Nicknames come about in interesting ways. I have relatives who have received nicknames based on the color of their hair, something funny they said as small children, and, unfortunately, their size. My very tall and imposing grandma was called Tiny, a name she despised. A great uncle went by Sauce. I thought it was because he drank a lot. When he died, his obituary revealed his real name, which I had never heard until then: It was Alfredo.
I gave nicknames a lot of consideration when debating what to call all three of my kids. My daughter, Millicent, has been Millie since birth. Instead of Dashiell, I had so wanted to name my son Atticus but ultimately rejected that name because I disliked the nicknames Cuss or Atty. I chose Dashiell because I loved the nickname Dash, but do you think he will allow anyone to call him that? Dashiell has made Tine the go-to nickname for our Clementine.
I will answer to Val, though I’ve truly hated that nickname since grade school when my younger sister called me Val Movement - regularly. I tried to come up with a retaliatory nickname for her, but Gassy Cassie never took.
I love the way Joel says my name, with all three syllables distinctly pronounced: Val – er – ie. None of this two-syllable junk: “Var – ee,” as I’m so often called by acquaintances. He used to call me by my given name all the time, but now, he’s more apt to call me Mom.
Joel is usually just Joel, though I’ve been known to call him Joelly on occasion. His middle name, after his mother’s maiden name of Erikson, is Eric. Our kindergartner Clementine has trouble recalling it. Recently, she said, “I can’t remember Daddy’s middle name, but it’s something really awesome, like Spike or Prince.” We all got a good chuckle, but Joel was so flattered that he now actually prefers Spike to his real name. I’m afraid to ask Clementine what she thinks my middle name is, for fear she’d say something like “doormat.”
I’m convinced that middle names came about because parents wanted a way to honor relatives with unfortunate first names without ruining their children’s lives. Believe it or not, I had an Uncle Wyborn and an Aunt Arvilla. Thank goodness I didn’t feel obligated to inflict those on my offspring. I mean, what does it do to a person’s self-esteem when his mother names him, “Why Born”? Apologies to all the Wyborns and Arvillas listening out there.
According to the World Health Organization, there are over 130 million new babies born on this planet per year. All of those babies’ parents must choose names for these new humans, so there are bound to be repeats. I tried so hard to come up with unique, yet beautiful names for my kids, but I just read that Clementine is rising in popularity and will soon break the top 100 in the U.S. In 2018, Dashiell rose 550 spots in the rankings and Millicent rose 919!
For crying out loud! Either I’m a trendsetter or I have amazing powers of prediction. At any rate, I’m certainly glad that I’m finished naming babies.
But I’m not out of the woods yet. There are always those monikers that are just fine until someone with that name becomes famous. I read that J. K. Rowling created a bit of a problem for the many real people in England with the common name, Harry Potter. Apparently, after the books became a sensation, they’d call to order pizza, saying “Hello, this is Harry Potter and I’d like a deep dish pie brought round.” The person taking the order would typically reply, “Oh, sure, aren’t you a clever bloke?” and hang up the tele.
What if a criminal named Dashiell suddenly becomes notorious for some heinous act? What if J.K. Rowling writes a new fantasy series, and instead of Voldemort, the evil archenemy’s name is Clementine? What if some artist named Millicent rises to fame for her insightful booger sculptures? As if I don’t have enough to worry about!
No matter what your name is, tune in to Little Spouse on the Prairie. Follow Little Spouse at facebook.com/ littlespouseontheprairie and on Twitter at SpouseOnThePrairie@ValerieKuchera.