The Nickname Game

Names for characters, places, titles, dogs, horses, and butlers are all fun to create. But once the name is in place, what can be done? And did Lizzie ever call her husband FitzBilly? Yeah, too silly, I quite agree.

Finding out how certain names got their nicknames can be fun, too. Molly is a variation of Mary, Sally of Sara, and Hal of Harold. But Jim from James? Bill from William? What were they drinking back then? Oh, yeah, that’s a different blog. And Peggy from Margaret, though I get that from Meg to Peg, but Chuck from Charles? I don’t get it.

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Well, centuries ago some letter combinations were pronounced differently. We hadn’t absorbed adding ette to a name to make it “little” something. Instead, we added kin, in, or cock at the end of the name. Robert became Rob became Robin. But it also became Dob which became Dobbin. Little William became Wilcox and that name became a surname. Dude!

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The Normans came over from France where they had originally invaded from the North. They introduced names with an r at the end of syllables, like Mary or Margaret. This sound took a while to catch on, so names slurred into Maggie or Molly or Polly.

If you watch those wonderful British sitcoms like Keeping Up Appearances, you will be familiar with the use of “our” in front of a name, like “Our Rose.” Before that, some people liked to say Mine, and that led to an n sound leading off. For instance, Mine Edward became Ned. You can find this and a lot more information at Name Nerds:

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Moving farther back in time and out of England, we find that very ancient folks used nicknames affectionately for children. Ah, but back to Anglo-Saxon England, few surnames existed, so nicknames became a way to tell John the Wheelwright from John the Tall and stunningly handsome. has that story.

Often a person’s personality or coloring created a nickname for them. Eric the Red is one early example, along with Hotspur, my personal favorite, given to Henry Percy in late medieval England. These are pretty outstanding ones, too.

Of course, there are many theories about how nicknames evolved, and there’s no real, solid path that leads from James to Jim. Here is more on the subject from Mental Floss.

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I shall name him Little Impaler!

I love the fact that Vlad the Impaler’s son was called Little Impaler. Really touches something deep inside me. Ow. Thanks for reading! I’ll be back on Thursday.

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