too much typing—since 2003

2.25.2005

what's in a name?

As many of my previous posts might attest, I'm interested in onomastic issues. (That's "onomastic," as in "the study of names" - not "onanistic." Sheesh.) Here's a trend: creating nicknames not from the first part of names but from the latter part, regardless of whether those syllables are accented. The two trend-bearers here are Drew from Andrew and, probably, Topher from Christopher (most notably in Topher Grace, the actor, and Dave Eggers' brother (referenced in this Onion interview among other places, if you're curious). But there are others: I recall hearing of someone named Frederick who called himself Rick - and the Irish Liam for William may be the historically oldest of these. But I wonder if there's anything to this (perhaps rather small) trend - other than just people's need to have distinctive names.

I, however, don't plan on calling myself "Frey" (pronounced "free") anytime soon...

12 comments:

My said...

And don't forget Xander from Alexander!

2fs said...

Ha! You'd think I'd've remembered that one. Especially since I actually knew a kid who called himself Xander when we were growing up. What's weird about "Topher" is that until Topher Grace, I'd never heard of that name at all. And yet there are other Tophers around - which leaves me to wonder whether it's a regional thing.

Anonymous said...

Is it because I never watched Buffy that the end-nicking trend utterly bypassed my awareness until you pointed it out? Or is it something abut my awareness? On my very watch, my daughter (Janelle) has morphed into a Nellie. I'm not complaining (it's a cute nickname and suits her), just worrying my cluelessness.

--Nettie

2fs said...

No, it's because you never watched Buffy that your life is a hollow, meaningless wasteland devoid of all pleasure. Oh - it's not? Never mind. Anyway: "Nellie" from "Janelle" isn't quite the same thing...because it takes off from the accented syllable (which seems a natural thing to do). In a way, then, "Xander" doesn't fit either - since it begins with the accented syllable of the longer name anyway. (Ditto "Shelly" from "Michelle"...)

Anonymous said...

I still want someone to explain to me "Betsy" from "Elizabeth". Or "Jack" from "John" for that matter.

--Flasshe (short for "Flash")

2fs said...

Or Dick from Richard, Ned/Ted from Edward, Bill from William, Bob from Robert... For whatever reason, a lot of English nicknaming involves an alteration of the initial consonant. But Betsy from Elizabeth is sort of second-degree example of end-nicking (nice term, Janet!): first, you get "Beth" - and then you get "Betsy."

No idea re "Jack" from "John"... Be thankful your name is no longer "Hrothgar"!

Anonymous said...

I think "Peggy" from Margaret is the champion, at least among common names. Although in the international division, "Pancho" from "Francisco" is coming on strong.

And I know someone named Frederick who goes by "Eric", which I think is even less likely than "Rick".

--Othy

Anonymous said...

Yeah, "Peggy" is the one I was trying to think of when I came up with "Becky". Never did understand that one.

--Flasshe

Anonymous said...

The Straight Dope has something to say about Peggy and the million other nicknames of "Margaret". It's not completely satisfying, but it's something.

--Janet, who nicked myself shaving

velvet lane said...

What I don't get about "Topher" is that I've heard it pronounced with a long "o" to rhyme with gopher, but since it's actually a schwa, it should probably come out sounding more like "Tiffer."

Further, in middle school, I had kids in class called Tiffer and Niffer (from Jennifer) and one of the myriad embarrassing nicknames my siblings have for me is "La."

(For those not in the know, my name is not Velvet but, something ending in "La")

2fs said...

Re pronunciation of "Topher": except that (a) nicknames don't always follow their source name in pronunciation ("Lisa" from "Elizabeth" though not all Lisas are Elizabeths), but (b) in some pronunciations, "Christopher" indeed sports a longish "o" in its middle syllable. Thing is, I don't think there's a logic here; it's just a trend. At one point, the trend was to alter an initial consonant (or so it would seem), just as more recently (historically) it's been a trend to add an "ee" sound (Jimmy, Robby, Jenny, etc.). Two more name comments: Rose's names metaphor one another - Rosemary from ros marina, dew of the sea, and Margaret, pearl of the sea. And - I've always wanted to find two cats who allowed themselves to be named Being and Nothingness, so's I could nickname 'em "Beanie" and "Nut."

Marc said...

The oddest one I know is my friend Tiff, from Cristopher (pronounced "Cristiffer"). I seem to remember it's because that's all he could say when he was a toddler (and it's often all he can say these days, for entirely different reasons!). You're right though, it is a dumb trend - I shan't be calling myself "Arc"...