Back when a nickname was a nickname

Sep 9th 2008

Quiz yourself: what were the given names of these accomplished, nicknamed individuals?

Babe Zaharias, athlete
Bear Bryant, football coach
Buck Owens, musician
Bud Abbott, comedian
Bud Selig, baseball commissioner
Buddy Holly, musician
Buster Keaton, actor
Buzz Aldrin, astronaut
Dizzy Gillespie, musician
Duke Ellington, musician
Red Auerbach, basketball coach
Red Skelton, comedian
Sissy Spacek, actress
Slim Whitman, musician
Sonny Bono, musician
(answers below)

Needless to say, all of those nicknamed folks were born at least half a century ago.  Nicknames of every kind are becoming endangered species in this age of "new formality".  But it's the pure nicknames -- the hearty, homestyle monikers that bear no relation to the birth name -- that are the greatest casualties of the modern naming era.  The entire genre has virtually disappeared, along with Red Skelton's hats and Red Auerbach's victory cigars.

It's natural for styles to come and go.  This style, though, has taken something with it; something warm and personal, something unique.  Because these names alone aren't just given, they're earned.

13-year-old Paul Bryant wrestled a circus bear, earning himself a nickname for life.  Little Mary Spacek was dubbed Sissy by her big brothers.  Young Mildred Didrikson was anointed Babe a la Babe Ruth because of her home-run hitting prowess.

While most names are planned before a baby is born, the pure nicknames are more often serendipitous, mementos of an individual life.  As a baby namer, I should be glad to see these post-hoc names go.  After all, they toss my hard work out the window.  Yet I can't help but fall for the names' loving spirit.  You don't become a Sissy or a Buddy unless somebody cares enough to make you one. 

.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .

Mildred "Babe" Zaharias
Paul "Bear" Bryant
Alvis "Buck" Owens
William "Bud" Abbott
Allan "Bud" Selig
Charles "Buddy" Holly
Joseph "Buster" Keaton
Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin
John "Dizzy" Gillespie
Edward "Duke" Ellington
Arnold "Red" Auerbach
Richard "Red" Skelton
Mary "Sissy" Spacek
Ottis "Slim" Whitman
Salvatore "Sonny" Bono


By Erika (not verified)
September 9, 2008 11:44 AM

I agree wholeheartedly. My mother, whose given name is Karla, was "Binky" to her immediate family. I've always loved it. It was never used outside the family, and usage trailed off by my mother's 20s, but it was all the more intimate and loving for having such limited use. "Binky" was somehow derived from "peeky," which is what my grandfather said to my mother when he played peek-a-boo from behind his newspaper each morning.

By christinepearl (not verified)
September 9, 2008 12:01 PM

I've always been fascinated with the "pure" nicknames in my family. My uncle Wilfred was known as 'tsi pite when he was little (a mangled French Canadian version of "little one") and is now known as Pete to all his friends, Pite to his family, and W. B. Pete ln legally. I had a great aunt Germaine, nn Skippy, a family friend Ernest, nn Gip, and my husband's great-aunts Vi, nn Boots, and Asusanah (sp?) Maria del Carmen whose nn & legal name is Toti. Unfortunately, since my cousin Leon insisted we stop calling him Butch, there are no pure nicknames in my generation or the next that are used universally. Why do you think that is?

Oh, I can't blame my uncle for wanting to go with something other than Wilfred. I guess my grandmother tried Willie for a while but it just didn't stick.

By Jessica (not verified)
September 9, 2008 12:04 PM

I always assumed some of those were actually their given names. Enlightening!

Off topic so soon :( but a friend just alerted me to as birth announcement in her local newspaper...
::drumroll, please, just for the baby's sake::
Zyke Zayne Zachariaz Zoltan Zyduck

By Kostia (not verified)
September 9, 2008 12:17 PM

This wasn't so rare in the South of a certain time, but my grandmother Anne was "Sis" or "Sister" to all her brothers and sisters, both younger and older. One of her brothers was "Brother," but it didn't stick as much as Sis. My father's cousins still refer to her as "Aunt Sis," which I love. I have no idea why Anne (and not her older sisters Dovey [given name] or Ruth, or her younger sister Lellie [who goes by Margaret and has for seventy-plus years]) was the one to be "Sis."

By Catherine (not verified)
September 9, 2008 12:20 PM

My grandmother was named Brownette in an attempt to feminize a family name. Not sure where it started but she was called Mousie but most everyone and Brownie by my grandfather. I always thought my great-grandparents who had lovely names (Eleanor and Frederick) were off their rocker. My grandmother was their only child born after a number of miscarriages so I suspect Brown had special meaning besides being my great-grandmother’s maiden name but still!

By Amy3 (not verified)
September 9, 2008 12:21 PM

My husband's grandmother and two of her brothers had some great nns -- Eskel (nn Eck), Ninian (nn Nic) and Grant (nn Bus). My grandfather was Anthony (nn Bob).

By Guest (not verified)
September 9, 2008 12:29 PM

Well, some people are still doing this--just take Miley Cyrus for example. I believe the story is that her dad called her Smiley Miley because we smiled all the time and then it just became Miley. I believe she only recently legally changed her name to Miley (a step that mos of those you name I'll assume never took). But, still it was a name she "earned" after her given birth name.

By Caitlin (not verified)
September 9, 2008 12:34 PM

I agree so much! My Aunt Sissy was named so by her baby brother, my dad - she was born the same year as Sissy Spacek, coincidentally. And my Great Uncle Buster was actually Aloysius. His brother, Uncle Bobby is actually named Peter. I don't know the reasons for either of those, though...

By Caitlin (not verified)
September 9, 2008 12:37 PM

Oh Aunt Sissy's name is Margaret!

By Kristin (not verified)
September 9, 2008 12:59 PM

I agree with the poster who says the "sissy" thing (and conversely, "Bubba") is still around in the south, though it's true it usually doesn't stick anymore. My younger sister called me sissy when she was young. I'm not sure when she grew out of it. My husband's side of the family is still very old-fashioned, so my nieces and nephews call each other sissy and bubba, and whichever new baby comes along gets called "big 'un" (big one) until another new baby comes ... we have big babies in this family! :)

My grandfather had two brothers with interesting nicknames - Deal and Tood. I'm not sure how those came about.

By Patti (not verified)
September 9, 2008 12:59 PM

My husband's great-aunt's parents took nicknaming to an extreme....

When their eighth child was born, they couldn't come up with a name, so they nicknamed the baby 'Sister' until she was five and had to go to school. At that ripe old age, they allowed Sister to choose her own name. She officially became "Alice Mae", but was known to family and friends as "Sister" until her death...

Don't think that the Social Security people would care for that too much, but it's an interesting approach, especially for the late 1800s!

By Kristin (not verified)
September 9, 2008 1:00 PM

Oh - and my dad had a cousin nicknamed Smokey. I think his real name was John.

By J&H's mom (not verified)
September 9, 2008 1:02 PM

I know we've discussed this before.
Not complaining....just trying to remember what thread generated the conversation.

I have an Uncle Issac who has always been Bud and a second cousin named Martha who has always been called Sugar.
My husband had a stepbrother called Cubby.

Parents just want to control everything these days, I guess. Remember when a kid could head outside for the day and come back around dinner?
Ah, for a simpler time!

We do call Henry "Boo," at least a third of the time.
The funny thing is my young mommy friends all thought it was our attempt to use the hip, urban term of endearment, but it's short for Boo Boo Bear because he had such a penchant for running into things with his head.

By Kari (not verified)
September 9, 2008 1:03 PM

My dad was nicknamed "Mooch" as a child because he was always mooching things off his older sisters. It stuck and they still call him that, and all my cousins call him Uncle Mooch. His real name is Christopher.
On the same side of the family, I have a whole family of cousins who are still always called by what they called themselves as babies. So everyone calls them Neffer, Popper, & Bee instead of Jennifer, Christopher, and Melinda. It's hilarious to be calling an adult "Popper"!

By Jenny (not verified)
September 9, 2008 1:14 PM

This is a fun topic! I have several unrelated stories so here goes...

My mom's name is Frances so normally she goes by Fran, but to the family she is Aunt Fancy. It obviously does sound like a real nickname for Frances, but it also came from tights she wore as a little girl that had ruffles on the bottom and were called "Fancy Pants"!

I actually got my own nickname last year: Chavez for an inside joke. Only two people use it, but I felt so special for them to spend the time thinking of it.

The last nickname connection I have is my friend who gained one from his college email address. (This is not his real name but the example works the same way) Calvin Alec's email was so his friends call him Calec and then that got shortened to Cal!

By another amy (not verified)
September 9, 2008 1:16 PM

I have an Uncle Charlie who has nearly always been Bud as well. and his cousin is still known as Butch, as far as I know. Actually, I have zero clue what Butch's real name is!

I was called Rare until I was 5 and went to kindergarten. Apparently I came home that day and told my parents to call me Amy. I'm guessing the teacher didn't appreciate the nickname. after going to college with so many Amys I've always wishes I'd stuck with Rare!

By Elizabeth in Canada (not verified)
September 9, 2008 1:48 PM

Funny, my grandmother (Dorothy/Dot) had a good friend named Bud, a woman. It has honestly never occurred to me to wonder what her real name was until this post! Somehow when my grandmother said it, "Bud" just seemed natural for an 80-year-old woman!

When I was growing up, our neighbour across the street was always called Shorty (he must have been over 7 feet tall). Having known him since birth, it pretty much rocked my world when I found out his actual name was George. His brother was named Whitey for his extremely blond hair. I am not sure why one name was ironic and one wasn't.

Jenny, I know several people who have nicknames based on their email address. At my last company there were at least 3 of these nicknames, based on first initial + last name: J3by, Sh@mpson and the best of all - Sc@rey.

(3 = e, @ = a)

By Opal (not verified)
September 9, 2008 1:54 PM

Jessica, Re: Zyke Zayne Zachariaz Zoltan Zyduck, I almost would have had a hard time believing that, but it's a small, small world.

I imagine you have ties to Wisconsin, because a friend of mine from there told me about the same announcement in her paper!

By Opal (not verified)
September 9, 2008 2:00 PM

Re: "pure" nicknames, 2 quickly come to mind from my family, but as Laura noted, both from an older generation (both born in the 1920s):

My great uncle (my maternal grandmother's brother) was Everett Jr., but EVERYONE called him "Slim". He fit the name - well over 6 feet tall, and as skinny as could be.

A great aunt went by "Honey". I don't recall which one of my great aunts it was, though, as she died sometime back and she was from a very large family of mostly girls. The sisters' names were Myra, Ruth, Agnes, Madeline & Johanna. I think it was Myra or Agnes who was known by all as "Honey". As an aside, the family had 3 boys as well - George, John & Richy, I believe; 8 kids in all.

By Opal (not verified)
September 9, 2008 2:26 PM

I had forgotten about the nn "Bud". Both my husband's grandfather (Kenneth - born 1910) and my great uncle (Paul - born in the early 1920s) were known as Bud to everyone. We even called him Uncle Bud.

By Claire (not verified)
September 9, 2008 3:00 PM

My husband is from a rural family in Wisconsin, and they have all matter of unrelated nns. He has an Uncle Max whose real name is Conrad, and an Uncle Pat whose name is Richard. This nn went so far that he named his son Pat Jr. There were also the local diner owners, matriarch Lover, and one of her son's was Whistle Killer. These are older folks--b. in the 1930's or earlier.
More that I won't bother naming, except to mention that my husband himself is named Michael, however as kids his brother decided to call him Chuck, and all the nieces and nephews call him Uncle Chuck. I can always tell if someone knows him through his brother, b/c they call him Chuck, but nobody else does.

By Jenny (not verified)
September 9, 2008 3:13 PM

Elizabeth in Canada, I like Sc@rey, that's great!
Nowadays it seems that using something like an email nickname is more common than using something to do with your physical appearance ala Slim, Whitey, etc mentioned above. Definitely says a lot about how times (and the ways we communicate) change. I wonder if it also has to do with the fact that we're so sensitive about physical appearance now? Any takers on that theory?

Ps. Just thought of another famous nickname from my neck of the woods-- Whitey Bulger real name James (I just looked that part up, who knew?)

By Trish (not verified)
September 9, 2008 3:14 PM

My FIL and his sisters are named Joseph, Barbara, Carol, and Linda. Their nn's remain Pete, Poochie, Smokey, and Cookie. Only their father used them up until he died just a couple of years ago, but we still call Barbara "Aunt Poochie". My MIL did name her oldest son with the mn Peter.

Funny thing is, I know 2 other women named Linda who are about the same age and they BOTH have the nn Cookie.

By Kristin (not verified)
September 9, 2008 3:21 PM

Ooh, I just remembered a boy at my high school whose nickname was "Nasty." Seriously. Everyone called him that, even the teachers. I even heard his mother called him that sometimes ... but that could've been a myth. :)

By Kristin (not verified)
September 9, 2008 3:23 PM

Eeek, I'm commenting like crazy on this post, but had to agree with Elizabeth in Canada's comment about nicknames based on e-mail addresses, mostly ones whose first initial, last name combination makes a funny word - for example, a guy whose nickname became Smackey.

By julie (not verified)
September 9, 2008 3:37 PM

In the New Testament, Simon Peter's given name appears to be Simon, and Peter (literally "rock") seems to be a nickname. I've always wondered if Peter was rather "rock-like" in his physical appearance!

By Lisa in TX (not verified)
September 9, 2008 3:37 PM

I'm two weeks from my due date and was discussing names with my mom, the other day. While discussing Jamie vs. Jimmy (nn's for our boy option, James), talk turned to other family nicknames. Turns out my dad's Uncle Fred was known as June (short for Junior) for most of his life.

By Tirzah (not verified)
September 9, 2008 3:55 PM

From Celebrity Baby Blog:

"Star running back Shaun Alexander, 31, and his wife Valerie are expecting their fourth child in March. The couple are already parents to three daughters -- Heaven, 4, Trinity, 3 and Eden, 1."

Start your predictions! For girl, maybe Faith, Bethany or Charis. For boy, maybe Jordon.

By Coll (not verified)
September 9, 2008 4:58 PM

Tirzah, you don't think Magdalene, Dolores, Perpetua, Guadalupe or Lourdes are equally likely? Maybe Lourdes, actually, if they're into Madonna and the nicknames Lola/Lulu. But your guesses are probably more on target.

We don't have anything like this nicknaming tradition in my family--nicknames always came from some aspect of the first or middle name (Jack for John, Eddie for George Edward Junior, Kippy for Christopher, etc.) Nor is there much of this in my circle of acquaintances.

But when I attended boarding school in England for a year, the place was rife with this kind of nicknaming--I dated a Zippy so called after the bike he rode as a little boy. A friend of mine was known as Onz (his name was Simon) because of his similarity to a character on some tv show. These names weren't just used by school friends, but by family and teachers as well. Can one of our British commenters let us know if this kind of nicknaming is endemic across social groups and regions in England?

By Chee Chee (not verified)
September 9, 2008 5:46 PM

I love this as I am the KING OF NICKNAMES! I am such a fan of them-- especially the ones that stick and make even YOU forget your given name.

In highschool, I knew a fuzzy. I was so shocked when I learned his given name. I have a cousin called Mushy-- and even though he is a grown man now, I can't help but call him Mushy. I have a family member named Zeddy -- not short for anything. Just Zeddy. My sister Joyce is nicknamed Joey. I love that one the most. I have cousins nicknamed Tiger, Yogi, Cookie and they all stuck! I think that rocks! And when people are looking for baby names, I think it's cool to not only look at family names but too look at family nicknames, too.

I have a nephew named Izaiah and everyone calls him Izzy. It just caught on. His mother called him Izzy (outloud and by accident) at his baseball practice and it just caught on. This isn't really a "pure" nickname as it stems from the IZ in his name but I love it because now his given name (Izaiah) sounds so foreign and that's what the best nicknames do!

By Chee Chee (not verified)
September 9, 2008 5:48 PM

Also, Tippy -- this was a nickname in my family and I just love it. She is a cousin of mine from the south and this is one of the nicknames I'd give to a child as a real name.


I always wanted a daughter named Zipporah and I wanted to call her Zippy.

By Chee Chee (not verified)
September 9, 2008 5:51 PM

Hmm, if it's a girl maybe Nevaeh (which is just Heaven backward). Hmm, Faith is good. I'm guessing it's going be a boy (ha) so I'd suggest:

Abel (kind of fits with their word themed names)

By S (not verified)
September 9, 2008 5:58 PM

This is really off-topic, but if anyone's been following fashion week, have you noticed what a baby name goldmine the model's names are? Almost all of them are dramatic feminine names from all over the world (although some I suspect are Jennifers that renamed themselves, like 'Holland')

Some of the ones that caught my attention:
Agnete (I think ah -NYEH - teh?)
Behati (LN Prinsloo - does anyone know where this is from?)
Geidre (I've seen the name more than once, so it's not a typo)
Isabeli (a peppy alternative to Isabelle?)
Kinee (with an accent like Renee)
Ksenia (I think this is the same name as Xenia?)
Milana (quite the place name)
Timoxa (??)
...and there are 4 Zuzana's listed on!

The most popular name seems to be the international Anna. I've also wondered if Jourdan might be come an accepted "female" version of Jordan if Jourdan Dunn remains popular. (Don't see the spelling Agyness catching on ... but who knows!)

By Guest (not verified)
September 9, 2008 5:58 PM

Longtime lurker who had to comment as my husband and I love these old nicknames. My paternal grandmother was named Winifred but called Babe until the day she died. Her grandson--my uncle--was Robert Jr. but went the Miley Cyrus route and had his name legally changed to reflect his nickname: Pooh Bear (first name Pooh, last name Bear). Then he talked his wife into changing her name to, no joke, Honey.

By S (not verified)
September 9, 2008 6:00 PM

PS - Behati is a white model from Namibia, if that helps!

By hyz (not verified)
September 9, 2008 6:01 PM

Funny, I was just thinking about this today while watching old Leave It to Beaver reruns (maternity leave leads to some time wasting, I admit)--many of the characters have these "pure nns", like Beaver, Lumpy, Whitey, etc. While I like the folksy, familiar feel of these nns, I'm relieved that it's unlikely my child(ren) will ever have one--they often seem pretty unflattering, or undignified (see above, lol--Lumpy?). In my own family I have an Uncle Spark (good with cars) and an Aunt Muffie (from Margaret), which aren't so bad, but I wouldn't want my precious babe to turn into a Beav or a Lumpy. I also knew a Pud (pronounced like the first syl. of Pudding, because the kid liked pudding and was a bit chubby)--also not something I'd want for a kid.

By Joni (not verified)
September 9, 2008 6:15 PM

Interestingly timed post. I was just asking some friends what to do about my dd who starts preschool this year. All her life she's been called Bitsy and would even introduce herself as such. She does know her 'real' name. I really don't want to loose that nn for her, but hesitated sending her to school to be called that. Why did I hesitate? I don't really know. I like that she has that special nn and I don't mind that many of our friends use it for her too. The other nns for our children are just for our family, but this one feels more 'public', if that makes sense - and I am not sure it does!

Dh had a friend growing up called Tyke - by everyone. When he went to school the teacher called him by his name and dh said "why does she keep calling you that??" "Because that's my name!" Nevertheless, last we heard from the guy about 10 years ago (in his early 20's) he was still called Tyke...

By RobynT (not verified)
September 9, 2008 7:10 PM

Again, awesome post. I was actually thinking about this recently. I was thinking about how nicknames are social, by which I mean that while sometimes you can ask not to be called X or Y, a lot of times you don't have a say. People just pick what they want to call you. (As a teacher, I was thinking that this was a good way to talk to students about language being social.)

Oh, also, maybe these kinds of nicknames are less common because less people are given the same name. This idea has come up before right--that there are so many nns for James, Mary, John, Margaret, William, etc. because so many were given those names in the past? I feel like nns often come out of necessity--when there are two Stacys, Jennifers, Jasons, Christophers...

I also love the idea of email as providing the new nicknames. I've definitely seen this too.

By ajaz (not verified)
September 9, 2008 7:17 PM

I have an Uncle Robert (or Bob) who has somehow become Big Big.

Also, my mother managed to give my name, Amy, many unrelated nicknames: Jo/Joey, Frito, Pumpkin, Sissy, and more. When my sister (Amber) was younger, we were called "Jo" and "Jack" although I can't remember why.

By Tess (not verified)
September 9, 2008 7:22 PM

On the topic of nicknames:My significant other was named George Leonard Ln, III. His mother didn't like the name, but was going to call him Georgie-albeit, unhappily. A Greek friend from the neighborhood(with a heavy accent) came to see the new baby and pronounced Georgie as Juddy.. Sixty years later, he is still Jud or Juddy. He will often fail to look up if he is addressed as George in a business or formal situation. And he always knows when a telemarketer is calling-before they get to the pitch.

By Nicole (not verified)
September 9, 2008 7:23 PM

I know this is off topic but I've been reading this blog for several months and would love to get the NE's input on the name dilemma my husband and I are having. We're expecting our first baby, a girl, this November. Our last name is a bit of a mouthful--three syllables, Italian, begins with a B and ends in an I. Names that end in vowels tend to sound best, but we haven't found any we're really in love with. We both really like Ingrid, but I worry that to many people it sounds stern or harsh. I don't want our girl to have a name that is a burden to her, if that makes sense.

What do you all think of Ingrid? Maybe too hard sounding with our last name, or just a little too unfashionable at the moment? Any other ideas? Other names we've considered include:

Thanks in advance for any input!

By Jessica (not verified)
September 9, 2008 7:38 PM

Opal: yes, I do have connections to Wisconsin. Knowing what I know about the people, sub-culture and just humanity, I believe it. Google it, by the way. It's there.

My grandpa had a little Sister named Miriam. Somewhere along the line she got nn "Babe" bc she was such a cry-baby or something. She is 70+ and still known to lots of people as (Aunt)Babe.

By J&H's mom (not verified)
September 9, 2008 8:02 PM


Is Inga too obvious? I know a young Inga, and I've always liked it.

I don't find Ingrid too harsh or too unfashionable.
I love Greta. It's one of my current favorites, although I'd probably use it as a nn for Margaret.
I prefer Eva to Eve, though both are pretty. Are they getting too popular for you, though?
The others aren't personal favorites of mine, but I suspect they'll have lots of fans on this board.

By Tess (not verified)
September 9, 2008 8:13 PM

Nicole- I like Flora with your last name and Iris, as well. Another thougt that comes to mind is Natalena(nn Lena, if you like).

By Mari (not verified)
September 9, 2008 8:22 PM

Nicole -
You don't live in Boston by any chance, do you? I overheard a pregnant woman talking about Ingrid this past weekend! How bizarre if that was you...
Anyway, I'm with the group that thinks Ingrid is a little too harsh. It doesn't help that all I hear is "ingrate" when I hear the name. With an Italian last name, I think Odessa would be a great choice -- it's strong and feminine, and I never hear it anywhere. The others are nice, but are certainly popping up on playgrounds and in conversations, especially Eve, Greta and Iris.
Good luck!

By Carly (not verified)
September 9, 2008 8:27 PM

@Nicole - I certainly don't consider any of the names you've mentioned to be overly popular. But then, I'm more mainstream/boring in my tastes than most of this board.

I love Eve. I like Greta - the others on your list are too unfamiliar in the US generally, and if your LN is already a mouthful they might not work. Ingrid and the like do have a certain hipster appeal - though I'm overly sensitive to names that might inspire teasing. Best wishes!

By Tirzah (not verified)
September 9, 2008 8:30 PM


Ingrid will always be Ingrid Bergman to me. Beautiful, blonde, solomn and serious. Greta also seems serious to me. I think it's something about German names. BTW, there is a Greta in our neighborhood, so it could be on the rise.

I thought of Inga too, but it seems very Scandinavian. Inga Bertolli, for example, would seem like an odd mix of ethnicities to me.

I know a mom from Norway named Ingrid. Her daughter is named Nora. (Nora from Norway; I never noticed that before!) I think Nora Bertolli sounds nice.

By juliag (not verified)
September 9, 2008 8:30 PM

Someone cared enough to turn my husband, originally named Ryan, into a Skip for life.

Care might be the wrong word actually. He was the smallest guy in an all male dorm and the first day one of the older guys said "I'm giving you a nickname and it's going to stick: you can pick Flipper, Skippie or Junior. If you don't pick, then I will pick for you".

It did stick! By his senior year he'd graduated from Skippie to Skip and he still goes by it!

By bill (not verified)
September 9, 2008 8:54 PM

I don't find Ingrid harsh or stern at all. The Scandinavian/Italian mix sounds nice. Use it. When she is grown she will sound sophisticated. I like female names that end in consonants. They break up the monotony of today's vowel-heavy styles.

By RobynT (not verified)
September 9, 2008 9:02 PM

Ingrid does sound a little harsh to me but I think it is the gr that does it because Greta sounds a little harsh too--although maybe less so. I do like (and agree with) Bill's comment that it sounds sophisticated though. I bet you will need a nn for when she is young though. People might need something cutesy you know? Then again, maybe they will adjust.

The ethnic mix doesn't bother me but I think I might expect that the names reflect her ethnic background.