About nicknames

I’ve had a few people comment on how I always offer nickname suggestions for the names I discuss on here. On the one end, some say they’re not big nicknamers — they prefer their child to be called by the name that they gave him or her. On the other, some say they love nicknames, and have commented on a few of the more unusual/nontraditional ones I’ve suggested as ones they really like and had never thought of. I’m sure there are those of you in the middle — yeah, a good nickname can be cool, but you’re not stressed over pinning down the right one. Or you won’t not choose a name you like because you can’t think of a great nickname.

I totally get it! All of those perspectives! But I thought it might be helpful to detail why I focus so much on offering as many nickname options as I can think of.

For one thing, my family is made up of unrelenting nicknamers. I say that in the most affectionate way possible, because I love a good nickname, but unrelenting we are. For example, my mom and I were talking to a friend recently who is expecting her third boy. We asked her if she and her husband had decided on a name yet and she said yes, and so happily told us their selection, and we said, “How nice! And what are you going to call him?” and our friend’s face sort of froze in place, with the smile still there but a look behind it that said, “Didn’t I just tell you what we’re calling him?!”

Some people are just not nicknamers, and that is so totally fine, totally cool. Mom and I quickly laughed and assured her we will be just delighted to call the baby by his name and poked fun at our own selves for being crazy nicknamers and she laughed and all was jolly and forgiven. (I hope.)

That wouldn’t fly in my family, though. In my family, if the parents of the baby don’t decide what nickname they want the baby to be called, the baby will very likely end up with a nickname that the parents might not like. So my husband and I carefully — and with great fun — weighed each name’s merits by whether or not it had a good nickname, and if not, could a good one be created? Especially since my dad loves to tell people that he loves the name Anastasia, that they should totally consider it for their baby, especially since it has the amazing nickname of … wait for it … “Nasty.” Oh how he howls with laughter at that! And so do we all, for dear old Dad, but all of us also with the firm conviction that we will never use the name Anastasia because we’re just not totally sure Dad’s joking.

(And even if a nickname is chosen and promoted and lives are threatened if any other nickname is used, there’s still the chance of a crazy nickname. My brother has called me Blu since high school. It would take far too long to explain why; suffice it to say that, while I appreciate the affection behind it, it’s not a name I want everyone to call me.)

For another thing, regarding nicknames, we talk about some pretty amazing but maybe somewhat heavy-for-everyday-use names here at Sancta Nomina. Solanus. Cornelius. Bartholomew. Quadragesimus. Amazing names for amazing people; names that call to mind feats of faith, lives offered up, miracles performed, love of God oozing from every story of their lives; names that reflect the weightiness with which we want our children to view their faith and the holy love of God.

But those sweet babies of ours will be hanging upside down from the monkey bars. They will be putting worms in their little brother’s hair. They will be drawing on walls and eating candy contraband while hiding behind chairs and screaming during Mass and sassing their mothers and falling asleep in our arms like sweet lambies who wouldn’t dream of doing anything mischievous. And how the heck do you even pronounce their given name anyway? (Say some of the relatives who have never heard of St. Apollonia.) It’s just kind of nice sometimes to be able to call such a child by a sweet normal-ish nickname rather than VerySeriousFirstName. And it’s nice to have options as to what that nickname might be.

Where do you fall on the nickname spectrum? Yea, nay, or somewhere in between?

17 thoughts on “About nicknames

  1. I recently commented on your nicknames, so I will share where I fall. 🙂 We choose names with nicknames in mind, but we don’t settle on a nickname right away. In my family of origin, we were all called by our full names, and I like that. We feel like we “identify” with our given names and readily answer to them. I hope for that for our kids. After all the effort we put into the name, I want it to feel like theirs! Also, my twin sister had the only name that was easy to nickname. By high school, she had a nn. This was an advantageous and had it’s downsides. For one, she never had to go by “First Name, Last Initial” like I did. Nicknames prevent that scenario! A good thing to prevent, IMO. However, to this day, she gets frustrated that a lot of folks don’t really know her given name (a lovely name she enjoys having).

    So we choose names that *can* be nicknamed (and we brainstorm the possibilities), but because our families don’t bestow nicknames right away, we wait a bit. If they DID bestow them right away, you could bet I would be selecting the official nickname right off the bat!

    I’ve shared before, but DS’s name is Nathaniel. I like most nicknames that go with it. But we haven’t settled on one yet partially because there are a lot of little Nathan’s running around, and let’s say he ends up in class with a Nathan and they both already go by Nate. Suddenly, two boys with different names have the same name. So either you tack a last initial on, or pick a new nn or revert back to the full name. Not a big deal, buuuut, I kind of want to wait. Besides, I might stumble across a better nn than Nate for him! 😀 So far, the full name fits him very well. So we shall see.

    I do really enjoy the nn suggestions here. And it has inspired me to brainstorm more creative options than I ever imagined. I also do like the idea of having some “say” in the nicknames of our kids. So my approach is evolving!

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    • Haha I love this Sarah! I totally get where you’re coming from, it makes perfect sense! And I love the full Nathaniel. 🙂 We call our boys by their nicks almost exclusively, but sometimes I call them by their full name, or I hear it at the doctor’s when they call us, or like one of my boys decided at school he wants to be his full name not his nickname, and I get a thrill of happiness every time I hear the full name we chose for them. They’re each such handsome names!

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      • I have no doubt your boys have handsome names (and great nicknames… the best of all worlds)! And yes, it is such a thrill to hear their names said formally from time to time, isn’t it? (Another nerdy thing I like about nicknames.. we have a 2-syllable last name, so nicknames that are one-syllable, as they often are, seem to flow nicely with it. It’s also why we gravitate towards 3-syllable full names.. to give everything a nice flow. Yep, name nerd here!)

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  2. Love this blog! For me it all depends on the name. For my kids Paxton I love the strength in the full name and shortened to Pax I run the risk of someone saying, “oh, did you get the name from Angelina Jolie’s son?” *shiver* no. We do call him pacman sometimes though but more as a pet name. My daughter Gabriella I’m so in love with the full name but personally not a fan of the shortened versions. At all. We almost didn’t name her this for this reason. If fact a friend of mine keeps calling her Gabby and I’m trying so hard to find a way to correct her without sounding rude! She’s from up north which I’ve noticed that names tend to get shortened more often up there. For instance, I’ve been called Angela my whole life… But the minute I moved to Pennsylvania I was Ange. Regardless of who I told my name to it was immediately shortened. I was okay with it since it seemed to be a way of life there. Even Brian would be shortened to Bri or Ryan to Ry. Unless of course you already had a short name like Mike or Tim.. Then you would be called by an obnoxiously long last name. It grew on me there and I thought it was cute. I do like shortening names that are waaaay different though.

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    • I had no idea Angelina Jolie’s son’s name was Pax! “Pax” is actually the only creative nickname I have considered prior to this blog (the name “Patrick” is on our short list for boys, and we thought the nn “Pax” instead of “Pat” was appealing… maybe even “Patrick Xavier” nn “Pax”); I also like the Catholic ties to the word pax. Well, hmmm… something else to consider!

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      • Ooh yes I love Pax for Patrick or Patrick Xavier! So clever! Packy is also a fairly traditional nick for Patrick, which I also love.

        (Angelina Jolie’s kids: Maddox (b), Pax (b), Zahara (g), Shiloh (g), and twins Knox (b) and Vivienne (g). They’re all about ends-in-x for boys … I saw a headline the other day that they’re adopting another boy? I didn’t read the story so I don’t know if it’s credible or not but if so I’ll be very interested to see what name they choose!)

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  3. I use to be very anti-nickname. I am married to a relentless nicknamer. This led to much frustration as I would suggest a name like Henry and my husband would say, “but what would we call him? Hen?”

    Our first three have 1-syllable names with no natural nicknames. My husband is reduced to rhyming silliness.

    With our fouth we had agreed on Kate but wanted a saint’s name and my mom is named Catherine so we went with the full name. She quickly became a full time Katie and I felt strange that we never used her full name. I switched to calling her by her full name but other nicknames, like Kat and Kitty, grew up in its palace. Her name has been an emotional journey for me as she has gone by a wide array of nicknames and I feel a hit unsettled by the whole experience. I’ll admit that it’s fun to play with her name and its made me add Elizabeth to our short list for future girls, but sometimes I wish I had stuck with our runner-up name of Sarah.

    Our next two, both boys, have names with available nicknames but not the sort that eclipse the full name.

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    • Speaking as a Sarah who also has a sibling named Elizabeth (and one who didn’t used to love nicknames either)… there are a lot of benefits to having a longer name that is easy to nickname. I often get frustrated that my name is so hard to nickname, not because I want a nickname (I like my full name), but because I frequently meet other Sarahs, and there is no easy way to differentiate between us except tacking on our last initial. “Sarah P” just isn’t a poetic name, no matter how you slice it. My sister’s name… we called her by her full name so that it “stuck” but she also has the benefit of so many cute nicknames. (Of course, she prefers her full name and does get frustrated when it is totally eclipsed by a nickname… so yeah, it’s hard to find that perfect scenario!) Just thought I’d share that other perspective in case it helps with any name regret lurking… my son has a name that also has a common nickname… we call him by the full name but know it might not last… so we too have tried to walk that line of giving him a full name that will be used but also not giving him a full name that is so limiting, he only has a last initial to fall back on,

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      • Yeah, a lack of a jickname can be limiting. My 9 year old is desperately searching for a nickname for Mark. He asked if I’d call him Maximilian.

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      • Love the name Mark! And that is kind of ironic and cute that he wants a name 3 times as long as a “nickname” :). I will be curious to see what my son requests as he gets older. He may decide Nathaniel is too much for him, and ditch it for “Nate.”

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  4. Kat and Kitty are both nicknames that don’t translate outside the home very well so at school everyone calls her by her full name though she has written Kate on some of her art work so maybe she’ll grow into Kate after all. I love Nathaniel and it’d be on my list for sure except it’s very similar to my husband’s name.

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