Hi Duana, I'm a bit of a name nut, and so enjoy your column! My husband and I are due with our first, and we have decided not to find out the sex. We have both agreed that incorporating family names are important to us, and I'm hoping to get your opinion on both options!

My grandmother's maiden name was Parks, so if she's a girl I want to go with either Parks or Parker. I like the Parks is the true name, but am drawn to Parker because it is a slight twist, and I love that it's uni-sex. The middle name will be Elizabeth.

On my husband's side, it is the cultural tradition to name the first boy after the paternal grandfather. His dad's name is William Johannes (goes by Willie), and while I love the idea of Johannes as a middle name, I'm stuck on William. It's just too traditional for me, and I'm not a fan of the nickname Will (or Bill or Liam or any other one that is predictable). My husband has already vetoed Willem, and isn't crazy about Wim (although that's my favorite!). Do you have any uncommon, yet palatable, nicknames for William up your sleeve?!

Thanks so much for your help!


This is one of those letters where I was reminded of one of the most annoying phrases I heard in school “read the instructions carefully, all the way through”.  

I mean, who has to say that? Of course I’m going to read all the way through, except for that one time I didn’t, and it haunts me because Mrs. Pynkoski got to be legitimate in her criticism that day (as opposed to all the other days when she just wanted me to be miserable.) 

But when I was choosing a letter to answer today, I read through going “yep, Parks is an awesome name, don’t change it”, and “nooope, don’t even think about Bill or Liam” and it wasn’t until your very last question that I realized “Wait, yes! I have something to contribute!” I got all excited, wrote half my response – and then, having written about how I know better than a droning teacher reminding you about what you already know, closed the file without saving.  

So yeah, my executive function skills need some polish sometimes, but my enthusiasm remains unparalleled, and I know we can find you something! 

So, in case you skipped over it earlier (read things thoroughly!) I think Parks is so great. I probably prefer it over Parker just because of the novelty of it, but either is great.  

But you also schooled me because I thought I knew all the nicknames for William, and agreed with you that while I might prefer one over another personally, if you know them all but don’t love them, then yeah, it’s kind of shrug emoji time. 

But how wrong I was! 

First of all, blanket reminder that if you think a given nickname is short for William, then it is. You don’t need the dispensation of a book or a name encyclopedia – or me, frankly. So if I suggest something you like, or even might consider, I want you (and your partner) to banish the idea of ‘I haven’t heard that before’ as a factor, OK? 

I briefly considered Willis, but I thought it might be too close to Willie. That said, if you want that level of honorific/similarity, why not? It’s in line with a lot of other trends these days, including Ellis for both boys and girls, and it’s been out of commission for far too long. But don’t let me sell you too hard, because the next one I came across made me even happier: 


Isn’t it great? Wilkes! It’s short, it’s crisp, it’s very clearly of William but it’s not gonna be one of a million, and I think it sounds like something you’d enjoy. The only qualifier, of course, is that if you really were set on using Parks, that if you had a girl somewhere down the line, you might find those names too similar – but then you could go with Parker, and they’d have a common ground while not being matching names. 

While you ponder that possibility, I’ll go on with a few more – 

Whit as a nickname for William was kind of a surprise to me to be honest, but Whitney was a name for boys before the 1960s, and I’d wager they derive from the same origin (…that is, William).  It might feel a bit short to use all of the time, but if you love it, I can see how it would be a pleasure to say and to use. 

I also came across Wylie, and I was delighted. I know Wyatt is in very common use right now, and for some people it seems like a bridge too far if you don’t anticipate you, or your child, having any sort of cool Western vibe. But for some reason (maybe because I associate it with the fascinating Wylie Dufresne), Wylie seems much more flexible and wearable and kind of fun, and it’s not so far from William that you’d have to pull out charts and old ledgers to explain how it’s derived from William. 

But I’d understand if you were still stuck back on Wilkes… I am too.

That said, I had a final thought that seemed obvious to me, and I wanted to ask whether there was a reason it wasn’t in contentio. Why not call him Johannes William instead? This is, of course, predicated on the assumption that you like that name, or any nicknames for it.  Jo or Yo are the only that come to mind pre-caffeine, but I’m sure there are more – but it’s a way to have the spirit of the honour name while still making it exactly your son’s own. 

I’m excited for this one – let us know!