Nicknames are pet forms taken from given names…right? That’s the way it’s always worked, at least. But more and more, parents are turning that traditional relationship on its head. Today, thousands of babies are being named after their nicknames.
Here’s how it works. You love the name Link, as in the YouTube stars Rhett & Link or the hero of the “Legend of Zelda” games. You love it, but you worry there’s just not enough of it. Does it sound too much like a nickname? Shouldn’t there be a longer full name to write on the birth certificate?
Lincoln is the obvious formal version, but hold on: the spelling doesn’t match. Wouldn’t the nickname for Lincoln be Linc? OK, then, how about “Linkin,” like the band Linkin Park? Problem solved! Sure enough, last year 226 American boys received the name Linkin or another similar K spelling.
You see the phenomenon with every fashionable nickname and one-syllable name. Parents start by choosing a short name, plan to call their kids by it, but insist on a longer given name—and the spelling has to match. The popularity of Finn has made hits of Finnley and Finnegan, with Finnian, Finneas and Finnick rising fast. Tyberius is an alternative to Tiberius because of the nickname Ty. 5,000 boys every year are named Jaxson, which hews as closely as possible to the traditional Jackson while clarifying that the nickname should be Jax. Then there are the many girls named Abbygail, Maddyson, and Lilyan.
It’s perfectly logical, and not even a new phenomenon. Going back generations, you can find a steady smattering of boys named Nickolas to emphasize the (ahem) Nick-name. Current style, though, is pushing the trend to new heights. Parents are more willing to be inventive with names than ever before, and less inclined to confer just a nickname than ever before.
If you simply love the name Finneas or Maddyson, then by all means choose it. But if you’re only tweaking the spelling because the name you really love is the nickname, consider this: have you ever had any trouble coping with Nick being short for Nicholas? Or with John not being short for anything at all? Short names don’t have to be perfect chips off an old, long block.
Which brings us back to Link. For the record, the Link of “Rhett & Link” is short for Lincoln, with a C. Link of “Legend of Zelda” got his name from the idea that he would be a link between the past and the future. Choosing a name you love is more important than having a nickname and formal name that line up just right.