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Nickname and No-Nickname Names: Dixie and Dash

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By Abby Sandel, Appellation Mountain

There are dozens of ways to slice and dice baby names.  Classic or hipster, modern or vintage.

But here’s a divide that cuts across style categories: is the name on the birth certificate the name intended for daily use?  Or is it more of a jumping off point, the source of a nickname that will actually be what you call your kiddo 99% of the time?

The first group are WYSIWYG baby names: What You See (on the birth certificate) is What You Get (in real life).  Jack is called Jack, Sadie is Sadie, and how could Ellie answer to anything else?

It’s not my style.  Simplify my closets, by all means, but leave my baby names elaborate and complex.  My mother – the original minimalist – required just seven letters for my full name, first and middle.  A mere three syllables!  My kids’ names weigh in at five and six syllables, each offering a wealth of nickname options.

My preferences aside, it feels like the pendulum is swinging towards Camp WYSIWYG.  Ava and Liam, Mia and Mason, Harper and Asher – those are nickname-proof names by design.  Even Isabella is call-me-Isabella and William’s parents prefer William, never Billy.

This week was all about the WYSIWYG approach, with the simplest, most casual form of the name gracing many a high profile birth certificate – with one notable (and noteworthy!) exception.

Spare and simple define many of this week’s baby names in the news:

Finn - Rumor has it that Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis are thinking family names for their baby-on-the-way.  Diane Finnegan Kutcher is Ashton’s mom, and it is her maiden name that might inspire the couple’s choice.  Finn is a WYSIWYG name par excellence – like Max, Chase, Cole, Kai, and Jace, it’s stylish and straightforward.  Of course, rumor also has it that the couple is expecting a girl, which puts Finn in the company of spare surnames like Quinn and Sloane.

Nellie - From rumor to reality, let’s catch up with the cast of The Only Way is Essex, the UK’s answer to Jersey Shore.  Cast members from both shows are starting their families.  TOWIE’s Billie Faiers and her fiance Greg Shepherd welcomed daughter Nellie Samantha.  Helena Bonham Carter and Tim Burton have a daughter named just Nell, but Nellie is even more relaxed, a future friend for all of those British girls named Evie and Sophie.

Reggie - Also in the UK, British heptathlete and Olympic gold medalist Jessica Ennis-Hill and husband Andy are new parents.  Their son Reggie will fit in with Alfie and Archie.  In the US, Reggie seems like a very sporting name – it brings to mind baseball and football greats.  Though it doesn’t seem likely to catch on here – Reginald is falling down the charts fast, and Reggie is a nowhere to be seen.  But then, Americans haven’t embraced Alfie and Archie, either.

Larkin - This is my favorite name of the week!  Congratulations to the lovely Mireille Enos and Alan Ruck on their new arrival.  Their daughter is Vesper Vivienne, and she’s joined by little brother Larkin Zouey.  Larkin feels like Mason or Aiden – nickname-proof.  Except Larkin is originally a diminutive form of Laurence, from the medieval era when -kin was a popular way to shorten a name.  Hopkin was once an affectionate name for Robert, and Jenkins comes from John.  Larkin could also be considered a respelling of the Gaelic Lorcan.  Either way, I think he’s quite fierce.

Zeb - I’ve heard of Zebulon and Zebediah, as well as just Jed and Jeb.  For Real Baby Names spotted a Zeb!  That’s keeping it short and to the point.

Dash - Again, not Dashiell – just Dash.  A recent issue of GQ featured stylish dads of New York, starting with Rag & Bone co-founder David Neville.  David and makeup artist wife Gucci Westman are parents to son Dash and daughter Gray.  As for Gucci’s unusual name, Voguepedia explains that it is short for Gurucharan, a name she picked up at a Hindu ashram.  She was born Chelsea.

Dixie Pearl - I’ve been curious about the name model Lily Aldridge chose for her daughter.  In a recent interview she confirmed that Dixie honors husband Caleb Followill’s Southern heritage – the family has a home in Nashville – while vintage Pearl was her idea.  Fifty years ago, a woman answering to Dixie might really have been a Southern belle named Diane or Elizabeth – though Dixie Carter was born with the name, too.

Wells - Would you consider Wells for a son?  It’s somewhere between Will and Brooks, preppy but perfectly wearable in 2014.  Maternity concierge Rosie Pope has a Wells, but it is short for Wellington.  Here’s a list of even more formal options if you’re so inclined.

Kelsey Gabriel Elias - Now for something completely different!  Kelsey Grammer has welcomed baby #6, his second son.  His daughters from prior relationships are Spencer, Greer, and Mason, plus son Jude.  Now he and new wife Kayte Walsh have welcomed their second child together.  Daughter Faith Evangeline Elisa is joined by Kelsey Gabriel Elias.  They’re calling him Gabriel.  Dad says that Grammers often answer to their middle names – after all, he’s Allen Kelsey.  But it is the kind of complicated naming that seems slightly less popular in 2014.

Do you prefer to put your child’s everyday name on the birth certificate?  Or do you tend towards formal names with nickname options?

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