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Sunday, January 25, 2009

Baby Naming Issue: Introducing and/or Changing a Nickname

Kate writes:
My husband and I are due to have a boy in February, and we have fully settled on what his name will be, but the problem for us comes from the nickname. The baby's name will be Charles Marshall, our last name is very Irish and can also be a girl's first name, but isn't really important to the nickname issue.

The problem is, that we both LOVE the name Chuck and would like to call him that. However, when I think of a brand new wrinkly cute little baby, the name Chuck just seems so wrong, and I think a lot of our family and friends will have a hard time using Chuck as his name. I am pretty certain that most of them will lean towards calling him Charlie. Which we are not necessarily opposed to, but I don't want that to be his name for all of his life.

So, my question is, can you switch nicknames, ie. call him Charlie when he's small and cute and then switch to Chuck when he grows into it? If so, when would we do that, is there a certain age where that would be appropriate?? I would really like for him to be Chuck by the time he goes to school as that seems to be where you really grow into your identity. Should we just stick with Chuck and force people to like it, I think that eventually he will grow into the name and people will see, as we do, how cute it really is. Or do we tell people his name is Charles, and allow everyone to come up with their own versions of a nickname for him?

Also, do you think that we should tell his name to everyone before he's born to give them time to adjust to it, or wait till they meet him when there will likely be less controversy over the nickname since everyone will be overwhelmed by his cuteness??

The maxim "Start as you mean to go on" comes to mind. If you think you might encounter resistance to the nickname Chuck, and if you think the path of least resistance for your friends and relatives is the nickname Charlie, you might lose control of the nickname if you don't seize control of it right from the start. "Charlie" and "Chuck" are so different, I think if you start off with Charlie you may find yourself ending up with Charlie, too.

I think if I were having baby and calling him Chuck, I would on the very first day announce him as "Charles---we're calling him Chuck," and then I would immediately give him a set of Funny Baby Nicknames. "Chicken" comes to mind, because it's cute and fun to say to/about a baby, but it's so similar to the name Chuck, it lets people sort of EASE into it. But it can be anything that comes to mind when you meet him. "Little Guy." "Mr. Cheeks." "Hedgehog." "Tumsy." "Frog-Feet." All of those and more.

It's really too bad all those scary movies ruined the nickname Chuckie, or I'd recommend starting with that and moving to Chuck later on. Another way to soften a one-syllable or not-very-babyish baby name is to add the word "Baby": "Baby Chuck" is easier to coo lovingly than flat-out "Chuck."

As to whether to tell everyone the chosen nickname before or after the birth---well, families are different. Some families find it easier to hold back the mouthy feedback if they don't hear the name until it's a done deal. Others find it easier if they have some time to get used to the name in private before having to go public with their reactions.

Good luck, Chuck!


Abby said...

I agree with Swistle! When our son Alexander was born, we didn't push our preferred nickname - Alexei. In fact, we hadn't actually said to each other "we're going to call him ..." Since Alexander is a family name, we didn't talk about it nearly as much as we should have - we hadn't even agreed on Alexei's spelling.

The upshot is that our son has FOUR nicknames. Seriously. The one we gave him, the one everyone assumed was the preferred short form, the foreign one that my (Polish-born) in-laws assume is correct and the one he gave himself when he couldn't say Alexei.


So we've called our daughter by her nickname from Day One. It's been much easier.

Joceline said...

I completely agree with Swistle. We just named our brand new baby girl Eleanor (thanks again for the help, everyone!) with the intent to call her Eleanor or Nora, but not Ellie because it sounds terrible with our last name. Lots of people have immediately asked if we're calling her Ellie, and we've explained why not. A few gutsy people have even insisted on calling her Ellie, and we've had to be firm. It can be awkward to insist when someone else is being weird about the name you've chosen, but it is your baby so you get to decide!

I do think it helps to have a little explanation or something cute to say, like Swistle suggested, rather than just coming off sounding belligerent!

Jess said...

I think the control issue is exactly right. I changed nicknames at age eight (I used to go by "Jessie"), but it was my impetus, not my parents'. I've seen other kids do the same thing. But ultimately I think that could happen either way here. You start calling the baby Chuck and it's more likely to stick, but it's still possible that a few years down the line he'll announce that he prefers Charles or Charlie or something, and make everyone call him that.

Susan said...

I agree with Swistle 100%. And I don't think you need to worry about it being hard to call a little baby "Chuck." Almost all names seem a little grown up for a newborn. The few that fit a newborn perfectly ("Fifi Trixibelle" springs to mind) would seem totally wrong by about the one-month birthday. I often call babies by their name with "Mr." or "Miss" or "Ms" -- a touch of whimsy that makes the name work for me even with a newborn. "Miss Brenda," "Mr. John," "Ms Ivy Louise." I'm imagining picking up that adorable Mr. Chuck and kissing that plump little cheek -- that does it for me!

Melio said...

If you're not totally committed yet, then I would wait to see what he looks like. Maybe he'll be a Charlie, after all.

And I don't see anything wrong with calling him both Charlie and Chuck. Some kids get called one thing at home and another at school.

If you're not dead-set on it, then just leave it open. Ultimately, I just don't see it being that big of a deal in the Charlie/Chuck realm. They're both standard nicknames - like Kate/Katie or Becca/Becky or Tom/Tommy. I mean, if you really HATED Charlie, then that would be one thing, but since you don't ... no sense in making it an issue (me things).

Melio said...

*(me thinks, not me things)

Baby B said...

My mom did put her foot down because she hated one of the nicknames for my twin's name, and my sister has never been called that nickname. But all in all, the best laid plans... Mom and Dad called me by my full name Alison throughout childhood (except those family nicknames that pop up). My obvious nickname (Ali) didn't get used at all till I started to tell people to call me that in middle school. Now, only close friends call me that, and I now have gone back to being Alison!
Chuck may love being a Chuck, he may hate it. The parents making the decision while he's young is a good idea, but he will have a mind of his own (as I did). I love all variations on Charles, so I think you can't really go wrong :].
Side note: Everyone assumes kids won't want to be called by their whole first name, that they prefer nicknames. But that is not necessarily true. My boyfriend and his sister both have names that are easily and commonly shortened, and both have been their first names unshortened since day 1 (literally). They love their names the way they are. So who knows??

Jodesly said...

I think in this situation if you want Chuck, you should put it out there right from the beginning. Charlie has a very different vibe to me, and it would be tough for people to switch over. If you introduce him as Chuck, people may be inclined to make it Chuckie when he's little. If that's okay with you, I would let them have that one to help with the calling-a-baby-Chuck difficulty :)

With our first dd, we introduced her by her nickname from day one, and some people don't even know her full name (she's Philippa, Pippa for short). With #2, we loved both the full name and the nickname (Romilly, called Romy for short), so we left it more open-ended. Romy never caught on, and she's either Romilly or Ro-Ro, which is what her 18-month-old big sister dubbed her. So, if you'd be disappointed for Chuck never to catch on, definitely get it out there right from the get-go!

Frazzled Mom said...

I like Swistle's suggestion of calling him baby Chuck or maybe baby Chuckie (adding baby before Chuckie seems to take away the terrible horror movie association for me, and maybe it will for you too--admittedly I never watched the movies). I also agree to use Chuck from day 1 if you are set on it. Of course, as others have said, when he gets older he may decide to drop Chuck, and there's not much you can do about it. But if he's like most guys I know, he will probably love Chuck and just stick with it.

As for announcing the decision before birth, I'm one to wait until after birth because I don't want other's opinions. Have you told your family of you decision to name him Charles? If you haven't, I wouldn't even announce that yet, because if you have already announced the sex, you can save the name as a surprise at birth.

Kathleen aka Coffee Mom said...

I agree with Swistle too. Seems like a common sense answer to me.

Katie said...

Thanks so much everyone for the great comments, I too like the option of giving him a cute name as a baby, to let people ease into the more harsh sound of Chuck. My husband has been calling him Chuckles which I think is kind of cute and may stick once he's born. We are open to him changing to whatever he likes once he's older, which is why we are giving him Charles as his official name, rather than Chuck as my husband wanted to do.

Anonymous said...

Chuckles is an adorable baby nn!

Joanne said...

I say that you say what the name and nickname that you're going to use is going to be. Our boy name is Augustine Thomas (we are big into Saints around here) but we are going to call the baby Gus. I just cannot wrap my mind around calling a little baby of mine Augustine (not pronounced like the St. Augustine, Florida but like Augustin). Plus I think a little fat baby boy named Gus Beck (their last name) is super cute. BUT back to you - I would say "Charles, and we're calling him Chuck". He can call himself Charles later if he wants. I have a friend who is Chuck but he is an actor and he goes by Charles in his union, in programs, etc.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, go with Chuck or similar from the Get-Go. "Baby Chuckles" as someone else mentioned is adorable. Switching from Charlie to Chuck will be hard. I have an uncle named Francis, who was called Francie as a child. Then, he was called Francie as an adolescent. Then, he was called Francie as an adult! He was in his 40s when he finally said, "It's Frank now."

Bird said...

I didn't read what everyone else wrote here, but I have a Charles nn Charlie at home and some people just love to call him Chuck. I think if you go with the Chuck from the begining then people will end up following suit.