You can call me Bri 53



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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.

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.

Brian Lee

  1. Our family all had nick names, not used so much now, but some of their original names were horrors, so I assume that was the reason. Mine was Ned.

  2. Pegasus, Thelma (bbf Sue Louise) but never answer to Peg or Pegs you hang washing out with those. Oh yes my name is Margaret.

  3. Oh how I wish my Mum had allowed me to be called Kate, because NOBODY can spell C-a-t-h-i-e, even some of my oldest friends. My namesake Grandmother was Catherine and she was known to her family as Kate.

  4. Althea = Fred! Was called that all of my teenage years, and will still turn around when someone calls it out! But that comes when you a “different” name. Parents should think first, I dread to think what some of the names that are around now could become

  5. My name ended up with a “y” added to it to become Gaily, which really peeved me. Now I am guiltily of using abbreviations for my kids. DJ for David John, and AD for Adrian,( or another David,as they looked so alike at birth) my daughter has become Kaz for Karen,and I have reclaimed my first name Catharine, and I answer to nothing less!

  6. I have always been known as Miki … not sure why … but it helped when I arrived in Australia, because people would call me Michelle and Micheline is not Michelle !!! so Miki fitted right in with the Australian way and it’s been that way for over 60 yrs !

  7. I started life as Judith and all my family did and still do call me that, then I became Judy when I started nursing so all my friends call me that. But I have noticed lately that for some reason I get called Jude which really irritates me. How do I stop it?

    7 REPLY
    • Completely ignore any person who calls you Jude. When they query it say, “Oh, sorry, I didn’t know you were talking to me, my names Judith!”
      That should make them think!

    • Me too. I hate Jude but gave up long ago and just accepted it. Figured it was better than a lot of other names I’ve heard people called. And I should mention, I have a friend who insists on calling me “Judes”. Again, I just sigh inwardly and accept it!

    • My parents called me Judith, I was Judith all through school and then called myself Judy. Don’t like “Jude” or “Judes” either, but just put up with it.

    • I was introduced to you as “Judy” Judy Foster so that is how I think of you. I think of “Jude” as a male name – like the actor Jude Law… or the book by Thomas Hardy “Jude the Obscure. I wouldn’t answer to Jude. My stepsons – who Robert named Julian and Damian because he thought they wouldn’t get nicknames get called “Jules” and “Dame”… Someone once called Robert “Bob” in my presence and I actually looked over my shoulder to see to whom they were speaking! No one called him “Bob” twice either.

  8. I’m always known as willy , but my dad called me mina, which I liked more , but willy just stuck! more polite younger people tend to give me my full title which amuses me

  9. My name is really Mary (which got shortened to Mares). When my sons got older they called me Ma (because they call their dad Pa). Then I had a myriad of names – Mary, Ma, Nanny, Mum so decided that I was going to combine the lot and renamed myself Marnie.

  10. My name is not pronounced correctly in the first place.
    It is Leone which rhymes with Bone.
    Not Leonie which rhymes with Pony. Nobody notices the difference an “eye” makes. It doesn’t bother me particularly.

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