Facing Up to the Reality of Nicknames

Apr 26th 2017

What you name your kids may not be what they call themselves.

That's probably the last message you want to hear when you're painstakingly crafting the perfect name for your child, but it's reality. At some point in life, custody of the name transfers from from parent to child, with nicknaming rights attached.

You may not even see it happening. One family I know was so set on the world calling their son by a two-part name that they decided to write the name as an indivisible whole: "JohnMatthew" rather than "John-Matthew." By the time JohnMatthew was a teenager, though, they discovered he had long been introducing himself as just "John."

Shutterstock.com/Armin Staudt

This custody shift is a natural part of growning up. In the past generation, though, it has become a flashpoint for parental angst. Parents today are hanging on tighter to the name reins than ever before.

In the past, nicknames were a matter of course. Even strangers would routinely call a William "Bill." Today, kids laugh when a clueless teacher calls a student by such an archaic nickname -- or even calls a Thomas "Tom" or a Michael "Mike." This generation grew up using full formal names, usually with their parents as name defenders, slashing down any nickname incursions in their path.

As the Thomas and Michael examples show, it often works. But the longer and more formal the given name, the more nickname pressure builds up. At some point, classmates will insist on shortening Nathaniel and Alexandra. Maybe they'll use a traditional nickname like Nate, maybe initials or a surname, maybe something spontaneous that has nothing to do with the given name at all. When the Name Lady fielded a question about how to control nicknames, a reader gave this firsthand account:

"My parents never liked nicknames in general. They were determined that I (Elizabeth) would never be Lizzy, my sister Amanda would never be Mandy, my brother Christopher would never be Chris. Well, it worked... sort of. I was coached from a young age not to tolerate Liz or Lizzy. Instead my most commonly used nickname, courtesy of my younger sibs, is... Baba. Amanda will absolutely not answer to Mandy, but at a young age she started calling herself Meena. And Christopher? Well, we mostly just call him Kid."

If you really, really don't want a son named Nathaniel but called Nate, you have three choices.

1. Create another outlet. Think of nickname pressure like damming up a stream. It will spill over, so if you want to control the results your best bet is to create an outlet to channel them into. Even if you prefer the full Nathaniel, if you can tolerate "Than" better than Nate, start using it as an occasional nickname from the start. That should help keep Nate wrong-sounding to your son as he takes over control of his own name.

2. Accept your own little bubble of control. You love the name Nathaniel; Nathaniel will forever be your son's legal name; Nathaniel is what you will always call him. Let that be enough. And when his teammates all shout "Nate!" after he makes a big goal, don't wince -- cheer along.

3. Don't name him Nathaniel. Know yourself. If nicknames will drive you up the wall, if you can't stand the idea of someone using the "wrong" name for your child, a name like Nathaniel is setting you up for a lifetime of gritted teeth. Settle for Grant or Simon instead.


10 Names that Mean You Were Born in the 1980s

Apr 20th 2017

You know the '80s, right? Big hair, shoulder pads, acid-wash jeans...and in baby names, Ashley, Justin and Tiffany. But the '80s didn't really own those names. In fact, the majority of Ashleys you'll meet were born outside the decade of Ronald Reagan and Michael Jackson.

For pure '80s names, we have to dig deeper. I've identified 10 names with full 1980s bona fides: they mostly existed in that decade, and from our 21st-Century perch we can't miss their cultural links to it. Some of the names below were big hits, others were rarities, but all are loving tributes to their times.

In ascending order by "80s purity score," the percentage of all people with the name who were born during the decade:

Image:Wikimedia Commons

1. DeLorean (62%) -- The 1985 film Back to the Future cemented the ill-fated DeLorean sports car as THE emblematic '80s ride. No other vehicle so immediately summons the decade, from its style to its greed. Through the power of cinema and memory, the DeLorean truly has become a time machine.

2. Sheena (74%) -- Not the purest of '80s names, but one of the very biggest. A smattering of girls were named Sheena in the 1940s-70s thanks to various incarnations of the pulp character "Sheena, Queen of the Jungle." But '80s pop princess Sheena Easton ushered in a decade of over 16,000 little Sheenas, with a notoriously bad 1984 jungle-Sheena movie pitching in.

3. Jarreau (76%) -- Can you hum the chorus of "We're in This Love Together"? How about the theme song from the tv series Moonlighting? If so, you're in the capable '80s hands of singer Al Jarreau.

4. Jenilee (82%) -- Actress Jenilee Harrison ushered in the decade by replacing Suzanne Somers on the sitcom Three's Company in 1980. She later boosted her '80s cred with a stint on Dallas, where her character had the distinction of being killed off twice: once before and once after the series' notorious "it was all a dream" rewind.

Image: tvguidemagazine.com

5. Krystle (84%) -- Every spelling of Crystal was a hit in the '80s, but this version hit the decade bullseye in the prime-time soap Dynasty. Linda Evans played Krystle Carrington, the innocent blond secretary who married into a nest of millionaire vipers.

6. Jon-Erik (85%) -- Actor Jon-Erik Hexum was a rising '80s star and heartthrob. He died suddenly and tragically on the set of his tv series Cover Up via a self-inflicted wound from a prop gun.

7. Travanti (86%) -- Looking for that elusive "Hill Street Blues" baby name trend? You could go with Kiel, after actor Kiel Martin, but my vote goes to this less likely name. Actor Daniel J. Travanti played stalwart Captain Frank Furillo on the seminal cop drama.

8. Toccara (89%) -- Avon introduced a perfume named Toccara in 1981, and a one-decade name was born. Model Toccara Jones was among the Toccaras born in 1981.

9. Cheetara (100%) -- One word: ThunderCats. The syndicated cartoon series chronicled the adventures of a group of vaguely feline alien heroes, including Tygra, Jaga, Lion-O, and the token female ThunderCat Cheetara.

10. Jordache (100%) -- Once upon a time, in the early '80s, Jordache jeans were totally a thing. Baby names never forget.


15 Girls' Names That Sound Trendy, But Aren't

Apr 18th 2017

If you like melodic girls' names with a classic but individualistic style, you're in good company today. From Emily to Olivia, pretty sounds and vintage vibes are especially prized. But that doesn’t mean all the good names are taken - they’re just hiding in plain sight!

The 15 girls' name below were chosen for their harmonic tones and cultural substance. They feel timeless, yet unlike Emily and Olivia, they've yet to reach the top-1,000 names list. Let’s take a look.

Image via StockSnap.io

Briony. This literary name came to national attention with Ian McEwan’s novel Atonement, featuring a curious and determined main character named Briony (played by Saoirse Ronan in the film adaptation). The name is also botanical in origin, referring to a type of flowering vine. Briony is bright and beautiful - and rare in the United States.

Jemima. While it’s long been associated with the eponymous Aunt, Jemima could surpass its syrupy links with such a pretty sound. It’s similar to Gemma, but with a Biblical twist - Jemima was the daughter of Job, and means “dove” in Hebrew. Quirky yet classic, Jemima is a fabulous choice for lovers of literature, too (Beatrix Potter and William Thackeray both used the name).

Mirabelle. Dozens of -elle, -ella, and -bella names rank in the top 1000, but Mirabelle has stayed far under the radar. How has it avoided such popularity with an attractive melody, the meaning of “wonderful,” and a few great pop culture connections? It can also shorten to Mira or Belle, both excellent vintage picks.

Cecily. Sweet and sincere, Cecily has all the gorgeous qualities of Cecilia with a personality all its own. Cecily was popular during the Middle Ages, but has since been eclipsed by its Latin sister. Though it bears the trendy -ly ending, Cecily’s retro vibe makes it more friendly than faddish.

Isadora. An elegant alternative to Isabella, Isadora maintains the aural harmony with an uncommon ending. The name comes from the Greek for “gift of Isis,” and showed up recently in the children’s books A Series of Unfortunate Events. It’s got quite a lot of nickname potential - Isa, Izzy, Dora - but the long form Isadora is truly stunning.

Elodie. Not Melody, Emily, or Eloise - Elodie is a hit in the UK and France, but hasn’t ranked in the United States since 1886. It’s a feminine, French pick that fits in with the El-names, but has a more subdued, melodic sound. There are plenty of great namesakes too, from athletes to actresses - Elodie is bound to find an audience soon!

Camellia. With Spanish Camila becoming a popular pick, why not floral Camellia? It’s soft and graceful, but allows for the edgier nicknames Cam and Cami. It’s especially perfect as an alternative to blossoming Amelia. In Korea and Japan, the camellia flower is a symbol of faithfulness and longevity - another fantastic connotation.

Juno. Mythological yet modern, Juno feels like a twenty-first century choice - but its numbers disagree. Europeans have taken to the name, but the recent indie film starring Ellen Page made Juno a nonstarter in the states. Now that the spotlight has passed, however, Juno could use its queenly history and accessible sound to gain a different kind of notoriety.

Beatrix. Since 1902, Peter Rabbit and his friends have delighted families everywhere, thanks to the impeccably named Helen Beatrix Potter. Beatrix’s connections extend from the literary to the cinematic (Uma Thurman’s character in Kill Bill) to the royal, with Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands reigning until 2013. If you want something energetic but more offbeat than Beatrice, look no further than this Latin choice.

Coralie. A favorite among francophones, Coralie is a lovely and poetic name that could be an alternative to vintage Cora (or a route to the nickname Cora). French chanteuse Coralie Clément is one notable wearer, with others appearing in film and fiction. It’s derived from “coral,” giving it an attractive nature link as well.

Marlowe. Sitting just under the top 1000 is this appealing surname option, with spelling variations Marlow and Marlo on the rise as well. It sounds like celebrity darling Harlow, but lends itself to being a unique honorific name as well, for Marys, Margarets and Marias alike. Noir detective Philip Marlowe adds an element of mystery to this cool unisex name.

Tamsin. The “in” sound is in, with Quinn, Brynn, and -lyn dominating the popularity charts - but Tamsin’s background gives it real substance, not flash. It’s a traditionally Cornish name derived from Thomas, with a plethora of namesakes in the UK. Tamsin is unexpected yet engaging, a choice that will will with all kinds of personalities and styles.

Avis. It’s got the sassy sound of Mavis and the contemporary feel of Avery, with a bonus connection to birds - in Harry Potter, the spell used to conjure a flock of birds is literally “Avis.” Though the rental car company has monopolized this charming name for a while, Avis may be ready to spread its wings with the rise of Ava and Alexis.

Jessamine. Originally a form of Jasmine, Jessamine is a great discovery for today’s namers: it’s similar enough to Jessica and Jessie to feel familiar, but the botanical link and old-fashioned -mine ending gives it character. Jessamine is a favorite among modern authors, too.

Cleo. Fearless and affable, Cleo works well for parents who like the sound of Chloe but want something with a little more spirit. There’s the obvious namesake Cleopatra, but Cleo names were also popular in the beginning of the twentieth century - Cleola and Cleona among them. Variant Clio is another option, with an ethereal edge. 


Read More: Quirky Classic Names for Girls