I was thinking, the other day, about given names and how keen so many of us are to change or ditch them, at least when we’re young. I say “we” but that doesn’t actually include me. I’m not very name-minded. I don’t even name the chickens, and it was probably only the necessity to register our children that made us choose names for them. At that, when Ro was a small child, he was more often called “Thing” (entirely affectionately) by me than any other name. Three children and a husband – how on earth was I to remember all those names?
My sister, here, is called Wink. But that’s the name I actually call her by, more often than not, it being her childhood nickname. It was my parents that called her that in the first place, when she was only a few weeks old. Her name is Melanie, you see, but my mother didn’t want to call her Mel and intended to use the full name – but it’s fairly unwieldy for a small child so her babyhood nickname stuck. Mine, which I used when I was too little to manage Z, didn’t. But then, Z is quite an efficient name so it was easy to say and write.
A lot of people abbreviate their names of course, at least when they are children – though often, it’s mothers who insist on a full name being used and friends who shorten it. Some reinstate the full name when they are older. I know a Patricia and a Christopher who were Pat and Chris twenty years ago, for instance. There were another two, hating their names, who changed them altogether. One went from Dorothy to Jane, which was slightly confusing, as her mother and the rest of the family ignored the change, and I knew her through her family, so I innocently called her Dorothy for years because I knew no better, rather to the bewilderment of other friends. Another woman changed her name to Zellah, with such success that I’ve forgotten the original. Rather splendidly, she finally took the plunge and made the change in her late 60s. Wink had to move nearly 250 miles to ditch her nickname. I do make every effort to call her Mel when I’m visiting her, at least when we’re in company. Hardly seems fair otherwise.