Dear Duana,

My husband and I are expecting a boy this winter, and while we fundamentally agree on the types of names we like (traditional, must pass the Supreme Court test), I’m having a lot of trouble agreeing to anything because I’m afraid of what my husband is actually going to call our child.   My husband really wants to go with James, and I have always liked the name.  The problem is that I don’t want a name that my husband can bastardize into some infuriating nickname.  We already have a daughter named Catherine, and I absolutely love it.  She goes by her full name, rather than “Cate” or “Katie” or any other cutesie nickname.  However, my husband, for some godforsaken reason, has taken to calling our beautiful toddler “Big Cathy.”  Seriously.  I want to stab him in the eyes every time he says it.  He has also, within the past few years, has started to call me “Vanny” (for Vanessa) even though I have threatened divorce if he ever calls me that again.  While I am not a nickname person myself, I am not generally vehemently opposed to them.  I am just opposed to my husband’s choice of horrible nicknames.  I just know that if we name our baby James, he will end up calling him “Jimbo” or something equally awful. Can you help me think of some traditional boy names that aren’t capable of being shortened to obnoxious nicknames?  If there’s an annoying variation out there, my husband will find it.

Also, our last name begins with a vowel, has the “L” sound featured prominently at the beginning and ends in “R,” so names like “Paul” and “Arthur” don’t really work for us.  Thanks!


Oh man. You’re going to kill me. Because I started reading this and I couldn’t stop laughing at Big Cathy. What is he doing, other than guaranteeing she’ll have ammunition to yell at him for when she’s a teenager? Also, he may be setting her up for a life as a comedian…?

Regardless, I agree that his names are ridiculous, but I think you might have to steer INTO the nickname thing rather than away from it. For example, I could tell you that Dean is a great name with no nickname potential, but that doesn’t help you if your husband starts in with “Deanerino”. Right? So even though you could do well with Matthew, whose short forms are harmless, or Jacob, or Henry, there might be a way to make James work for you. (I don’t dare suggest Frederick – who knows what your husband will do to it.)

Obviously Jamie is the go-to nickname, but you can get around it if you want to by adopting the little used “Jem”, all To-Kill-A-Mockingbird cool and you never even said the word “Atticus”. Or go ahead and call him Diego – in a silly, once-in-a-while referencing Dora to your daughter kind of way – and James will feel like a great relief. You can do the same trick with Jameson or Jay, and don’t let your husband see the Nameberry page which suggests “Jocko” is an accepted nickname for James.   

You don’t include his name, but you could always fight fire with fire and start adding “olio” on the end of his name every time you refer to him. Hey, Nate-olio! Hey,  Mike-olio? See? Regardless, I think in this case forewarned is forearmed, so you can get there with nicknames before he does. Tell Big Cathy to do the same.  

…I’m sorry.  I can’t stop laughing.