What’s in a Name?

What's in a Name? | A Cup of Jo

Once upon a time, I took a class about negotiation. The instructor started off with a question: What is everyone’s favorite word?

“Me?” someone wagered a guess. “I?” guessed another. “Money!” shouted a dude in the back row. None of these was the answer.

“Their name!” bellowed the instructor, a bit too pleased that he’d stumped us. “Everyone’s favorite word is their name. If you want to make somebody feel important, if you want to put them at ease, you must say their name and say it often.”

I’ve thought of this wisdom again and again, as I have some conflicted feelings about it…

There’s no denying that names are important. There are endless lists of baby names and sites dedicated to what your name says about you. But is your name as important as everyone makes it out to be? Will a boy named Lion grow up to be fierce? If you change your name, do you change yourself?

Over the years, I’ve been called all sorts of things…

In elementary school, I was awarded this nickname for being small and fuzzy. Thanks, classmates! “Kiwi like the bird or the fruit?” I remember my parents asking. Like it made a difference.

Early in my career, I interned in an office that was so busy, they sometimes had trouble learning the interns’ names. “Intern! Intern!” harried staffers would shout, when they needed a photocopy or a low-level human to fetch a Rice Krispie treat. Did we like this? No. Will I make a point to learn interns’ names forever and ever? Yes, yes, I will.

For the first 20 years of my life, I went by the shortened “Carrie.” Caroline seemed too prim and proper, with too many letters to scrawl at the top of my kindergarten activity sheets. I was sometimes compared to this person or this person. For the most part, though, I never gave my name much thought.

In my 20’s, I re-branded myself. This sounds like I’m a food product from Kraft or Nabisco, but it wasn’t that calculated. “Caroline” sounded more grown up. I had always pictured adulthood as a time when I would wear eyeglasses and drink coffee out of a ceramic mug, while reading the newspaper and nodding. Carrie never managed to do things like that, but Caroline totally would.

Over time, a funny thing happened. My new name felt more comfortable and familiar. I began introducing myself exclusively as Caroline, grew accustomed to three syllables rolling off my tongue. Over a decade later, I can’t imagine it any other way.

I once spent an entire relationship calling my boyfriend by the creative nickname… “Boyfriend.” He called me Girlfriend. It started as a joke, but lasted forever. I’d like to think it was charming, sort of how Holly Golightly calls her cat “Cat.” But in the harsh glare of hindsight, I am forced to concede that perhaps our lack of name usage (proper, pet or otherwise) led to decreased familiarity between us. “I’m not sure what my name sounds like in your voice,” he once said. Oops?

There’s no denying that addressing someone by name fosters a connection; their words are directed solely at you. Remember the “Seinfeld” episode where Jerry can’t remember his date’s name, but knows it rhymes with a female body part? (“Mulva?”) Epic fail.

On the other hand, inserting people’s names into conversations can often sound forced — or worse, creepy and manipulative. When a first date addresses me by name, I can’t help but feel like I’m sharing a meal with Hannibal Lecter. (“Hello, Clarice.”)

That said, calling people by their names is something I’m trying to make a habit. A rose by any other name might smell as sweet, but you should probably just call it a rose anyway.

What names have you been called throughout your life? Nicknames? Changed names? To bring the question full circle, do you think that what someone calls you informs your relationship with them?

P.S. A trick for avoiding small talk and will you change your name when you get married?

  1. Sharon in Scotland says...

    I don’t have a major attachment to my name, it’s regarded as being a bit “common” in Britain, (Sharon and Tracey in white stilettos, dancing around their handbags) although I don’t come across it a lot in Scotland. It sounds better in a french or german accent The best thing about it is that it from the most erotic bit of the bible, the Song of Songs, “I am the rose of Sharon and the lily of the valleys”

  2. My husband calls me Rudey and has since he met me. It was my high school nickname, yet he met me when I was 22. He liked it so much and it stuck. My students call me Madame. And yet in my head, if I’m annoyed at myself and thinking, get it together – I think: Get it together Radue (my last maiden last name)!

    On a side note, I had a numerology read a week ago with my husband and the results were so interesting! A lot of the read had to do with our full birth names – check it out here and I’d recommend it at as a fun date idea:

  3. I’m a sucker for people using my name, even when salesmen do it and I know exactly why, it makes me feel special every time. Brilliant topic – great read.

  4. Thank you for writing this post, Caroline :)
    It made me realize how few times I’ve called my best friend by his name and I think I’ll start doing it a bit more!

  5. Ronell says...

    At my first internship, I was called intern (there weren’t any other interns at the time) and strangely enough it didn’t bother me. As condescending as it should’ve made me feel it actually made me feel a part of the team.

    In my mind you give somebody a nickname that means something to you, and as small and insignificant ‘intern’ feels – it is the first step to a great career! After 5 years in my industry – I still keep contact with my first boss that called me intern.

    We met up for dinner last year, and he said ‘you’re doing well intern’.

  6. Laura says...

    My husband and I call each other ‘husband’ and ‘wife’! Our niece, who was 5 at the time, once asked whether that’s what we called each other, and after that we did! :)

  7. Alanna says...

    My recent ex-boyfriend called me “babe” or “baby” almost all the time, which I was a little uncertain about at first (I had always steered clear of cutesy names in previous relationships), but I eventually grew to like it… Except when it came to saying “I love you”. For whatever reason, it feels so much more meaningful to me to hear “I love you, Alanna” than just “I love you”. I mentioned this to him once, and he did make an effort to say my name more, but it just never stuck. Am I crazy or does anyone else feel where I’m coming from on this one?

  8. Elisse says...

    This reminds me of a wonderful post a while back about making introductions. It was suggested that you introduce the person by name first, and then how they relate to you. “This is Amber, my sister” instead of “this is my sister Amber”. I love that and always try to implement it.

    • I absolutely love this! I’m going to use it – “this is Nick, my husband… this is Diane, my mom.” It totally frames their identity with them rather than with me. Brilliant.

  9. Cait says...

    I’m a Caitlin that goes by Cait; I work internationally and I’ve found that my name often gets written as “Caites”. It has made me paranoid that I have a lisp that I don’t know about.

  10. Giovanna says...

    for me it sounds too serious when people call me by the hole name, i’m used to “Gi”, “Giovanna” is for when people are mad with me

  11. Helena says...

    When I was little, I changed my name to Debbie because Helena was too weird (it was the 80’s) and managed to get everyone on board and call me that for years. I changed it back when I got older and I like my name now, but don’t like that it has 3 legitimate pronunciations, and they feel reluctant to say it because they don’t know how to pronounce it (Huh-lee-nah, for the record) So yeah, I called my son Max in reaction to all of that. Simple to say. Simple to spell. Funny how we sometimes react against our upbringing. A workmate called Ian called his kid Vegas. Max will probably call his kid Cosmosis. Ces’t la vie.

  12. Mariz says...

    what a great post! I’ve always valued people repeating and remembering my name (subtlety and causally of course) in the workplace or socially. My name is easy for some and difficult for most to pronounce (mah-Reeze. Gosh even autocorrect corrects it!) but I’d like to think memorable as being unpronounceable. I’d feel an inherent guilt when people couldn’t pronounce it as a youngster and it probably added to some social anxiety introducing myself. I also thought about ‘rebranding’ myself to my middle name (Adelaine) but I thought I’d just suck it up and learn to love it. Now when I go to a coffee shop and they ask for my name, I confidently just give them the letter M and it reduces a lot of stress for me and who are we kidding, then too.Whatever works right?!

  13. Martha says...

    I know this all too well. My name is Martha, but I went to French school and “th” sound is very difficult, so became Marta ( think French accent not a hard r). I have had every permutation if Martha from M, to Marty, to Marthy ( my mom), to Marth. I was nick named the duchess by my mother and pumpkin head by my father, Mars by a large number of friends, and as I got older my last name came into play ( it’s sounds an awful lot like the f word). I have no preference for what people call me, as my parents and siblings have so many nicknames for me that I respond to pretty much anything, including pooper scooper, which my mom called me once and then it stuck.
    I dated someone for 5 years and rarely said his name out loud yet there were also no cute nicknames. It is strange thinking back on it. I have a habit of not using people’s names, and this post has made me think twice about that.

  14. Jessica says...

    My last name is Ford so growing up I’ve had SO MANY NICKNAMES! Mostly because Jessica was such a popular name (I think I graduated high school with 5 other Jessica’s). Growing up I was always talking or singing a song and was given the names Mouth or Jukebox. In high school, friends called J.Ford or Jessica Chevy. The first time working at a restaurant, I was given the name J.Fo (sounds better than J.Lo, apparently). I’m pretty sure I’m still in my husband’s phone as J.Ford because we met working at a restaurant together and that’s what I went by. It’s about 8 years and I still mainly go by J.Fo, J.Ford, or just Jess.

  15. Ahh, Carrie – that’s a nice one for Caroline! In Denmark (where I am from), Caroline always just becomes Caro, which is pronounced like, yes, cow. So around being a teen and after too many years of being teased (we started English classes around 8-9 years old and of course that’s where it began…), I objected to being called Caro. Since then it’s only been Caroline, although I know some friends still refer to me as Caro, when I’m not there. That’s okay by me!

  16. Kelly says...

    My name is Kelly and the most common go-to is Kel, which I’m not crazy about, but I feel like if someone calls me by a nickname it means they feel comfortable around me, which is a good feeling. My Dad calls me Kelster. My boyfriend has always called me my full name (aside from pet names) which is nice, as does my best friend. Although if either one of my parents says my full name, I’m sure I’m in trouble, even at 30. my mom and sister have a nickname for me that is far too embarassing to put here :-)

    Several of my oldest friends, and my boss and co workers, call me by my last name, which doesn’t bother me at all! I like it actually.

    Funny, I was just thinking that one of the nicest qualities of a co worker is that he always uses people’s names: How are you, Kelly?

  17. Lily says...

    My legal name is Laura but when I was entering high school I decided that I hated it and wanted to be called something else. I’m not a huge fan of my middle name (Elisabeth, dang you German spelling!!) but I really liked the name Lily. I knew no one at my new high school so I introduced myself to everyone as Lily and everyone went along with it. My parents and sister HATE it and refuse to call me anything other than Laura but all of my friends, boyfriends, teachers and people that I work with have called me Lily for the past 9 years. I love it and one day plan to legally change it. I think your name is the essence of yourself and that being able to connect with what people call you is an important thing.

  18. Kari says...

    Very fun and thoughtful post! Thanks Caroline!

  19. Keely says...

    As a person with an uncommon name, I’m amazed when someone I’ve just met remembers it at all, more so if correctly! I love my name but have come to respond to anything even closely resembling it- especially if it’s being called out from the written form. Kailey, Kiley, Kelly, Katie…shoot my own neighbour thought my name was Julie! My husband didn’t realized she misheard him (she’s in her 80 s) and felt awkward to correct her a year+ later. When I moved in, we straightened it out.

    I’ve left voice mails for people and when they call back they think I said my name was Katie. So once I got a call asking for Katie, I said this is, out of habit. Turned out he was actually calling a Katie. Lol

    Kiwi was always the obvious nickname at school and with kids in general even now, but more in fun/jest. It’s never actually stuck. One friend calls me Keels, which is cute. And the typical lovely dovey names of a relationship.

    So while I like my name and obviously feel connected to it, I’m not a stickler on people getting it right. Feels great when they do, and when they remember it later!

    Makes me wish other’s names didn’t escape me so easily!!!

  20. My first name is Eunike but my family and friends call me Ririn. Ririn has nothing to do with my complete name. It’s totally irrelevant. I don’t know why my mother picked that nickname for me. Eunike itself is rather difficult to remember compared to Ririn. I am an Indonesian and the name Ririn is more Indonesian than Eunike. People usually have their own way of saying my first name. Most people call me Unique, some call me Niki and the rest has their own version from You-Nike (sounds like advertisement!) to Inneke. Anyways, I like my name and its meaning :)

  21. Gina says...

    I’m with you on the mixed feelings about this. In some situations, being called by name is nice, but I often feel a little catch in my chest when I hear my name because I think I’m either in trouble or being sucked up to. I actually prefer to be called by a nickname, although I have few, but those feel more personal to me. Of course, I wouldn’t want people who don’t know me to use nicknames. Hmmm, maybe I’m difficult.

  22. Aveleigh says...

    I also have a lot of thoughts on this topic, because my name always seems to start a conversation with new people. It’s Aveleigh (rhymes with Dave Lee). As a child my family called me AJ (middle name is Joy), but as I’ve gotten older my most often used nickname has been Ave. A lot of people only call me Ave, but I do feel weird when it’s someone I’ve just met, since it feels quite familiar.

    Past boyfriends have given me all sorts of ridiculous cutesy names, but I often overhear my current one referring to me as Avester, which I think is funny. The only variations I’m opposed to are Av-er-leigh (where does that random ‘R’ come from??) and Avey/Avie, because it sounds a touch patronizing and why bother giving me a nickname with the same number of syllables as my actual name?

    I’ve got to admit (although it makes me feel really self-involved), I do think my name is one of my favorite words…

  23. Emily says...

    My name is Emily and ~75% of the time I get called Emily. The rest of the time I’m called E, Em, Ems, Mily (sounds like Millie), Emily + middle name, my surname, or a shortened version of my surname.

    The nicknames I do not like and request that no one use are Emmy and Emmers – when people start calling me either name and don’t respect that I don’t like them, it’s hard for me to get past it. I’m not sure I could ever feel comfortable with someone who insists on calling me by a name I hate after I have requested they stop. I guess some people think I’m joking or that it’s not a big deal, but it truly grates on my nerves.

  24. Traci says...

    A few thoughts:

    A high schooler in my home town named Darrell “Dare-ll” played a joke on a substitute teacher by correcting his pronunciation at role call to “Duh-rell”, and it stuck, with everyone. 15 years later, he’s still “Duh-rell”.

    My husband & I rarely use our given names and have a thousand pathetic nicknames for one another. I once saw an episode of The Haunting in which a young boy converses with a being, who is calls Man. This prompted me, for whatever dumb reason, to start calling my husband, Man (I just like the way it sounds!), which evolved to Manny, then to Danny, then to Danny California (like the RHCP song). Most often, he’s Man or Manny to me.

    After visiting our newborn nephew, my husband took to calling me “Bebe”, then “beeb”, then “beez” and finally “Beezy”, which he still uses all the time.

    Yeah. We’re that gross couple who are crazy about one another and can’t help but show it.

  25. I have so many feelings about this topic! First, I weirdly hate when people refer to me by name. It makes me feel either like I’m in trouble or like they’re trying to suck up. Either way, it’s so uncomfortable! As for nicknames, “Heather” doesn’t shorten well (although I once had a boss when I worked retail who tried to be cool and call me “Heath” — not with a long E, like Heath Ledger, but just “Heather” without the “er”). The only ones that stuck were that my dad sometimes calls me my middle name (no idea why), my grandma calls me “baby girl” (even though I’m 28), and my boyfriend uses some cutesy names sometimes.

    Great topic — Thanks for posting about it!

  26. Daynna says...

    I haven’t read the 300 posts above so this may be a repeat, but Caroline, do you pronounce it like Caro-LINE (rhymes with sign) or Caro-lynn?

  27. Jo Tilsley says...

    Such a fun topic! So here goes….My real name is Joanne and I was called this at school. When I left school at 18 and started my first full time job, personnel asked me what I wanted to be known by so I said uh Jo. From that day on I was Jo on all official work correspondence so I began to introduce myself as Jo and I’ve been called Jo ever since (I’m now 45 yrs old). The only people who call me Joanne are my Mum and Dad and it sounds weird, they even write Joanne in my birthday card. I’m also an Early Childhood teacher and the children call me JoJo which I love! Funnily enough even though I love shortening names, I gave my children names that you can’t really shorten Rae and Harry.

  28. Betsy says...

    My mom taught me this as a little girl. She was always asking people their names and using them often. I could see how at ease they felt around her. The down side to this: she occasioanlly called the plumber/librarian/my friends’ parents by the wrong name. Even worse than not naming them in the first place if you ask me.

  29. Jen says...

    I loved this post and reading everyone’s comments, its funny how common this experience is for people!

    I am a Jennifer, but was ‘Jenny’ through school. I also got ‘Jenny’ said in the Forrest Gump voice A LOT. When I went to university I decided Jenny had been left at high school and began to introduce myself as ‘Jen’. You can still tell who knew me in high school and who didn’t by whether they call me Jen or Jenny! I don’t actually mind the name Jenny, and will introduce myself as Jennifer now because people often hear ‘Jen’ as ‘Jane’.

    I have done the same thing to my daughter, in that I”ve given her a name that she can choose what she’d like to be called; her name is Eleanor and we’ll probably call her Ella as a toddler, but she can change it to Elle, Ellie, Ella, Nora or Lenore. I can’t wait to see what she decides!

  30. My name is Jenny on my birth certificate, not Jennifer. And while many people call me “Jen” right away (which I don’t mind), I am always surprised by the amount of people who automatically start calling me “Jennifer” (which I hate). I feel like I sound really particular when I tell them, “actually, it’s just Jenny”. But then again, I also don’t want Jennifer to stick. I enjoyed this post, Caroline! I think you look like such a Caroline. It is a beautiful name.

  31. I laughed at your Breakfast at Tiffany reference, Caroline. I adore that film. I think its great how some people really hate it.

    My nickname was (is) “Luli” or “Lulinek”. My Czech friends gave it to me. Unfortunately it is childish slang for “wee-wee”. They claim they didn’t mean it that way when they started calling me it. Uh-huh. Thanks, guys.

  32. cc says...

    Oh my, I LOVE this post! This subject is near and dear to my heart.
    I went by Christi as a kid, and changed my name to my birth name, Christiana when I left for college. I have not looked back since. Christi is associated with my parents’ friends and people from my childhood who do not know me as an adult. Christiana on the other hand is all about my circle of people.
    That being said, I love love love my nicknames. I had a big family, and my siblings are the only ones allowed to call me by my shortened name. Christi became Criddie, which became Crid (or Crod because my brothers liked that it spelled dork backwards). And to my nieces and nephew, I am now Squid.
    My roommates and close friends call me CCR, Creedence, or CCRead, which I also love.
    I am also an educator, and I make it a point to call my students by their full names unless the ask that I not. To me, it is a sign of treating them like an adult that I always craved from my own teachers.
    And last but not least, I love it when my significant other has his own nicknames for me. One ex-boyfriend was a jeweler, and knew I loved sapphires, so he started calling me Saph. Another significant other would call me all sorts of little pet names in our texting conversations at the beginning of our relationship, and would give me butterflies.
    To me, names are so very personal, and such an inadvertent, touching way of taking a chance to build a personal, more intimate connection with someone you love, or with someone who loves you.
    Thank you for such a great post!

  33. Cecilia says...

    I absolutely adore this topic!
    My name is Cecilia – which I love – and get complimented on often (as if I had something to do with it!) For whatever reason my whole life has been a bevy of nicknames, AND you would be surprised how many people sing to me!!

  34. Stephanie says...

    I have to disagree with that negotiation instructor (as many others have)…I am in purchasing and anyone trying to negotiate with me while using my name repeatedly will not have success! I hate that! Luckily, it usually happens with cold calls and not my regular sales reps. Also turned off by sales people (or anyone I don’t know very well) calling me Stef. Which brings me to my nickname – my parents spelled Stef with an f (“It just looked better than with a ‘ph’, ” said my mom) and it has been confusing people ever since. Most assume that my full name is Stefanie. Oh well, I like Stef with an “f” better, too.

  35. KM says...

    My husband is Ramon, but he goes by Ray. I’ve asked him if it ever bothers him that his name varies in various situations – i.e., at work he’s Ray, but on his drivers license he’s Ramon. It doesn’t, he replied. (I’m a Karen – and a Karen is a Karen is a Karen. I personally think I WOULD be bothered by a name with variations.) We named our first daughter Margaret, but we call her Maggie. (This was Ray’s name pick.) Our second daughter’s name I chose, and I wanted a name that’s a name and only that name – Annette.

  36. I put ‘Cait’ on my name tag at camp when I was 13, instead of my full name. Ever since then, that’s what everyone has called me, and my parents eventually switched over, too! Only a few old friends would use Caitlyn if I were to see them again. I use my husband’s name a lot, and he comments on that every so often. I do think it’s meaningful (when it sounds natural) and I know I like it myself. We thought very carefully about our children’s names too – not seeing it as some magical prediction, but wanting it to be a legacy for them or something to teach them from as well as sounding beautiful. This was an interesting article! So many aspects to a name.

  37. Belle Bun Smith says...

    I have always used my names Jessica and even when i was 5 or so corrected people if they shortened it, I’ve never liked being called Jess or Jessie. However, i also never respond to my name because growing up it was an extremely common name and no one was ever referring to me. My parents never called me by Jessica, my father calls me Smith, lil honey (my mother is just honey) and my mother calls me Belle, my brother calls me Belle, Smith, or little feet(?).
    I’m 27 and Jessica has never seemed right, it always looks so foreign to me when ever i see it on my ID or when i write it. It has never sounded right either. I don’t call my brother by his name either i usually say brother in a Russian accent (i have no idea why)

  38. KT says...

    Great post, Caroline! I love your writing.

  39. I enjoyed this article, thank you Caroline! I actually went through something similar in regards to shortening your name for a period in your life, except for me it was the other way around! My full name is Rebecca and for the first 17 years of my life I was addressed as “Rebecca”. I didn’t like “Becca” because I thought it sounded babyish and young, but when I went on a “high school credit class abroad” trip one July, there was another Becca on the trip, and somehow her name rubbed off on me and all the other students started calling me “Becca” as well. I liked it, and now 9 years later I still introduce myself as Becca (but I joke that everyone who was friends with me before 2006 still calls me Rebecca, which always throws me off!) I like the cute playfulness and slight quirk of “Becca” and find it much more satisfying to say than Rrrrrrrrrebecca. So long! So much “Aaaarrrr”!

    Also, my boyfriend and I rarely call each other by our names, except when we’re working. If I’m assisting him on a shoot (we’re both photographers) I try to address him as “Eugen” in front of the client, so not to suggest our relationship and keep things “professional” (though sometimes I do let it slip that we’re actually a couple and I’m not just some random girl assisting him.) When I do call his name it always sounds so forced and awkward! But I wouldn’t want to call him “baby!” or “darling!” in front of a professor/artist/whoever we’re shooting that day! It’s actually kind of a fun challenge to address Eugen by this name in such circumstances!

  40. Kristi says...

    My full name is Kristin but my parents only ever called me Kristi. When I got my current work email address Kristin was the name attached to it and I was so weirded out when people addressed me that way, that it was my first contact with the tech dept.

    As an elementary teacher/specialist who sees the same kids several years in a row, I’ve taken to giving nicknames constantly. ____ykins and ____y are most common, others just shortened –Esmeralda to Esme…. The kid who has a habit of setting my timer when I’m not looking is, half the time, Beeperton. My students are the only people I’ve ever given nicknames, and it’s wonderful. The few kids who’ve ever hated it definitely let me know to stop.

  41. Loved reading this! Keep the thought pieces coming, Caroline. (Thanks, too, for your “A Field Guide to Getting Lost” book rec from a while back–such beauty!)

    Myself, I’ve always been a big nickname person, and I continue to find them fun, but in recent years I’ve gotten to thinking that perhaps one of the draws for me is that in using nicknames, I’m able to achieve/maintain a certain amount of distance in my relationships. Like maybe I’m a little afraid of being truly *known,* and the “not real” names in a small way guard against this.

    Anyway, again, thanks for the thoughtful post.

  42. I may be one of those people that thinks my name sounds really strange when said out loud — like it belongs to someone else. I have regularly thought, “Stacy. STACY. STAY-CEEEE. Nope, not a name.” — kind of like when you look at a word repeated on paper, eventually it doesn’t look right. There was a time period in middle and high school where I changed my name to Stacey with an added “e” because… I dunno, typical teenage identity reclaiming?

    I have friends though who have tried to reclaim their “birth names” after two decades of going by shortened nicknames. I find that is incredibly common with the Millennials I know. “Jon” wants to be called “Jonathan,” “Becky” wants to be “Rebecca,” “Dan” wants to be “Daniel.”

    Whether it’s the reclaiming of a birth name or changing your last name in marriage or rebranding yourself with a new name entirely of your own choosing, it all comes down to being honest about how you want to be identified to the world, and the people around you respecting that — even if it takes some getting used to.

  43. Like I have read in many comments before me on here, I wasn’t the biggest fan of my name when I was a kid. No one else had a name like mine, plus I also had bright red hair, glasses and braces, so all I wanted was to fit in back then and Lily wasn’t helping that effort!

    Now, I love my name and I think it really suits me. I went just about all my life not meeting any other “Lily’s” my own age, or at all really, until about the last 5-6 years. Now, every time I introduce myself, I hear “Oh, Lily! My—insert infant daughter/niece/cousin or small dog—is named Lily! I love that name!” It makes me a little sad how popular Lily has become, as it made me feel really unique to be a “Lily, spelt like the flower” for so long.

    In regards to nicknames, I have always been “Lil” to my fiance, family and closest friends. But my favorite is that my Mom calls me “LilyBean” and my best friend calls me “Lillian” even though I’m just Lily. Funny how things work out! Glad to see so many of us learn to love our names while we learn to love our unique selves we turn in to :)

    • When I was a child my family used to call me “Lily” (my grandma still does sometimes), which led strangers to think my name was “Liliana” (which isn’t).

  44. nan says...

    The name wisdom was shared long ago by Dale Carnegie in How to Win Friends and Influence People. It has LOTS of great tips like that, that are still relevant today. :-)

  45. This was so interesting to read Caroline! I hadn’t really thought about all the names I’ve been called, my actual name rarely gets used – not by friends and family anyway. My family has given me a nickname which has stuck since my brother couldn’t say my first name properly as a baby – it has actually been a great indicator in case my parents are mad at me… My closest friends call me by my surname, kind of random, I can’t remember how that started but I like it, it’s something only they say. It’s amazing how much meaning and endearment can be behind names and nicknames!

  46. Erin says...

    I have a short name and therefore nicknames we’re never really necessary. However, I do love that what my friends call me depends on what point in my life they met me. A very small group of people I have known since the sandbox days exclusively call me Ery (pronounced airy)…my girlfriends from middle school that I am still close with call me by my very strange high school nickname and now many people that I become friends with call me by my last name (I’m married, but only a few years, so it’s strange that my married name has become so much a part of my identity).

    Overall I feel that your name is a huge piece of who you are and can shape you in ways you would never anticipate.

  47. I have never called my husband of 9 years by his name. This becomes an issue when I’m trying to get his attention across a crowded room. I can’t really call out “Sweets?” He never uses my name either. On the rare occaision he does, I’ll say in disbelief, “What did you just call me?”

  48. I’m a Georgina who goes by George, unless I’m being ‘formal’. I’ve always been a George, and have spent my life being questioned about it. I think nicknames are important too. The special names someone has for you can make you feel closer, if they’re the only who uses it. It’s sweet.

    • Kelly says...

      I love the name George! After reading Nancy Drew as a child, I wanted to change my name to George! Her friend George was sporty and independent…great qualities in my mind. Lucky you….

  49. “I’m not sure what my name sounds like in your voice.” Oh my gosh, that broke my heart! I actually agree that your name is your favorite word and I make an effort to use people’s names when appropriate. What I hate though is when people start calling you nicknames. My name is Danielle and it irritates me when someone will start calling me Dani — especially if there is no real familiarity between the two of us. I think you should refer to people by what they introduce themselves as.

  50. Kaitlin says...

    Great post! I’ve always been Kaitlin, not ever shortened to Kait or Kaity b/c it never felt like my name and it always creeped me out when people tried calling me that because they clearly didn’t know me. I always liked my name b/c I was the only one with it growing up – but now there are lots of them! I have a host of nicknames that have nothing to do with my first name, except for one who calls me KDB which started as a joke b/c I hated being called Kaity but she added the B which could mean different things depending on my mood. Funny enough my married name ended up starting with a B, 14 years after she started calling me KDB.

  51. I’m a Mary Ellen, but was always called Ellen as a child. My mother is Mary Agnes, and it was just too confusing to have two Mary’s. Some friends call me Miss Ellie, or Miss E. The salesman’s trick of repeating your name over and over in the course of a conversation creeps me out. I think they are trained to do it (I’ve heard the “favorite word” trope before) because they are taught to think you will like it, and it is a good memory trainer for them.

  52. Kristien says...

    I like this post, and as someone who has a very unusual name (for a girl, anyway), I certainly relate to some of the stories here. My name, Kristien, is pronounced “Christian.” I can count on one hand the amount of times in my life someone has pronounced it correctly with no prior instruction, and even fewer people have spelled it right. Growing up, I hated my name, and was constantly picking out “new” names I liked better and tried to convince my family to call me by. But now that I’m older, I’ve grown to like it quite a bit, and I think it suits me. When I meet people, I say “Hi, I’m Kristien – like the boy’s name.” Which usually gets some laughs (or weird looks, haha). But I’ve always been quite tom-boy-ish, so I like that I have a sort of feminized version of a boy’s name. Having to spell it for people gets old, but I’ve also realized that you could have the most normal, common name in the world, and some one will still spell it wrong.

    The “boyfriend/girlfriend” thing is something my husband and I do (although, it’s “husband/wife”) and we started doing it immediately after we got married. I think it started because we dated a very long time (11 years) before we got married, and I think we just liked saying those words to eachother. We’ve been married almost 2 years, and we still do it, but we also use eachother’s real names.. We’ve done it in front of friends and family, and they seem to find it hilarious.

  53. Great post!

  54. My names Marsya. It’s a short, simple name but my friends call me by many names like, Asya, Jay, Marsh, Sha, Marshmallow. Oh my, what many names. Great post though <3

  55. Laura C says...

    I did know that thing Caroline! in fact I try to say often the name of the person that I’m talking to.
    My name is always been the same…

    • Laura C says...

      *has :)

  56. annie g says...

    Very funny. I like the bit about wearing glasses, drinking coffee, reading paper and nodding. Like a grown up.
    Names: given name is Anne, called myself Annie since I was 20 (now 57) but thinking of going back to Anne, oddly. Been Chicken Face, Anne-Wan-Frying-Pan, Smith, Smythe, plus loads of other nick-names. Title: Mrs Green, as I am a teacher, Green-o to a work mate, Mandroid (don’t ask), Mrs G. Honestly. Not sure who I am. Wife, wifey, mum, old woman, mama – to my husband and children…
    Agree with you about creepy being called by your first name all the time – reminds me of those weird people who run self-esteem courses and are very intense all the time and trying to show you how caring they are.
    To be honest: this is all very confusing. I think I’d just like to be called Madam. All purpose. Not too intimate. Bit of distance.
    Back to the paper. And the nodding.

  57. I find the nicknames people are given and how they get them are funny!

    I also thought it was interesting that you said you and your boyfriend used to never call each other by name. Me and my husband have a similar thing, but that’s because we exclusively use pet names in private – usually ‘lovely.’ (I know, I know, we’re gross and embarrassing.) What it does mean is that when we use the other’s name, it’s usually a sign they’re in trouble!

  58. Anna says...

    For various reasons have been thinking about adding a second name (for a while now) and have been slowly trying it out just to see how it feels and if it fits. Though it feels like “my name”, sometimes I feel like an impostor. So just wanted to thank you for your post, couldn’t have come in better time.

  59. My name is Suchana which is to be pronouonced as shoe-cho-na. As you can imagine, the contradiction has led to much mutilation over the years. My boyfriend addressed me as Suchuana (much like Iguana!) on our first date and it didnt go down very well with me. But after being peeved for many many years, today I find it amusing to receive emails addressing me as Sujana or when my neice calls me Chona. Its like I am many people to different people. I am infinite.

  60. Lovely post (: I find names so important as I do think they shape you unconsciously? My mom gave me my Christian name when I was born and like my biblical namesake, I grew up to be adept with the needle!
    Now in the online world, I decided to use my nickname which is a part of my Chinese name that my childhood friends has called me since we were teeny tiny. (: It means “good” in English, which is always good yes?

    xx Jia,

  61. I am female with a boy’s name. Jodi and Jodie were popular names for girls in the early 70s here in NZ where I was born. But 99% of the Jodys I met were male. I kind of like having an androgynous name now but I hated it growing up. My nickname is Bogus. I’m even Aunty Bogus to my nieces and nephews most of whom are grown up.

  62. Leah says...

    My name is pronounced Lee-uh, which I’ve always liked, but recently I moved to Italy and people here almost exclusively pronounce it Lay-uh. I don’t mind at all! It makes me feel like I fit in with all of the Europeans :)

  63. Juliana says...

    My name is Juliana but my family (and occasionally my husband) call me Jul or Jules. When I was little my dad often called me either String Bean (I was tall and lanky for my age) or Tempest (I was a little spitfire too). But probably my favorite nickname was when I worked in a sushi bar and my lovely Burmese & Japanese coworkers would call me Juju, or Sister (because we were a “sushi family”).

  64. I have a full-blown ethnic name (I’m Indian) and earlier it used to annoy me that I didnt have a more global name. Also, its 4 syllables! I had a ton of nicknames when younger (since Im a twin it helped ppl identify) – guddi, gudsi, anzi, anks.. but the only one that stuck was the sweet, pretty feminine “Anu”. Funnily I like it because Im neither feminine nor sweet :P My family still calls me Guddi, but to friends Im Anu and to my closest set Im Radha or Radhe (which is a mythological Indian name in itself). To boyfriends Ive been Babi, Bubs, girlfriend, phunti and so on.. but the one that I loved was my last ex (sob!) who called me Anu with the “n” pronunced in the old Hindi way.
    This post made me wonder what I think of myself as, and its Anuradha. Such a revelation! Ha.

    Here’s to being me! :)

  65. I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with my name. In elementary school I told all my teachers my name was actually Rose and they were none the wiser until open house and my parents couldn’t find any of my work. :D It’s always sounded so plain to me, but I’m finally embracing my first and middle name together and it’s grown on me (so much I use it for the blog and everything else! :D )
    Lauren Jade
    Lauren Jade Lately
    ‘Simplifying Life, Maximizing Happiness’

  66. Autumn says...

    Awesome post!! I’ve always loved my name, Autumn, mostly because it is unique. (I’ve only met 2 others!) But there aren’t really any nicknames to go with it…and I always wanted a nickname! My sister, Allison, is “Alice” to my mom and a few close friends, and I think it is so cool to have that special relationship! The only nickname I have ever been called is “Fall,” and fortunately it is as a joke! :)

  67. My name’s Joanne but a lot of people call me Jo, and when I was little, I hated it because it sounded like “Joe” and I didn’t want to be called like how a boy would be. But now, I realize how silly I was, and I do think that it’s nice whenever I hear someone call me “Jo”. Nicknames have a way of making us feel special.

    This was such a lovely, fascinating post, by the way! Thank you for sharing. <3


  68. Missy/Melissa says...

    I just spent almost an hour reading the comments on this post. Soo interesting and enlightening to hear other people’s likes/dislikes of their names and nicknames. I am in the camp that sort of cringes when being introduced. I have always gone by Missy, as a nickname for Melissa. However, I got by Melissa at work. I don’t like either name. The only nickname I love is hearing my family and husband call me “Miss” because it feels like I am a kid again.

  69. i hated my name growing up as it was unique but as I’ve gotten older I really like the fact that it’s as unique as I am. It’s a great ice breaker at meetings and interviews and everyone always asks if it’s a shortened version or where it comes from. I think a name is very important and that is why it took me a while to choose my three children’s names knowing it is the first thing many people will see when they apply for schools and jobs.

  70. This was very cool to read. I love that you included the tidbit your ex-boyfriend once said to you. I think that sentence alone says a lot, and I agree with every aspect of your article. I’ll have to start using names more! Although, too often will indeed sound creepy!!

  71. This was such a fun post to read! Very thought-provoking, too!

    I was only ever called Hannah by my family (one grandma called me Sweet Cheeks and it drove me crazy) but kids in school always called me Hannah Banana which I never liked either. My boyfriend rarely says my name but I love it when he does. When I worked retail there was a short time when I was (supposedly) a dead ringer for Miley Cyrus and I would have multiple customers a day telling me I looked like her. Once they found out my name was Hannah, everyone would laugh hysterically and start calling me Hannah Montana. But then Miley went blond and now no one calls me that anymore except for the occasional dude who thinks he’s being funny. My voice is so quiet though that I’m often mistaken as Savannah or Anna. If I’m in a cheeky mood I’ll introduce myself as “Hannah with an h” but some people take that as being confrontational which I definitely don’t want!

    The “intern” one really got me. I thought that was something that only happened in movies!!

  72. CATHERINE says...

    Interesting post! my parents christened me Catherine but somehow never called me that, I was Cathy until I was 11. Thenin middle school, teachers didn’t know my diminutive and started calling me by what the paper said. I became Catherine at school and still Cathy at home. it felt strange, as if I was 2 different people, which I gradually became. In high school, I started resenting Cathy more and more, to me the final i sound made it sound like I was still a little girl in pigtails. In the meantime, my favorite cousin who was like a sister to me had started calling me Cath, which I really liked and gradually imposed to my family who were not supportive at all about my name issues. They felt I was rejecting them (always making things personal, these guys) while I felt they were not respecting me! Much like you though, who transferred from Carrie to your full grownup name, I’m NEVER called Cathy; I’m still not Catherine to my family but they have gradually accepted to call me Cath, although my parents still use Cathy to talk about me to other people. It’s all so weird!
    Otherwise, my son is Victor (goes by Vic sometimes or my angel or Poupoutche-baby silly name, or my treasure) and my daughter is Zélie, goes by Zélinette, my darling, Poupinette and so on. She recently told me her friends call her Zézé-which I hate, but she doesn’t mind- and Zél or Zebra!!

  73. When I was very little my grandfather would call me bubbles because I was so happy and full of giggles. I had other various nicknames from family, mostly Amos and Emu. I was called “Little Amy” with affection by some taller guy friends and simply “Ames” from other friends. But my favorite was from my grandmother. She began by calling me “Eme Jo”, a play on my first name and middle name. She understood me best in my family and always encouraged me to be true to who I was so that name has always been special.

  74. So interesting! I do love hearing my name (“AN-dree-uh”) when other people say it, but I feel like I’m weirdly bad at pronouncing my own name. Other people often think I’ve said Adrianna, or Angela, or something else that is not my name. But, in other peoples’ tongues, whether colleagues’, my husband’s, or other friends or family, it probably is one of my favorite things to hear!

  75. Sena says...

    I love Caroline’s posts! Your writing style is so fun! Ps this is something I talked to my husband about a couple of weeks ago, he never, ever says my name, just not using names while talking. I asked him to use my name more, and he’s trying to but I love hearing it. I’m glad this is a common thing and not something weird. ;)

  76. I make a point of remembering names and using them to address people – particularly those I don’t know well. You can hear the pleasure in people’s voices when you note the name of the guy at the call centre or the receptionist at the Dr & bother to use it. Little things, you know :)

  77. Victoria Lee says...

    My name comes with many nickname options. Growing up I was Tori and Toria. My mom thought it would help me once I got to school to at least know how to spell half of my name. I don’t know why but I was intrigued in the first grade to know I had other possible nicknames such as Vicki (much like Danny Tanner’s girlfriend on ‘Full House’…hah) so I decided to introduce myself in the first grade as Vicki and it stuck. Then grade school turned to high school turned to college and I couldn’t shake Vicki. I hated the way Vicki was always portrayed as the villain character, always the bitch. I wanted to gravitate back toward Tori because it’s sweeter and more people I love call me by that name. But all of my friends said it was too hard to transition to a completely different name. In my professional life though I am like you and use the full Victoria, because it also sounds more grown-up!

  78. so funny! I had a great time reading your post, thank you for that!
    Many, many years ago I was “huesitos” wich Means “little bones” , because I was si skinny and there was a yogurt pet with that name. I wish I could be “huesitos” right now! I miss been skinny!
    In Chile married woman don’t change their name, so I’m still Lizet for most people, but of course my husbend has several loving names for me!

  79. Melissa says...

    I’m Melissa professionally, Mel to family and close friends. It feels very, very strange when that nickname boundary between professional and personal is crossed, and it rarely happens. But there’s one professor at the university where I used to work (and where I did my PhD) who called me Mel, and I loved it, simply because one of my best friends always referred to me as Mel to this professor, who was his supervisor. I’d get a professional call at the office asking for Mel, and it always made me smile because I’d think of that friend.

    I was one of five Melissas in my kindergarten class (went by Melissa D. in those days), but I rarely encounter another one these days. Where’d they all go?

    My husband’s name is Alexis (uh-LEX-ee, not ah-lex-iss), which is already a nickname (the French diminutive for Alexandre), but I love calling him by his at-home nickname. It’s Alex, but it’s pronounced UH-lex, not ahl-ix. It makes him seem so exotic and foreign (he’s half French) to have such a common name with such an unusual pronunciation. Once in awhile he’s “babe,” but he calls me Mel, always, and I love it. Alexis’ full name is Frederic Marc Alexandre, and I’m pretty into the idea of having a little Frederic and calling him Freddie.

  80. Alison says...

    Such an interesting thought! I have always thought of myself as an Alison even though a few family members and very close friends have called me Als or Al. I’ve always had the 1 “L” so Allie seemed wrong also like 3 other girls in my grade were “Ally” so part of it was just trying to differentiate myself. I toyed with being an “Ali” in 4th grade and it never felt right. Nowadays when acquaintances call me “Allie” I KNOW they don’t know me very well because I DO NOT go by nicknames except for very close friends.

    I think we all grow into our name whether it’s a name to “live up to” like Lion or Thor or Joy or just regular old name.

  81. Katherine (or Katie) says...

    I was Katie for 26 years, then married my husband, took his name and decided Katherine, my given name, went much better with it. Now I’m Katie to many and Katherine to many more. Both have their charms. Katie would definitely do some things and Katherine would definitely do some others. Sometimes it’s nice to be able to choose which version of me has shown up.

  82. Tamar says...

    My name is Tamara, pronounced Tam-ra, and most people don’t pronounce it correctly. They will initially ask me how it’s pronounced, and then just say it however they want from there on out. Occasionally, someone will ask me my name and I’ll say “Tam-ra” or “Tam-uh-ra” and they’ll say “oh, Tuh-mare-a!” And I want to say “yeah, I’m just saying it wrong!” haha. Ah. But I do love hearing my name by my friends and family. They always say it right, and usually with love, and that’s nice :-). Lately my husband of nearly seven years has taken to calling me Tams, which is what my family, best friend, and a few other close friends have called me for years, and that’s sweet.

  83. I was Annaelyse until 9-ish when my parents sat me down & asked if they could start calling me Anna because my sister was having trouble pronouncing Annaelyse. I didn’t think anything of it at the time, and I’ve been Anna for the last 26 years. Every year I always think of going back to Annaelyse, but I’m afraid it’s too late. Will people be able to make the switch? Will they be annoyed at the three syllables? But you’ve inspired me! Might need to seriously consider it!!

  84. Melissa says...

    My whole life I’ve been called Missy. Everyone from friends, family, and teachers called me Missy. As I started my new career (in social work), some of my coworkers started calling me, Melissa, my real name. It’s now half and half who calls me missy and who calls me Melissa. And on some days the same person will call me both. It’s a tad confusing but I’ve learned to respond to both. I’m not sure if I favor one or the other.

  85. Natalie says...

    I hated my name growing up for the sole reason of never being able to find barrettes with Natalie on them. Why couldnt I have a name common enough for accessories? Why, Mom? WHY? While it’s definitely grown in popularity, the name wasn’t very common in the 80s/90s. Currently I love my name, I think it’s beautiful and just rare enough. I once told my boyfriend’s mom the barrette story and she found a pair for me. I was in my early 20s and overjoyed!
    I always introduce myself as Natalie and if we barely know each other and you use a nickname, I’m a little put off. Growing up my family and friends all called me Nat. If we were friends in grade/high school, Nat it is. My mom and Aunt call me Tash, Tasha or Tashy-Loo which I never really understood since I’m not a Natasha. I don’t mind though. I’ve also gotten Nattie, Nattiepants, Natleball, Nat the Brat (thankfully I was never Bratty Natty, dodged that bullet!) Nat Nat Bo Bat, Nit Nat, Fred/Freddie due to my last name (Frederick) and more recently, Nats. My boyfriend’s dad and one of his buddies randomly started calling me that despite never hearing me be referred to by a nickname. Now aside from pet names, said boyfriend of 10.5 years has never and won’t ever call me by any nickname. I’ll always be Natalie to him.

    • Natalie says...

      I remembered that one of my mom’s cousins pronounces my name “Nat-lee” which absolutely drives me mad!

  86. Vanessa says...

    Family nicknames:
    Nessie, Nessa, Sister, Sister Sue, Weegee (inexplicable Dad nickname that for a time was Wrong Way Weegee! after throwing a frisbee behind me repeatedly)

    And friends/ coworkers have used Ness, Nessness, V-Mo, Vanessers, Nessabelle, and one calls me her Nessie-Poo.

    My ex was called Jamie by EVERYONE for years but after moving to a new place introduced himself to me as James. To my friends he was James-pants. :) it was REALLY weird to come back to his hometown and hear everyone call him Jamie!!!!

  87. It is nice when people make a point of learning your name but I find it SUPER creepy when they “say it often.” Talk like a normal person, not like a person who tacks on “Jessica” to the beginning, middle, and end of every sentence.

  88. As a child, I was Lou Bug. My mother’s nickname for a daughter called Bethany, a name she carefully selected from the Bible. To this day, I still don’t know where Lou Bug ever came from. She says I just looked like one. It used to embarrass me, but thinking of it now I feel warm. Like I’m at home and still a kid and have no grownup worries to worry about.

    In high school, I was Bethany or Beth. I remember experiencing my first thrill over being called Beth. I was in sixth grade and had just been bumped to eighth grade math and the teacher was the first person to ever call me Beth. He wrote it on notes on my homework. One day, apparently after I looked sad or depressed in class, he returned my homework with a note that said “Beth, if you ever need to talk, I’m here.” I held onto it for a long time, just staring at that shortened name like it signified some sort of insider status. Bethany always sounded kind of weird, just slightly unusual but not so unusual that it’s a special name. I find that many people don’t listen properly when I say my name. They call me Brittany or Stephanie. But Beth, that’s a simple name. Easy to remember. Common. Grownup. A lawyer, or maybe an accountant. Today, it’s still split. I’m Beth or Bethany. But I hold special regard for anyone who calls me Beth. It makes me feel like an adult (pronounced ahh-dult).

    I also happen to have an unusual last name (Bump), so I have alliteration working for me. I’m also a reporter, so hopefully it works to my benefit? I’ve always said I’ll never change my last name when (if?) I get married for two reasons — 1) I’m a feminist and 2) what reporter would change their distinct byline to something less distinct?

    This is officially the most I’ve ever thought about my name.

    • Tamara says...

      I love the story about your teacher! I once had a teacher tell me I looked good in yellow, and it was practically life changing to my teen self.

  89. As I grow older I feel like I feel less and less attached to my name. It has no mark on my character, I did not choose it, it is from a religion I do not believe.

    I also do think people have taken the tidbit about people’s own names being their favorite word and used it to be manipulative.

    But also, it does feel special when someone you care about calls you by your name. It feels really great when a toddler bothers to learn your name instead of ” you adult, who I ignore unless I need to go to the bathroom or want that toy on the countertop.”

  90. Emily says...

    I’ve always loved the way my mom says, Emily. I can’t explain the difference in the sound other than that she truly loves the name! One of my best friends growing up is also Emily, and funny enough as an adult I’ve realized that her mom says Emily with the same loving tone as mine! As for middle names, mine is Babe. Growing up, not a single person believed that was my real name. As if a 2nd grader would make up a middle name and choose Babe. Teachers even questioned it, it was very frustrating. Now I love it ;)

  91. Olivia says...

    My name is Olivia and I love it. I feel like it suits my personality and my sense of style- is that an odd thing to say? Only my very close friends and family call me Liv or Livvy and it makes me so happy to hear it, because it means I’m with the ones I love.
    (Sidenote- I had a university friend who called me Olive and I DID NOT enjoy that at all.)

  92. Karoline says...

    I’m Karoline, too, but the K tends to throw people off, so it’s often: “Karen?” “Carolyn?” My family and close friends call me Kara or Kar (“care”), college friends call me Line (which makes me laugh), my dad calls me Kashi (long before the cereal), and when I studied abroad in London, I was Kazza. That one has to be my favorite because it sounds wizardly.

  93. Annabelle says...

    While I love my name now, I used to hate it. There was a commercial for the Wisconsin Dairy Association with a spokescow named Annabelle when I was in elementary school and kids would moo at me. Instead I was Anna. In college I realized people remembered my name more when I introduced myself as Annabelle (and no one moo’ed) and much like you Caroline, Annabelle feels so much more like me than just Anna. I get Anna still, but also AB and Leeloo (I look like the Fifth Element).

  94. Isabelle says...

    I have one friend and one colleague who both have an amazing way of working my name into conversations. It that makes me feel like that person is really speaking to me and no one else. I think it’s a special talent to make it sound natural and not forced. I really appreciate it when people can do it! I’m not so good at it.

  95. I love this topic, Caroline! As a kid I changed my name to Ginnie from Virginia, because I didn’t care for the puns second-grade boys made with my V-name. Then kids started calling me “Ginnie Pig,” more for the rhyme than for a body-shaming thing, but it still kind of sucked even though I pretended to be into it and adopted cute little piggies as a motif on fun socks and whatnot.

    I was Ginnie all through college, but after graduating I lived in Mexico City where “Ginnie” doesn’t translate as well as “Virginia.” I started making the switch then, and it sort of crept into my other jobs in my early 20s. My husband is the first person I’ve been with seriously who exclusively calls me Virginia, and I love it!

    HOWEVER: silly nicknames are NOT a sign of a failing relationship. It’s way weirder if you actually call each other by your real name—most people don’t really do that in real life. (Such a pet peeve to my writer husband.) I’m sure you and Boyfriend were right to break up with each other, but not for that reason, I’d wager! :)

  96. Allison says...

    My family is big on nicknames. My name is Allison: My whole family pretty much calls me Al or Alli, including relatives and close friends. My Dad however, calls me Big Al – which is totally endearing when I’m not at the office. We work for the same company and my coworkers get such a kick when he walks around looking for Big Al. Sigh. I never introduce myself as Alli because it seems so informal, but I really like it, like it’s a younger, more playful me. If someone I don’t know very well calls me Alli though, it’s off-putting.

    • Allison says...

      Allison, I’m dying reading your comment! I, too was called Big Al by my Dad and brothers! Then one of my brothers heard a DJ named Big Al Jones and now they solely call me Jones. Which I suppose is better than Big Al, but Big Al cracks me up. Another random one is Gator, I have an Uncle who only calls that. I guess Alli-Gator. I feel the same way about Alli too! So happy to hear of another Big Al aka Allison :). You are not alone!

  97. MFree says...

    My friend in college went by Bob and after graduation decided to go by his first name Robert. I was forever calling him Bob and getting a ‘who?’ from his friends or a side look from him. While I totally respect people who change up their name it is difficult for the friends. :)

  98. This was fascinating! My husband and I hardly ever call each other by our first name…unless we are in public and need to say something to get their attention – “Babe!” unfortunately isn’t personal enough and often at least three people turn around.

    I’m Grace, my parents always called me “Gracie.” Hubby has never, ever called me “Gracie.” To him, I’m “babe,” “greeboo” (stems down from a bad nickname that I gave him), “gribs” (stems down from “greeboo”) and “gribbles” (stems down from “gribs.”) We are the definition of a bad-nickname-giving family.

    My daughter is Amelia. Called Mia 99% of the time unless she is being mega cheeky. She is also “meels” “mibbles” “mibbus” “mimsical” “meebs” “mimsi”
    She’s only 8 months old so the latter four will probably not last haha.

  99. Stephanie says...

    Caroline, this is one of the best post I’ve read on Cup of Jo and would be a beautiful essay. It reminds me to a great spanish poet, Pedro Salinas, who wrote about language, names and love in the book “La voz a ti debida”.

  100. jen says...

    Funny, but I hate it when sales or receptionist type people find out your name and use it over and over. Its an invasion of something. I do like my name.

    • Penny says...

      Always interested in people’s names, BUT…. So happy to hear a consumer say they feel weird when sales associates ask for their name! I, on the flip side as a sales associate, also cannot stand when a customer (STRANGER) calls me by name over and over! It’s (yes!) creepy and invasive, usually takes the wrong tone, and makes me sure they’ll be waiting in the bushes as I leave. I’ve taken to removing my name tag. Not to say good ol’ manners and politeness can’t reign without the name-pong! I’d just like to share some spaghetti or wine before we call ourselves chummy!

  101. Debra says...

    My name is Debra so I have had many nicknames. Debbie by my family, Debra at school (because I never asked to be called Debbie), Deb by my husband, Deborah (when people wish to make me REALLY mad), DJ (My middle name is Jeanette, but rare), De Bra (As in “The Bra” by rude middle school classmates), Debbie Jean (by my brother), and Debbie Lou (by an uncle).
    My husband’s name is Justin and I call him Jus or Juzzy or Justin Ray, his grandma calls him Jasper (which I love, he just puts up with it) or JP (short for Juzzy Poo).

  102. My name is Emily, and I absolutely hate being called Em or Emy.

    My husband’s name is William, but he goes by Bill; except for at work where he goes by Will. I met him at work, so it was so funny to know him for so long as Will and then at some point he asked me to call him Bill instead.

    My daughter is Madeleine, and I totally thought we would call her Maddie, but she adamantly demands Madeleine.

    Finally, my son is Seamus (pronounced Shea-mus). I know it is a little different, but I was surprised by how many people pronounce it See-mus. It drives me crazy. We call him Shea all the time.

    • KN says...

      I knew my husband for years before we started dating and he was always “Dave.” Then when we started dating and sending emails as love letters he signed them David and so I started calling him David. The rest of his family does, too. But it felt like I was forcing it for years!! I’d known him as Dave for 4 years, and I feel like I’ve only gotten totally comfortable with David in the last 2.5 years. Such a weird phenomenon :)

  103. Annie says...

    I dated a man for five or six months who never used my first name – not once! – calling me “Peaches” instead. It was fun and kind of sexy at first, but it grew very old. Among other things, it made arguments really absurd because there isn’t a great version of said nickname to use when trying to be serious (he resorted to just “Peach”).

  104. I hated my name as a child. I couldn’t say it correctly, kids made fun of it but you deal.
    Then a wee hurricane happened, perhaps you’ve heard of it.
    I worked customer service where I spoke to many people from Louisana. Needless to say I heard all about how terrible my name is and of course, I personally, sent that hurricane.
    My husband and I both call each other Scribs (hence the name of our Farm being Scribs Farm). every now and then a certain toddler will yell “Scribs!”

  105. Pressley says...

    My name is Pressley — weird enough on its own that it doesn’t get nicknamed too often. My parents also aren’t nicknamers at all, so I’ve always been full Pressley. No one called me Press until college. I didn’t love it until a coworker at my first internship started calling me Press and lamented that she wished she also had a cool career-related nickname. (I’m in journalism.) That made me change my tune, but I’d never go just by Press. I like my full name too much.

    Other nicknames: PK (my middle name is Kay), P Snap (from some high school friends), and the not creative and not funny at all Elvis. I often introduce myself as Pressley like Elvis, despite the spelling difference, because otherwise people hear Leslie or Kristen (what?). But I make a point to spell it out for everyone, even baristas. Annoying, but again, I’m a journalist!

  106. Kelly says...

    My name is Kelly. Just the other day a girl in my son’s class said “Hi, Kelly”. I was shocked and tickled at the same time. Most of the 10 year olds call me by Mrs. … , but the teacher calls me Kelly. I still smile when I write about this experience.
    When I was little my aunt lived next door and she called me by my first and middle name – Kelly Sue. Whenever I see this aunt my heart skips a beat when she calls me Kelly Sue. I’m now 46 years old and it makes me feel young again and loved.
    I had a beloved grandmother by the name of Elvera and I found out by accident as an older teen that her nickname was Ellie. I can’t tell you how happy I was that my mom and dad named me such a similar name as my Grandmother’s nickname.
    One more thing – I love it when my boys and my husband tell their friends what my name is. Selfishly I love to hear them say my name. Its not just that it’s my name, but that they are saying it.

  107. Kodi says...

    My mom used to call me Kodi Jodi Macaroni…my first and middle names are Kodi Jo. She once called me that in front of a few high school friends and one of the guy’s eyes lit up with the joy of material to make fun of me for, haha. But all in good fun, so I never minded it.

  108. Erlin says...

    Erlin, pronounced air-lynn. I’m named after my Norwegian grandfather, Erling. My name is mispronounced all the time and it is a bit tiresome, but the people who care always get it right. For the longest time I would make up names at Starbucks, but this year I finally decided to take the extra 10 seconds to say my real name and it’s a good feeling :) It doesn’t really lend itself to nick names, but my middle name is Dooley and close friends and family call me Dooles all the time.

    The worst part about my name is that sometimes people are afraid to call on me/call me by name because they aren’t sure how to say it. Because of this, I always just ask again how to pronounce a name! I think it’s made me much more conscientious.

  109. Shannon says...

    Great piece. My name is Shannon and some of my most loathed nicknames from random people in college and when I worked in the restaurant world were Shandog and Sha-nay-nay. I, mean, like, why? Shandog was somewhat tolerable – I think. Don’t get me started about Sha-nay-nay. Both names felt patronizing and insulting. My beloved family nicknames are Shay, Shaylee, and Shannon-madoo.

  110. Jennifer says...

    This is a great topic.
    My mom thought she was being very creative when she named me Jennifer. Ha. She was also very adamant that no one would call me anything but Jennifer. No nicknames. She had a friend who always called me, “little jen” and it drove her nuts.
    Personally, I’ve always disliked my name growing up. I’ve kinda grown to accept it, but I also kind of cringe inside when I introduce myself or someone calls me by my name. I just don’t love it.

    What I went by: (in sequential order)
    Velvet (My sister and I changed our names to Velvet and Melinda for a short time)
    Jenny(i)- in middle school.
    Jen- in high school. By then with the overabundance of Jennifers in school, I eventually started going by my last name, which stuck for a while.
    Jennifer- since college. The last name thing happened there, too. People just started calling me that.
    Nen/Nenny- Always used by my younger siblings because toddlers have a hard time pronouncing Jen. It just stuck. Now my nephew calls me that. :o)

    Since I’ve been married, the people who still try to call me by my maiden name sounds weird. I have no problem correcting people who try to call me anything other than Jennifer. I allow a few old friends to call me Jenny (from the middle school years), but that’s about it.

    On Pet names- It bothers my husband when I call him by his actual name. And I honestly don’t know what he sounds like when he says my name!

    • Jennifer says...

      Another Jennifer here, totally understand that you are not a fan, I have always liked the name Jennifer on other people but just don’t feel like it was the right name for me.

      Mostly get Jen now but also get called by my maiden surname in my home town, not by my married name as it is also common as mud.

      Was always Jenni in my teens but the thought makes me squirm. Sometimes my customers call me that (which is strange because we do not know each other) and I hate it now!

  111. Cynthia says...

    I grew up as a Cindy and was delighted to change it to Cynthia when I started my first professional job after grad school. I have always called my husband “Husb” even though it’s harder to say than his real name (John). If I answer the phone and someone asks “Is Cindy there?” I know it’s a) someone from my long-ago past or b) a telemarketer who thinks using a nickname is a way to gain instant familiarity. I have two grown sons who have nice, normal names and while I call them by their names, I often also refer to them by their nicknames that just evolved when they were little: T-bone and Bug. I like that I’m the only one who would ever call them that.

  112. Julia says...

    This was so funny and well written. Love it.

  113. Ellen says...

    I am one of four kids and my charismatic Dutch father is famous for having wild nicknames for us all. He would call me Wup, Wuppie, Wup the Schmup, Wuppie Girl (actually that was my first hotmail address) and Fairy Pup (which now seems so cute). Now I work for his business and sometimes I have to stop him saying one of them in meetings! My sister Dominique would be called Nique, Beaky, Schmeaky, or Nique the Beak the Weaky ol’ Schmeak! (I don’t even know how to spell that so I’m doing it phonetically). Meanwhile my brother Oscar would be Woggens, Captain Dobby Doorknob (?!) or Mitty. I started Mitty because my Dad is also called Oscar so people called him Little Man. I couldn’t say that so I said Mitty Man and the name stuck. He’s now in his 20s and still in my phone as Mitty. And then there’s my other brother Hugo. He would get bubs, Boogles, Schmoogs, Bazza (looooong story!) and Woogly-Schmoogs. I’m exhausted just writing all that, ha!

  114. Sasha says...

    I’d be interested to know your thoughts on nicknames. I’m a serial nicknamer and ‘befriender’, it’s part of my personality and my girlfriends always ask what my name for x is. In my mind it results in familiarity and puts someone at ease. Buut, I know this might annoy many people (and once or twice it has!)

  115. Amanda says...

    I’ve always been Mandy to my family & close friends, Amanda at work & with acquaintances. You can tell how close I am to someone based on what they call me. I always introduce myself as Amanda, though. My husband always introduces me as Mandy, which can be confusing for others.

    I will say, and I know this sounds odd, but whenever someone makes a point of saying my name all the time, it feels manipulative. The more they say it, the creepier it feels, especially in a work setting. It’s as though they think saying your name multiple times in a conversation will magically make you do whatever they ask, or make them seem more ‘managerial,’ or something. Honestly, it’s the worst.