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March 14, 2007


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I enjoy your blog every day. I just wanted to let you know I met a woman in her 60s who told me her name was "Gaby". I think it rhymes with "baby" but when I saw it spelled, I thought, did someone name her because of a personal trait? Or did the personal trait follow the name?

Kim--I know quite a few Gabys, old and young. It's usually short for Gabrielle or Gabriella (so it doesn't qualify as a true nickname), and is pronounced with a short "a" ("Gabby")...which leads to different problems.

I. Scooter Libby isn't Irwin, he's Irve. Go figure.

See the definitive investigation here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/eat-the-press/2007/03/13/naming-names-what-the-he_e_43351.html

It would be nice to think that Tyke could be short for Ticonderoga.

Lance--Thanks for the correction and for the link to that very impressive Huffington Post story. (Who says investigative journalism is dead?) To me, though, he'll always be "I, Scooter," as in "I, Robot."

Quite a number of women's name are in fact already nicknames of a sort -- Betty, Liz, Lizzie, Beth, Betsy, Eliza, Liza (all from Elizabeth); Molly, Polly (from Mary); Peg, Peggy, Maggy, Megs (from Margaret); etc.

>"an eke name"

Thanks for this. It's an example of the phenomenon whereby an intervocalic "n" has wandered from the indefinite article to the following noun. Cf. "newt."

The French actually did something like this (kinda) with "orange," which started with a word-initial "n" (compare naranja in Spanish). In their case, they were phonologically influenced by the name of a town, Orange, in southern France.

Mike -- ...and, of course, "Nancy" from "Ann." I'm not talking about that sort of abbreviation but rather the true "eke"-name derived from a physical characteristic (e.g., Rusty, Stretch) or the pet name (e.g., Skipper, Buzz) unrelated to the given name.

Yes, good point. (Although the derivatives with -y are possibly (?) diminuatives, which is something we saddle kids with, e.g. Mikey.)

That aside, I was talking about this post with someone (your posts are often a topic around here) and it was noted that names like Chip and Scooter are classic prep-school names. I can't vouch for that first-hand, but if that's true, there is some sense in their retention beyond school days ... the kinds of connections established in that era of a (typically man's) life can continue well into professional life. (Some would argue that the entire point of such exclusive schooling is to get access to a network of future movers and shakers.) In that case, the use of these eke-names would continue to reinforce the connections forged in those early days. Dunno, just a thot.

Mike - A friend of mine with patrician East Coast roots also mentioned the prep-school connection, which makes a lot of sense in its weird way. We tended not to have a lot of that (prep schools or nicknames) in my L.A. 'hood.

Ok, late to the discussion here, but I just found your blog as I was recently searching for potential baby names (our second, first is 2 and a 1/2, Lily Cate, and yes we are "old parents--39, 40--and we are in the South).

My parents are aptly nick-named Buddy and Sissy--from their teenage sweetheart days; my own name is the third in the family line, originally derived from Jairus (Jewish leader whose daughter was raised from the dead by Jesus, Mark; my grandfather's name was Jairus, thankyouthankyouthankyou mom, for shortening it to "Jairy" but pronounced more or less like "Jerry").

I'm mustering the courage to ask your opinion on our second daughter's proposed name....

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