RHYS: Britain has a new hero--Bradley Wiggins, winner of the Tour de France and Olympic gold medal in cycling. All the headlines here read Sir Wiggo. They want him to be knighted. But what struck me was the Wiggo appelation. It seems that sports stars are the only ones with nicknames these days.
As you will know if you read my Royal Spyness books, nicknames are an intrinsic part of British upper class life. Children were baptized with stodgy, ponderous names and then given nicknames as terms of endearment. Thus Georgie's brother and sister in law are Binky and Fig and their son is Podge. When I first married into John's family I heard people talking Fig and Dude (yes I confess to borrowing the nickname) and Mitty and Podge and wondered who on earth they were. All cousins with respectable real names. And British boarding schools were notorious for dubbing everyone with a nickhame (sometimes not too flattering--as in Fatty Foreman and Tubby Halliday at my school)
Children in nurseries were always given a pet name. Our own oldest daughter was Toots, I used to be Cookie, a cousin was Bumpy. But this practice seems to have died out completely. Nobody uses nicknames any more... unless one is Pablo Sandoval or Bradley Wiggins.
So what are your thoughts on nicknames: have they died out? Is this a good thing?
JAN BROGAN - I am a big nickname proponent because I think it gives a person options. I obviously believed in naming my children one name and calling them something completely different. I named my daughter Eilann, which no one could pronounce so immediately she became the simpler Lannie. I named my son after my brother, Frank. But since we never called my brother Frank, i felt no need to actually call my son Frank, so he became Spike. Which everyone, even the teachers called him, until he went to college and reinvented himself as Frank. But again, it gave him the option.
In fiction I think nicknames are great - especially for me - because as far as I'm concerned there just aren't enough interesting male names for characters At least not contemporary names. Now that I'm writing in the 1860s, the male names are much more varied.
LUCY BURDETTE: We have a constantly evolving stream of nicknames in our house. I won't go into John's or mine for fear of deep embarrassment, but Tonka the wonder dog for example might be called simply "T" or "Teaser" or "Cheese Toast" or "T-Tonk" or "Mr. T" or "Tonky-Toes" or "Tonky-Tuna" or "Mr. Twizzles", or in certain select cases, Knucklehead:). You get the idea...
DEBORAH CROMBIE: Rhys, I think you're right. I see among my friends with young children a very strong desire that the children's names should NOT be shortened. Olivia will be called OLIVIA at all times and never Liv. I have some sympathy, as I hated my nicknames as a kid. No one now dares call me Debbie, or deBORah (my cousins' name for me) or God forbid, Little Debbie Cupcake. I have, however, adopted my British friends' nickname for me, Debs. I named my own daughter Katharine thinking it would give her options, which it did. She goes by Kayti--her spelling, not mine. But I've realized my main characters are never called by nicknames. Hmmm. But Duncan is not going to be Podge!
ROSEMARY HARRIS: Like Lucy's dog Tonka, Max, my golden retriever has a dozen nicknames including the excruciating Cuteus Maximus and Maxi-poochus. He owns us.
I've only used nicknames in my books to describe a character that the speaker doesn't know well (or at all.) So I think I've had Biker Boy and The Fish Lady.
(Hmmm...is that a title?)
My own nickname when I was a wee thing was Blossom. What about you girls?
JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: Nicknames run rampant in my family. My mother was Mutti (we lived in Germany for many years) Mumford, Mumphy and Madge. My sister is Zoom. My brother went through a series of nicknames as a cute youngster which I won't detail here for fear of my life, and is known today as Herm. Short for Herman. (His given name is Patrick.) Both I and my children have one uncle who is simply known as "Uncle."
Your mention of Twiggy is actually spot on, Rhys - believe it or not, I was called Twiggy before puberty caused me to, ah, blossom. Since then I have been Big J, Juju and Jule.
My own children are called, at various times, V, V'jer, Vicey, Spencerus Rufus (from Latin class,) Ginger, Gingy, Gingersnap, G-snaps and The Love Hamster.
Rereading this, I see we can give the Mitfords a run for their money...
HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: My dear cat Lola was Lolita, Lola T. Cat, Lolita-Burrito, and, eventually, The Burrito.
Hanky Panky and Hank the Tank being the only possible nicknames for me, I have avoided them like crazy. Growing up as Ann, I was Anzio, Anzio Beach, and Anushka. Anushka, I liked. (My sister Nina was The Kobeena, Nancy was Fancy Nancy, Liz was Leez and Chip was inevitably, to his dismay, Potato.)
My favorite, though, is our next door neighbor's uncle, who they call: The Badger.
DEBS: I should mention that my husband's given name is David Derrick, but he's been called Rick since babyhood. Go figure. But it makes legal documents very confusing. Further complicated by the fact that we have different last names, as I am still legally Crombie, even though that was my ex's name. It puts me in a good place on the bookshelves:-)
RHYS: So confession time everyone--did you have a nickname growing up? What about your own kids? Are nicknames dying out?
HALLIE: No nicknames growing up. My daughter Naomi is sometimes Yomi. Molly sometimes is Molls. My husband has given me two. Smedley. Prunella. Why? I'm afraid to ask.