You'll Know When You Can Call Me "Lou": How Do You Feel About Nicknames?

Nicknames -- or the use of nicknames -- need to be earned in my opinion.
Publish date:
September 11, 2013
etiquette, friendship, nicknames

To you, I am Louise.

If I'm in trouble, I might be Ms. Hung.

If you met me in my first week of college and never saw me again after that, I might be Micaela to you. I attempted to go by my middle name -- you know, "the new me" in college -- but it didn't stick because I didn't respond to it.

If you married me, you call me Weez. If we're the kind of friends who eat and drink and bitch about shit together, you probably call me Lou or some other version of a nickname. More on that later.

I'm a nickname gal. Something about my name or WACKY personality begs people to shorten, or change my name to an adorable little personal identifier.

This doesn't bug me at all. If we are close, I'll probably at some point assign some sort of nickname to you, too. To me, it's a term of endearment, friendliness, an adoring claim that I FOUND YOU, I LOVE YOU, YOU ARE MINE.

Maybe it's juvenile, maybe to some of you it's incredibly irritating. Some names don't shorten so well, and some nicknames just aren't so "cute." My friend Kate once whined that she was the only one without some sort of nickname, and our friend Tom, seeing her chow down on a plate of baked beans said, "You want a nickname so bad? From now on, you are BEANS!" The name stuck.

If you ever find yourself on my Facebook, I'm addressed by an often confusing plethora of nicknames that include, but are not limited to: Lamia, Weasel, Weezy, Chicken, or Granny. You can roll your eyes now if you want.

Some of my friends can't stand the nicknaming, and I respect that, too. One of my dearest friends asked me, "What's with all the names? Your name is Louise. What's wrong with just calling you by your name without having to flaunt some sort of inside joke?" I do think she has a point. Lack of nickname doesn't make us any less close, and -- like most inside jokes -- it's annoying to be subject to them when you're on the outside.

But all of those names have a history and an evolution behind them, and maybe it's the desperate-for-acceptance 6th grader in me, but I kind of love the little reminders of intimacy that those names invoke. I never prompted any of those names in a George Costanza "Call me T-Bone" kind of way.

What I have found off-putting or weird is when somebody I hardly know makes the leap and decides to call me "Lou" or the yuckiest yet, "Lululemon."

Has anyone ever done that to you?

You start chatting with an acquaintance -- you know the type, the person who divulges way too much, way too soon -- and before you know it, they are holding your hand, calling you, "Lou-Lala!" and are planning your BFF honeymoon before you can say, "I have issues with personal space and now I have to go feed my cat!!!"

Nicknames -- or the use of nicknames -- need to be earned in my opinion.

Why do we have to be so immediately familiar, even intimate, with each other? What happened to getting to know someone before using the shortened, "Sam" or "Vic" or "Juls"?

Part of me wonders if there is a manipulation tactic in this. I know when I was younger and less confident, if I really wanted someone to like me, all they had to do is "Lou" me, and I was at their beck and call. Call someone "Jo" instead of Joanna, and suddenly are you insinuating that you "know" them and have more free rein to behave less... politely?

Of course, I could be over thinking this, and it could just be a matter of what you prefer to go by. You could be way more a "Fran" than a "Francesca" -- or "William" could be your father whereas you are "Bill."

So I'm curious, how do you feel about nicknames? Does it bother you when people shorten your name without asking? Do have nicknames? Do you call your friends by nicknames? Is there a nickname that just makes you cringe?