20. Nicknaming the whole world

"No orator can measure in effect with him who can give good nicknames."

~ Ralph Waldo Emerson, The complete works of Ralph Waldo Emerson: Representative men [Vol. 4]

Table of Contents

Different types of nicknames

How to nickname in different languages

Other languages I thought were really cool

A family friend of mine was the master of nicknames because he gave out so many to people.

The criteria for him to bestow a nickname upon you:

1.) You must be over 18;

2.) You have to meet him in person.

He was a boisterous, cheerful, heavy-set guy who will literally assess you in person. He was smart and a very prolific writer. Growing up, I didn't realize that he was very skilled at writing until I saw his series of memoirs he wrote that were given to me by my father. Whenever I talked to our family friend, he would go off on a random hilarious rant and then randomly (name)drop you your carefully-crafted and clever nickname, referring to you as only this alias from now to the end of time.

"Haha! That's right, Young Mrs. Woodpecker." this was his version of an accolade ceremony. He would metaphorically tap you on the sides of the shoulders with his "knighting sword of names" and you are then shrouded by this rather unique moniker. He will never refer to your by your government name ever again. You are now a code name to him. Welcome to the club, 007.

So yes, my lovely nickname was Young Mrs. Woodpecker- because I have a laugh like Woody Woodpecker? I tend to laugh often. It's not flattering, this bird sounds like such a loon. Apparently that's the reason.

Throughout my life though, I have been called many versions of "K". Nicknames are just really cute and fun. Looking back at my given nickname of "Young Mrs. Woodpecker", I find it hilarious. I wear it with pride.

Since the family friend passed away, I've been continuing his legacy. I have the tendency to try to formulate a cool aliases for people I've been spending a lot of time with. I'm carrying on the legacy- actively giving the people I like (and dislike, but very rarely) nicknames. Usually they are diminutive versions of their full name or a nickname that referred to something that they did. Even if they have a self-proclaimed nickname, I nickname the nickname by shortening that nickname ☺️

I really want my friends to notice the nicknames I give them- sometimes I refer to them as only "bro" or give them cutesy monikers like the first initial of their names or change their first names a bit. It's such a fun game. I love it when my friends wear their new-found nicknames around like a brand new T-shirt.

A nickname gives that person a sense of priority and exclusivity in their eyes. I found this reddit post by u/tshirtweather and it's about different levels of nicknames. I'll add my thoughts into the mix and reformat their amazing levels list below.

Different levels of nicknames

Level 1: the only-a-nickname name

Level 1 refers to people that have such a long and/or archaic name that they only will respond if you say their nicknames. It's like your parents give you a nickname, not a full name. Usually the full name is a really old relative and your name is similar and honorary thing for them, and that's pretty cool. But honestly, you only go by your shorthand name,

  • Examples include: Katie (Katherine); Mel (Melanie); Terry (Terrence); Fred (Frederick); Max (Maxwell)

Level 2: The Sweet Spot

Level 2 refers to people that, if you are close to them, you have unlocked the ability to call your close mate by their nickname.

  • Examples include: Robert - now that you're good buddies, you call him Rob or Bob or even Bobby; Richard? He's Ricky. James is now Jimmy to you! Isabella? She's Izzy to you now. Ashley? She's Ash. Your pal Michael- Mike or Mikey from here on out. Your friend is usually saying something along the lines of, “I usually go by James at work, but when I hear James at home, I assume I’m in trouble. Just call me Jimmy, we're cool.”

Level 3: The Shoehorned Nickname

These are the names that, if you tried hard enough, you can make a nickname work. But it’s the type of nickname that is only ever used by a select few, or one obscure family friend.

  • Byron (“I get Bryzie sometimes... Oh yeah my uncle calls me B-dog."

Level 4: 404: Nickname does not exist

Your name is un-nickname-able. How can you shorten "Luke" or "Blake" or make it stylish? Lukey? Blakey? Sure...

"Your only hope exists with an overly enthusiastic nicknamer who noticed you wore a Star Wars shirt the first time you met, and now they call you “R2” and shoot you with finger guns every time you meet."

Level 5: Nicknames as legal names

Your parents knew you would be Terry, so that was the name they put on your birth certificate. That doesn’t stop every other person from asking “so what is your full name?"

  • Examples: Theo (Theodore), Terry (Terrence), Barry (Bartholomew), Bob (Robert), John (Jonathan), Ken (Kenneth)

Level 6: Family names as nicknames

Your first name is so bland, that no one refers to you as such. Oh wow, your name is "Matthew?" You're going by "Smithy" from here on out.

How to nickname in different languages

The creation of nicknames - such an art form. Especially in different languages.

A lot of languages use animals as their nicknames. That's quite easy, you just compare your friend or partner to a cute little animal. On the other hand, there are different ways of making nicknames in other languages-

Español: los apodos 🇪🇸

In Spanish, you make a diminutive of the name by adding a "ito/ita" at the end of it to indicate "smallness" or "cuteness". It's a sense of endearment and I think it's cute. They feature the suffixes -ito or -ita at the end of a person’s name, an adjective or a noun. “C” becomes “qu” before adding “ito/ita” to the ending of the word.

Por ejemplo: the word for girl: Chica --> Chiquita. The nickname, gordito uses the Spanish adjective gordo (fat) in its diminutive form, and has the diminutive suffix -ito added to the end.

German: die Spitzname 🇩🇪

In German, most affectionate terms are diminutive versions of regular words.

"Kosename" - This is a "term of endearment". The "Kose-" part is related to "liebkosen" and evokes the mental image of being (physically) affectionate to this person.)

Neckname, Scherzname, Spottname -- These are terms for negative or teasing nicknames, to a larger or lesser degree. However, since this is also covered by "Spitzname", and they're very uncommon, I wouldn't recommend using them.

there are four easy ways to create Spitzname:

  1. Add an “i” to the name (Sara → Sari, Klaus → Klausi)
  2. Add a “chen” to the name (Marie → Mariechen, Paul → Paulchen)
  3. Add a “lein” to the name (Cora → Coralein, Niko → Nikolein)
  4. Repeat the first syllable of their name, especially for girl names (Johanna → Jojo, Miriam → Mimi)

Japanese: あだ名 (adana) 🇯🇵

My family usually calls me Kay-chan if I am in Japan. Here's how you can make a "Japanese" style nickname:

The following are examples taken directly from Em Casalena in the FluentU Blog

  1. Combine the first and last name

Many Japanese people, particularly younger ones, have taken to merging their given name and surname together to create a nickname. Typically, you don’t see this in Western countries. In Japan and many Asian countries, though, the last name has quite a bit of importance. Merging the two names together is an affectionate act that still honors family surnames in a way.

  • Miika Takashi becomes "Mikashi"
  1. Shorten a name the old-fashioned way

This is a type of nickname that many Westerners are familiar with. Just shorten the first name: For example, Jennifer turns into Jen, or Samuel turns into Sam. You can do this in Japanese as well, to create some affectionate nicknames.

  • Examples: Kayla becomes Kay (you can add a -chan at the end of it for cuteness); Takeshi becomes Take (Take-kun), Ayumi becomes Aya (Aya-chan)
  1. You can use different kanji

Japanese has a unique thing to the pronunciation of different kanji called and (音読み) onyomi(訓読み) kunyomi. Both onyomi and kunyomi refer to a way of reading a particular kanji. Put simply, the onyomi is a pronunciation derived from Chinese (where kanji originated), while kunyomi is the Japanese pronunciation of a kanji.

To relate it back to nicknames, you need to be well-versed in kanji in order to create a clever name. Translations of the same kanji look the same, but they are pronounced differently.

This one can go either way:

You can use a different kanji to stand in for a sound. For instance, if you often text your friend and their name is 市 (し) — Shi, you could nickname them 士 (し) — Shi, which means “gentleman.”

Or you can use a different reading of kanji to change the meaning (and sound) of the name. For instance, someone named 大人気 (おとなげ) — Otonage could be nicknamed 大人気 (だいにんき) — Daininki, which means “very popular.”

Filipino: mga palayaw 🇵🇭

If white Americans are notorious for having the weirdest first names for their baby especially in this modern age, Filipinos are known for having the most quirky nicknames across all generations.

Filipinos are the masters at this. It's actually crazy. Some Filipinos make a giant creative nickname and just pull it out of their ass I have no idea how. (I knew a whole family who was named Baby Ruth, Yan Yan, Hershey, and Kissi - like all the sisters were named after chocolates 😭 )

Filipino nicknames by HappySlip

"Filipinos Have The Weirdest Baby Names" by TigerBellyClips

Filipino Nicknames by Life According to Kevin: Philippines, America

This kind of unique nickname phenomena is prevalent across a lot of Southeast Asian cultures. Nicknames are so important in Laos and Thailand, where you receive a nickname at birth and everyone calls you that, but in government documents you have to put your long official name on everything.

Other languages I thought were really cool

I wrote about these languages since I am the most familiar with them. Although, I really like to see how other languages formulate their nicknames. Here are different countries nicknames that I found while wandering around the google:

Russian 🇷🇺

Laos 🇱🇦

Thai 🇹🇭

Hungarian 🇭🇺

Indonesian 🇮🇩

Nicknames stick to people, and the most ridiculous are the most adhesive.

I love nicknames. They makes me feel loved and less alone in the world.

~ a Young Mrs. Woodpecker,

<3 K