Ask Scary Mommy is Scary Mommy’s new advice column, where our team of “experts” answers all the questions you have about life, love, body image, friends, parenting, and anything else that’s boggling you.
This week … what do you do when you choose the perfect baby name, only to have everyone modify it into a nickname you don’t like? How can you make sure people call your child by their intended name, not some hacked-up version? Have your own question? Email [email protected]
Dear Scary Mommy,
Our baby girl is due in a matter of weeks, and my partner and I are in love with the name Elizabeth. But we’re afraid that people will constantly shorten it to Liz, Lizzie, Beth, etc. How can we make sure that everybody calls our daughter the name we intend for her and not some shortened version?
Ah, the perils of giving your child a long name — and one with so many potential diminutives, at that! As any Angela or Christine or Nicholas or Michael can probably tell you, people just naturally seem inclined to shorten some names, especially those that seem more “formal” in their longer versions. It’s not that Elizabeth is too hard to say. It’s just that people are too lazy to say it.
The bottom line is, you’ll need to be prepared to issue polite corrections … most likely, over and over again. Enunciate it very clearly as you do the first introduction: “This is E-LIZ-A-BETH.”
If someone still doesn’t get the hint, you have a couple of options. First, straight-up tell them that it’s Elizabeth — which may feel rude (even though it isn’t) and slightly uncomfortable, at least the first few times, but a little awkwardness will practically guarantee they won’t slip up again. If you want to approach it in a more subtle manner, you can just liberally slip your daughter’s name into the conversation: “Yes, Elizabeth is adorable, isn’t she?” “Elizabeth loves to go to the park!” “Oh, yeah, Elizabeth does the same thing.”
On the other hand, if it’s family, you may want to consider letting it slide a bit; at least decide if it’s worth creating potential animosity between yourself and people you have to spend time with on a regular basis. Viewing it as a “special name” between your daughter and the people who love her can help. We’ve all met someone who has a nickname that only certain people are allowed to use, and who knows? Someday Elizabeth might look back on it fondly, remembering how Grandpa was the only one who could ever call her “Libby.”
Also, though your name choice needs exactly zero justification, this can also work as a buffer of sorts to make you feel less awkward about correcting someone: “Actually, it’s Elizabeth; she only goes by Libby with her grandpa.” (Insert sociable chuckle here.)
It’s definitely understandable to frown upon someone shortening your daughter’s name. After all, a nickname can change the world’s perception about a person; Elizabeths are just seen as different personalities than Beths or Elizas. That being said, if your Elizabeth grows up to decide she’s more of a Lizzie, you should do your best to honor her choice … unless you want her to constantly explain, “Actually, it’s Lizzie; I only go by Elizabeth with my parents.”
For a comprehensive database of baby names, plus fun and inspirational lists, check out Scary Mommy’s baby naming section!