Tuesday, March 25, 2008

What's in a Name?

Anthroponomastics is a branch of Onomastics which studies anthroponyms—the names of human beings. I’ve been interested in anthroponomastics recently because I’m considering changing my heroine’s name as it doesn’t really seem to fit her in the new rewrite.

Her current name also doesn’t have any cool nicknames I can have the hero call her, and for some strange reason, that’s really a problem in this rewrite. That lead me to thinking about nicknames in general—sadly, the study of nicknames doesn’t have a cool fifty-cent word to describe it.

I’m a Kimberly who also gets called Kim. (If you know a Kimberly who manages not to be called Kim, please let me know how that miracle happens.) My family calls me Kimmy (yes, even as an adult. Can’t seem to shake it.). I despise being called Kimbo, so that’s what my brother calls me, of course. (Although my stepdad used to call me Bo, which was short for Kimbo, but not as appalling somehow.) I was even a Kimber for a while, but thankfully those days are long past. Nicknames like that are pretty run-of-the-mill as far as nicknames go; anyone with a shortenable name can probably rattle off several like them as well.

Then there are the nicknames that are plays on a name. Counselor Shelley calls me Kimzolabob (don’t ask). Sunny calls me Kimborling. A whole group of my Hawaiian friends call me Kimchee (Chee is the Hawaiian Pidgin for ‘girl’ and kimchee is a type of food. It didn’t take long for that to get run together and stuck to me). My mom has a nickname for me along these same lines that’s just mortifying, and won’t be mentioned here.

But the nicknames I find really interesting are the ones that aren’t simply derivations of your given name. They’re the nicknames that require explanations for those not “in the know.” Tucker calls me Hadji. I call Counselor Shelley Bella. My mom’s nickname is Eliot. Of course, around here, I’m PC—but none of the Playfriends call me that in real life (at least not to my face ~grin~).

And, no, despite my fascination with Outlander when we met, I never could get DG to call me Sassenach—or anything else in Gaelic. Sigh.

I think that’s probably the key to nicknames—the kind that require (sometimes embarrassing) explanations: you can’t give them to yourself. Someone else has to start calling you by a nickname, and then it starts to stick as other folks pick up on it. Then it spreads. With a shortened or derivative form of your name, you just introduce yourself to new people by that name. You can’t do that with true nicknames. I mean, I can’t exactly walk up to someone and introduce myself as Hadji, now can I?

But nicknames, however embarrassing or appalling, do have a great purpose. I can place people by what they call me. Even if I don’t recognize the voice or the number on Caller ID, a “Hey, Kimchee!” narrows down the possibilities pretty quickly.

So what’s your nickname? If it’s an odd one, you should tell the story behind it too. (But no cruel nicknames, okay? That dipwad who called you Horseface in third grade doesn’t deserve the air time. We hate him on your behalf on principle.) My favorite will get a cool Black and White prize pack.

PC
~A nickname I happen to love~

23 comments:

Rhonda Nelson said...

My family actually calls me by a couple of different nicknames. Ronni, for obvious reasons, and Bun, because I loved Captain Kangaroo and Bunny Rabbit as a child. I used to tell my mom that I was her "Good Hopper" so the name stuck. :-)

Barbara Vey said...

As an adult, I insist on being called Barbara, but even still, I've been Barb, Barbie, Babaloo, Babawawa and the dreaded Babs. But the worst was an uncle who started everyone calling me Put-see, which wasn't too bad until my mean brothers told everyone it meant baby elephant (I don't think that's true)

My son Keith was horrified when a little cousin couldn't say his name and kept calling him Fifi. Son Andrew was known as Nukba because if you put a Nuk (pacifier) in his mouth, he could launch it across the room when he was just a few months old.

Angel said...

From the time I was old enough to talk, I insisted no one call me Danny. I was lucky in that, I have an uncle with this name so it would have been confusing for the family if they'd have called me that. Only boys called me that as teenagers and earned a wicked glare in return.

No one else has nicknames for me but the hubby, and those aren't fit fodder for the blog. :)

Angel (totally undeserving of this particular nickname!)

Smarty Pants said...

It took me years to shake "Andi" and "Boo." Me, a Boo? Ugh. My mom also has this weird habit of calling me by 90 different names including: Andi, Handi (a mix of my sisters name and mine when she gets flustered), Anna, Chiquita Banana, Efram Zimbalist Junior, and Lucas Lorenzo Spencer (yes, from General Hospital). I can't really explain the last two. I think she just liked the sound of them when she yelled.

Anyway, no one really calls me by a nickname anymore, aside from good ol SP. Well, except for DB who calls me Baby. Not sure that qualifies as a nickname, though.

Lynn Raye Harris said...

Oh dear Lord. I may need therapy. :)

My name is hard to make a nickname out of, so I get the requisite Lynnie. There's also been Lynnie Lou and, at one time, my dad called me Ham Hock. Can't remember precisely why that was, and he doesn't dare to do that anymore. *grin*

My grandpa called me Chickadee sometimes, but my nickname as a child was Pixie. I was small and had white-blonde hair and pale, pale skin so you can guess how I got that name. :)

Joyce said...

It's a Southern thing to call the oldest girl in the family "Sister," so that's what my mother calls me. It's also what she calls her oldest sister. When the family is together and my mother says "Sister" both my aunt and I answer. Fortunately, none of my siblings picked up on calling me "Sister."

Playground Monitor said...

Thank you all for hating the dipwads who called me Cowface when I was in the fifth grade.

My name isn't one that gets shortened, though a few have tried with Mari and Mar. Why do some people feel obligated to shorten your name even when it doesn't lend itself to shortening?

My husband does call me "M" about half the time and my sister's son calls me Auntie "M."

No unexplainable nicknames either.

And thank you again for hating those awful boys. That means you like me. You really, really like me.

PM

Jen said...

My DH used to call me Shamu -- I think he just liked the way it sounded. I did point out that it was a friggin' WHALE and could he please come up with something else? Now he calls me "Boo". I dunno why. I don't think I seem like a Boo but it's a helluva lot better than Shamu.

Then there's the nickname my beloved editor Brenda and my bff Rhonda gave me. Brenda got dubbed Precious by Rhonda. Rhonda became Princess. My nickname? PITA, as in Pain-in-the-ass.(Insert MadFace icon here) Oh, the injustice, not to mention emotional scarring.

Problem Child said...

I think if someone called me a whale of any sort I'd be suicidal. Like I don't have enough issues with my weight...

Lynn Raye Harris said...

Uh, Jen, was he smoking something? Cuz you are SO un-whale-like!

Instigator said...

I'm with Lynn and Marilyn. Kira doesn't really shorten very well. I had some friend who would call me K but that's a whole nother name. My sister called me Chris - short for my middle name Christine - every once and a while. I never really had a nickname growing up but wanted one which is probably why both of the girls have multiples :-)

Instigator

Playground Monitor said...

My boys have short names with no obvious nickname too, though one soccer coach did call #1 son "Rhino." And I just remembered the grandbaby has already picked up a nickname.

Best nickname story:

I had neighbors who were expecting a baby but moved away before the baby was born. They kept in touch with other neighbors and one day word came that the baby had arrived. "What did they name him?" I asked the neighbor. "It's an interesting story," she replied. It seems they named him William Robert but felt both names were too formal to call him by. They also felt Billy and Bobby were too "southern." So what did they end up calling him?

Bubba. I'm not kidding. What in hades could be more southern than that???

PM

Wendy said...

Gah, I can't believe I'm telling you this but.. ok since I was little my parents have called tuti (pronounced tootee) why? it's a weird form of Tweety (as in the tweety bird) they made up because I had a big head.

Yeah, thanks mom and dad, lol.

They're the only ones who call me that though. I happen to like it, it's kinda cute.

I've been called Gwendolyn; an old form of my name. Cutie; my ex (99% of the time he called me that) Wendster; friends. There's probably more but I can't remember.

nascarandbeans said...

well i have had several over the years. My full name is Jolene Sue, but when i was a little girl called me Susie.. my cousin Steve and i could never pronounce our s sounds.. so it always came out foofie and feefee..
they have stuck over the years.. ackk...
when i joined the national guard as a teenager i was one of the first females in our unit.. i had several there too... JoJo Dancer.. JoJo the monkey girl.. they all giggled but would never tell me where that one came from...
im so glad now that i will be 40 this may that everyone seems to be dropping the nicknames and calling me Jolene or Jo..

Kathy said...

I've been called Kath, Kat, Tuck, KB, Bertha Butt (Argh! Teenage boys!), Bone, a boy I had a crush on sadly called me, "Jinx," and the DH calls me Katerina, which I love. (Comes from our Language school days in Monterey).

Oh, the cruelty of young boys. When I was in 2nd grade they would follow me home and yell, "MF". Except they would say the words because my last name was Tucker.

Maven Linda said...

For reasons unknown, my childhood nickname was Cindy. Only immediate family ever called me that. Other than that, I've never had a nickname, not even Lin. It's always been Linda.

When I've been on a tear, which doesn't happen often, my DH has been known to call me "ma'am." :-). Nothing wrong with that, right?

catslady said...

I can't compete with all these names lol. If someone calls me jean that means it's someone who isn't interested enough to call me jeanne (not a nickname) and pronouced like "I dream of Jeannie" which I really hate because I got that so much as a kid.

My husband's nickname was skinny for the longest time and believe me he isn't anywhere near that anymore lol.

I named one daughter April thinking there was nothing they could do to that - yeah, right - she actually got the name Ape and she is the tiniest little thing. She also gets Casper because she's very "white" lol.

My youngest Alysa gets her name pronounced a million wrong ways but her nicknames are spike (for when she had hair like that) and also anime (she loves it and draws it).

LeeAnn said...

Let’s see when I was little it was Pinky Lee and Lee Lee. I thought I had shaken Lee Lee but now I’m Aunty Lee Lee LOL. The strange part is that I actually like it now. I’ve also most recently picked up LA.

ruth said...

Because I am tiny and when we were very young we couldn't pronounce my name, everyone in the family only, said Udi, and the only one who does call me that still is my brother. No one else knows about it or is still here.

KimW said...

I had many of the same nicknames as you, but there was one that I really disliked. When I was young, my friends called me Beaver. I had these two very long front teeth that resembled those of a beaver. Fortunately, I've had them fixed so I don't have to go through my adult years with that name. lol

Nature Nut /JJ Loch said...

Rocki, thanks for sharing how you author books.

Super congrats on your Bullet Catcher series success. I hope we meet more and more of these sexy heroes. :D I looove the story twists your plots have and am amazed at your storytelling. :D And the hot romance keeps me going and my husband happy. :D

As for my writing, I don't know what I'll write about...who my hero and heroine are... until I start working the first page. I've always been like that when writing romance or mainstream and always will be. After I meet my characters, I do match them with a visual image and then they begin telling me their stories. Then I decide what the worst thing is that could happen to them and away I go.

I miss our times at e-Harlequin. :D

Big Hugs, Nancy/Blue

Anonymous said...

My family calls me Patty, my friends call me Pat. No explanation needed.

My husband calls me smootho sometimes - when no explanation needed. LOL.

Pat L.

Anonymous said...

it was shorty and then little girl, my friends call me that

kim h