A poll on name usage

Inspired (of course) by this thread.

The situation:
You have an acquaintance (maybe a coworker, a friend of a friend or a neighbor, not a close friend) whom you typically address using a diminutive form of their name. Let’s say his name is Robert and you call him Robbie. One day, Robbie tells you that he’d prefer if you called him Robert.


  1. How would you feel about such a request? (Would it seem rude, unfriendly, reasonable, etc.)
  2. Would your answer to the first question change if Robert had asked you to use Rob rather than Robert? How so?
  3. What form of your name do you tend to use? (Full first name, shortened, diminutive, etc.)
  4. Do you use different forms with different people?
  1. I would think it was reasonable, and I would make every effort to comply. I might make a comment like “Of course I’ll call you Robert, but if I forget and call you Robbie, I hope you will know it was accidental and please just remind me again.” If I did forget and Robert was not friendly about it, I’d probably think he was a bit of tool. If I was still forgetting after a year, then Robert should probably think I am a bit of a tool.

  2. The same.

  3. My first name is one of those that has about a million diminutives and I’ll answer to any of them, I don’t have strong feelings about it.

  4. Yes, it just worked out that way. When I started working, I was much younger than all my coworkers and had this idea that my full name sounded more professional, so I started introducing myself that way at work. Most work people call me by my full name. With a smaller group, I go by one of the diminutives that started as one of those in-jokes when you work too many overtime hours with people and start getting loopy. Family calls me by a nickname, and some friends use another one. My in-laws spontaneously arrived at another common diminutive (years later, Mr. Del once asked why I used another name with his family, and I was like DUDE, IT WASN’T ME. I swear, it sprang from their heads fully formed, like Athena out of the skull of Zeus. Their ways are mysterious and I do not question them.)

My own mother only uses my full name, she hates nicknames and her goal was that no one would ever call me by anything other than my full name. It completely escapes her that if she hates nicknames so much, perhaps she shouldn’t have named me the girl’s name that has the most possible nicknames.

Having realized that I didn’t give my answers and that I’ve missed my edit window, here are my answers.

It would strike me as a reasonable request.

I would still see it as perfectly reasonable.

I use my full, unshortened first name.

I use my full name with every one.

1) How would you feel about such a request?

Perfectly reasonable. Although I wonder why they didn’t inform me of this when I first started using the wrong form.

2) Would your answer to the first question change if Robert had asked you to use Rob rather than Robert? How so?

Nope. Of course, I’m most likely to call them Rob in the first place.

3) What form of your name do you tend to use? (Full first name, shortened, diminutive, etc.)

Depends on the person. If they ask to be addressed with a specific form, I’ll use that. If I’m barely on a first-name basis, I’ll use the full form. If we’re buddies, they’ve got a name that’s more than one syllable, and they don’t mind, I’ll shorten it. If we’re buddies, they’ve got a name that suggests a diminutive that I like the sound of, and they don’t mind, I’ll use that.

4) Do you use different forms with different people?

OK, I seem to have misread this question, based on other responses…so:

I prefer to use the formal version of my first name. There’s one specific familiar form I particularly dislike. The people who insisted I should ‘lighten up’ about it and insisted on using it after I told them I preferred the formal form have moved it from ‘not preferred’ to ‘positively loathed’.

Doing that sort of thing is rude as hell, for the record.

  1. I have a friend who prefers to be called Jennifer. Her father calls her Jenny, her mother calls her Jenn, and her brother calls her Butthead. I used to call her Jenn, as that’s how I was introduced to her, but when she asked me to introduce her to someone else as Jennifer, I asked her if she preferred Jennifer with everyone, and she said, “Oh god yes please. I HATE nicknames.” I think I’ve only slipped once in the two years since. So… no, not a problem. I felt bad that she waited so long to tell me.

  2. No, still not a problem.

3/4. I use the anglicized version of my given name - I was born Giuliana, I use Juli Ann legally, and I’m usually called Juli. I will answer to Jules, and a very select few of my close friends and family only call me Jewel. I get annoyed when people automatically go to Jewel, but that happens rarely. Jules seems to be the default for nickname-y types

  1. It would seem reasonable to me. People change.

  2. It wouldn’t change

  3. Full first name. My name can’t really be shortened into a nickname, thoughg some people do have cute names for me.

  4. Nope

  1. I think it would be a reasonable request. I would probably even feel a little bad about all those times I called them by a name they didn’t like.
  2. No different. I’ll call them by whatever they prefer.
  3. Usually the short version (Joe). I reserve the full name for more formal situations.
  4. Yes, but not really intentionally. My family will usually call me Joey, with most others opting for Joe.

(1) Seems perfectly reasonable. People should be called what they want to be called.

(2) No, why would it?

(3) I use and introduce myself to people with my full first name, which is Suzanne.

(4) Family members and really old friends call me Suzi. Nobody ever calls me Sue because I react quite badly. A lot of people shorten it to Suze, which is okay. As long as I can hear that final zee.

ETA: I have been in situation #1 three times. In all cases the person in question went through the following progression: Jimmy to Jim to James. In one case, a family member I’ve known since birth, that final step has been kind of hard, although I do try. He went through this whole thing of “Don’t call me Jimmy, call me Jim,” so vociferously (in high school) and was known as Jim until he was 30. I’ll get it eventually. But the other cases, people I didn’t know from birth, were easier.

  1. I wouldn’t find it unreasonable at all. I just recently found at that my SO, who was introduced to me as Benji, really prefers to be called Ben. That’s ok with me, since Benji sounds a bit juvenile, but sucks because my last SO was also called Ben.

However, my sister decided that she preferred Kati rather than Kathy when she was in high school, but since she was Kathy for the first 15 years of my life, she’ll always be Kathy to me.

  1. No difference, unless it was something like “I really prefer to be called ‘Benji the Magnificent.’”

  2. I use my full name, it doesn’t lend itself to being shortened (it’s only 2 syllables after all) but I have had people call me Laurus (long story), Lorelei, or Laurie-girl (when I was a kid. But my uncle still calls me that from time to time).

  3. Not really, like I said my name doesn’t really lend itself to nicknames.

  1. How would you feel about such a request? (Would it seem rude, unfriendly, reasonable, etc.)
    No intense reaction, negatively or positively, and I would comply (even tho I might have to be reminded once or twice more in the future)
  2. Would your answer to the first question change if Robert had asked you to use Rob rather than Robert? How so?
  3. What form of your name do you tend to use? (Full first name, shortened, diminutive, etc.)
    with very few exceptions, my full name
  4. Do you use different forms with different people?
    I can count on one hand the number of people who regularly address me by a shortened or diminutive form of my name - each of these using their own favorite variant

1)I’d be embarassed that I’d called someone something that wasn’t their name for so long and I’d wish he’d said something earlier. But his request is absolutely reasonable.
2) no.
3) Full name.
4) Very close friends and family call me by an uncommon derivative of my name. But 99% of the world calls me by my full name.

I normally use whatever I think is their name. I had a roommate (in college dorms) whose name was Robert who never told me to call him Bobby, though everyone else did. We weren’t formally introduced; I learned his name off a sheet of paper I was given (random assignment). I ended up calling him Bobby like everyone else.

There were two friends of mine, one of them was named Richard, let’s call the other Napoleon. Napoleon didn’t really like Richard so he took to calling him Dick (because he was a dick, get it, lolomg)

  1. fine. Weird if they hadn’t told me the first time I used it, but understandable.
  2. not at all. a name’s a name
  3. shortened, and I usually introduce myself as such. Anyone who uses the diminutive knew me as a child.
  4. of my name or theirs? I call my SO whatever the hell I want, switch it up now and then. I usually call people by their name
  1. No problem…although I usually go with the formal or introduced name until requested

  2. No. I tend to call you what you want.

  3. All three.

  4. Close family and friends from high school and before call me Julie, current close friends
    Jool and I go by Julia professionally.

    …and my mom can still get my attention by using all of my names.

It’s always reasonable to call a person by what the want to be called. The exception (for me, anyway) is my sister who changed her name as an adult. I’ll introduce her by her preferred (and legal) name, but the family calls her either by her original name or nicknames. I’m not saying her request is unreasonable; it’s just hard to break the habit. She’s not offended by it (at least she hasn’t said so)and understands that old habits are hard to break.

My name seems to lend itself to nicknames easily. I have a million of 'em. I don’t mind.

  1. I would be embarrassed that I had been calling them the wrong name. It seems perfectly reasonable, though I have trouble transitioning and so it would probably take me a while.
  2. Not really, although if it was from “Robbie” to “Rob” it would probably take me longer to transition than from “Robbie” to “Robert.”
  3. I’m in a weird transitiony state right now. My name is long enough that even people who are normally not that presumptuous will eventually get lazy and shorten it. So I guess I go by two different diminutives now.
  4. Yeah. I’m trying to transition, so my family and lots of kids at school still call me by my baby name, whereas some others at school and pretty much every new person I’ve met in the past year or so calls me a more grown-up nickname. A few people use the full version.

I make it clear very quickly if someone starts using what I consider to be a juvenile version of my name. If you don’t like a variation on your name it seems to me that you should politely make it clear the first time someone uses that variation that you do not like that variation. If you let them continue for a long time before finally telling them they are more likely to be embarrassed about having called you something you find offensive for so long.

My name is not Robert, but the name lends itself to similar variations as my real name - if we pretend my name is Robert my reaction when somebody asks what I prefer to be called is “I have a slight preference for Robert over Rob, but I do NOT like to be called Robbie”. There was one cow-orker in a previous job that rather persistently kept calling me the equivalent of “Robbie”; I eventually started ignoring him whenever he called me that.

  1. Wouldn’t bother me at all – I went from using my first name to my middle name in fourth grade because I loathe my first name – it’s a reasonable request.
  2. Not at all. Oddly enough, my first “real” boyfriend has gone from being a Richie to a Rich and now to Richard. While it feels awkward to call him Richard, since everyone else does, I can only assume that that is what he prefers and I do it too. (We are still friends, although there was a long gap between the time we split up when I was 16 and when we reconnected about 8 years ago)
  3. I use my middle name, which is shortened very often by other people, sometimes on purpose, sometimes by mistake. I answer to basically any form of my name and don’t mind what someone chooses to call me, although I do correct them when they call me “joann” rather than “joanna” – it’s not a shortened form, it’s a totally different name.
  4. As I said in 3 – I answer to just about any form of my name. The only name I get ill about someone using (and only my sister does it now) is my first name. When I say I loathe that name, I mean it. Seriously, I work in a call center, and although the name is not very common (I have had a total of 2 customers in almost 2 years with the name, albeit spelled differently) – I refuse to say it even when it is a customer’s name – I use the “Ms. So-and-So” approach on those calls.

I generally use the name the person gives when we’re introduced; if he or she has not done a self introduction, I’ll ask which version they prefer. I still remember one coworker whom I asked “Do you prefer Bernie or Bernard?” and he said it didn’t matter – I was surprised that he didn’t have a preference. FTR, I ended up calling him Bernardo, which he seemed to be okay with.

Most people call me the standard diminutive of my formal name – a lot of people use the “minus the y at the end” version – some members of the family do a silly embellished version of the “minus the y” version. (Actually, just my sister any more … my parents are both dead and I’m semi-estranged from my brother, who’s not a very playful guy anyway. Sniff. I miss that version.)

*1) How would you feel about such a request? *

Reasonable, but he probably wouldn’t have to ask me. I would have used whatever name he used when we were introduced, so the only reason to ask would be if he changed his mind.
2) Would your answer to the first question change if Robert had asked you to use Rob rather than Robert? How so?*


3) What form of your name do you tend to use? (Full first name, shortened, diminutive, etc.)

Whatever the person uses when he or she introduces herself (or is introduced) to me.

4) Do you use different forms with different people?

Sure. I always use whatever form they use.

This helped impress my wife when I first met her. Everyone called her by the diminutive of her name, but I noticed she didn’t use it, and called her by what she had said when introducing herself. She liked that, and it strikes me as the only reasonable way to figure out what someone prefers.

  1. How would you feel about such a request? (Would it seem rude, unfriendly, reasonable, etc.) First, I assume I would be calling him whatever he first introduced himself as. It’s reasonable that he might change his preference and revise what he would like to be called.

  2. Would your answer to the first question change if Robert had asked you to use Rob rather than Robert? How so? I guess not. Again, I would have been calling him Rob because that’s how he referred to himself; again I would assume he changed his mind.

  3. What form of your name do you tend to use? (Full first name, shortened, diminutive, etc.) My name is Gwendolen and sometimes when I move somewhere new I think about going by it. But then I realize it’s a mouthful and I introduce myself as Gwen. But when I do say “Hi, I’m Gwendolen”, please don’t respond with “Hi, Gwen, nice to meet you.” I hate that.

  4. Do you use different forms with different people? My father chose my name and he has never referred to me as anything but Gwendolen. People will call me variations of my name (Gwynneth, Gwendolina) when they know me, to be familiar, but not because I instigate it. I don’t make too much of a fuss, except I do cringe at “Gwennie”.