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Names and nicknames

The naming of a child is quite a process for many parents. It can be almost stressful to come up with exactly what they want to name their offspring, especially if it is their first child. As I look at my family genealogy, I wonder exactly what the process was for some of those names. For example, one of my ancestors (a male) was named Shirley, and Shirley had a son, and the son’s name was Shirley. Imagine that. Other names struck my fancy, like Happy. I certainly hope Happy lived up to his name.

The generations of the 1800s and early 1900s tended to have what we consider more “normal” names. Some of them were Biblical names, or family names that someone used a few generations before. By the time I was born, girls’ names were Debbie (Deborah), Susan, Mary, Nancy, Barbara, Linda, or any one of many other names that were considered ordinary names during that time. Boys had names like Robert, David, Michael, John, Richard, Jim (James), Charles, Thomas, or something typical for boys of that time and earlier. With the next generation came Jennifer, Amy, Melissa, Michelle, Kimberly, Stephanie, and Nicole. Boys’ names pretty much stuck with the prior generation, but a few new names emerged. Brian, Jason, Christopher, and Matthew became common names.

The generation of folks naming the kids today don’t seem to have much of a pattern. There are combinations of names put together to form new names, such as when the father is Don, and the mother is Erica, and the child’s name becomes Donika to honor both parents. Sometimes, it seems to be just a jumble of letters to form a name.

I was always glad that my name could be found in a gift shop that sold items with names on them, such as coffee mugs, pens, or toothbrushes. I felt sorry for the kids who could not find their names. I guess some parents just don’t think of that.

The Tribune office has had quite a number of people coming in to publish a name change. Many of these are due to errors made on their birth certificates. My dad had this same problem on his birth certificate. When he was born, his mother said, “His name shall be William Douglas.” So, that is what was put on his birth certificate. First name was William. Last name was written Douglass. His real last name (Whatley) was not on the certificate, except for his parents’ names. He didn’t realize this error until he was in his 50s and he had to travel to Brazil for a company meeting. So, he had to go through the whole name change thing.

I doubt it happens too often, but some of the errors made on birth certificates are quite humorous. I heard recently that someone had to go through a name change because her name was written as “female.” The clerk filling out the form at the hospital had typed the gender in the wrong spot, so it became her first name.

Some people have names that almost automatically get translated into a nickname, such as Richard becomes Rick, and Robert becomes Bob, and Deborah becomes Debbie. None of the kids in my immediate family had names that could easily become a nickname. My parents made sure of that. I think this is because both of my parents had names that became nicknames. My dad was William (Bill or Billy), and my mother’s name was Elizabeth. She was called Betty her whole life.

Even though they didn’t want names for us that would become nicknames, Daddy always had his own nicknames for us. When my sister was born, their first child, she became Batch of Sweetness, which he later shortened to “Batch.” Most of the time during his lifetime, he called her Batch, but he had another nickname for her, which was “Spread.” I do not know the origin of that second name, but he used both names from time to time.

When I was born, he called me “Total Sweetness,” which became “Total,” and then that nickname morphed into “Teau,” which is the name he called me until the day he died.

Our brother, Gary, was chunky as a child. Daddy called him “Chuddy.” Gary hated that name with a passion, but all the relatives called him Chuddy until Gary made it abundantly clear that he did NOT want to be called Chuddy ever again. If you could see his picture as a child, you would understand how hard it was to shake that name. Daddy had to come up with a new name for him, so Gary became “Pair of Britches,” or “POB” for short.

Nicknames are fun, and so endearing. We always felt loved in our family, and the fact that we had these special nicknames made us feel even more special.

Love your family. Laugh with your family. Enjoy your family, and make families wherever you go.

— My love to all,


• • •

A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold.

— Proverbs 22:1



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