When it comes to fashion, nicknames and formal names don’t always go hand in hand. Take the nickname Molly. It has been a popular favorite since the 1970s—the same time period that Mary, the traditional source for Molly, has been in a historic slump.
The “Molly approach” is is the standard modern response when a nickname is hot and a formal name is not. You just cut out the middleman and take the nickname straight. That wasn’t always such an obvious answer. In ages past it was a safe bet that any Nancy was officially Ann, and any Jack was christened John. But starting in the 20th Century, unwanted full names started getting the boot. Today, parents write names like Charlie (not Charles) and Millie (not Mildred) on thousands of birth certificates.
If Charlie or Millie is the name you really love, the nickname-only solution is a direct route to it. There is another option, though. You can attach the nickname to an unexpected formal name. Instead of a Mildred, your Millie could be a Romilly, or Camilla, or Milan.
Choosing an alternate source maintains the classic flexibility of a formal name/nickname pair. In fact, the more dramatic the full name, the more stylistic range the name pair represents. (Tim is simply “short for” Timothy, but a total change of pace from Timber.) The fresh-source approach can also be a solution for namesake dilemmas. Using grandpa’s nickname is a nice alternative to just hiding his unfashionable name in the middle name slot.
Below are 33 examples of familiar nicknames with their common sources, and potential fresh alternatives. I’ve tried to choose a representative range of styles in full names, from Beatrice to McAllister to Jedi. The goal is to illustrate how easily most nicknames catch onto new partners. After all, generations back Jenny was a pet form of Jane, not that unconventional Cornish name Jennifer.