Call me by my full name

The 4/16 One Big Happy takes on the world of nicknames:

Cylene says: when you refer to my father, don’t say Billy (the nickname), say William (the full name).

Ruthie hears: don’t say /bɪli/, say /wɪljǝm/.

So Ruthie overgeneralizes.

The Ruthie-Cylene Rule will hit not only the proper name, but also billy goat (as in the cartoon), billy club, billy-cock, hillbilly, and silly-billy (at least).

Simplifying a lot, there are three big groups of personal names with respect to full versions versus nick versions:

no nick, full only: like my name, Arnold — never Arnie or Arn. And like my daughter’s name, Elizabeth — never Liz, Lizzie, Betsy, Betty, whatever.

no full, nick only: I know people whose legal names originated as nicknames: Tom, Joe, and Kate (among others)

everyday nick: and there are plenty of people who have a legal full name, but use a nick as their everyday name. Politicians often choose this route: Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter. And I have friends whose legal name is Elizabeth, but go by Betsy, Betty, or Liz.

And then there are people who grew up using everyday nick, but shifted to the full version as a sign of maturity and seriousness. This route is often taken by gay men — Robert who used to be Bob, Sanford who used to be Sandy — partly from the perception that the nick is part of a cultural package in which gay men are viewed as boys forever, never adults (with adult lives and responsibilities).

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