Name Help is a series at Appellation Mountain. Every week, one reader’s name questions will be discussed.
We’re relying on thoughtful comments from the community to help expectant parents narrow down their name decisions. Thank you in advance for sharing your insight!
Our daughter is due in May, and we can’t wait to meet her! I want to name her Charlotte. Yes, I know, I know. It’s very popular and there’s the princess and all that. But I named my dolls Charlotte, my hamster Charlotte, and it’s the only name I can imagine using. So, done.
Here’s the problem: I love nicknames. My nieces have sweet nicknames, and I want the same for my daughter.
What I do not want is the nickname Charlie. I’ve been girl-Jordan for years, and my husband is a guy named Taylor. It gets old. If she wants to be Charlie someday, that’s one thing. But I hope not.
I’d like to call our Charlotte Lottie. Besides the fact that it’s a girl name, I like the idea that there aren’t as many Lotties as there are Charlottes and Charlies. (We know a couple of Charlies already.)
But my mom tells me no one will call her Lottie. She’s got all these stories about parents who planned one nickname, but ended up using another one that they really didn’t like, like her Uncle Albert, who hated being called Al, but pretty much everyone did anyway.
Am I asking for trouble?
Please read on for my response, and leave your thoughtful suggestions in the comments.
Dear Jordan –
Congratulations on your new daughter!
And oh, have I been where you are.
When our son was born, I wasn’t wild about the idea of calling him Alex, even though it’s the default nickname for Alexander. My husband was fine with Alex. I figured a nickname would evolve. So I let it go, and then realized that it’s pretty tough to undo these kinds of assumptions. Years later, he loves the name Alex, and it suits him – but I always wonder what might have been.
When our daughter came along, we planned to use a crazy nickname, not obviously connected to her given name at all. And it worked! Here’s my best advice on how to make an unexpected nickname stick.
First, introduce your child by the nickname.
You know that saying “begin as you mean to go on?”
Totally applies here.
Introduce your daughter as Lottie. Just Lottie. Don’t volunteer Charlotte, even though you love the name just as much. Many of us struggle to remember names, and we’ll never keep Lottie-Charlotte straight.
Second, use the nickname All. The. Time.
It’s not that you don’t love Charlotte every bit as much. It’s just that, at least in public, you’re trying to reinforce Lottie rather than Charlotte. So when you talk about her in the third person, it’s Lottie.
When you do share her full name, lead with her nickname.
Of course, sometimes you want to share her full name. When you do, try something like this:
Lottie is here! Born 5-1-19 at 4:10 AM, 7 lbs, 6 ounces. Welcome to the world, Charlotte “Lottie” MiddleName LastName. We love you so much already.
It makes it clear that you intend others to call her Lottie, too.
List her nickname on forms.
If you’re registering her for child care or a music time or baby swim lessons, put Lottie on her form.
Yes, you may need to list her full legal name, too. But lead with Lottie. Or add a line that indicates her nickname is Lottie. Some programs have this line already; really, they all should!
We do this everywhere except the pediatrician and dentist. Why? If you walk into a class and find your daughter’s name is already on her cubby or tambourine or what-have-you, this ups the chances that it will say Lottie. Which means all the other kids and parents you meet will think of her as Lottie, not Charlotte.
If someone does call her Charlotte …
You may want to refer to her as Lottie. Or even gently say, “oh, yes, but we’re calling her Lottie.”
When I said something similar to my sweet older neighbor as she held my days-old daughter, she said, “Okay, you’re going with that? Well, then, hello, Miss Clio. It’s nice to meet you.” Because most people do want to get your name – and your children’s names – right. Even when it surprises them!
Repeat, repeat, repeat.
If you call your daughter Lottie, the world will almost certainly follow suit. We don’t ask our neighbors for copies of their children’s birth certificates. No one pauses at the playground and says, “Wait, what’s your toddler’s full name?”
They’ll remember that your daughter’s name is Lottie, and that’s all that matters.
Maybe embroider it on something.
My daughter’s bottles had labels with her nickname. So did her snack containers. It’s what I wrote on the inside of her jacket. It’s not necessary, but it does help the world recognize that you have a preferred nickname, and here it is in embroidery thread/Sharpie marker/cute plastic label with a ducky on it, too.
Wait, what’s the big deal about using both?
Nothing at all! The older my daughter gets, the more likely I am to use her formal name. But here’s the thing: parents know the name Charlotte. It’s the one they’re almost certainly more likely to remember. You’re trying to ensure that they use Lottie instead.
I suppose your mom might – and could – use Charlotte. Grandparents, I think, deserve some latitude. But my guess? They’ll default to Lottie, too. That’s because you’re not just teaching The World at Large your daughter’s name. You’re also teaching your daughter. And when your 2-year old refers to herself as Lottie? And your kindergartener practicies writing L-O-T-T-I-E in crayon? You’re good then. She can pretty much take it from there.
So go with your plan. Charlotte-called-Lottie is a great name, and it’s one that you loved forever. A little bit of deliberate reinforcement on your part will
Readers, what’s your best advice for helping others to understand – and use – your preferred nickname?