Hi Duana,
My husband and I are expecting baby 2 (Jan 15). We aren't sure if we will be having a boy or girl. We have a few options for a girls name but we agreed previously we would call our second son Jack. Our first son is named Sam after one of my family members. The back story is my great-grandfather was named Sampson but went by Sam.  My husband was firm on not having our son named Sampson so we switched to Samuel but still call him Sam.

Jack for our son would be to honor my husband’s grandfather. I like Jack and we would most likely just call him Jack the way we call my first son Sam but I feel like he needs a longer form name so it better goes with his brothers. Jack is not the original name of this grandfather, he changed it from a Polish name (I don't know what it is) so my husband is ok if we find an alternative the way we did with Sam as long as the short form is still Jack. The problem is we can only come up with Jaxson/Jackson. Are there any alternatives or are we stuck?


Why yes! Yes there are!

I strongly support the notion that a person named Sam or Jack or Abe or a million other names have a more ‘formal’ name that they can draw on. Yes, it’s true, people use nicknames all the time – but of course, some people don’t. And we can’t predict that, in the future, your son won’t live somewhere or do something that requires him to have a longer name or at least appreciates the option, you know? I think this is only ever good, having options. 

So – originally, Jack was a nickname for John, which was in its turn a name given out sooooo frequently that Jack was a standard deviation but not the only deviation,  it’s where we got the infuriating-to-me expression ‘little Johnny’. [In fact, a digression, for the first post of 2016 – there’s no such thing as ‘little Johnny’. The youngest John I know is almost 40, Jonathan is not far behind, and neither of them were nicknamed ‘Johnny’ when they were young. This is not a catch-all for kids, quit saying this to mean ‘the universal child’. See also, little Timmy. The names you want in this instance are ‘little Liam’ and/or ‘Little Bella’. You’re welcome.]

Pardon me, letter writer, I’m back.

So John is a full-on option and one that would actually make your child stand out. However, it might not accomplish what you’re hoping for in terms of being a recognizable ‘short’ version. Jonathan, which is rare these days, or Johnston if you’re feeling surnamey. Along these same lines of course, you could choose Jackson (please don’t do Jaxon – even if he someday adopts the nickname ‘Jax’ you don’t need to do it for him) but it’s very very very popular…which I think is what you’re asking about avoiding, right?

So then there are other options. For example…and this is why you may already be a winner…do you suppose the Polish name it was anglicized from is Jacek? No, Jacek doesn’t sound like Jack, but it’s a good bet that that’s where it came from, and what a treat for your son to have a name that both fits in and nods to his heritage this way? I would strongly recommend this as a long form. When he’s putting his ‘legal’ name on things there’s only one letter different, and people who glance at it and don’t know the Polish pronunciation will just assume it’s some quirk. After all, this is mostly still in service of his being called Jack all the time, right?

Maybe it’s the sound of ‘Jacek’ or the fact that I’m newly obsessed with the Ask A Manager blog, but I also wondered whether you could get to Jack from Joaquin. Rest assured, I understand that the pronunciation of Joaquin is ‘Wakeen’, but its roots are from Joachim, pronounced ‘Joa-kim’, and both of these have sounds that lend themselves to Jack, for me. 

Remember, not for nothing are there a million ‘Jack’ references, in literature and in nursery rhymes and in idioms, as per ‘of all trades’. It’s because Jack can come from a million places, and thus can stand for a million things. Don’t be so tied to the ‘logical’ root of things, especially if his birth-certificate name is only going to be known to those who actually see it...but before you string me up as a heretic, I’m not just throwing things out of nowhere, either. I kept resisting the urge to say ‘Jackolas’, as though from Douglas or Nicholas. Is this just me free-associating with Jack Nicklaus or missing Santa, or is there actually some precedent here? And if not, are any of you brave enough to make it so?