Saturday, November 10, 2012

Old-Fashioned Fun with Modern Names

While reading on another board about "name-stealing"--a subject I have mixed feelings about--I began to wonder if part of the problem was that we've become severely limited in the ways we create nicknames. The naming pool was significantly smaller in previous generations, and yet no one seemed to really care about sharing their name with others, or about close friends/family "stealing" their baby name (or maybe no one bothered to record it if they did).
Perhaps part of the problem is how most of our current popular names have only one "go-to" nickname (maybe two)? If you look at historically-common names, they can have several, even dozens! Whether the nickname-creativity was spurred by the over-abundances of Marys, Margarets, Richards, & Johns, or just a by-product of flexible archaic English, I'm not sure, but either way, we're missing some opportunity for fun. ;)

While today's nicknames tend to be made in one way (shortening it, and maybe adding 'ee' or 'ah'), in older times, nicknames could be made in several ways:
  • Shortening to main syllable, just like today
  • Rhyming: Ed --> Ted
  • Adding N to vowel-names (a result of affectionately saying 'Mine ____'): Ann --> Nan
  • Contraction: Florence --> Floss
  • Adding 'ee' (for either gender), 'see', -in, or -kin: Adam --> Addy, Beth--> Betsy, John --> Jonkin
  • Slight vowel-shift: Simon --> Sim
  • Using a regional pronunciation as a nickname: Mary --> Molly
Often these changes combined & built upon each other, for instance: Margaret --> Mag --> Meg --> Peg; Mary --> Molly --> Polly; John --> Jan --> Jankin --> Jack

Now imagine the fun if we applied some of these methods to today's popular names. Hmmm.....
  • Sophia --> Sophie --> Sosie
  • Isabella --> Nissie; Isabella --> Ibbie --> Tibbie
  • Olivia --> Nol, Nollie; Olivia --> Olia
  • Emma --> Emsie
  • Abigail --> Allie; Abigail --> Aggie
  • Madison --> Missy
  • Aiden --> Aikin; Aiden --> Nay
  • Jacob --> Jobe; Jacob --> Cobin
  • Mason --> Mase --> Tase; Mason --> Maykin
  • Michael --> Mel; Michael --> Mykin; Michael --> Kel --> Kellin
  • William --> Wilkin --> Wilk; William --> Wim
  • Ethan --> Ean --> Dean
  • Noah --> Noey; Noah --> Koah; Noah --> Joah --> Joe

Yes, I purposely left out the names that I couldn't come up with non-silly nicknames for (of course, I can see many of these being considered silly). But imagine the possibilities! Who says that all Isabellas must go by Izzy or Bella? Having "such a common name" wouldn't really matter if you come up with your own new nickname for her. :)

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