Saturday, February 12, 2011

What's In A Name...?

I've always been intrigued by people's names.

I've wondered  what prompts parents to name their children as they do. There's  history,  tradition, a story behind every person's' name. But, I also wonder where and how we come up with some of the nicknames we have accepted in society over the years; some nicknames so widely accepted that parents skip the formal name and just assign the nickname at birth. Why name your son John and call him Jack when you can just eliminate the additional step. Name him Jack, sign the birth certificate and take little Jack home.

But what I REALLY want to know is how in the world these nicknames came to be in the first place! The name John is nowhere remotely close to the nickname Jack. How is it that Richard translates into Dick? and Margaret into Peggy?

DO parents who name their child Richard in this day and age consider that the nickname for that baby will someday be Dick? Or that Charles will end up being Chuck? I did a little research and found some answers that explain these name transformations.

Lets start with Jack.

It seems that at some point, way back in the middle ages, there was a need to start making some small distinctions between all the Johns out there.

"Hi John"
"Hey, John. How ya doin?"
"I'm good, good. Have you met John and his friend John?"

Confusing, right? I don't know how they did it! Well, something had to change.

The "O" would change here and there to an "A" or an "E" The suffix -kin or -in  or -cock would be added; resulting in the name Jankin or Jenkin or Johncock. Over time, the name shortens a bit and ultimately, you end up with Jack! Other names that have survived this process and may be how we ended up with names such as Frank (Francis), Hank (Henry)

Some nicknames have a rhyming feature with no real reason other than plugging in a new first letter. William was shortened to Will and, just for fun, let's discard the "W" and tack on a "B" ....just because I feel like calling you Bill....
but only when wearing my blue dress

Is your name Robert Nester Marley? Shortened to Rob, but again, I like the letter "B" so much (and I'm just soooooo relaxed after those brownies you gave me),  I'm gonna call you Bob now, OK?

OK.....back to our History lesson.......

According to, the Norman Invasion of England in 1066 changed the language as well as the naming pool as we knew it.

The Normans introduced many new sounds into the language that the native populations had difficulty with. The "r" sound was one of these, which led to it being dropped or changed in many diminutive forms of names.

Barbara became Babs ( I always wondered about that one). Dolores became  Lola, L-O-L-A, Lola.

Dorothy became Dolly. Mary generated many changes including Molly and Polly. Margaret is a busy name, giving us Maggie, Meg, Meggie, Peg, and Peggy !! Now I know where we get Peggy !!! It's all because of the Norms!

Now, during this time, I've discovered, the "ch" was pronounced with a hard "k" sound. Richard was pronounced Rickard and, just because somebody had a hard time with their "R"s they thought a "D" was a little more appropriate and now we've got Dick.

A trend came to light at some point after all of this name changing. That trend being to add the term "mine" in front of names. Again, the shortening of the name took place and we ended up with gems like Edward becoming Mine Edward and then shortened to Ned. and then Ed. Helen became Mine Hellen which somehow became Nellie.

Fast forward to present day and we like to add the "ee" sound to any name that will stand still long enough to allow us to nail a new ending to it. Andrew becomes Andy. Ann becomes Annie. Lawrence becomes Larry. Susan becomes Susie. And, heaven help us, Richard becomes Dickie.

Pop Quiz.....Do you know who this is?
 Yep, you guessed it! The guy is REALLY known as Winston Thaddeus Poohcock, aka, Winnie The Pooh

After this short study on name evolution, we can now see what a genius Michael Jackson was.

It is now apparent to me that Jacko had first considered naming his child Brandon. But, he had some difficulties enunciating his "R" sounds ( which is why he was always improvising while singing, throwing in all those "Eeee-Heeee's") Brandon became Blandon, shortened to Bland,  add -kin and you get Blandkin....shorten reverse, lather, rinse, repeat, and you get Blanket ...add the pet "ee" sound to the end and there you have it, Blankie! Jacko just skipped all the steps avoiding the real possibility of embarrassing and/or endangering his child.

  "Hi fans! My name is Brandon, er,Bland...ummm Blandkin? My real name is Blanket, but you can call me Blankie"

We find ourselves as a society, in the throes of another name evolution. Parents are choosing to bestow different and unique names upon their children; creating their own trend. No more Johns or Marys.
My own grandchildren have names that they'll not soon find on a key chain or a coffee cup at a gift shop in a theme park.

But, this grandma's got it all figured out! Aurora is Rory, Azalea will be Lea and Avalahn will be Lonnie ...Anthony will be Ant and Chad will be Ch...with a hard "K" sound. Smart, right?
No history or research needed's just because that's what this grandma wants to call them when she's too tired or has consumed too many brownies.

And that, my friends, is how we get nicknames...some of them anyways. The next time someone tells you that you don't know Jack, you just tell them that you and Jack go way back...all the way back to when he was called Johncock Squat!

Do you, or a friend of yours, have an interesting nickname? If so, I'd love to hear it. Feel free to share my link with your friends on facebook or comment here.

~ Ali ( aka Alicia)


  1. Alicia this would make a great article for ohhh readers digest??? fun money... love rondavu

  2. Nicknames are a bit over rated. Not all derive from the persons traditional name. Some get random names, or based on something they have done. I think that's why so many parents are going with unique names like glamour, apple, etc. Even your grandkidss hld unique enough names that a nickname is not necessarily needed. As stated in your writing, the whole reasons these nicknames started was to identify a person with a common name. Like James, Jimmy, Jimbo, Jim, Buckwheat. If the name is unique enough that it's highly unlikely that another Aurora will be introduced in your lifetime (or theirs for that matter). Why is a nickname meccesary? Also, middle names come into play. Like John Joseph Ramirez for example, could be called John Joseph. Also, some of the nicknames become all too common and serve no purpose, like Jack, Dick, Chuck, etc.


  3. Fahhhbulous dahlink! That was very very good! Thanks for sharing!

    :) (found you thru Single Dad Laughing)

  4. How do you possibly have the time to do all this research? So fun.
    Thanks for clearing up some age old questions for me. Always wondered about Dick. And blankie...brilliant you are for figuring that one out! Luvs

  5. how about William get called Bill ???

  6. @ Debbie ....When you live at a senior resort and you're not a senior, you have plenty of time for writing and research !!! LOL

    @ Anonymous - See William Clinton up there with Monica in my story?? He's William, shortened to Will...changed to Bill...