The Nickname Trap: How Popular Is Your Name, Really?
I recently spotted a potluck signup sheet and had to snap a picture:
It seemed an amusing coincidence that this group would include so many women with the same name. But then I started to wonder. Do they have the same name, really?
We traditionally think of Kate and Katie as forms of Katherine. Over the past 25 years, though, an American girl has been more likely to be named Kaitlyn (in one spelling or another) than Katherine/Catherine. Then there are all the other sources: the Kathleens, the Katrinas, the just-Kates. A flowering of parental creativity could have led to that remarkably uniform nickname list.
For parents who care about name popularity, nicknames like these can be "gotchas." Suppose you're considering naming your daughter Adelaide. You like that it's just on the outskirts of style. It's rare but familiar, old-fashioned but with fashionable sounds. If the name seems a little too much for a toddler, that's no problem, you can use Addie as an occasional nickname.
Five years later, your little girl is starting kindergarten. Just as you hoped, she's the one and only Adelaide in the school! Of course, by now she calls herself Addie...just like the two Addisons, an Adeline and an Adalyn.
Nickname popularity is nearly impossible to pin down statistically. Not every Addison goes by Addie, after all. What's more, nickname choices go in and out of fashion. Once you could expect to call a guy named William "Bill"; today he's more likely to answer to Will, Liam, or the full William. So how do you know if you're about to fall into the "nickname trap"? Read on.
Below are some nicknames that are becoming more popular than you might guess. If you're determined to choose a unique name for your child, you may want to avoid names that could shorten to any of these. On the flip side, you could treat a popular nickname as "safety valve" for an unconventional name. If the name Ajax turns out not to suit your son, he can always go by Jack.
Ben. The classic name Benjamin is popular enough that you probably wouldn't expect Ben to sound unique. But you might at least expect it to be "all about the Benjamins." In the past few years, other Ben- names like Bentley, Bennett and Benson have skyrocketed. Take a look -- together they're catching up with Benjamin's popularity:
Bree. Aubrey, Gabriella, Brianna, and Aubree all rank among the top 100 girls' names. Then there's Brielle, Bria, Sabrina, Gabrielle, and Aubrianna. This nickname will be coming from all directions in the years ahead.
Cam & Cami. If you meet a grown man named Cam, you can safely guess he's a Cameron. But a little boy? A dozen different Cam/Kam names rank in the top 1,000 for boys (e.g. Camden, Kamryn, Kamari)...and ten in the top 1,000 for girls (e.g. Camila, Kamryn, Campbell).
Jack & Jax. These two names are very different in style, yet they sound enough alike to run afoul of the "classroom distinctiveness" test. Three Jack/Jax names rank among the top 100 names for boys (Jackson, Jack and Jaxon), and more Jax varieties are climbing (Jaxson, Jax, Jaxton, Jaxen).
Kate & Katie. As the photo above demonstrated, you'll meet lots of Kates and Katies of all generations. If you're focused on classroom distinctiveness, though, take heart: the combined "Kate" name sources are now at a historic low.
Maddie & Addie. Start with Madison and Madeline. Then get creative with spellings. Then take a little off the top to yield Addison and Adeline, and repeat. Here's a picture:
Max. Max makes a fine given name in itself, but don't judge its popularity by its rank. Twice as many boys get longer Max- names (Maxwell, Maximus, Maximilian, Maxton, etc.), and most of those go by Max.