One of life’s little mysteries is the way we change people’s names in order to abbreviate them. A perfectly legitimate action of course and many of them are easily understandable, like Peter becoming Pete, or Rosemary changing to Rose. But the way some have turned out is a complete mystery to me, and I wondered if any Starts at Sixty readers could come up with some logical answers.
To start with a simple one, take William for instance. How did someone in the dim dark past think it was a good idea to remove the ‘iam’ at the end, (which still comes under the heading of understandable), but then change the ‘W’ at the beginning to a ‘B’?
And why do ‘Johns’ seem so frequently to be called ‘Jack’? Or Roberts get referred to as ‘Bob’? And how did James become Jim, or Elizabeth shorten to Betty (though I suppose there is some resemblance of the original in that one)?
There are numerous examples of a simple abbreviating of the name of course, such as Albert becoming ‘Bert’, (a change that has been applied to most people whose name contains a b,e,r,t, such as Herbert or Hubert), and Angela changing to ‘Angie’, but it’s not those that I’m interested in here. The ones that puzzle me are the complete name changers that we have happily, over the years come to recognise as meaning the full original name. We all know that Ted is actually Edward, but why can Harry be an abbreviation of Harold, but also be a substitute for Henry, as happened to most English kings of that name.
The list could most likely go on for ever, but I don’t want to bore the reader too much, so after just one or two more notable examples, perhaps we can change the subject a little. The name Richard comes to mind – how many Richards are more frequently known as ‘Dick’? And finally for now Catherine can become ‘Kate’, which bears only a passing resemblance to the original.
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One thing I have noticed, in researching this little article, is that this name changing seems to go on a lot more within the male section of the community than it does in the female. Is this because males are more team or chum orientated? You only have to listen to what the members of the Australian cricket team call each other, a lot of it their surname with an ‘o’ or ‘y’ added on the end – ‘Warno’, ‘Clarky’, ‘Smithy’ or, from the past, ‘Chapelly’. But perhaps women are slightly more insular in their relationships with other females, with a tendency not to get so “buddy-buddy” as the blokes, or they all consider their proper names to be nice enough as they are, not requiring change.
I’ve pretty well dried up my list of radical name changing nicknames, but I’m sure there are many more out there, so as I said at the beginning of this article, I shall be eagerly waiting to see what other people can come up with!
That’s all for now folks. (Signed, ‘Bri’).
What is your nickname? Do you know anyone with an unusual nickname? What is it? Tell us below.