said...

Oh, your last line is golden, and so true!

Vee said...

Interesting blog. In high school my close friends and work associates called me by my last name. That name is now one that is given to many little girls.

Love the name, Sarah, but did not know that was Aunt Mildred's name. Why didn't mom pick that as my name rather than one that kids at school mocked?. My second grade teacher even said, "Where did your mother get that name?" Intimidating to a 7-year-old.

I think young people in the U.S. search for unusual names for their children. I read an article the other day about places that have naming laws. In Sweden, a name has to be government approved and Denmark has a list of 7000 names from which a baby's name must be chosen. Germany, Japan, and China also have some pretty strict naming laws.

vanilla said...

Jim, "random nickname generator." I like that. My dad came up with some monikers on occasion, none of which I particularly liked, and none which stuck, thankfully. My great grandfather, Francis, was called Frank. Thanks for sharing your "names" story.

Shelly, yes! If only parents realized the tremendous impact a name can have on a child's life. (I loathe the use of "impact" except in the case of, say, a wreck; and in the case of naming, sometimes there is a trainwreck.)

Vee, I rather wanted a third little girls so we could name her Sarah; but I was happy for the little boys. I do know a number of girls whose given name is our surname.
As for the government "preselecting" names, much as I dislike government meddling, sometimes I do think there oughta be a law. Thanks for contributing a very interesting supplement to the post.

Sharkbytes said...

Ha ha. When it comes to nicknames based on my given name, I accept none. I am Joan, just Joan. But, of course, I love Sharkey which got shortened to Shark, and Joan of Shark was bestowed by another friend.

Loved the Gee, JoAnn.... also unisex are Carol (Carroll), Morgan, Jordan. I know a couple who are Gene and Jean. And although not identical another: Arlen and Arlene.

You didn't tell us how you came to be vanilla. (Certainly not for being bland with no fruit and nuts)

Secondary Roads said...

Your friend Chuck did indeed read this. (He never misses one of your posts here on StStT.)

Until I was 17 I was "Charles." Then it happened. I met the gal who would become my wife (we celebrate 52 years next week). She said "Charles" was to stuffy. She changed my name to Chuck.

I got even. Four years later, I changed her last name. That's only fair, isn't it?

A young couple from this neighborhood got married a couple of years ago. He is Lesley. She is Lesleigh.

vanilla said...

Sharkey, thanks for sharing these name coincidences. I had an uncle and aunt who were Ellis and Alice, and Ellis had a sibling, Edrie who married Eddie. I have friends who are Arnie and Arlene.

I am, indeed, just "plain vanilla," and that is from whence that is derived. Some of my acquaintances evidently seem to think I may be a bit nuts, though.

Chuck, nothing stuffy about you. Sylvia helped you "lighten up." Yes, the return favor was very appropriate, and speaking of which, Happy Anniversary!

Grace said...

Oh my - names! I have always been called Grace. People call me "gracie' on pain of death. Not my name! Tho my father called me Gypsy. My parents were adamant - "If we wanted them called Johnny, Gracie and Larry, we would have NAMED them Johnny, Gracie and Larry"

Of course my brother Lawrence Thomas has been called Skip since the day he was born (okay, it was Skipper until he got to his teens). Some people think Skip is his real name, and I suppose it is.

Immigrants had fun with their names. My mother's name is Gerolima. When she went to school the teachers told my grandmother that was too hard to pronounce (can you imagine that happening today? Har, Har, Har) so she became Julia. She hated that and called herself June which was always shortened even more to Ju...

My father was Gennaro which in school became Gerald which then became Jerry.

BTW - there is no English translation for either of my parent's names..

I got more crazy name stories...

vanilla said...

Grace, thank you for sharing some of your name stories. No English translation for the name of either parent. Interesting, but didn't stop someone from finding monikers for them. I think I told you before that my parents had wanted to name my baby sister Grace, but Dad couldn't bear the thought of a child being called "Gracie Lacy." So she is Ilene.

Lin said...

I grew up in a neighborhood of 20+ boys and only one or two girls. I was the lone girl who hung out with all these boys because I had a brother who hung out with all of them. So, after knowing someone with every boy name under the sun, I really had a hard time coming up with a name for my son.

We chose "Colin" because I didn't know anyone with that name and you really couldn't shorten or morph it into a nickname of any sort.

When he was born and we called Joe's parents to tell them his name, Joe's dad said "Are you gonna call him 'CJ'?" That's why we named him Colin.


I think people just look for nicknames no matter what you name your kid.

On your last paragraph....I work with a girl named "Mondayna" and like I say when we laugh about her name (with her, of course) "AND she's white too!" I never did ask where they got that name.

vanilla said...

Lin, no one, but no one, is immune from the tagging people insist on. But some do resist. No one calls your son "Col"?

I do have to say I've never before heard your co-worker's name.