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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Baby Naming Issue: How to Introduce a Child With a Nickname?

Kylie writes:
So Elizabeth Marguerite arrived August 15th. We call her Eliza. New question: when you have a child that has a given name but you call them by a nickname how do you introduce them to people, by given name or nick name? This is something new for me.

I think it depends on the age of the child, on who's doing the asking, and on how pervasive you want the nickname to be.

When a baby is first born, I think everyone wants to know the full name, and so I'd say to all the people in your lives (relatives, friends, co-workers, fellow club members, acquaintances, nurses at the hospital), "Her name is Elizabeth Marguerite. We're calling her Eliza."

For strangers who coo over her in the store and ask what the little sweetie-biscuit's name is, I think you could say "Elizabeth" or "Eliza"---or, if the stranger were Swistle or seemed otherwise especially interested, you could say "Elizabeth, and we're calling her Eliza."

Once she's older, I think a good rule of thumb would be to introduce her as you'd like her to be called by the people you're introducing her to. If you want everyone to call her Eliza, say her name is Eliza. If you want people to call her either Elizabeth or Eliza, whichever they'd prefer (but not to launch off into Liz and Beth and Libby), I'd introduce her as "Elizabeth---or Eliza, for short." If a little kid at the park asks what her name is, say whichever name you think the little kid should call her. At the doctor's office or school office, you'll refer to her as Elizabeth, because that's what they'll have on the paperwork, but when you meet the actual doctor or actual teacher, go with "This is Elizabeth; we call her Eliza" or "This is Elizabeth---or Eliza, for short," depending on if you want the call-her-Eliza-please option or the call-her-Elizabeth-or-Eliza options.

As she gets older, she may help you by expressing her own preference. If you've called her Eliza all along, she'll probably introduce herself that way, and you can teach her to say politely things such as "Oh, yes, my full name is Elizabeth, but I mostly go by Eliza."

More ideas for introducing a child with a nickname?


Allyson said...

My brother is JJ. When asked his name, he says "JJ." Sometimes people ask what it stands for, and he tells them. But I would introduce your daughter by what you want her (or she wants) to be called. No need for an explanation...if someone wants more info, they will ask.

Abby@AppMtn said...

Our daughter is called Clio, but her given name is Claire Caroline Wren. We usually just introduce her as Clio, unless there's some reason for someone to know, in which case we do just as Swistle suggests: "Her name is Claire Caroline Wren, we're calling her Clio."

One opportunity you have that we didn't take - if you plan to send a birth announcement, you can put Eliza in big letters and reserve Elizabeth Marguerite for the filler text, along with weight & height, etc. I wish we'd done that - we had a few confused friends at first.

Gorgeous names, all three, by the way. And congratuations!

kate_l said...

We have an Eleanor who we call Norah. We usually just introduce her as Norah, but if we get into a longer conversation we use the 'Eleanor but we call her Norah' line a lot.
As long as you don't call her Ella/Ellie I'm happy!

Jenny Grace said...

I just HAVE a nickname. I'm a Jennifer-called-Jenny. My mom always introduced me as Jennifer, but CALLED me Jenny (or Grace, but that's a side matter). When I was in grade school all my friends called me Jenny, and I think when I was 7 or 8 I made my own hard sell on ONLY EVER being called Jenny and NEVER being introduced as Jennifer, and my mom adjusted accordingly.
Then as I got older I went back to being Jennifer in more formal or work type situations, and my mom, who still sometimes has occasion to introduce me, adjusted back to that.

Angela said...

I'm glad this was addressed! Since we let on that my baby boy (due in jan) will be Gunnar Frederick IV, everyone is asking if we've picked a nickname yet and I was wondering how to go about "announcing" it. Or if we even have to.

My husband Gunnar was called Skip/Skipper by his family but as soon as he started school everyone called him Gunnar, and Skip was just a family nickname.

There's a lot of good nicknames for III but not for IV...I'm thinking Indy (like Indiana Jones) would be cute and a throwback to G the first who went by "Lindy" (a variation of our last name).

So does it work for me, too? Can I say (at least until he starts school) "His name is Gunnar after his dad but we call him Indy"?? and then continue to call him Indy at home? Is Indy a dumb nickname for a little boy or am I just over analyzing?


Patricia said...

Our first two children were "Catherine Rebecca called "Cathy" and "Edward Anthony called "Teddy" and that's how I told others their names when they were newborns. I wanted to get their full names established. But of course, others didn't remember them, particularly the Edward/Teddy combo, and I too moved on to just saying "their names are Cathy and Teddy". I would guess that's the usual situation with all the babies today who are being given names that aren't the usual nn, eg. "Poppy" has been suggested as a nn for Penelope and Ellie for Elizabeth, when the more usual nn would be Penny and Liz or Libby. Most people won't remember what the given name is, and it can be difficult for the child to shake the nn and use the given name some years later too. My daughter doesn't like being called Cathy at all --- thinks it's too dated -- and those she's met since her early 20s know her as Catherine, but for family and old friends, she continues to be "Cathy". Some of us try to use "Catherine", but it's hard to remember that.

Patricia said...

Angela, Indy wouldn't be my choice of nn, and while it's not exactly a "dumb nickname", it doesn't sound all-boy and could be a teasing nn. Even if you don't plan to call him that at school, by age 5 *he* might identify more with that name than Gunnar which is also his dad's name. How about calling him Gus --very cute. I'm seeing Gus come up more and more in baby name discussions, usually as a nn and for several different given names. I think Gunnar "Gus" works well -- unique and yet not too much of a stretch together.

Prolific baby name book authors Rosenkrantz and Satran (Nameberry website) say of Gus: "Homey grandpa nickname that's a cutting-edge replacement for Max and Jake."

Laura Wattenberg writes in BNW: "Gus has a "shabby chic" appeal that's catching the attention of the Max and Gracie crowd. Parents swoon over the name, but don't actually pull the trigger. It's just not serious enough for a formal birth certificate. So what can you use for a formal version?" Gunnar isn't among her suggestions, but I think Gunnar called Gus works very well.

Gus is a cool nn -- for a little boy or adult -- and would make it easy for him to change to Gunnar if he prefers that when he's older.

Amy said...

Oh! I am so glad this question was asked! I have always wondered what the normal protocol was for nicknames. I'm an Amy, so never had to deal with one.

I agree with exactly what Swistle said. My daughter is Amelia but called Mia. When she was an infant we would introduce her as Amelia, but ever since then we have introduced her as Mia since that is the name she responds to. Shortly after she turned 2 she started introducing herself as Mia also. I love both names, so the only bad part about this is that I don't get to hear Amelia very often.

liz said...

My sister's FIL was a Jr, and his nickname was "Pete" short for "Repeat".

I babysat for a Gunnar many years ago, long enough that it may be the dad in this story, and he just went by Gunnar. No nn.

That said, I like Gus, or Go.

Anonymous said...

I would just introduce her as Eliza, and then if someone asks you can tell her full name. I haven't had this experience myself, but it does seem to me that people introduce themselves by their nickname, i.e. "Hi, I'm Kate" as opposed to "Hi, I'm Katherine but call me Kate," so I think this is how you should handle the situation for your daughter as well.

AirLand said...

I think since Eliza is a standalone name, at least while she is young enough to not be able introduce herself, you should introduce her as "Elizabeth, nicknamed Eliza." That is, at least for people you will encounter more than once. For random people, it doesn't really matter.

When she is old enough, she can choose how to introduce herself. Just make sure she knows her full name! That sounds silly, but when my dad went to his first day of school and the teacher called roll, he laughed with everyone else at the kid with the funny name, but it was actually his name... he had just gone by his middle name his whole life!

ellipsisknits said...

I don't think you should give the full version except in formal situations (doctors office) or in deeper conversations where you're giving the whole name including middle.

It's a bit specific to how formal the nn is. Eliza is a full-fledged real name, so it should stand on its own. If you were using a more diminutive, 'pet name' nn, I would give the full name instead, and mention the nn or not depending on how close the person was.

i.e. I knew an Elizabeth who was called 'Biz' by close family, but she was never introduced that way.

Alice said...

Angela - i knew a guy in college who went by what i thought was the name "Ivy".. but he was a IV, and that's the roman numerals said out loud: Eye Vee. I thought it was an odd name when we were first introduced but thought it was super cool when i learned why!

Angela said...

Thanks for the opinion--I'm not a fan of Gus at all. (I always think of that fat mouse from Cinderella!)

Ivy "IV" is definitely too girly for me. :( I'll ask my husband about it and maybe it will grow on me.

There's still hope that a nickname will present itself when he does get here...

I'm glad my husband agreed I could pick any names I want for the rest of our kids!

M.Amanda said...

With official people (doctors offices and such), I introduce my daughter as Catherine, then just call her Kate. Sometimes they do the same and sometimes they stick with Catherine. That's okay with me. With non-official people like neighbors and friends, I just say Kate, but if they seem interested in the name topic, I clarify that she is actually Catherine Mary and share the story behind it. It's worked fine so far, except for the occasions when I slip into my various nicknames for her and they ask, "Oh, I thought you said Kate, but is her name really Kit (or Kay or Cat)?"

Angela said...

Hey, for those who are interested, we are calling baby Gunnar "Jack" for his nickname! It took me a few weeks to have the guts to tell everyone that's what I want to call him, but I haven't had any problems yet. He is five months old.