To Nickname or Not

Filed under: Baby Names

If you like the shortened version of a name and would probably use that more often than the full version, is it better to just name your child the shortened version? I'm thinking about Lexi, short for Alexa/Alexis, but really prefer using Lexi to the longer version.

- C.



If you've posed the nickname question to frends and family, I'll bet you've heard this piece of advice: Insert your baby's name into the statement "Ladies and Gentleman, President Lexi Smith" or "All rise for the Honorable Lexi Jones." The idea is that a name that sounds cute on a little kid may not be serious enough for grownup occasions. Most often, you'll find that the formal name suits the formal occasion best. It's a useful tip, but also a cliché -- and as with many clichés, the truth only runs so deep.

The last time I looked, we had a Speaker of the House named Nancy. There's a cute little-girl nickname if I've ever heard one. Nancy's a pet form of Ann, linked for generations with the cutesiest of comic strip characters. Once upon a time, a name like Nancy would have set off the "not serious enough for legal status" alerts, but it didn't slow down Nancy Pelosi.
Your little Lexi, growing up in a less formal time, is even less likely to have to explain away her short-form name or worry about the impression it gives on resumes. Accepted shortenings of longer names, like Lexi, Maggie, Kristi and Kate, are familiar and comfortable, unlikely to raise eyebrows or ruffle feathers.

So the risks of a girlish nickname may be overblown. But what about the upside? What advantage is there to erasing the formal name? The main idea is clear: you would like to mandate how people refer to your child. Naming her Lexi does just that. Legalizing the nickname leaves no room for mistakes or misunderstandings. But simply calling her Lexi would do much the same. Everyone will be happy to follow your lead; everyone, perhaps, except Lexi herself.

A young Lexi can't decide at age 13 that Alex suits her better. She can't switch to Alexa on the first day of her freshman year of college to reflect her new independent adult identity. She can't play with different names in different settings -- Lexi at home and with close friends, Alexa at work, maybe Allie with her boyfriend. Perhaps you're relieved about that. After all, you want a Lexi, and it's your choice, right?

This decision is your first shot fired in the age-old battle of wills between parent and child. Naming your child Lexi won't limit her professional aspirations and personal dreams, but it will restrict her methods of self-presentation. You can assert your control over her name, or give her more stylistic room to roam. Good luck negotiating this first of many battles to come.

What do you think of nicknames as given names? Share your experiences! And if you have a question to Ask the Name Lady, drop her a line.

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.