How do you tell people that you really hate the diminutive that they're calling you?

Not only that, but half the people who do care will tend towards feeling bad that they’ve made you uncomfortable for however long.

I had the same problem for years. An ex-GF (whom I’d been introduced to as nickname-y)said she could only call me by the name I prefer (a diminutive, sans ‘-y’) by thinking of it as a nickname for my nickname. Chalk that one up to inscrutable female logic. (Kidding-ladies please put your tar and feathers away.)

Other than that, I just told my family that I couldn’t imagine being an old man on my deathbed and people calling me ‘nickname-y’, and they got the hint–it did take a couple of years, however. If a co-worker takes the liberty of deriving the name I worked hard to lose (which they’ve never heard anyone else call me), I simply tell them not to call me that. If they ask me what they should call me, I echo Vinnie Jones’ character (with appropriate scorn) from Snatch-“You can call me Susie if it makes you happy.” (I wear a nametag, so they usually figure it out.)

The main problem is your friends, who will have a hard time switching names unless you remind them constantly, and will keep introducing you to new people with the nickname you loathe, thereby propagating it. In that situation, I casually re-introduce myself (Call me <name I prefer>). This usually works, while also reminding your friends of your preference without making an issue of it. FTR, I still have friends who call me nickname-y, but I don’t see them often and it is so infrequent that the name already has a nostalgic ring to it.

  1. I raise a finger (index!) to show that I’m about to make a point, pause, and with a calm and measured (psychotic?) voice, say…

“NO-body… calls me that!”

  1. If they persist, remind them…

“Everyone gets ONE warning.”

  1. If they still persist, walk slowly toward them; as if you WILL bust them upside-the-head if they continue. Stop when you’re within arm’s length. Stare at them for a few moments while breathing through flaring nostrils…then walk away.

  2. If they continue… then you have to hurt them. (yes… really!)

I’ve don’t usually have to pass stage 2.
Of course, it helps that I’m of a size and can express the demeanor such that few people want to push it.

I have a double first name (akin to MaryJo or JoAnn, but much odder) and go by my full name or my initials.

Depending on the person the scenarios go:

Hi Mary!
MaryJo. Hi!
How’s it going Mary?
MaryJo. Fine!
If I say it relatively quietly they tend to get it. If not, I will state that I prefer my full name.

However… I have a niece who constantly calls me by the first part of my name. I have asked her multiple times to either use my whole first name or my initials. Even my mom and my sister (her mother-in-law) has told her I do not like just the first part of my name.

Conversations usually go either like this:
Shannon: Hi Mary!
Hi Sha!
You mean Shannon?
Yes, just like you meant MaryJo.

Shannon: Hi Mary!
blank stare
Blank stare
Hi Shannon!

I know - it’s just a name. When I was young I received a lot of flack about my name - growing up in the inner city with the Shaquannas, Lashawns and the Demarkos and having a “countrified” name was a pain. My second grade teacher refused to believe my parents would name me what they did and formalized it. You know the standardized tests where you have only so many little blocks to put your name in? She would run out of room. Yes, SHE would fill it out as I could not be trusted to know my own friggin’ name. So it is a bit of a touchy subject.

(One day I may get over it.)

I asked people to stop calling me that name when I was nine, because I hated it. I hardly ever have to remind anyone anymore, but if it ever comes up, that’s what I tell them. I think it implies a level of closeness which they just do not have. I won’t even let my wife call me that name, and you can’t get any closer to me than that.

As a matter of fact, I had a cousin find me by e-mail, and she kept referring to me by that name, after repeated requests to stop. She said, “But I’ve always called you that!” No you haven’t, at least not to my face. I haven’t seen you since before your puberty, and we have never had a conversation, ever, and if you’d called me that on some occasion, I’d have asked you not to then, too. “Can’t I keep some of my childhood?” “You can have all of it. I just fail to see why you think it’s perfectly all right to disrespect my wishes like that.” She removed me from her mailing list. Is it any wonder I’m estranged from my family, with people like that in it?

This is somewhat related but how can I get my boss to stop calling me “Kiddo” I feel like there is just a certain amount of paying your dues in terms of being treated and taken seriously as a 23 year old female.

I was also in the room when one of the doctors and the veterinarian (I’m a research assistant) were talking about someone they know going through a sexual harassment suit. They were talking really quietly but I could still hear them and the same one that calls me kiddo was like “the first few pats on the behind should be free” and they laughed so I was just like “well then how many free pats do I get with you guys then?” Oh man they both went white as ghosts that I even said anything.

Kiddo though. Horrible. I used to hate people calling me “les” instead of “leslie” but I’m over it.

Call them Ancient One. Or threaten to go to HR.

Yeah, I see what you mean by this, and I would agree.

You could mention it like “You know, I was thinking that Joseph sounds more professional, and so I think I’m going to start going by that.” That allows for the possibly that it just now occurred to you, which would seem less strange than letting months go by. If that doesn’t seem to be enough of a hint, you could enlist the person’s help, saying something like “It would be great if you called me Joseph – because that would help other people remember that I like to be called Joseph.”

Am I the only one who thinks it’s a little pretentious to do this?

My name is Timothy, and on pretty much a daily basis I get called Tim, Timmo, Timmy, T-Dawg, etc.

I mean, the abbreviated version of your name is supposed to be a personal, friendlier version right? So I would think it’s a positive thing when people start calling you a more nick-namey version.

Personally, if someone said to me, “I really prefer you call me Joseph”, I would hear “I’d really only like you to address me about professional and business matters”, and you wouldn’t be invited out to happy hour after work. It just screams pretentious to me when people refuse to go by a nickname.

Derogatory nicknames like “kiddo” are of course excluded from this.

VCO3, I’ve seen this drama play out many times, and I have a couple of things to say.

Do not show anger when somebody calls you that name. Don’t get whiny. As long as your tormentors know they can get a rise out of you so easily, you will be an endless source of amusement for them. Teasers never quit as long it’s still fun.

My parents named me Kenneth. Like a lot of kids, I didn’t like my name. In the 4th grade, my teacher insisted on calling me Kenneth, the worst form. Her brother was a Kenneth, and he was sort of a local joke. He had run for every office in the city and county without ever getting elected.

The next year, I decided Kenny was a toddler’s name :dubious: , and I was to be Ken. I stuck to that for a long, long time. Never mind that my last name started with an N, making it awkward to say both. Never mind that hundreds of people had never heard of the name Ken, and they thought is was odd, even when I spelled it out.

Sometime in my early 50s, I realized my town contained several well-respected men named Kenny. I also realized I had been taking myself too seriously for almost 50 years. Now, I introduce myself as Kenny, and I don’t worry about having a kiddie name. I’m also less worried about being thought a fool. I shake my head to think how long it took to figure that out. :smack: You are who you are, and nothing so small as a name is going to change that.

For myself I just don’t like the sound of the nickname versions of my name (which are pretty contrived anyway, that is, my name doesn’t really have a true diminutive). Second, I think people have the right to be called what they would like to be called. For the same reason I don’t like to be shoehorned into being called “Mrs. Hubby’sLastName” (or worse, “Mrs. MyLastName”) just because “Well, you’re married, so that’s what you should be called!” Um, no. This is the name I prefer to go by. Please use it (as I have politely informed you) and do not impose your own invented bastardizations on me.

To me “Patty” feels the same way that “kiddo” does. (And people who are honestly friends of mine know that both “Pat” and “Trish” are fine. Just not “Patty.” I hate the name “Patty.” Or the real world correlation, anyway.)

And really, is calling someone by a name they hate the only way you can express friendliness?

We had a new associate start whose name was Daniel. He was introduced to me as Dan. After a day or two, we were talking and I asked him if he actually preferred Dan or Daniel. He stopped and looked at me like I’d grown another head for a second, then said…‘You know, since you’ve asked, I’d actually like to be called Daniel.’ Seems he’d been Dan for YEARS, but looked at this new job as an opportunity to be called by his whole name for a change. He started introducing himself as Daniel, and I introduced him to people as Daniel, and even though he’s been gone from the company for a couple of years, people still call him Daniel when his name comes up.

For me, that’s different for some reason. Like a guy named Robert could say “I don’t like being called Bob, but you can call me Rob or Robbie.” I don’t know why, but that strikes me as being okay, while insisting “Robert” strikes me as pretentious and really unfriendly.

I just think abbreviated versions of names are friendly and make a person more approachable and personable. Insisting on the non-shortened version of the name seems cold to me.

So, sure, you can insist whoever calls you whatever name you want, but beware of people like me who won’t especially understand why you don’t want to be friendly with me.

Also I think it’s a good rule that if you insist on being called by your full name, you should call everyone else by their full names. Deal?

I don’t have exactly the same situation as you but I do have an almost never fail trick for similar situations. For some reason, my family gives honorary names as first names but assigns middle names as primary names from birth. My middle name is very unusual and distinctive and my first name is among the most common names in the U.S. I sometimes let strangers call me by my first name as a way of remaining relatively anonymous because I don’t relate to it at all. Sometimes those strangers will get to know me better and I will have to correct them.

The trick is to give them something to hold on to as a simple story. In three or four sentences I tell them why my middle name is my primary name and why I have my first name the way I do. No one ever forgets after that. If you are named after a relative or anything else, you can use that (e.g., I am named after my Uncle Robert. He always went by Robert and that is what I want to go by too.") It is a powerful psychological tool and you should be able to find some way to use it.

So, wasson, are you saying that if a man’s name is Benjamin, though nobody calls him that; he prefers to go by Ben, but hates to be called Benny, that it’s pretentious, cold and unfriendly? Ben is a short form, but not a diminutive. I’d like to understand your take on it.

Don’t ever visit Australia if you hate excessive use of the diminutive.


It’s not a matter of calling everyone by the diminutive because it’s “more friendly” or calling everyone by the full name because it’s “more formal,” but calling people what they themselves would like to be called. If “Patricia” prefers “Trish,” then insisting on calling her “Patricia” against her stated wishes is just as obnoxious as calling someone “Bob” who would really rather be “Robert.”

However, calling people what they ask you to call them is a simple act of courtesy, no matter the form they ask you to use. (And let’s not call up the straw man of, “What if they want to be called ‘High Priestess of the Universe’?” We’re not talking about silly made-up examples.)

I would like to apologise once more to my co-worker Tamara, who goes by Tamara or Tam and who has been very patient with me as I repeatedly call her Tammy :smack: I don’t know why… I know better than that. I always try to call people by the name they give themselves… but whenever I’m talking to her, Tammy just slips out. Sorry Tamara!

In the OP’s situation, I’d probably try to say something like “I know I should have said something before but I feel so awkward about it… I really prefer to be called Joseph. I’ve never used Joey and I feel funny when you call me that, like you’re talking to someone else. Everyone who knows me well calls me Joseph.” Combined with an embarrassed smile, I can’t see anyone taking offence.

Sometimes I think that’s overplayed a bit though. A lot of words are simply shortened, and some diminutives you see in the US and elsewhere are rare here. I don’t think I’ve ever met a “Mickey”, but I know heaps of Micks and Mikes, and even things like Johnny seem less common than in the US. We do claim ownership of the “-o” ending though, which I guess is diminutive, but seems more masculine and less babying - it’s quite ok to call a tough looking bloke Johno or Davo.