By Linda Rosenkrantz
After a brief hiatus following the Sandy–Mandy–Cindy–Mindy years, nickname names are making a strong comeback. Just recently we’ve seen starbabies with names like Andy (for a girl), Art, Cy, Gus, Josh and Sid on their birth certificates. So with this in mind, we’re embarking here on a 4-part-long search for fresh vintage nickname ideas.
Today we consider girl nicknames that were used frequently enough at one time to make it into the Top 1000 list. Some dropped off because their mother names were no longer current (Effie/Euphemia), some just because they’d come to sound too grandmotherly, and others, like Freddie, that had become strictly male.
Aggie—Short for both Agatha and Agnes, Aggie fell off the list in 1909, after seeing quite some use at the turn of the 20th century. With Agnes and Agatha beginning to stir, Aggie could make a comeback—even becoming the next Maggie?
Dovie—a lovey-dovey nickname name, it ranked on the list from the 1880s to 1940, and boasts a nice tie to the bird name.
Effie—Yes, the short form of the long gone Euphemia. Effies have been seen recently in the Sister of the Traveling Pants and The Hunger Games, as well two British soaps and I can see it possibly resurrecting as a funkier Ellie. Effie was a Top 100 name in 1900, vanished by 1959.
Flossie and cousin Florrie were adorable and popular nicknames for Florence back in the day, as was the more unusual Floy. The name of one of the younger Bobbsey Twins, Flossie peaked in 1905 at Number 147, then fell off in 1950, after a surprisingly long run.
Frankie is one vintage nickname that’s already making a comeback for girls, especially since Drew Barrymore used it for her second daughter and it’s now in the title of the new Lily Tomlin–Jane Fonda sitcom. Frankie was on the list until 1970, and we can definitely see it hopping back on.
Freddie and Georgie were both very much unisex nickname names in the first half of the 20th century—Freddie reaching #414 for girls in 1937, Georgie at 338 in 1902. And both stand a chance of following Frankie back as more tomboyish nicknames than the frillier Millie and Tillie.
Ginger—Ginger has a double history, both as a pet form of Virginia and as a descriptive nickname for a redhead. It peaked in the 1970s (#187 in 1971), perhaps because of the movie star character on the TV show Gilligan’s Island, or memories of real movie star Ginger Rogers (shown).
Hetty—This is one of several nicknames for the once popular Henrietta; it ranked at Number 275 in 1901, retired in 1941. Like many of these names it was spelled with both an ‘ie’ and ‘y’ ending. Harriet short form Hattie was used by Tori Spelling.
Letty—A diminutive of both Letitia and Lettice, Letty has come back to life as the character name of Michelle Rodriguez in Fast and Furious. Letty Aronson is Woody Allen’s film-producer sister, Letty Cottin Pogrebin a noted feminist writer. Letty ranked in the late 19th to the early 20th century.
Lottie—If you’re looking for a vintage pet name for Charlotte, this might be for you. It has made a comeback in England and Wales, where it’s at Number 104; was a Top 100 name in the US in 1900, has been gone since 1959. Lotta was also in use.
Madge—If you can get the Madonna reference out of your mind, you might respond to this midcentury (and before) all-purpose nickname for M-starting classics, which was frequently used on its own till 1948. Madge Undersee is one of Katniss’s friends in The Hunger Games.
Nan was a regular on the list from 1900 to 1962, and somehow has an earlier vintage feel than mother name Nancy, maybe due to its Bobbsey Twins connection. A noted contemporary bearer is the photographer Nan Goldin (born Nancy). A similar sibling is Fan—my own mother’s nickname.
Stay tuned for the boys’ nicknames at one time in the Top 1000, and then girls’ and boys’ nns that have never ranked. Do you have a pet pet name for girls that you might consider?