Nickname and No-Nickname Names: Dixie and Dash

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 EnnisHill 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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25 Responses to “Nickname and No-Nickname Names: Dixie and Dash”

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ShannaGrace Says:

July 27th, 2014 at 11:27 pm

I lean more towards names that will be what I will call them- so nicknamey names. All around I like shorter names. Normally just one or two syllables. I have an Ellie and an Anna.
I also like….


I think the reason I prefer that style is because I have a 3 syllable name and there is about four different nickname options. People would call me a nickname I didn’t like but I didn’t have the heart to tell my dear Gran I didn’t like it. I never want my kids to feel that way so I name them what I will call them. I know people always say that nickname type names do not “age well” I find that to be false. I know a fifty year old Allie and it suites her well, I also know a five year old Allie.

ShannaGrace Says:

July 27th, 2014 at 11:31 pm

I also do not see the point in naming a child, for example, Abigail but strictly calling her Abbie. Just have Abigail on the birth certificate. I rather name my kids what I will call them, and what they go by. To me it’s like hiding their name when you go that route.

It is different when, for example, Abigail goes by both Abbie and Abigail. That personally is not my style but I can understand that.

mysoutherncomfortzone Says:

July 28th, 2014 at 3:12 am

I also tend to prefer longer names that can be easily shortened. I like the idea of calling my future kids both by their formal names and their nicknames pretty regularly. Whatever people end up calling them the most, I guess, is what they’ll go by.

jjayx Says:

July 28th, 2014 at 5:45 am

I can see the appeal of nickname-names. I absolutely despise when people decide to call me Jess or (urgh) Jessie, to the point where, if I’ve told them before that its just Jessica, then I will ignore them until they say my full name. That being said, sometimes the nickname-names, on paper, don’t feel complete, so I can understand the use of something more formal on the birth certificate while the nickname is for everyday use, although I once read that Kit Harington (Game of Thrones actor) didn’t realise his name was Christopher until a late age because he’d always been known as Kit, so I don’t know whether its always a great idea.

Sko Says:

July 28th, 2014 at 7:19 am

My daughter is Mimi, we chose her name because it is a nickname, we didn’t want the baggage of the longer lesser used name. And, weirdly enough, her teeny-tiny nickname of the nickname is Mim.

Names4real Says:

July 28th, 2014 at 7:21 am

I’m with you. I prefer a longer name, with multiple nicknames. Growing up as a Sarah, I wish I had a nickname when I went through a period of not liking my name. If only I’d known that Sadie was a nickname for Sarah, I would have definitely switched over.

My sister goes by her middle name, which she hates because she has to have her legal first name on everything when she has never been called that. I remember when she was first applying for jobs as a teenager, someone called and asked for her by her first name . I told them they had the wrong number and hung up before I remembered. Oops. 🙂

She also is in the WYSIWYG club. She doesn’t understand why I would name my child Katherine if she would go exclusively by Kit.

Have a good week!


indiefendi Says:

July 28th, 2014 at 7:58 am

I much prefer fuller names but I feel like you can make a nickname out of any name! I knew of an Aaron who went by Ronny for example. My mom’s name is Betty and I don’t even really notice that she doesn’t have a nickname. I don’t generally like “just” names like “no it’s just Jake not Jacob” “just Abbey not Abigail”.

onlythingbetterthanhairspray Says:

July 28th, 2014 at 7:59 am

I generally favor names with nicknames. My mother grew up as Karen with no nicknames, and she always wanted one, so she kept that in mind when naming her children, Abigail and Daniel. I always go by Abby, but it feels a bit too childish to put on, say, research papers that I might publish later in my career, although it’s perfect for everyday use. So I’m glad to have Abigail for more formal situations. Many of my favorite names follow this pattern- namely Charlotte nn Charlie and Nathaniel nn Nate. However, my current favorite name is now Ellie. When I told my dad, he was curious as to why I would use just Ellie and not Eleanor or Elizabeth. But I find sometimes that the shorter names sound clean and concise, and I love Ellie far more than I like any of the longer forms. I’m at least a decade away from having kids of my own, but I always like to think about these things.

revolutionrose Says:

July 28th, 2014 at 8:26 am

Not a huge fan of nicknames. I’m a what you see is what you get kinda person. At the same time I don’t tend to like short names and have a 1 syllable last name too. So 1 of my sons is named Gideon. I actually had someone ask “so what will you call him?” Umm -Gideon, that’s why I named him that! He is almost 4 & no one has had an issue thus far saying the oh so long Gideon instead of a nickname

lerenard Says:

July 28th, 2014 at 8:30 am

A girl I went to school with named her daughter Dixie. I have such mixed feelings for it. It’s uncommon and cute, BUT it comes with questionable baggage. I do love that short version names are getting some use these days. I wish my last name didn’t prevent me from using Winnie or Lucie or Effie…I am even loving on Bambi.

MaryKathryn Says:

July 28th, 2014 at 8:38 am

My grandpa’s name was Lowell and I’m really warming up to the idea of naming my son Lowell and calling him Wells.

Star-Fata Says:

July 28th, 2014 at 8:55 am

I like nicknames-as-names and nicknames in general- although they don’t always look great on CV’s.
My parents had two names they liked for me, but couldn’t decide which order. I ended up Claire Ashleigh, but my dad is always calling me Ash or Ashleigh.
It’s pretty funny, because he was the one who wanted to call me Claire.

jessiemay Says:

July 28th, 2014 at 9:16 am

You know, I’m kinda a fan of both! I love the names Lux and Wilhelmina with equal passion…. although I suppose if I simply HAD to choose one ‘style’, if you will, I’d go for longer and more elaborate, but always with at least one nickname possibility close at hand. Side note: I think it’s cute how similar Faith and Gabriel’s second middle names are (Elisa and Elias).

jessiemay Says:

July 28th, 2014 at 9:19 am

Just to clarify, though, I don’t think I’d ever give a child ‘just’ a nickname. Not to say that Milly and Hattie and Jake aren’t great, but for me if a name is short it’s got to be something that isn’t a nickname. Anything else and I’d give it a longer version (eg Millicent, Harriet and Jacob).

degrasswizkid Says:

July 28th, 2014 at 10:52 am

I don’t have a problem with nicknames, I think they’re cute and definitely something that (depending on my child’s name) just might be inevitable. I kind of like the idea of the longer first name with a middle name, that way, when they’re older, they can decide on what they want to be called for example, I named my daughter Charlotte and called her “Lottie” when she was little girl, but maybe when she gets older and becomes a professor or doctor in medicine, she might prefer to go by Charlotte…

megank4 Says:

July 28th, 2014 at 11:19 am

I think any name can be shortened, to just the initial at the very least. Ellie could be El of course, Dash could be D, etc.

emilybk Says:

July 28th, 2014 at 2:04 pm

I tend to prefer longer, more formal names on birth certificates, even if you only ever call the child a nickname – that way, when the baby grows up and has a professional life, s/he has a serious-sounding name to put on job applications, etc. It’s nice for them to have options if they need them.

My own daughter is named Cates (a family surname). We haven’t nicknamed her, but I figure if she gets older and doesn’t like having an unusual name, she can be Cate or Catie or even some variation of her middle name (Margaret). I wanted to give her lots of name flexibility, so she’s not stuck with a name that I love but that may not suit her own style when she grows up.

miloowen Says:

July 28th, 2014 at 2:15 pm

I love Larkin as a nn for Laurence and Laurence is a great name, so many wonderful literary Laurences. My grandfather’s best friend — they went to Dartmouth together — was Laurence “Laurie” which I love as well.

My name is Leslie which I hated and still don’t care for, and I didn’t have a middle name until I chose one for myself in third grade. So my children were given names that come with a variety of nicknames. My daughter was Katie when she was little, and Kate growing up; she changed her nn to Kitty as a teenager — now, almost thirty, she’s Kate again. My son always called himself Thomas and I was the only one who called him Tom, all his friends used Thomas — but now that he’s in the Army, he goes by Tom. Except that because he has a hyphenated surname, the Army gave up and just calls him my name, Owen. Really glad my surname is also a first name.

Lo Says:

July 28th, 2014 at 3:20 pm

I prefer to call our kids by their full names but hubby loves to shorten names. Three of our kids have ended up with short names that don’t need a shorter form – Paul, Clare, Mark. The other three have nicknames that can be used along side their full names. Kat for Katharine, Jay for James, Drew for Andrew.

peach25 Says:

July 28th, 2014 at 3:51 pm

Larkin is a family surname that I always thought would be a great girl name, nn Lark (or not, depending!) I like the option of a nn from a longer name, maybe why I always liked Elizabeth!_

Theodora_Phoenix Says:

July 28th, 2014 at 4:33 pm

I prefer names just as they are. I hate it when I see people trying to slice upcna, es as much as possible. I’ve seen people looking fir nicknames for Bailey, Hannah, and EVEN IVY!
I think it’s best for parents to just choose the name they like and see what nicknames their child acquires through life, rather than trying to find every little nickname a name can possibly have. I mean, if you liked a name so much, then you wouldn’t want a nickname!

R_J Says:

July 28th, 2014 at 8:56 pm

I feel like some nicknames are more name-y than others. Jack and Sadie, and names like those, seem fine to me as stand alone names.

auntanne1122 Says:

July 28th, 2014 at 9:25 pm

I have a sister-in-law named Dixie, a great grandmother named Pearl, a best friend named Kelsey (g), and my Pap always called me Sadie although my name is Anne. 🙂 These names really touched home with me!

catcher5 Says:

July 29th, 2014 at 12:15 pm

We have 4 kids (and one on the way!) and 3 of them have longer names with nicknames and we use both names interchangeably depending on the situation. Lincoln-Linc, Adelia-Del, Oliver-Ollie. Our other son has a stand alone name Ivan, but interestingly, his “nickname” is Ivan Boy, which is longer. 🙂

Our 5th baby is a girl, and we can’t decide which way we want to go with her. Right now we like one name from each camp. Sadie as a stand alone name, or Rosalie sometimes shortened to Ross (Ross being my dad’s middle name, and we’d love to name one after him.)

I don’t like to use short forms of names as the only name unless they are more than one syllable because our last name is a short one syllable, and have a first and last name that only add up to two syllables together feels a bit unfinished to my ears. So that’s why we’ll do a longer name and sometimes call them a shorter nickname.

akannakate Says:

July 31st, 2014 at 6:01 pm

I called my son rayven after my dad ray and thought that he could just use the ray part if he wants to when he gets older although I hope he doesn’t . I called him “little man” until he was a year and a half and then i made a real effort to call him by his name. But most of the time i call him rayray and everyone else calls him rayven. Only one person has called him ray and It sounded so strange to me.
My name is annakate and everyone calls me that apart from my parents who call me ak.

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