A nickname is an extra name, and, usually, a gift from a family member or close friend.
However, I think the name between nicknames and diminutives has blurred a lot in the last few decades. Have you noticed that too? I used to put nicknames and diminutive/pet names in two separate boxes. Nicknames were alternative names. They rarely had any connection to your first name and usually involved a private joke or physical features that others found endearing. Diminutive/pet names usually were shortened, casual versions of your first name.
For example, my friend Geoffrey had the nickname Rocky as well as the diminutive name Geoffy. (The latter was solely used as a private family name. His friends called him Rocky and his mother and grandmother called him Geoffy.) When a family names a child, they usually decide on a pet name before or just after the child's birth. But, in most cases, a child's nickname emerged later--once the child had developed distinctive physical attributes, personality traits, or family roles (i.e., Bitsy). Of course, some nicknames are inevitable from the start, like Trip for the child bearing the suffix III.
Now, I find that a lot of people doesn't recognize or value that difference between nicknames or diminutive pet names anymore, which may not be a bad thing. (Ha! So I guess I'm saying it's just a thing.) Maybe that's because the distinction between private and public identities has blurred. Maybe the nickname, in the sense I described it, is just a dying cultural artifact.
Of course, the best part about nicknames and diminutives is that they're all still gifts bestowed on someone you care about. And...that it's a kind of name-bestowing that doesn't pertain only to birth. For those of us who love naming, this is good news! Even once you've picked out the formal name of a child, there's the promise that someday, you'll probably get the chance to add one or two "extra" names to their identity.
I've recently become friends with a family whose family all have received adorable nicknames over the years:
- Bitsy for the petite aunt
- Chip for the brother that is the spitting image of his father ("chip off the old block")
- Pip for the sister with an incredible singing voice ("Pipes")
- Taffy for elderly uncle whose first name is David (apparently, this is a common nickname for David in Wales?)
Do you have nickname rules you like to follow when you give a child or friend a nickname? Have any favorite nicknames that you're dying to bestow on a friend or child someday?
Wed, 10/31/2012 - 12:05am