Hi Duana,

Unlike most people who ask for your help, we have already named our baby girl. She is almost one year old. But Houston, we still have a problem.

Our last name is a three syllable Italian name so I wanted a first and middle name that felt light/fresh and not too traditional/fussy. I am also a fan of using the middle name for more than just the birth announcement and legal documents! We have named her Mila Quinn. Definitely on the 'trendy' side, but not necessarily 'popular' as you say.

The problem: she doesn't have a nickname.

The typical nickname for Mila is, I guess, Mimi? No no no. Hell no. Can't. Yuck. The name Mimi is reserved for Lainey's coverage of Mariah Carey and the Drew Carey show. When someone calls my girl Mimi I see huge cleavage and blue eye shadow, and throw up in my mouth a little. So she has just been called Mila Quinn, whenever I can help it.

I now understand that a nickname is something that is just as important as the given name itself. I want her to have a name that those close to her can call her lovingly.

Also important is that I need to call her by a nickname that doesn't embarrass the crap out of her. The baby-ish nicknames we've been using don't feel right anymore (sniff sniff!).

Can you please help me out with a big girl nickname for Mila Quinn?



Well, I love this. If I read this correctly, this means you’re referring to your daughter by both names fairly often, is that right? “Mila Quinn” as the default rather than the exception? I love this, and yet I understand where your consternation is, because how much can you shorten a two-syllable word? 

I know, there’s a whole chorus of you coming to tell me that nicknames aren’t necessarily short forms, but affectionate monikers, and that Australian nicknames both have no resemblance to given names and are often longer than the name in question, but I ask you – read the letter above. Does the parent asking the question seem to you like they want to nickname their child Spog?

First I started thinking not so much about nicknames for Mila – which, if you’re not interested in Mimi, pretty much lead me toward Leelee or Lilo or free-associating and calling her ‘Stitch’… which reminds me that nicknames don’t always come about in a way that has anything to do with your name, at least not directly. There are a few people in my professional life who call me ‘Flex’ – my friend Mark L, years ago, thought ‘Duana’ sounded like ‘Kiana’, as in the workout program ‘Kiana’s Flex Appeal’, and called me ‘Duana’s Flex Appeal’ which quickly got shortened to ‘Flex’… which stuck, among an admittedly nickname-friendly crowd. But explaining the etymology of it isn’t exactly easy.

Similarly, your nickname for your daughter may come from a place you don’t expect. Maybe you call her Sophist, shortened to ‘Soph’, because she loves her Sophie so much they may as well be the same being. Maybe you call her Milanesa, because she’s as cute and consumable as a plate of Milanese pasta. Maybe you reverse her syllables, and it’s Lami, which might lead you somewhere like “Lams”? I know these aren’t exactly what you were getting at, in terms of a cute ‘short’ form, but they’re often the way nicknames are born, or at least the way they’re talked about.

However, if these aren’t it, here are a couple of more straightforward suggestions: when you said you started calling her Mila Quinn, I started rolling those around in my mouth together, and started thinking about MiQui, which is of course the worst – but you know what’s not? Miki, a lovely and not-that-well-known Japanese girl’s name – or Mickey, if you prefer.

There are also the people who take nicknames from initials, so you could see if MQ does anything for you. While I’ve never loved initial nicknames like CJ or JR, and don’t encourage just ‘M’ because people will be inclined, in our Emma-heavy society, to think it’s Emily or Emmeline, and your name is much more interesting than that, I look at MQ and think of ‘Her Majesty the Queen’, which shortens quite neatly to Madge, which you have to admit is a pretty cute and unusual nickname for Mila Quinn.

But, as I’ve said in these pages before, I love full names. Not that I don’t love nicknames, but I’ve never wanted to give them out of a sense that the full name shouldn’t be used all that much, so I may be slightly out of my depth. So, with your tacit permission, I’ll ask the readership for their nickname suggestions – assuming we don’t want Mimi or anything in the same vein, and that we’re looking for a bit of originality without going all the way to, say, the Shazzer/Brozzy brand of Aussie nickname.

I’ll be honest, I’m kind of into Madge (or Quinner? Quinny? See, this is where I would go ahead and start calling her “Quispamsis, N.B.”, like she was Doctor Quinn, Medicine Woman (hey, also that!) but I can’t wait to hear what you think!

**Special bonus prize for the person who knows why “Tutu loves Mila” was in my head the whole time I was writing this…