What’s In a Nickname?


My relationship with my in-laws has not always been smooth. In fact, my first experience with my future father in law was extremely uncomfortable. A group of my friends were planning to go to the movies, and my friend, Jon, gave me his number to call to give him the details later. As a painfully shy and awkward teenager, just dialing the number gave me anxiety. New friendships were hard, and a new friendship with a boy (!) was even harder. I dialed the number given to me, and his father answered. I timidly asked for Jon, and he harshly said, “No one here is named Jon,” and hung up on me. I would have left it at that, however, my mom wouldn’t let me.

Back in those days, calls were made from the kitchen phone with everyone listening. My mom made me call again, and try asking for him by his full name, Jonathan.  I begged her not to make me since I was already dying of embarrassment. However, she asked me how I would feel if I got left out by my friends in the same situation? She reminded me that he couldn’t control his dad or how his dad behaved and that I should be empathetic towards my friend. So I called back. I asked for Jonathan. I got through to my friend and he joined us at the movies. I will never forget how ridiculous I thought the entire thing was!

Fast forward fifteen years. My son is two, and his name is Joshua. Sure, I call him Joshy and Joshy-bug, and Little Man, and Cutie Pie. That’s my prerogative as his mama. The thing I do NOT call him is Josh. I know, I know. It’s a super common abbreviation to the name.

But that’s not what I named him.

It drives me absolutely mad when people call him Josh. So, yes, I understand my father in law a little bit better. No, I won’t hang up on my son’s friends if they call and ask for Josh in the future. No, I won’t make him go by Joshua when he gets older if he decides he’d rather be Josh. He can make that choice when he’s old enough, but for now, he’s a baby and still mine to call as I please. No, I’m not going to make a big deal or cause a scene when I hear it.  I did write in our daycare paperwork, “Please call my son Joshua, not Josh.”  I do remind our close friends and family when I hear them calling him Josh, in what I hope comes across as friendly and not alienating.

If you’re in a child’s life – pay attention to what they introduce themselves as. I noticed after that uncomfortable call that my friend (and now husband), Jon, actually always introduced himself as Jonathan. So I started calling him that. If the child is too young to introduce themselves, listen to what their mom or dad introduces them as. That’s what you should call them.

We’re not completely uptight and no-fun here. We embrace ridiculous and silly terms of endearment from our close family and friends. (My sister calls him Chicken Nugget, and we love it!) But Josh feels like a totally different name, and I’m just not about it.

How do you feel on the whole nickname issue?


  1. I had something similar where I gave our son a silly nickname (“Boogie,” short for “Booger”) and my husband and I both used it. We then overheard my MIL calling him Boogie, which upset us both because it was our nickname for him. You’re right about being his mother so you can call him whatever silly nickname you want. My son’s name is Zachary and we call him Zack for short. He may want to go by Zachary later but that’s for him to decide. I switch back and forth when talking to him (he’s almost 1) so he’s comfortable hearing both and knowing they are meant for him.

  2. I personally love nicknames and when choosing my kids names I chose ones that I loved that also have cute nicknames. I think if someone is absolutely opposed to a nickname they should go with a name that doesn’t have one. Although my name is Racheal and there are always those who call me Rach which I was not a fan of growin up. I think people will almost always go with a nickname and at least Joshua cute! 🙂

  3. I wanted to name my son Anthony but didnt because I hate the name Tony. Its natural for people to shorten. I have two Amanda’s in my life and one family calls her Mandy but she prefers Amanda. . I spelt my son Dylan so they wouldn’t call him dill pickle. Didnt work. I dont worry about if anymore. There are worse things.

  4. You need to let this one go. Sure, you can keep calling him Joshua for life, but this is the only time- before they have their own friends- when you will be able to control what the world decides to call him. Who knows they may end up calling him JoJo or j-man. Nicknames are a term of endearment….if this is the biggest thing you have to worry about in preschool than you are a very lucky mom! My 25 year old Tyler is T or Ty, my Alexander (21) is Ali and gator and Munchkin. My Katharine is Kate and Katie Belle…just roll with it all and be glad people love your kid enough to bestow a nickname upon them!

  5. I sooo get that ‘Josh’ feels like a totally different name. Our youngest son is named John Henry. I cannot stand it when people call him John. It doesn’t even register to us that that is his name when it’s used alone. It’s John Henry. (My maiden name is Henry and we are from the South where double names are the norm) Most kids know that when Mom uses your middle name, you better watch out! John Henry has to listen for first, middle, AND last! Lol!
    When he was little, he would say, ‘my names not John! It’s John Henry!’ He wouldn’t even flinch at someone saying John because it just doesn’t register! He’s now 18 and still goes by both names. His friends started calling him ‘JH’ when he was about 9 because John Henry wouldn’t fit on the back of his baseball cap so the coach had ‘JH’ put on it. It bothered me for a while but I’m ok with it EXCEPT when his name is called aloud at assemblies, by teachers, and even when he is announced as he’s stepping up to the plate to hit (he’s a baseball player). It drives me batty for the coach to write JH on the lineup that’s turned in to the announcer. The announcer is fabulous though, and has learned that his Mama calls him John Henry so ya better call him John Henry!!

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