Surprising Homespun Nicknames: Elsie, Sadie & Effie

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by Angela Mastrodonato, Upswing Baby Names

Nickname-names have taken hold in the U.K., and the U.S. hasn’t been completely immune to this trend. The two countries may favor different nicknames, and the trend may be more popular in the U.K., but the trend is evident in both countries.

For example:

In the U.K., these names are well represented with Sophie, Evie, Daisy, Millie, Mollie, Lexi, and Elsie appearing among the top 50.

In the U.S.:

  • Sadie has risen in ranks in recent years, most recently hitting the top 50.
  • Maggie saw a mini-resurgence in recent years, currently ranking just outside the top 200.
  • Charlie as a given name is coming back in style for both boys (ranking at 233) and girls (at 240 and trending upwards).
  • Josie is a name with staying power which most recently peaked in 2007 in the bottom top 200, and has stayed at a respectable rank in the 200s for nearly 5 years.
  • Elsie is a big climber, rising every year since 2007 to its most recent rank at 365.
  • U.K. favorite Millie, re-entered the U.S. top 1000 in 2009 and has edged upwards every year to its most recent rank at 598.

These U.S. examples may not rank as highly as their U.K. counterparts, but many of these names are on the rise.

It seems homespun nicknames aren’t going away, the names representing the genre are simply changing.

With that said, there are still plenty of homespun nicknames that are surprising in the U.S and most of these are even uncommon in the U.K.

Bessie – There were only 17 girls in the U.S. and 14 girls in the U.K. named Bessie in 2013 (the most recent year name stats are available). Perhaps this diminutive of Elizabeth is still held back because of its reputation as a “cow’s name”.

Effie – is spunky and smart, being both a diminutive of Euphemia and the anglicized form of the Scottish Oighrig. I am surprised this name hasn’t “popped” in recent years. But as of 2013, there were only 39 Effie’s born in the U.S. The name is slowly climbing in the U.K. but still ranks in the 500s. In 2013, there were 82 Effie’s born in the U.K.

Gordie – Made famous by the Canadian hockey player, Gordie Howe, this diminutive of Gordon remains under the radar. Gordie could not be found in the U.S. or U.K. baby name data, meaning there were fewer than 5 born in the U.S., and fewer than 3 born in the U.K. in 2013. The reason for Gordie’s obscurity could be due to the low-style quotient of its official long-form, Gordon. Gordon has been outside the U.S. top 1000 since 2009. In the U.K. there were only 13 Gordon’s born in 2013.

Huey – Forget about Donald Duck’s nephew. Huey is super cute, and maybe a little dorky, but still endearing. This diminutive of Hugh was given to 13 boys in the U.S. and 44 boys in the U.K in 2013 (there were 31 Hughie’s in the U.K). While Huey is very rare in the U.S., its formal version, Hugh might be gently climbing the charts, but is still relatively uncommon ranking in the lower top 1000. In the U.K. Hugh was given to 100 boys in 2013, placing it at 407.

Mamie – This is one of a few little known nicknames for Mary, along with stylish Mae, Molly, and Polly. This is also the known name of Meryl Streep’s daughter, born Mary Louise. Most recently there were 24 born in the U.S. and fewer than 3 born in the U.K.

Nellie – This name seems like it should be more popular, as the perfect sister for Sadie, yet Nellie was still outside the U.S. top 1000 as of 2013, given to 157 newborn girls. In the U.K. there were 43 newborn girls named Nellie the same year. Further adding to the mystery behind Nellie’s low birth numbers is the name’s relation to these popular names: Ella, Eleanor, Nora and Norah.

While nickname names are stylish revival names, the names on this list are still surprising. Even Effie and Nellie, which hold the most promise (weigh in and feel free to agree or disagree), have only risen slightly in recent years and have climbed at a slower pace than I would have predicted.

While Americans are still more hesitant than their British counterparts to use nicknames as given names, the style is gaining acceptance on that side of the pond. These names are a great way to individually express this style.

 Readers: Which surprising homespun nicknames are your favorites?

 This post was revised from a post originally run on Upswing Baby Names, 6 Surprising Names: Homespun Nicknames.  

 Angela created Upswing Baby Names to help parents find that different but not too different name. She muses about names on their way in and on their way out in her book, The Top 22 in 2022, which she updates every year in May once the newest U.S. name rankings become available.  

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Angela Mastrodonato created Upswing Baby Names to celebrate names on the upswing. She is a big-time name watcher, and has a growing list of names she watches by tracking their popularity each year. Sign up here to get your copy of this Watch List.
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10 Responses to “Surprising Homespun Nicknames: Elsie, Sadie & Effie”

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GreenEyes375 Says:

April 1st, 2015 at 9:26 am

I grew up with a boy named Howie. Not Howard, just Howie. I never though much of this until I heard SO’s sister was contemplating Howie for her baby.

Effie and Nellie are adorable, and I am partial to Gordie. I actually knew a Jordie (prn. joor-DEE) which was strangely short for Joseph.

I really do like nickname names, and there are several I hope come into mainstream use i.e. Mimi, Essie, Lottie, Willie, Nettie, Bertie, Georgie, Johnny, and Sully.

saraallison Says:

April 1st, 2015 at 12:35 pm

I like names like this, but I think some are problematic. Effie is too much like the slang “effing” to me; too much bad nickname potential. And Nellie makes me think automatically, “Whoaaaa, Nellie!” I have a friend named Nellie who is precious (late 20s) but I could never use the name. Bessie definitely has the cow association, but I love Betsy. I like Mamie, but wouldn’t use it. I had a great-grandmother called Mammie, and when I see Mamie, I feel like I’m saying Mammie weirdly. But I would love to hear of a baby named Mamie.

I know sisters Sadie and Millie (adorable), and if we have another girl, I like Millie for a short form of Amelia (my front-runner girl name right now). I also think Elsie will rise, via Frozen. I love the name Elsa, but I don’t think my husband will let us use it bc of the Frozen association. Wondering if he would let us get away with first name Elizabeth and nickname Elsie or Betsy.

amf0224 Says:

April 1st, 2015 at 4:40 pm

From the more unique ones, I like Effie and Nellie! I seem to like a lot though, having Elsie, Maisie, Ellie, Birdie (just as a middle!), Millie, Gracie, Rosie, Kitty, and Kit on my long list!

emily_rose Says:

April 1st, 2015 at 8:02 pm

I love Millie and Nellie and I’m definitely surprised that Millie/Nellie/Effie aren’t more popular. I’d also add Hattie, Etta, and Tillie/Tilly to the list!

sheena_beena Says:

April 1st, 2015 at 9:02 pm

True story.. I had twin great-aunts — Sadie and Nell. They lived will into their 90’s (have been gone almost 20yrs now) and therein lies the problem. I think Nellie is associated with older ladies, although I find Nell (Nelle) more charming and popular these days and most able to grow with a child into adulthood. Elsie is a favourite (MIL’s name and has grown on me since using it as my own daughter’s mn), I also like Essie, Effie, Millie and Mimi. Not sure I would give a nn as a given name…I like the idea of 2 for 1 by giving a longer first name and still getting a favourite/endearing name out of it.

emily_rose Says:

April 2nd, 2015 at 2:29 am

And for the boys I also love Albie/Archie/Alfie

svea Says:

April 2nd, 2015 at 7:29 am

Molly and Elsie♥ I also love Betty, Rosie and Millie.

For boys, I love Pelle, Ingo and Ville.

mermuse Says:

April 2nd, 2015 at 8:34 am

My name is Stephanie, and with so many of us around, I’ve considered trying to convince people to call me Effie! What do you think?

And I like Mamie, I am using it in a novel.

ViennaLoveday Says:

April 2nd, 2015 at 11:26 am

I am not at all supprised that Effie and Nellie are not widely used. I would have to agree with saraallison about the reasons, and add that the first thing I think of when I hear Nelly is Nelly the elephant. The second thing is the usage of Nelly to mean ‘a silly person’. Also, when I first saw Gordie I mistook it for Geordie, pronounced like Jordie. (Word for someone from Newcastle area if you weren’t aware.)
I love old fashioned nicknames like Elsie and Betty and Edie and Tilly and Hattie and Minnie though and I am truly baffled as to why Americans don’t use Millie more…

mamablossom Says:

April 15th, 2015 at 5:17 pm

We have an Edie, I love it. I also love Nell, Leni, Archie, Lulu and Millie

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