What’s in an abbreviated name?

Do you have the kind of name that readily lends itself to abbreviation? Or perhaps you’d prefer that people just leave your name alone? Being a ‘Tracey’, once people get to know me they tend to like referring to me as ‘Trace’ (though it generally takes them a little while to get ‘comfortable’ enough to do that). I’m completely OK with the shortened version of my name, but it had me wondering whether everyone else felt the same way.

On the other side of this abbreviated issue are people like the Mr, who have names that are already far too short to further abbreviate. With a three letter, single syllable name, the Mr finds that people like to instead do something ‘creative’ with his last name – you could imagine the enjoyment people gain from playing around with a last name like ‘Sargent’.

Abbreviating someone’s name seems to be an easy way for people to demonstrate their familiarity or close relationship with that person. But much like someone who jumps in too soon with terms of endearment like darling or love, sometimes the use of an abbreviated name can be a bit presumptuous … like you’re implying a closer relationship than may actually be the case.

Now that I think about it, I don’t really tend to abbreviate other people’s names all that much, if at all (even those of close friends) … How do you feel about it all? Do you love or hate your abbreviated name? Or is this tendency to denote familiarity by changing someone’s name just another one of those Australian idiosyncrasies?

PS. Perhaps next we can investigate the ‘wonderful’ world of nicknames.

40 Comments

  1. Teresa

    My name isn’t really easily abbreviated. I’ve had one or two people try to use “Terry” but they either withered from my death stare or moved to another country. 😉 I’ve had a few nicknames over the years though, including “T”, “T-bird” and lately “T-Pro” which my work colleagues started (it’s my login name). I kinda like the familiarity. 🙂

    1. tracey (Post author)

      Hi Teresa – Hmm, that’s true about your name not being readily abbreviated. Haha, I love the ‘punishment’ you inflict on those who have tried to use ‘Terry’ (I can’t believe people would try that!?). Nicknames are rather wonderful things, for one part of my life I was known as ‘Racy Tracey’, but that’s a whole different story … haha! 😉

      I love ‘T-Pro’ … that’s great! I like the familiarity of nicknames too, provided I like the person who’s using it! (life can be so complicated sometimes). 😉

  2. Heath

    My first name also doesn’t lend itself to abbreviation, but I’ve had the occasional abbreviation of my surname, especially when I was a teacher. I pretty much came to be known around the school as “Carns”. When I left the school, one of my classes held a farewell party, with invitations saying “Come to Carns’s Goodbye Party!”. Most teachers give the impression that they don’t like nicknames or abbreviations, but I’m sure they all secretly like it. I know I did.

    1. tracey (Post author)

      Hi Heath – Yeah, that’s true. Like ‘Lee’, you’ve got one of those hard-to-abbreviate names. It seems to be ‘the rule’ that if a first name can’t be shortened, then there’s fun to be had with a surname. Perhaps it’s more of a ‘boy’ thing too?

      ‘Carns’ is so Australian sounding! It’s pretty awesome that a party was held in your honour under such a name!! 🙂
      It must be hard for teachers NOT to use a nickname or abbreviated name for some students, when it’s probably what they’d be hearing all the time.

  3. Valerie

    It’s funny, when I was younger I hated the name Val, as I knew a fellow redhead named Valerie who was a total tomboy and everyone called her Val. So in my mind, “Val” was butch – which I never have been – I’m hardcore girly! So I scowled when people called me Val. But years passed and I came to like it – it was more casual, a more personal nickname, that was easier to type and easier for baristas to write on my paper cup. So now I go by both. And sometimes just sign my name as “V’ too.

    1. tracey (Post author)

      Hi Valerie – It’s amazing how our attitude towards our name and the names of others can be coloured by a prior association. That story of your feeling towards ‘Val’, is similar to how I used to feel about some names too.

      Time often changes our feelings towards things like people and names (thank goodness) … so I think it’s wonderful that you’ve embraced ‘Val’ as an alternative. I can imagine it’s a lot easier for baristas to go for the short version! (looking after those who provide us with coffee is super important!) 🙂

      Oh, I very much like ‘V’ too … that has a very pleasing sound, and seems elegant and ‘cool’ all at the same time.
      🙂

  4. Gabrielle Bryden

    My sister calls me Gab, my friends often call me Gabe, but Gabby is not allowed 😉 I think you are right that you shouldn’t jump in too quick with the shortened version, unless you have a pretty close relationship – it is sometimes hard to judge.

    1. tracey (Post author)

      Hi Gabrielle – I love how you have different ‘names’ for different associations. Goodness, given that you’ve banned its use, I hope you don’t have to encounter too many people who try to call you ‘Gabby’!? 😉

      It’s certainly a delicate balance when using an abbreviated version of someone’s name, you don’t want to seem too over-familiar OR choose the wrong abbreviated name either … otherwise it could be ‘friendship over’! Haha! 😉

  5. Tammy

    I dislike my name, as many people assume it is a shorten version of Tamara. And I will always be a Tammy. My brother was Mikey until he grew up, now it’s Mike or Michael – a grownup sounding name…

    People do abbreviate to Tam, which I don’t mind, if I know them. It kinda gets my back up, if they use it and I don’t know them well.

    I was known by my last name when I wasn’t married, as it is also a first name….

    Now pretty much I’m “MIss!” because somehow the students can’t remember “Mrs. G……”

    1. tracey (Post author)

      Hi Tammy – Oh that’s another side to the whole abbreviated name issue. The fact that people assume your name is a shorter version of Tamara – that must be really frustrating!!

      ‘Tam’ is lovely, but I know what you mean about having someone use it when they don’t know you all that well … that’s just not cool! At least before you were married you had your last name to work with too … though I wonder if having two potential first names always meant that you were getting called one or the other?

      It’s funny how some teacher’s names just don’t ‘stick’ for students … I suppose then that ‘Miss’ offers your students a happy alternative. 🙂

  6. hila

    my name doesn’t really lend itself to abbreviation, especially not in Australia where most people just look puzzled when they first hear it, but my close friends have nicknames for me based on personality. Also, I was supposed to be named Hanna, so occasionally, when my other half wants to imply a certain level closeness, he uses that name. I don’t let many people get away with that 🙂

    1. tracey (Post author)

      Hi Hila – People can be a bit funny about names that they haven’t heard before … I have a friend with an African name and she often has people giving her the ‘huh?’ look.

      I don’t think I have too many nicknames – apart from ‘T’, ‘T-Dog’ and a few others over the years … I love how your close friends have special names for you! 🙂

      How lovely that your other half has such a personal name to call you … that’s super sweet! Sometimes I’ll have my first and second names used together in similar fashion! 🙂
      xx

  7. Katie Yang

    DId you know that in Taiwan, we demonstrate our closeness by calling our friends their full name? True story! People who aren’t used to it might find it somewhat rude at first but we only do that to people we are comfortable with 🙂

    1. tracey (Post author)

      Hi Katie – That’s really interesting about the use of full names in Taiwan. It’s most certainly not something I’ve encountered before.

      I love the cultural differences in naming conventions and implied formalities through the different uses of people’s names that occur around the world … surely there’s been a comprehensive study of such things completed somewhere? 🙂

  8. Mel

    I so much identify now with ‘Mel’ that I have to figure out who someone means if they say ‘Melanie’! If someone knows me well enough or meets me in a setting informal enough that we’re on first name terms, then I’m Mel 🙂

    The Girl is also only ever known by the shortened version of her name, but The Boy doesn’t like the shortened version of his so has always been the full thing. The Doctor’s name doesn’t abbreviate easily but that’s OK, I’ve got plenty of nicknames for him… 😉

    1. tracey (Post author)

      Hi Mel – It’s funny how we can get so used to hearing a certain form of our name, that being called something else almost jars on the ears. I know that if people normally call me ‘Trace’ and they suddenly start calling me ‘Tracey’, it can feel like the extra formality means like I’ve done something wrong! 😉

      How interesting that your girl and boy each have different abbreviated preferences … like your lovely Doctor, I’m OK with my husband’s name not being readily abbreviated … there’s always plenty of other nicknames and endearments to choose from! 🙂

  9. Camila F.

    I adore my abbreviated name: Mila. Only close friends and my family call me Mila and I find really disturbing when someone I barely know tries to call me that. But I understand they mean well.

    1. tracey (Post author)

      Hi Camila – Oh gosh, I completely understand why you love your abbreviated name, ‘Mila’ is charming and beautiful (lucky you for having such a lovely full and abbreviated name). 🙂

      I know what you mean about it being a bit disturbing if people you don’t really know try to call you by your abbreviated name … it is one of those social etiquettes that can be difficult to get right. I always err on the side of caution in such cases, rather than cause someone any offence.
      🙂

  10. Hayley Cafarella

    Just don’t call me Hayls, unless you are my grandma. Abbreviate away at my surname, it lends itself to all sorts of fun. In most social groups I have been in over the years my friends end up calling me by my surname, which I don’t mind at all….just….DON’T CALL ME HAYLS!! *gnashes teeth* (I don’t claim that my stance on abbreviating my name is driven by logic)

    1. tracey (Post author)

      Hi Hayley – Oh yes, grandmas are always allowed special passes for the use of certain names that NO ONE else can call us. 🙂 (haha, you did make me laugh at the strength of your opposition to people calling you ‘Hayls’).

      I can well imagine how people can have all sorts of fun making new nicknames for you from your surname … you have so many syllables to choose from! 🙂

  11. bobbi

    my name is Barbara Filomena Anna Maria, so an abbreviation HAD to be done. Everyone calls me Bobbi, and I have no idea why, since the normal nickname for Barbara in italy (letting go of all the other part of my name) is usually Babi or Barbi. I hate them both. I became affectionated to Bobbi even if it got me some trouble when I was younger because it’s a name often used for male dogs.See? I had to be an animal lover.
    Nicknames are big in Italy and most of all in my family: since we all have super long names we call each other in the most creative way. My mom who is Annalisa Maria Rita, is called Sprocco (wich has no meaning at all, totally made up word) by her aunts and sister (and sometimes by me). My grandmother, Anna Maria Sofia Adele was just Neni. My aunt Alessandra Maria Rita, is Cicci.
    That is the main reason why I gave my cats people’s name: I wanted to live with someone who had a decent first name and that could be called just by that…
    have a great week end (finally)
    Bobbi
    (the artist formerly known as Barbara Filomena Anna Maria…)

    1. tracey (Post author)

      Hi Bobbi – Wow, you have a gloriously full name! 🙂
      Given your first name it is really interesting that people took to calling you Bobbi … perhaps it’s because you knocked out anyone who tried to call you ‘Babi’ or ‘Barbi’ before they settled on ‘Bobbi’? 😉
      I think Bobbi is a wonderful name, and yes it does seem that even your choice of abbreviated name destined you to lead a life full of animals … that’s a pretty wonderful place to be! 🙂

      I think it’s fantastic that nicknames are so popular in Italy – with such long names, I’m sure it would mean that conversations can speed by even quicker with the use of shorter names (I tried to learn Italian once, but just never seemed able to keep up with the pace of conversations). I love your mum’s nickname (and I especially love that it’s completely made up). In fact the nicknames for your grandmother and your aunt are both lovely too (you Europeans are so creative!) 😀

      I love your reasoning for giving your cats human names … I think that’s wonderful! 🙂
      Dinner time must sound interesting at your place as you call them all to their bowls! 😀

      My weekend was great (but too short) … I hope you’re still enjoying yours.
      PS. Thanks for the many chuckles you provided in your delightful comment.
      xx

  12. Thea

    I never abbreviate people’s names if I don’t know them but generally ask them what they preferred to be called. Thanks for your kind comment. I hope you can make it to our official studio opening (haven’t decided when yet). It will be lovely to meet you in person. Have a great day! xx

    1. tracey (Post author)

      Hi Thea – Like yourself, I never abbreviate people’s names until I know them well enough, and even then I’ll likely ask them first! 🙂

      It’s always a delight to visit your blog (I haven’t done that enough of late).
      Oh yes, I’d love to come along to your official studio opening (I’ll keep an eye out for when that will be), and I’m trying to work out whether I can squeeze a screen-printing class in sometime too (maybe later in the year I think).

      Take care.
      xx

  13. Christina

    People always call me by my full name. I used to get ‘Chris’ from a few close friends, but once I got married (my brother in law’s name is Christopher) every one stopped as it got too confusing!

    We give our son lots of nicknames. I can’t help myself with that. But I’m cautious with using nicknames for other people!

    🙂

    1. tracey (Post author)

      Hi Christina – Oh yes, that would be confusing given that your brother-in-law is Chris too … that would make things extra challenging at family get-togethers. You probably have to face the frustration of people spelling your name wrong too?

      I completely understand giving your son lots of nicknames … that’s how I am with my dog (my furry child) … he must have close to a billion different nicknames by now! 😉

      PS. Thanks for visiting.

  14. julie

    Hmmm… abbreviated names. I am always cautious at abbreviating names and rarely do unless I am really close to the person or it is obvious they like the abbreviation. I get Jules by close friends and my hubby although strangely not from my family. I love it, especially when I hear it from my husband’s mouth, I know there is love behind it. My neighbour is also Julie and she calls me Jules but I call her Julie, is that weird? Not sure. My husband always gets Andy, and my sister’s name is Tamara and she always gets Tammy or Tam (what I call her). She hates being called Tamara. I think Tamara is pretty, but also love calling her Tam. Best friends are Sal (Sally) and Mel (Melissa) so safe to say I love a good abbreviation.
    x

    1. tracey (Post author)

      Hi Julie – Like yourself, I’m pretty cautious about abbreviating names (just in case I get it wrong).
      I’ve known a few ‘Jules’ in my time … it’s funny how family sometimes call us different things to the standard abbreviated name. I tend to get all manner of other nicknames from my family too! 🙂

      I love people using familiar versions of my name too, for that very reason you identify I think … the love that is clearly implied in its use … 🙂

      Andy and Jules sound like a lovely pair of abbreviated names to have in a household … though I’m with you on the ‘Tamara’ issue, I think it’s a beautiful name … but perhaps we often want what we don’t have? (I know I’m like that with my hair).

      Haha, based on your circle of family and friend names, it does indeed sound like you like a good abbreviation … and I think that’s rather wonderful!! 😀

  15. kellie

    Well, mine gets shortened all the time, as you can imagine! My mother HATES it. And I tend to shorten the names of those I am good friends with. And I shorten my children’s names fairly regularly too, One just gets B.

    1. tracey (Post author)

      Hi Kellie – I can just imagine that your name is shortened more often than not! (it’s probably hard for people to resist). Mothers can be rather particular about the names they chose for us, and just hate to hear them changed … 😉

      I love that you shorten your children’s names quite regularly, with one becoming just, ‘B’ … that’s exactly what I do with my ‘furry’ children. Our dog is known by many names – Baxter, Baxy, B-man, B-dog … and probably most commonly as ‘B’.
      😀

  16. urban muser

    great question! my name is christy and i hate hate it when people call me chris. i also hate it when people call me christine, assuming i have already shortened it to christy, which i have not. on the other hand, i love giving other people nicknames, especially my animials!

    1. tracey (Post author)

      Hi Urban Muser (or should I say, Christy?) 😉 – ‘Christy’ is a lovely name … I wonder whether your dislike of Chris is because it can also be a man’s name?

      Oh, yes … I can imagine how annoying it would be to have people assume your full name is Christine – in my view that’s just as bad as jumping in too soon with an abbreviated name or nickname.

      Like you I’m ALWAYS giving my pets nicknames – sometimes it’s hard to keep track of them all (and my husband has a few nicknames of his own too!) 😉

  17. Krystal/Village

    Interesting topic for everyone I think! I totally go by Krystal. Never Krys. Except once when I was in a job where I needed an alias. And I didn’t like it at all!! Mark is just Mark. Nicknames are interesting, I guess I don’t care much what people call me, but I don’t think often about the underlying implications, haha 🙂
    P.S. Thanks for your input on my post about balance, it was good to read. I hope folders work out for you, they definitely are my saving grace!

    1. tracey (Post author)

      Hi Krystal – It’s been great to read everyone’s thoughts about the abbreviated name issue … it’s certainly something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately. 🙂

      Krystal is such a lovely name, I completely understand why you’d stick with it! 🙂
      Oh, needing an alias for a job is pretty interesting … I remember once when I worked at a pizza shop I had to make do with the name tags that were already available … so I became a ‘Fleur’ for a couple of weeks … I can’t say I liked that much either!

      PS. No problem at all re: my comment on your post, that question of balance is something I’ve been trying to sort out an answer to myself for a while now … I feel like I’m almost there, but not quite there yet. I’m really looking forward to sorting my google reader though – it’s currently completely out of control, so thanks for that tip! 🙂

      1. Krystal/Village

        You’ll have to let me know how you like reader when you get it set up! I’m going to call you Fleur from now on 🙂

        1. tracey (Post author)

          Hi Krystal – Will do! 🙂
          Oh dear, perhaps I shouldn’t have mentioned the ‘Fleur’ issue!? Haha! 😉

  18. Caz

    Although my name is really Carolyn, I’ve been Caz forever (to match my Mum and Dad, Maz & Baz!)

    1. tracey (Post author)

      Hi Caz – I love your abbreviated name! I think you’re probably the only Carolyn I currently know, so I love that you’re a Caz to me! 🙂

      PS. How adorable that you match in with your mum and dad!! 😀

  19. Sonia

    Interesting topic. I think Australians do tend to change names quite often. I do get Son, but not too much, more Son-ee, and generally my name in full. My brother Sam is therefore always Sammy or Sambo, although I only call him Sam. I was supposed to be Elka, but my mum was too concerned I’d get Elka-holic as my nickname.

    1. tracey (Post author)

      Hi Sonia – I agree. I think that culturally Australians tend to shorten or otherwise change people’s names about. Until you mentioned the different versions of your name, I wouldn’t have thought that people would change ‘Sonia’ too much …

      Sonia is a lovely name, as is Elka! It must be so hard for parents to choose names that won’t lead to something unpleasant like ‘Elka-holic’. I know I have enough trouble choosing pet names, let alone names for humans! 😉

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