That traditional favorite, Jack

Jan 27th 2009

Every January you see a raft of news stories chronicling the year in baby names.  This year, the favorite theme is parents "returning to traditional old favorites" like Jack, Ava and Olivia.  I've written before about the questionable antique status of Ava and Olivia (part 1, part 2), but it's hard to question Jack.  It's an old and storied English name.

But you do realize it's an old and storied nickname, right? Surprisingly, many people today have no idea that Jack was originally a pet form of John. In the lands where Jack now reigns supreme (#1 in England, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, etc.), you'd be hard-pressed to call Jack a traditional given name at all.

The English Census from 150 years ago lists 363 entries under Jack. Chances are that many of those were actually christened John, but let's take the number at face value: 363 solid, traditional Jacks. And the number of Johns in that census? 1,257,079.  That's 3,463 given-name Johns per Jack. For perspective, in America today there are only 101 Jacobs born per...Elmer.

Modern British parents flock to given names like Alfie and Tilly, but in generations past the idea of using those names at christening time would have seemed downright inappropriate.  You can catch a glimpse of that perspective in a human-interest piece that appeared in the New York Times in 1876.  The article, entitled "Curious Christenings," was a collection of bizarre and humorous stories of christenings gone awry.  At least, they were bizarre and humorous by 1876 standards. (The tale of the white minister who named the black slave boy "Jane" doesn't exactly tickle us today.)  Here's the relevant excerpt:

As an example of the way in which parents will insist on curious names, a gentleman says that he was visiting a clergyman of the Church of England, and one evening as they sat together after dinner a summons came to the rector to go and christen the child of a gypsy couple that were encamped with their tribe in the parish. The gentlemen went with the clergyman to the camp, when, ascending a short flight of steps, they found themselves in the four-wheeled covered wagon that served the gypsies as a house. The babe, four or five days old, was presented, and the mother, already recovered from her confinement, stood up as one of the godparents.  The clergyman asked by what name he should call the child and she answered Jacky. "John?" said he, somewhat surprised. "No, Sir, Jacky," she replied. "But you surely don't want him christened Jacky. You mean John, do you not," said he. But the mother insisted on the name she had chosen, and the child was christened Jacky.

Jacky!  Oh, those wacky, wacky gypsies.

So "tradition" does't seem to support writing Jack on a birth certificate. Just as with Ava and Olivia, though, we're not wrong to call Jack a traditional, old-fashioned name.  It's certainly an old and familiar name, not a newly invented one.  More importantly, it's traditional in theme and intent, sounding like a link to generations past.  If those generations past would have insisted on a different name at the christening time, well, that's their problem.


By jennifer h (not verified)
January 27, 2009 9:15 PM

Thank you Valerie, for the article link. It was particularly funny to the middle schooler in me.

By Knee Coal Peay (not verified)
January 27, 2009 9:32 PM

@Keren - Yes, perhaps we're more religious generally in the US than in the UK. I don't think that has much to do, however, with the fact that most American kids today with "Jamie" on their birth certificates are probably called "Jamie," but not "James."

If the birth certificate reads "James," this tends to mean a variety of nickname possibilities are opened up: Jimmy, Jim, Jamie, etc. (That's what's usually meant when people make the assertion that "using the formal name leaves more nickname options.") Sure, one can always go by any nickname, but in my experience, if parents absolutely want their kid to be called Jamie they put THAT on the birth certificate nowadays, thereby closing off the other nicknames they definitely don't want the kid to be called. (Used to be they'd just name him James, and hope the right nickname caught on.) I didn't realize it was a debatable point...

Oh Laura, thank you!!! I'm so excited!!!

By Philippa (not verified)
January 27, 2009 9:54 PM

RATS! The 2nd edition will come out a month and half after my baby is born! I SO wanted to read it beforehand. *sigh* Oh, well.

In other news, I know the gender of my baby, to be born June 1st...It's a girl! I'm very excited. You may remember a while back, when I was only about 12 weeks along, I solicited opinions on my top name choices and I only had a definitive list of girls' names. I seriously couldn't even think of boys' names. Guess I didn't have to worry! I'll be back sometime soon to ask for your advice again, since my husband has shot down many of my top choices and added some of his own.

Prairie Dawn - Sylvie is currently one of our top contenders, too! I think, though, that we will go with Sylvia, nn Sylvie, just to give her options. I don't really plan on calling her Sylvia during her childhood, but you never know what kind of kid you're going to have. She may be super-serious and Sylvie may turn out to be to cutesy for her. Or maybe I'll call her something completely different, like Vivi. I like having options.

By Elaine (not verified)
January 27, 2009 10:01 PM

Phillipa, Prairie Dawn-

I also love Sylvie for our next girl (if we have another girl). My husband thinks also that we should go with Sylvia and nn Sylvie, but I just don't like Sylvia as much. I've been struggling with this theoretical naming situation for months! You'd think I'd put my energy else where...oh well.

In concern to Kylie-it's just not my style. Who knows why? It's similar to Sylvie in sound and looks but Sylvie is much fresher to my ears.

By Caruso Confer (not verified)
January 27, 2009 10:33 PM

I could definitely see an official Jamie deciding to ask people to call him James--along the same lines as a Julie who likes to be called Jules, or a Lori who goes by Laura around everyone but her parents. It's surely unusual for names/nicknames to work in that direction, but it's not completely unheard of, either. Seems like young people who move to a new city often take advantage of that situation to "adjust" their name.

How many times do you really see a co-worker's driver's license or a neighbor's birth certificate, to know what their real name is? (In my family, you sometimes don't know a relative's real name till you see it on their tombstone. Better than learning it in the crime reports, I guess.)

By Prairie Dawn (not verified)
January 27, 2009 10:43 PM


Congrats on your soon to come baby girl! We don't know the sex of our baby. I've got a long list of possible girl names but very few boy names. Isn't that quite common around here? I feel like there are at least twenty different girl names that I love, but only half a dozen boys names that I'm enthusiastic about. I'm sure this topic has been covered here before.

Anyhow, I've also been thinking of nn's for Sylvie, and Vivi came to mind. I like it! I also like Vee. Our dd's name is Lucia, nn Lulu, and both go nicely with her name IMO. In our family we all go by nn's, so choosing a name with a viable nn option is important. Any other nn input out there for Sylvie? Or for Nina, another name that's high on my list.

January 27, 2009 11:19 PM

Rikki-I guess it's possible that a child would have a nickname on the birth certificate and go by another "more formal" name IRL. But, as Knee Coal Peay pointed out that is just not 99% of the case in the US.
Also, I was the one who mentioned Eric. I did not say his name was "nn-proof". I did say that there are less nn-prone names. Eric being one of them. I did not want him to have a standard nn like Mike/Chris/Nick or the like when the full names are imo so beautiful on their own. So I chose something else. My mom did try to call him Ricky once but thankfully we both knew she was j/k. In our case we have more teasing difficulties with our last name.
I like you have had my name shortened while in HS and college. It didnt really bother me but it wasn't a nn. It was more like a pet name which is an entirely different category than nn's.

January 27, 2009 11:38 PM

Prairie Dawn: Yeah I would agree that most in the US don't know the meaning of Kylie. I grew up with a bunch of Kylie's (out west b. '80s) and I bet they were mostly chosen by sound. I always saw it as in the same family as Jamie, Carley (just by sound, not history).

I know a just Jenny who asked someone for a recommendation and was referred to as Jennifer in it. I also heard of a couple naming their daughter Genevieve so she could get the nn Jenna (Gena?). That one seems pretty unnecessary to me. Although I guess maybe they felt Genevieve was more classy than Jenna or something. I think Jack/Jackson could also fall in this same category--they just want something that feels more classy/professional/full.

Keren: I think even Americans who don't christen their children still lean toward more formal names though...

Guest: Marty has Martin as a nn? How did that happen?

nickname-y given names --> more formal nicknames: oh yeah! a guy in the same grad program as me is named donnie and said he thought he needed a more formal name. i think it was mostly a joke though... we played with the idea of donatello...

January 27, 2009 11:40 PM

Hadn't read all the way through.
Prairie Dawn + Phillipa, I like Sylvie better than Sylvia. It does sound fresher. I think Vivi is an interesting nn but is a bit too matchy with Lulu. Sisi was the only other nn I could think of and that sounds too matchy also. But maybe that doesn't bother you. Maybe something pronounced like Cecil or Vee would work but I wouldn't have a clue how you would spell it to get that pronunciation to be obvious and also be similar in spelling to the actual name (which I think a nn should be).

January 28, 2009 12:35 AM

A couple fun things to think about tonight and keep some of us busy on our snow day.
#1: The octuplets are being reported as 6 boys and 2 girls. No names have been released but I thought we could all speculate as a fun game.
#2: A local news reported here is about to have a baby girl in April. She has a boy Ch@se. What name would you pick for her? Ideas from me-Aubrey, Paige, or Samantha

*To Patricia-You could have been "logged out" if you have cleared your cookies/cache recently.

By Penelope (not verified)
January 28, 2009 1:33 AM

I was thinking about the conversation about names and how they might affect a person as an adult - getting a job, promotions etc. People with nicknames like: Jack, Katie, Sammy, does it matter? Would Samuel be perceived as different from Sam on a resume? From Sammy?

So I did some research. Turns out that there was a paper published in 1993 that concluded this: "Longer names, because of their greater substance or mass, convey characteristics associated with a high social position (i.e. successful, moral). Shorter names, with their ease of use and greater informality, conveyed approachable qualities (popular; cheerful, warm). Also as hypothesized, subjects inferred greater masculinity (less femininity) for men with shorter names."

How did they do this? Polled 660 undergraduates of the University of California and asked them to rate 442 male names on certain characteristics (moral, successful, cheerful etc).

So, Sam is more friendly and Samuel is more successful? I'm not sure who you'd want to hire, Sam or Samuel.

If you're curious, I just used Google Scholar and searched for "first name nickname prejudice business" and I found a few articles about the sociology of names. Some of it was pretty surprising, at least to me, a newbie NE.

By Guest (not verified)
January 28, 2009 1:37 AM

My father's real name, on his birth certificate, is Rickey. He went by Rickey up to middle school, then changed it to Rick. Apparently he got teased a lot because he hates -y endings for boys' names! I never understood why my grandparents would officially name him Rickey; his siblings all have formal names. Most people on wedding invitations etc. assume he is a Richard.

January 28, 2009 1:43 AM

do we know the ethnic backgrround of the parents of the octuplets? i like some of your suggestions, so i'm borrowing a couple of them and adding others.

whew! that was harder than i thought it would be!! glad i never had to name eight-at-once. or eight-ever.

By Caruso Confer (not verified)
January 28, 2009 2:23 AM

"How did they do this? Polled 660 undergraduates of the University of California and asked them to rate 442 male names on certain characteristics (moral, successful, cheerful etc)."

Well, there's the problem--UC undergraduates are rarely in a position to hire a lot of people. The priorities of a real employer, of maturer years and with an actual position to fill, would be surely somewhat different.

(Undergraduates are completely inappropriate test subjects for a lot of studies--but they're handy, so they're used anyway. Always double-question studies that involve undergraduates and surveys.)

By Kai
January 28, 2009 3:48 AM

Hamish - yep, Ham is the normal nn, and would be used by family and friends, but never in a more formal sense - like at work, even in less formal NZ and Australia where the name has reasonable popularity, your boss probably wouldn't call you Ham. However, if you were named Samuel, Sam would probably be a more acceptable work nn as well as being used at home.

I guess that there are various categories of nn, I went to a boarding school and almost everyone in my class had a nn, but not very many of them came from first names. When my class mates are in touch with one another we still use these nn.

I also think that perhaps it is more of an American pre-occupation or perhaps it is just a NE thing - trying to have two bites of that naming cherry?

By Eo (not verified)
January 28, 2009 10:14 AM

Love this discussion!

I normally come down on the side of formal names on birth certificate, that can then be shortened in any number of delightful names for fun.

BUT, there seems to me to be a golden handful of former nicknames that through long tradition, plus a certain versatile sound to them that means they can go formal/informal, that makes them perfectly acceptable as baptismal/given names. They are:

Jack (of course)

Molly/Moll (although I should say I do prefer "Mary" as the given name. Mary's other nickname "Polly" is one of my favorite nicknames of all time, but I would insist on either "Mary" or "Paulina" on the birth certificate)



Nell (as a child, I was always called Elly/Ellie, a nickname for my formal name, a very old variant of "Helen". But hubby calls me "Nell", which I wish I had latched onto earlier. It has a grown-up but breezy sound, and would avoid the constant misspelling I get of my formal name!)



Theo (although the formals, "Theodore" and "Theophilus" are also charming)


Arch/Archie (but would probably put "Archer" on birth cert.)


Eliza (love), and possibly even "Bess" from Elizabeth could stand alone)

Maisie, Daisy, or Margalo from "Margaret"

Mim (nonchalant nickname from "Miriam". I spotted it on one of Banks' baby books-- I think she might have been the illustrator, Mim Fox, or something like that?)

Kit (although, in honor of my mother, I'm sure I'd put "Katherine" on the birth cert. The spelling "Kitt" I'd be perfectly happy with as a stand-alone. It would also be a great nickname for "Kittredge", by the way.

Sadie (from "Sarah, of course. You could then nickname Sadie down to "Sass" or "Sassy" as jazz legend Sarah Vaughan did!)

Gosh, I seem to have a million qualifications to add to most of them! Sorry. Would love to know if anyone else had a similar list in their head, or if anyone disputes any of my stand-alones, and/or has others to suggest?

By Eo (not verified)
January 28, 2009 10:26 AM

By the way, question for Dutch-speakers or knowledgeables: Does anyone know if "Pym Fortuyn" was using Pym as a nickname, or is it a full name?
It fascinates me, for some reason...

By Caruso Confer (not verified)
January 28, 2009 10:35 AM

Rule: People can manage to misspell any name. Nell isn't immune--my daughter has been called Nel, Nelle, Neil (surprised how often we hear/see that), Elle, Nao (by a Japanese speaker), etc. etc. One woman (for whom English was unfamiliar) assumed for the longest time that the name was "Now." (??) For a while in preschool (after learning about the silent K in knee and know) Nell herself spelled it "Knell" (which cracked us up).

I'm sure it's easier to spell/say than a lot of names, but that doesn't stop some folks, especially if you factor in cultural and linguistic differences.

By Guest (not verified)
January 28, 2009 10:52 AM

Eo, children's book author Mem Fox's name is a nickname for Merrion.

By Eo (not verified)
January 28, 2009 11:07 AM

Oh, Guest, thank you for the correction. "Mem" is neat too! And I like the way they derived it from Merrion.

"Mim" for Miriam I think is great. It has more weight than "Mimi", to my ear, yet still has that carefree vibe. For some reason, I think of an Australian or New Zealand woman sporting this name, from birth on up through adventurous adulthood...

By Eo (not verified)
January 28, 2009 11:09 AM

Fascinating, Caruso Confer. Beautiful "Nell" would seem hard to misspell, but you've proved otherwise! I think your daughter is very well served by this timeless choice...

By Anne with an E (not verified)
January 28, 2009 11:21 AM

Re: Kylie not sounding as fresh as Sylvie, I think it's because Kylie fits into the 'K-l-' trend that seems so common among 10-12 year olds in my area. I know probably about 15 children in that age range, and they include a Caleb, a Colin, a Colton, a Kylie, a Kayleigh, and a Khalil. Not to mention Kacey, Kassi, and Katie...

Sylvie seems less likely to have that problem. With the exception of Sylvia, I can't think of any other S-v- names.

By J&H's mom (not verified)
January 28, 2009 11:27 AM

I remember Laura did a post a while back called something like, "The New Formality"

Perhaps this would explain why moms and dads in the states like to go the "more options," route, while English parents are happily writing down Alfie and Louie.
If anyone has more insight, I'd love to hear it!

Eo-Speaking of Margalo, I've suddenly heard of several expectant parents planning to use Margo!

By Aybee (not verified)
January 28, 2009 11:53 AM

Might Nora/Norah also qualify?

January 28, 2009 11:54 AM

Eo-Great list and reasonings. To it I would add:
Meg=Megan or Margaret
Mitch instead of Mitchell
Fred instead of Frederick
Rick instead of Richard
Liam from William
Bella from any of the -bella names
Cassie instead of Cassandra

Is Nancy a derivative of something or a stand alone? You never hear it anymore. I'd love to see Laura's "Why Not" pages for this edition. There are so many names I think of while reading/writing on this blog. I've mentioned Bethany in the past. Some others are Molly, Bridget, Beatrice, Nancy, Whitney, Jessica-all the good 70's names LOL!

January 28, 2009 11:56 AM

Patricia: I get automatically logged out every once in awhile also. Not sure why.

Eo: I think Lisa can be a stand-alone too, though this probably just from knowing so many Lisas...

By Coll
January 28, 2009 12:01 PM

I thought of another nickname to add to your list, Eo: Sally. My cousin named her daughter this over the summer (after the baby's great-grandmother), and I love it. I prefer it to Sarah, in fact.

And I wouldn't consider Bella a nickname, though it certainly can be. But it has meaning and standing as a name on its own--my favorite Dickens character is Bella Wilfer.

January 28, 2009 12:10 PM

"By the way, question for Dutch-speakers or knowledgeables: Does anyone know if "Pym Fortuyn" was using Pym as a nickname, or is it a full name?
It fascinates me, for some reason..."

Eo, Pim is a traditional nickname for Willem (the more common nn is Wim). Fortuyn was a Catholic and had a typical Dutch Catholic name: Wilhelmus Simon Petrus. As it happens, Fortuyn was killed while I was in the cardiac intensive care unit after my heart attack. I watched the funeral on the tv in my "regular" room with my son who had flown in from the States and my friend Jacobus Petrus Lambertus (aka Jack) who had briefly worked with Fortuyn and didn't think much of him. Fortuyn was killed by an animal rights advocate who felt his extreme political views were a danger to Dutch society, and ironically the chief mourners in Fortuyn's funeral procession were his two adorable little doggies.

Zoerhenne, Nancy is a nn for Ann(e).

January 28, 2009 12:25 PM

Hi there...

I just wanted to insert a quick comment back to the Jamie/James thing.

I am a female Jamie and my husband, brother and most of my close friends all call me James or Jameson. I do a double take usually when someone outside of work calls me Jamie, because for whatever reason, they are really trying to get my attention. Sort of along the same lines as when I call my husband by his first and middle name when he's ticked me off.

But it would have been strange if my parents had put James on my birth cert since I am a girl.

By another amy (not verified)
January 28, 2009 12:33 PM

this has nothing to do with today's topic (and I haven't read comments yet) but I wanted to post this article about naming from the Kenyan press. It starts talking about the number of Obama-related names being given right now in Kenya but then talks about changes in traditional naming patterns in EA.

By JillH (not verified)
January 28, 2009 12:36 PM

zoerhenne: I have a pregnant friend who is naming her son Ch@se. A girl would have been Skylar.

January 28, 2009 12:46 PM

"another amy" -- thanks for the link, I'm going to Twitter it. It's an interesting counterpart to the surprising lack of baby Baracks in the U.S.! (Though the bit about Luo custom favoring naming after political heroes probably explains that.)

January 28, 2009 1:17 PM

JillH posted: For those who don't understand the Margaret/Peg, John/Jack relationship, here is an article that explained it to me. I can't vouch for its accuracy, but I assume the author knows what he's talking about.

Yes, he certainly does! Cleveland Evans, Ph.D., is president of the American Name Society and author of "The Great Big Book of Baby Names" (2006).

January 28, 2009 1:37 PM

Apparently the puzzle of how John became Jack has been researched for some time. E.G. Withycombe has this very detailed explanation in "The Oxford Dictionary of English Christian Names" (Oxford U. Press, 1977 Third Edition of this 1945 name dictionary):

Jack: this, the commonest pet-name for John, has the natural assumption that it must be derived from the French Jacques and should therefore logically represent James rather than John. The problem was cleared up by E.W.B. Nicholson in a little book entitled The Pedigree of Jack and of Various Allied Names (1892). He showed that there is no recorded instance of Jack, Jak, Jacke, or Jakke ever being used to represent Jacques or James, and that no statement in favour of the French connexion has been produced from any early writer. He then proceeded to elucidate and illustrate with examples the development from Johannes to Jehan and Jan, whence, by addition of the common suffix -kin, we get Jackin, and was finally shortened to Jack. There was a similar development from Jon to Jock (the Scottish form of the name). This process was complete by the beginning of the 14th C, by which time Jack was already established as a synonym for man or boy. The Oxford English Dictionary gives no fewer than 80 uses and compounds of jack as a common noun.

January 28, 2009 1:56 PM

(continued from #84): So, " the beginning of the 14th C... Jack was already established as a synonym for man or boy..." This is expanded on in "The Penguin Dictionary of FIRST NAMES"(2004, London):
"As well as appearing in many nursery rhymes and fairy tales as the name of the archetypal folk hero, as in Jack and the Beanstalk, [Jack] has also been used on many occasions to refer to actual or mythical characters whose names are otherwise unknown (such as the 19th-century murderer Jack the Ripper or the supernatural demon of the Victorian penny-dreadfuls called Spring-heeled Jack)."

In his book Cleveland Evans has a more positive take on Jack as a synonym for the common man: "Jack was considered an independent name in England as early as the 14th century. The name abounds in folktales and children's nursery rhymes, including "Jack and the Beanstalk," "Jack Sprat," "Jack and Jill," and "Little Jack Horner," which shows that Jack had already become the name for the typical "everyman" in England centuries ago. It is once again the typical name in England, where Jack has been the number-one name for boys since 1995."

By Guest (not verified)
January 28, 2009 1:56 PM

New baby name in the friend group: Al@na J0y. Both very pretty names... although it sounds like "a lotta joy" to me. Maybe that's what they were going for?

(...only letting me post as 'guest' today, hm.)

January 28, 2009 2:14 PM

Penelope, thanks for your mention of Google Scholar. I never heard of it before and am adding it to my search options.

By Caruso Confer (not verified)
January 28, 2009 2:25 PM

"Is Nancy a derivative of something or a stand alone?"

It's a nickname for Ann. Nan is just adding an N to the front, along the same model as Ned and Nell for Edward and Ellen; the -cy ending is just a diminuitive (like Betsy, Patsy). I've seen Nannie as a nickname for Agnes in 19c. stuff--but I think that one would be hard to revive today.

January 28, 2009 2:37 PM

Very good information Patricia, thanks for that. It seems the Palin/McCain ticket should've used
"Jack the plumber/carpenter/baker/etc."
in its reference to the average Jack.

January 28, 2009 2:39 PM

Also thank you to Miriam + Caruso for the info on Nancy.

By Elaine (not verified)
January 28, 2009 2:42 PM

My father's given name is Jimmy. Most business associates call him Jim. Growing up, we always could identify junk mail and telemarketers when they would say "James" instead of Jimmy. We always get a kick when people realize that his name is not James. And, the name Jimmy has never hindered his business opportunities. If you ask him, it doesn't matter where you come from or what kind of "red neck name" you might have, honesty and integrity will get you places in life.

Babies under 1 yr old:
*parents might be described as "hipsters"

January 28, 2009 3:23 PM

Patricia- thanks so much for quoting from the "Oxford Dictionary...". I used to own that book, growing up, and I'm sad I no longer have it. I loved all the etymology and the variants of names in other languages. I also loved that it wasn't a dictionary of "baby names" (sorry, Laura ;)). After all the bearer doesn't remain a baby for long!

January 28, 2009 3:48 PM

Here is a link to an article in the news I read about a new study - boys with unpopular names more likely to commit crimes.

January 28, 2009 3:50 PM

Valerie, if you'd like another copy (used) of "Oxford Dictionary...," you can order one online from AbeBooks. It's amazing what can be found through them. A few years ago, while doing genealogical research, I was thrilled to find a copy of an 1870s memoir written by a brother of my great-great-grandfather. Our family's copy had been lost in a fire in the 1940s.

And I certainly agree with your statement: "I also loved that it wasn't a dictionary of "baby names" (sorry, Laura ;)). After all the bearer doesn't remain a baby for long!"

Or even a child for very long... If only all parents would keep that in mind when naming their baby/child/adult son or daughter.

January 28, 2009 3:59 PM

re: Names and hiring decisions/career success. If someone has the raw talent and works hard, I believe they will succeed, even if they don't have what many would think of as the "right" name. But certain smart choices can certainly smooth the path.

That all being said, I read a great book recently on strategies for women to be more effective in a corporate workplace setting - "Nice Girls Don't Get the Corner Office" (crappy title, great book). One of the tips is for women to start going by their full first name at work. If you're Kate, she suggests going by Kathleen (assuming that's your full name); Sue should go by Susan and the like. The author's view is that this one subtle element can really change perceptions, and may encourage people to take you & your ideas more seriously-- which is critical to being seen as a leader worthy of a promotion and higher salary.

Personally, I'm not at all surprised that a "just Jimmy" could go on to be president. I think childlike, non-traditional female nicknames/nickname style given names (Randi, Tawny, Missy) are definitely detrimental to females who want to run with the big dogs, and hope to break into traditionally-male occupations. I know this is not something everyone wants to hear, and we all wish Tawny had just as much of a shot at those opportunities... but let's be real. Tawny is going to have to work a bit harder.

By Amy3
January 28, 2009 4:17 PM

I have a friend whose husband is L4rry Joe II. He goes by Joe (I assume his dad probably goes by Larry, but I don't know). The choice arose (I heard from my friend) because his grandmother didn't know how to spell L4wrence Joseph.

However, "just Joe" fits this guy to a T. This goes back to zoerhenne's question about a name making a person or the person making the name.

By J&H's mom (not verified)
January 28, 2009 4:31 PM

This will probably horrify some, but I've consistently found the playland at McDonald's to yield an interesting cross section of names.

3 and unders today
Sib group
Reese (sp)? (m)
Riley (sp)? (m)
Phoenix (f)

Sib set
Jamie (f)


Logan (Every third child we see is named Logan)

Sort of proves that whether you're in red or blue America, all things are equal at Mickey D's!

Btw, I see Joe and Jack quite differently. I do think both have a certain All-American pal quality, but I think something about the crisp ending on Jack makes it more confident. Again, I'm biased.
Perhaps it's also that the little Joes I run into are almost always called Joseph.

By Claire (not verified)
January 28, 2009 4:43 PM

I know a 60+ woman of Italian parents who wanted to name her Anunciata, but went with Nancy instead to sound more American--they did this with all their kids.

January 28, 2009 4:54 PM

Patricia- thanks so much!

January 28, 2009 8:23 PM


Do you know how common the names Barack and Obama were in Kenya prior to our new President's ascendency? Were they well known names, but not often used, like, say, Gertrude in the U.S.? Or were they completely unknown names?

I can't imagine that Michelle was used at all in Kenya before this.

(Edited for clarification)