What’s in a name?
Welcome to my family! My Grandma’s called Minnie, and my Granddad’s called Jack.
Except, they’re not really.
Because, in English, we have an eccentric tendency to distort names until they no longer resemble the original at all. My Gran’s actually called Mary and my Granddad, of course, is John.
Now meet my Uncle Bob, cousins Harry, Bill and Jim, and aunts Kitty and Nancy. Their real names – the names on their birth certificates – are Robert, Henry, William, James, Katherine and Anne. Makes total sense, right?
Some common English names have not one but several permutations, just to make things more confusing. The name Edward can be twisted into Ed (OK, fine), Ted (hmm) or Ned (well….), whilst Robert can be not only Bob but Rob, Bobby or Bertie. James can be Jim, Jimmy or Jem, and Richard can be Rich, Rick, Dick or Dickie.
On the girls’ side, Elizabeth must be one of the most prolific of names, producing not only Eliza, Liz and Lizzie, but Ellie, Beth, Bess, Bett and Bettie, whilst Margaret becomes Maggie and Meg, or Peggie and Peg. Victoria becomes Vic, Vicky, Tor and Tory, and Mary can be Molly, Minnie, Polly or Poll.
It’s not just our language that does this, of course, and Russian is another which can mutate its names into seemingly unconnected variants. When I was in Russia, my friends were Tolik, Vanya, Sanya and Masha, whose real names were Anatolii, Ivan, Alexsandr and Mariya. But whereas in English a Rob might always be a Rob, both in private and public arenas, formal and informal, in Russia someone might be called Alexandr in formal situations but Sasha with friends – and Sanya, Sanka or Sashenka for extra familiarity and affection.
My name, Natalie or Natalia, was used formally, but to most acquaintances I was Natasha, and to closer friends I would sometimes be Nata, Natashenka, Natusik or Natusyenka. Alekseii becomes Alyosha or, more colloquially again, Alyoha, Lyosha or Lyoha. Dmitrii become Dima, Dimka (the -ka ending adding another level of diminutive to the already familiarised Dima), Mitya or Mitka. Evgenii becomes Zhenya and Sergei becomes Seryozha.
Of course, if you have a bit of time in Russia then the aim is to collect a group of friends with the following rhyming names: Masha, Pasha, Dasha, Natasha and Sasha. And, because of the popularity of the names Mariya, Pavel, Natalia, Dariya and Alexsandr, that’s not as hard as it seems!
We’d love to know about other languages that mangle their names!