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More from names - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
More from names
Oookay. I've heard complaints about use of nicknames, and share them in the case of things like "Siri" and "Remi," but just because... ick. But story645 mentioned in the comments to my last post that people are objecting to this because it's "too American."

First, let me state that boys called "Siri" and "Remi" in the U.S. would have their lunch money stolen every day of their lives. Including adulthood. This is not an American phenomenon, let alone one that is "too American." I think it's just too "teenage girl," in which Sirius and Remus are made into honorary teenage girls. (I don't dislike teenage girls. But, well... let's face it on the name thing; we all go through our "cutesy" stage.)

But nicknames in general? Even before Narcissa Malfoy was canonically called "Cissy," it wasn't "un-British" (or, well, "too American") to use the nickname. I mean, let's have a look, shall we?

Real life
The late Princess of Wales was referred to repeatedly as "Di."

Her elder son, at least as of a few years ago, appeared to go casually as "Wills."

Prince Henry Charles Albert David (according to the official site of the royal family) has been called "Prince Harry" since birth.

Joanne Rowling, last I knew, went by "Jo."

The woman born Margaret Natalie Smith (according to IMDB) is credited on film as "Dame Maggie Smith."

Catherine Elise Blanchett was born in Australia (not America) and works as Cate Blanchett.

That's from about ten minutes of interrupted web searching, and just people I could think of offhand to check. Names like "Liam," "Nancy," etc, began their lives as nicknames for other names, and acquired proper status from repeated use... and not on this side of the Pond. So no more of this "Nicknames are too American" business, thanks. There may be particular nicknames that are American (does anyone else call "Henry"s "Hank"?), but the concept of nicknames based on names? So not.

In HP canon
It's quite true that I think Minerva McGonagall would hex anyone calling her "Minnie" into next year, but that's because she's McGonagall. There isn't really a good nickname based on a name for Sirius or Remus (which probably explains why their nicknames are Padfoot and Moony), and Severus has any number of curses scribbled in the margins of his textbooks which would fly at anyone attempting to call him "Sev."

On the other hand...

Ginevra Weasley is always "Ginny," and her brother Ronald is "Ron." We don't know whether Bill is a William or a Bilius, but he's most likely not just a "Bill" (nor is he sitting there on Capitol Hill, for that matter), and "Charlie" is generally a nickname for "Charles."

"Ernie" Macmillan, in keeping with his family's distinguished heritage, is probably an "Ernest" on his legal papers.

"Davey" Gudgeon almost lost an eye to the Whomping Willow.

"Bella" was given her nickname in the same book as her full name, Bellatrix, was given.

Dudley is given numerous nicknames from his mother, but unsurprisingly prefers his friends' version, "Big D."

In other words, like most of life, it depends on the person... but it's certainly not an unheard of practice in the milieu.


I'm sure that the backlash is against horrible nicknames--the "Won-Won" school of nicknaming, which I hope was not reciprocated by calling poor Lavender "Lav." "Siri" is lovely if you happen to be a female Jedi knight in love with Obi-Wan Kenobi in a Jude Watson series, but atrocious if you're the eldest son of the House of Black. Remi... just doesn't really work for anyone. Peter Pettigrew may have been a "Pete" to some people, but I'm guessing from the way his ex-friends refer to him that he was always either Peter or Wormtail, just as James was always James or Prongs... though his parents may have called him something else until he was old enough to object. As to Lily... no evidence either way. I can't see any special reason to call her "Lils," but is that really so awful?


At any rate, it's not an American vs. non-American issue. That's all I wanted to point out.
59 comments or Leave a comment
rabidfangurl From: rabidfangurl Date: August 26th, 2005 08:08 pm (UTC) (Link)
I have a personal preference for calling Minerva "Min", but that's just me. It fits, however, being both short and somewhat dignified, unlike "Minnie", which lacks all dignity whatsoever.

I would also like to point out that Angelina Johnson is called 'Angie', I do believe, and that 'Percy' could be short for 'Percival'. Oh! And the teach call Pomora Pomfrey 'Poppy' all the time!
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: August 26th, 2005 08:12 pm (UTC) (Link)
Well, Percy's not--his full name was given as "Percy Ignatius" when he was taking down notes at Harry's trial in OotP. I don't remember Angelina being called "Angie," but I could see it.
lannamichaels From: lannamichaels Date: August 26th, 2005 08:17 pm (UTC) (Link)
Interesting stuff. I knew about Liam being short, but I didn't know about Nancy. What was that short for?
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: August 26th, 2005 08:20 pm (UTC) (Link)
"Ann." Nothing like adding two letters and changing the entire name to make it a nickname. But Nancy is one of many Ann names.
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author_by_night From: author_by_night Date: August 26th, 2005 08:34 pm (UTC) (Link)
And really - what's wrong with Cissa? I mean, okay, "Cissy" is a little odd for a woman who just murdered her cousin (and bragged to a kid about making his parents insane) to call their sister, but even then - maybe it shows Bella's not a complete mutant.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: August 26th, 2005 08:39 pm (UTC) (Link)
I think Cissa only gets to me when it's spelled with an apostrophe--'Cissa. Because who does that?
awaywithpixie From: awaywithpixie Date: August 26th, 2005 08:53 pm (UTC) (Link)
Of course nicknames are not limited to the American continent. I know dozens of frightfully British folk with ordinary nicknames. A line from the first episode of the 'Young Ones' has a schoolkid saying the following "You get Mukka, Trukka and Dukka, I'll get Spaz." It's completely inherent for teenagers to give others a labelled nickname, particularly if the name has multiple syllables. That's not to say that 'every' name is shortened (cringes at Siri and Remi and Drac and Har) Look at Peeves. Doesn't he call Harry 'Potty Potter', or am I remembering Fanon? Look at 'Loony' Lovegood... Look at 'Mollywobbles'. teehee.

Australia is just as bad. A guy I used to work with went by the nickname 'Mango', something he got as a child. He had been known in the firm by that name for over 30 years. So much so, people had forgotten his given name, and his entry in the email address book was 'Mango'. I work with 'Paddles' and 'Chuckles' and 'Little John'... (ooh, Little John - Robin Hood - another nickname). Sometimes we don't try to shorten a nickname - we lengthen it. Ross becomes Rosco, Jay becomes Jay-Jay, but Gavin and Warren become Gazza and Wozza. My nickname comes from the fact that the hostess of a children's show used to share my name. She was referred to as Miss XXX by the puppet character, so everyone in my generation (about age 35 plus) call me Miss XXX.
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frit From: frit Date: August 26th, 2005 09:15 pm (UTC) (Link)
I would just like to voice my utter disGUST with calling Severus Sev or any variation of that. *barfs*
vanityfair00 From: vanityfair00 Date: August 27th, 2005 01:04 am (UTC) (Link)
hear hear! Sev or Sevie is the worst! I think when writers start bestowing their own nicknames is when I get frustrated. Yes some characters have nicknames, like Ginny and Ron, but Hermione is always Hermione, never Mione, etc. etc. Just my two cents, here from the Daily Snitch.
danaedark From: danaedark Date: August 26th, 2005 09:29 pm (UTC) (Link)
I just want to point out (as an American) that I had one friend with eleventy-seven nicknames, because she was a nicknameable sort of girl, whereas I had only the shortened version of my name and have yet to pick up any nicknames to this day. On the other hand, my brother works in auto racing, and it's some kind of unwritten requirement that every guy on the team have a nickname (usually food-related for some reason).

Not that any of this is particularly relevant, except I think to agree with your assessment of nicknaming as not being some aggressively American thing. I think nicknames are more a matter of the personality of the subject and the environment they live in.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: August 27th, 2005 01:08 am (UTC) (Link)
Agreed. I've never had much of a nickname either (unless you count "Fern," I guess), and with the exception of people I've always known, even my shortened name is mostly out of use now. And while I like it from people I know who knew me when I used it, I found that it irked me when a stranger picked it up. Of course, I get irked when strangers call me anything other than Miss ______ or just "Miss," if they don't know my name, which may contribute to why no one calls me Babsy-boo. They know I would learn to cast a Death Curse, and that right quick.
From: nothing_gold Date: August 26th, 2005 09:36 pm (UTC) (Link)
I briefly toyed with the idea of giving our dog the name "Remy," so seeing Remus called that pains me. And how anyone could get the idea that Remus would even respond to such a nickname is beyond me.
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fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: August 27th, 2005 01:04 am (UTC) (Link)
(I'm not kidding.)

I wish I thought you were.
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dalf From: dalf Date: August 27th, 2005 01:30 am (UTC) (Link)

In defense of Remi

First let me state that Remi is NOT suited to Remus (the character) at all. However, I fear that you have sold the name short, and importantly it would make a reasonable nickname for Remus or according to at least one website is a common Nickname for Remington.

In further defense of Remi it appeares that outside of japanese manga nad anime it does see some use. It is a common male name in France and the authors of at least one website for English baby nemaes wanted to point out that a girl with this name would be thought a boy in france almost universally.

It is also not an uncommon name to see around. "Remi Aubuchon" is an actor who plays in several TV shows including one called summerland (whatever that is but it seems to still be in production).

"The name Remy ranked 7874 out of 88799 (Top 9%) as a surname for males and females of all ages in the 1990 U.S. Census."

I agree that Remuses personality does not make it an approprate name for HIM (well perhaps when he was 6). But, to dismiss it as an inapproprate name of the same order of Seri (which I think is just made up and not even a real name) is I think an over reaction.
dalf From: dalf Date: August 27th, 2005 01:32 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: In defense of Remi

Yes I noticed the y BTW but the phonetics are the same ... there were 6 other spellings also but this one was the only that ranked.
chicleeblair From: chicleeblair Date: August 27th, 2005 01:54 am (UTC) (Link)
Yay for school house rock!

Ha. Yeah, my grandmother had a thing against my nephew Jacob being called Jake or Jakey (as a baby), and yet my sister Ina Christine has been Christy her whole life.
__hilary__ From: __hilary__ Date: August 27th, 2005 03:53 am (UTC) (Link)
i feel exactly the same way. sometimes it fits, sometimes it doesnt. and it's mostly obvious when it doesnt. i like "Remy" for Remus, but i only ever have his parents call him that. For the rest of the Marauders, it's Remus or Moony.

And the same song popped into my head after "Just a Bill." haha, School House Rocks, indeed.

woelfle From: woelfle Date: August 27th, 2005 01:10 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thanks for the ride, am here from the snitch and enjoyed muchly.

I agree to most of what you say, but yes, "Lils" does sound horrible to me.
It might be personal taste, but what's the use of making a nickname out of an already short and handy name? Indeed, a name on the Padfoot, Prongs etc. level is something different. ;-)
Another thing that irks me is that JKR seems to look quite condescendingly on nicknames of the Dudders variety. Not only Won-Won, but also Ronniekins and such. They're either used by dislikable characters, or by those behaving stupidly, or in a clearly mocking way.
tigermouse88 From: tigermouse88 Date: August 29th, 2005 11:45 pm (UTC) (Link)
Hear, hear!

Remi is a kind of cookie, actually...a quite yummy chocolate cookie, no less.

Though I think it's from Göteborg, Sweden, and is pronounced ray-mee. :P
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