What's the Right Nickname?

Filed under: Baby Names, Expert Advice: Babies, Expert Advice: Big Kids

My husband and I named the oldest of my two sons Quinlan and we call him Quinn for short. My father thinks it's confusing and wacky to spell Quinn Q-U-I-N-N. He thinks it should be spelled Q-U-I-N, the first part of his formal name. Is he right? I sincerely don't think so. But I don't want Quinn to be the kid at school whose name always gets botched. Any advice?

- Mom of Quinn, not Quin


A nickname doesn't have to be a chip off the old full name. Plenty of traditional nicknames look different from their sources. Think of Hank for Henry, or Peggy for Margaret. Back in the day, plenty of folks also answered to nicknames that had nothing whatsoever to do with what was written on their birth certificates. If you met a Buddy or Red, you understood that he was probably also Howard or Francis, and it wasn't a problem. Are all nicknames created equal, then? Not quite. Suppose you met a Thomas who said "call me Doug." Or imagine you're a school nurse trying to find the records for Lizzie Smith, when Lizzie is short for Madison. If you cross up expectations that way, you can expect confusion to reign.

Your choice of Quinlan/Quinn doesn't go that far. What you've done is more like using John as a nickname for Jonathan. Sure, Jon and John sound alike. But John is a separate, independent full name. You wouldn't expect anyone meeting John to know it's short for Jonathan or vice versa, would you?

Like John, Quinn is a full name in itself. It may resemble Quinlan, but the two names are actually completely unrelated -- and yes, the expected nickname for Quinlan would be Quin.

I'll take a guess that the reason for your extra "n" is that you started off loving the name Quinn, then built outward. A lot of parents feel skittish about one-syllable names. They're too nicknamey, not substantial enough for formal occasions, so parents tack on endings. Trent becomes Trenton, Bryce becomes Brycen, and Quinn morphs to the Irish surname Quinlan. In the last case, you're left with a spelling mismatch.

Can you call him Quinn anyway? Of course. Will it cause occasional confusion and misspellings? Of course. It's up to you whether you love the extra "n" enough to make it worthwhile.

Have you chosen any nicknames? Share your experiences! And if you have your own 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.