Dear Swistle and name enthusiasts,
Our first child (our rainbow baby) was born at the end of January. After three miscarriages over two years of trying to start a family, we ended up deciding to go with two family names for his name so that we could honour many important men in our life all at once: James David is his name (the first name is my FIL and three of our four grandfathers’ name and the middle name is my father’s name).
With many men named James on both family trees nicknamed “Jim” or “Jimmy”, we knew that choosing this name meant we would be doomed to have another “Jim” unless we were proactive and chose a nickname ourselves from the get-go. We fell in love with using his initials as his nickname before he was even born. Especially since I wanted his middle name to feel as important as his first, being my own father’s name.
Now he is six months old, and I’m wondering if anyone has experience or stories to share about using initials as a nickname? I find myself tripping up when introducing him to new people — do I introduce him as James or JD? When he goes to school one day, will he write James at the top of his work or do we encourage JD as his everyday name? So far at the doctor’s office they have him down as James but there’s a place on the form to write “preferred name”, do we begin to have them call him JD also?
I’d appreciate stories of how an “initials name” has worked out for others, either as their own name or as a parent with a child who uses initials. I’m noticing that using initials feels less like a “nickname” and more like his everyday use name, compared to my experience as a Stephanie and being called Steph sometimes. No one else in our families have initials as their nickname/name. Just curious how others have handles this, or how the think they would handle it if they went a similar route.
I suppose I’m wondering, should we commit to JD all the time or should we use James and then JD will just happen when speaking to him/with family and friends as they get to know him (more casually)?
I was always name obsessed, so the fact I named my child with a nickname style I don’t have any experience with is throwing me off! Thank you in advance for hopefully publishing my letter! I’ve attached a photo of our lovebug as well.
It seems to me that an initials nickname would be the same as any other nickname in terms of introductions and so forth. If you had a baby William and you wanted him called Liam, then I would suggest saying “This is Liam” to casual acquaintances at the park, and “This is William; we call him Liam” to doctors and schools. Any time the nickname might cause confusion (such as when the receptionist might have the appointment down with the full legal name), I would say William and then Liam; any time there is no reason to share the full version (the other baby at the grocery store doesn’t need to know the story while exchanging waves), just say Liam. Any time there is a space on paperwork for nickname or preferred name, you’d write Liam. A child named William but always called Liam would write “Liam” on his school papers.
Same with an initials nickname such as JD: if you’re at baby sing-along and the group needs a name for the “Hello, ______!” song, say JD. When you bring him for class the first day, tell the teacher “This is James; we call him JD.” If she wants to make you a name tag with your name and your baby’s name on it, the name tag would say “Stephanie / JD.” When there is space on paperwork for a nickname or preferred name, you’d write JD.
My youngest went by a two-initial nickname up until kindergarten, when he said he wanted to use his given name instead. But before then, we put that nickname on his paperwork as his preferred name (after asking him what he wanted me to put there, since he used his given name and his nickname), and so his preschool teachers wrote his nickname on his cubby, his paperwork folder, and on the wall displays; he wrote his nickname on his papers, and that’s what his classmates called him.
My guess is that there are a couple of things tripping you up:
1. JD is not the kind of automatic nickname you’re accustomed to with Stephanie/Steph. People named Jennifer and Stephanie and David may find that people call them Jen and Steph and Dave whether they like it or not. With a name like JD, you have to tell people or they won’t know. I suspect the issue here isn’t so much with initials nicknames, but rather with nicknames that require a little announcement (Mia for Amelia, for example, or Nell for Penelope).
2. Even more, “Steph” is right on the edge of being a pet name rather than a nickname. I can picture a business card with “Jenny Miller” or “Dave Miller” or “J.D. Miller” on it, but “Steph Miller” would be more unexpected: the nickname Steph seems more casual.
Wait. I just thought of a third thing: Are you not using the nickname much yet? I was picturing you calling him JD at home and with family already, but are you calling him James right now and waiting to activate the nickname? If so, would you prefer to just call him James for now? You can absolutely do that. For one thing, I don’t think people go directly to Jim/Jimmy for kids named James anymore, just like they wouldn’t go straight to Billy for a William or Bobby for a Robert.
But if you’d like him to be known as JD, and you’re not calling him that at home yet, then my actual first suggestion is to start using it most of the time at home: I think that will help a LOT with the awkward feelings/introductions. And the rest of it doesn’t matter much, or can wait. If the doctor calls him James, that doesn’t throw anything off even if he’s JD to everyone else in his life; and what he writes on his school papers can wait a few more years.
I’m thinking this through as I’m writing, but I guess the real decision here is this (and this seems to be exactly what you’re asking, now that I’m looking at it this way): Do you want him called JD all the time and NOT called James? or do you want him called James, but when people reach for a nickname you want them to reach for JD?
If you want him called JD and not called James, then this is definitely the time to completely saturate his environment with JD: JD should be on his doctor forms, his daycare/preschool forms, his baby sing-along forms, and on your calendar when you write down his appointments. You’d refer to him as JD when discussing him with your husband or your families, and introduce him that way to all new acquaintances. If there’s no space on a form for a nickname, you’d write the nickname in parentheses.
But if you want him called James-and-JD (just not James-and-Jim), then you can play this whole thing much more casually. When you are making a new friend at the park, you might introduce him as James and then add “…or we also call him JD”—or you might just say “This is James” and then the new friend will hear you say, “JD, do you want a drink of water?” and pick up on that, just as you would if she introduced a William and then asked Liam if he wanted a drink. With the doctor, it wouldn’t matter much what the doctor calls him because the child will recognize both James and JD as his name; but it’s good to have JD in the file in case a daycare/school submits a request for paperwork and uses JD instead of James. In school, the teacher will understand that the child is called James and JD, and will probably ask you and/or him which he’d prefer; if he writes either one on the top of the paper, the teacher will know it’s him.