The Name Game

Continuing on my unintentional thread of “quirky things about Long Island” posts (didja miss the first one?), I would be totally remiss if I didn’t mention the nicknames.

I know you could make an argument that nicknames are not a geographically specific occurrence. Everywhere you go you’ll find Dannys, Mikes, and Jeffs. (Or maybe that’s just my family.)(*Rimshot*) BUT. In all the places I lived, it was never a thing so much as it is out here.

EVERY name gets a nickname on Long Island.  Even the ones you wouldn’t think lend themselves to shortening.

Take my name, for instance. Justine doesn’t really break down into anything you would want to be called in a professional setting. (My family’s favorite, “Justeenie-Weenie” isn’t exactly a title you parade in the public sphere.)(Oh…oops.)(Oh well. I am who I am.)

That being said, I have two Long Island friends who regularly call me “Jus.” (Rhymes with “fuss.”) I’m pretty sure I always react with a bit of surprise when they address me as such (I’ve never heard it until I moved here!), but it’s not like I mind. It’s just interesting.

Other names I’ve heard shortened that I wouldn’t expect:

Garrett –> Gah
Sara –> Sa
Cassandra –> also Sa

And pretty much everyone goes by the shortened version of their given name: Chris, Steve, Mel.

Or adds an “ee” sound to the end: Joey, Mikey, Jimmy.

None of those things are particularly revolutionary when you happen upon them one at a time, but when it’s virtually everyone you meet, you start to notice.

It becomes especially apparent whenever the hubs and I talk about names for our hypothetical children. (No, we’re not talking about it seriously yet. It’s more like a, “Hey, you know what’s kind of a neat name?” toss-it-out-there convo.)(I’M NOT PREGNANT.)

For example, my favorite names are Henry (or Henrik, as I’ve bargained Joey down to…because there is a goalie in the NHL named Henrik so it’s more acceptable…apparently) or Harrison for a boy and Clara or possibly Hannah for a girl.

Now, whenever I pitch a name, Joey (or honestly, any Long Island friend of mine with whom I would chat about baby names)(…they’re mostly female) will usually say something starting with, “And then we would call them [insert appropriate nickname here].”

For example, when I told my friend Megan about Henry/Henrik, she immediately replied, “And then you could call him Hank!”

Now, I actually kind of like the sound of that. But it was still a surprise to me that the first thing on her mind was that he would actually be called something else. It was similar when I mentioned Harrison to Joey. “People will probably call him Harry.”

Interestingly enough, I’m actually okay with that nickname too. (Maybe I’m subconsciously picking names that have nicknames that don’t drive me up the wall?) It’s more the principle of the idea.

Can’t we just call them by their names?

Of course, I’m sure if I push the issue enough, I can at least get friends and family to call them by whatever name we give them. (Once they hit middle school, though, they’re on their own.) Clara/Hannah would probably only have to suffer through cutesy family nicknames (Clare-Bear and Hannah-Banana seem to be popular options.), but who knows? They could be the Cla and Ha of their generation with how things go around here.

Am I totally off-base thinking this is just a Long Island thing? Or was I just not in a nickname kind of crowd growing up? Bigger question: Do YOU have a nickname, embarrassing/weird or otherwise?

17 thoughts on “The Name Game

  1. When my sister and her husband had kids, they made sure to discuss nicknames. They wanted to make sure that a nickname wouldn’t grant them an all-access pass to social hell in middle school and I’m sure the girls will thank them for that one day.

    As for our nicknames, my sister is Manda (Amanda), brother was Johnny (John), my dad call me “The Mel” and most others call me Mel or Mellie (Melanie) and to the nieces and nephew, Brad is Uncle B.

  2. My dad (and my sister when we’re all together) have called me “Emmie” or “Emmie Marie (my middle name) for as long as I can remember. I don’t mind it but can’t imagine going by either one in real life and being taken seriously. Haha.

  3. The first thing my dad says when we discuss baby names is “think about what they could possibly be called.” Because let’s face it, kids are cruel.
    So the first thing I do when I find a baby name I like is think about how it could be twisted, shortened, etc. by some snot-nosed middle-schooler to embarrass my future child. Kids are surprisingly creative with this!

    When we names Silas I wanted his middle name to be “Oviatt,” my maiden name. But having ‘S.O.B.” as his initials was not an option! So he got “Dee” instead, my dad’s first name.

    My mom always shortened my name (Lindsey) to Lindy (GAH!), and then to Indy. Then she called me Indiana. Don’t ask me why, I don’t know. To this day she calls me Lindy and I loathe it. But I love my mom so I don’t openly shudder and/or scream.

  4. I’m so glad I’m not the only one who has to give an all-caps disclaimer whenever the topic of babies comes up, just in case a family member is reading. Now I don’t feel so alone…

  5. They do that in NZ too! People would call me “Nat” within 2 seconds of meeting them, but I beat them to it by saying, “… but you can call me Tali.” (If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em ).

    • Smart! What I hate is when people introduce themselves by their full name even though they go by a nickname. (My husband does this…it’s confusing!)

      Thanks for commenting! (And for the record, I like Tali better than Nat anyway!)

  6. Huh. I can see regular nicknames (Jen or Jenny, for instance), but Jus? That’s definitely an extreme. In my chunk of the east coast, I haven’t noticed an insistence on nicknames like you’re describing. Though I did have a friend who named her daughter Margaret with the intention of calling her Gigi (Margaret is a lot of name for a little girl, was her rationale), but then people started shortening that to Geeg (jeeg? like DJ tanner was Deeej). She said “please don’t call my child Geeg.”

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  9. Random and very late to this convo but I have a friend named Justine who a bunch of our mutual friends call “Ju” (like Jew). I admit I really could not get into that one for the longest time- but finally I’ve caught myself a time or two saying or typing. I like nicknames and I actually find it endearing when people call me by a nickname. “Megs” and “meggy” probably being the most commonly used. Most creative award goes to one of my
    Closest friends from high school calling me “Moogs”- hence my email, which I’ve clearly kept for a good 10+ years now.
    And I agree with the baby naming- adds a whole other element to choosing when you have to consider all the potential nicknames!

    • Ha! I don’t think I would respond very well to Ju…though I have learned to respond to “Jus” a few times.

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