Thursday, November 3, 2011

What's in a Nickname?

Modern American English has a pretty regular system for making nicknames (the fancy word is hypocoristics)--take the main phoneme/syllable (or at least a prominent one) and add "ee" or "a", or just leave it as is. Ex: Jackson-->Jack or Jax; Eleanor-->Ella; Madison-->Maddy. Foreign, or even archaic English, nicknames thus can seem pretty strange or unintuitive to modern American ears, but they sure can be fun!

  • Arabic: take the root consonants (3, sometimes 4), and follow this pattern--first consonant/A/second consonant/second consonant (or 3rd, if 4)/U or O/U/final consonant. 
    • Barak --> Barruuk, Maryam --> Maryuum
  • archaic English: adding '-kin' or rhyming (or both!).  
    • Robert --> Robin. Rick --> Dick. John --> Jankin --> Hankin --> Hank.
  • Australian English: adding '-az' or 'azza' if a prominent central/end R is present; add '-o' or 'ooey' to any other name. 
    • Caroline --> Caz, Cazza. Daniel --> Danno. Moses --> Moey.
  • older French: adding '-ot' for male; '-ette' or '-ine' for female. 
    • Pierre --> Pierrot. Jeanne --> Jeannette. Amanda --> Amandine.
  • even older French: adding '-on'.  
    • Alice --> Alison.
  • Hindi: adding '-u'.  
    • Anita --> Nitu.
  • Italian: adding '-ino', '-etto', or '-ello' for male; '-ina', '-etta', or '-ella' for female.  
    • Cesar --> Cesarino. Clara --> Claretta. Fiore --> Fiorella.
  • Japanese: simply dropping a syllable, and/or adding '-chan' for either sex, or sometimes '-ko' for females.
    • Koyomi --> Yomi. Kyou --> Kyou-chan. Usagi --> Usako.
  • Russian: adding '-ka', '-sha' or '-ya'. 
    • Ekaterina --> Katenka. Mikhail --> Misha. Tatiana --> Tanya
  • Scottish: adding '-an', '-agan' or '-aidh' for male; '-ag' for female. 
    • Angus -->Angaidh. Dubh -->Dubhagan. Bran --> Branan. Anne --> Annag.

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