What are you called? Nicknames

Normally you have no control over what name your parents give you, sometimes you have a little control over nicknames. Sometimes.

Actually, shortening names is done everywhere. I know of someone in America whose name is Charles William, his long name was shortened to CW and it was not pronounced “C-double-u” but shortened once again to “C-Dub”.

Family Nicknames

My family gave me my nickname of Lisa, sort of a short form of Alicia. Sometimes the nickname turns out to be something completely different than the given name. We know someone who is called “Looky there” in Swiss German.

A lot of the time families use the diminutive of “y” or “i” added to the name. But wait, what is a girl name and what is a boy name? Jimmi or Jimmy, Bobbi or Bobby, Sammi or Sammy? I don’t know about you, but generally speaking I always thought “i” was used for a girl name and “y” for a boy name. At least, I thought that until I came to Switzerland. Here, it looks the “i” is preferred over the “y”. My husband’s family call Ben “Beni” and not “Benny”. Elisabeth turns into Lisi.

It can get strange when you add a “y” to certain names. Well, only for the English speaking ears, that is. I’ve heard this for both males and females. Again, you usually only take the first syllable and add a “y”. Silvio, Silvia and all the different variations of that name turn out to be “Silly”. You gotta love the Swiss, they put a smile on your face when they say their names, “Hi, I’m Silly”.

Scouts Nicknames

Switzerland has boy and girl scouts, too. As part of the initiation into the club the leaders give you a name and that is what you are call hence forth by all the other scouts. The names can be pretty wild. Often because scout friendships last forever, the people keep and use their scout names into adulthood. I’ve even seen the scout names in obituaries, in parenthesis, but still there.

There are a number of people whom I call by their scout name because that was the way I was introduced to them. The strange part is after awhile that is just their name. You call them that without thinking about what you are actually calling them. Some of the names I’ve heard: Lion, confetti, afro, fly, string, bean, burp, boa, splendid, ginger, wasp and lama to name a few.

Regional Nicknames

Sometimes the region where you live can have a say in what you will be called. In Bern names are usually shortened. Most names are very often shortened to two syllables. If your name already only has one or two syllables you might be able to keep it. Otherwise it is (usually) the first syllable plus a “u” (pronounced like “boo” without the “b”) for the males.  For females it is the first syllable plus an “a”. Unfortunately that’s the simple explanation, it’s not always quite that easy. Oftentimes umlauts are added here and there (on the a, o and u). There are other “rules” but the “u” and “a” are most common.

Benjamin            Benu
Patrick                  Pädu
Andreas               Ändu           Resu
Peter                    Pedu
Otto                      Öttu
Urs                         Ürsu
Markus                Märku        Küsu
Frederick             Fredu
Christian              Chrigu
Silvia                      Sila
Barbara                Bäbla
Brigitte                 Brigga
Susanne              Süsla
Elisabeth             Lisa
Franziska             Fränzla
Christine              Chrige (pronounced as an “a”)
Ursula                   Uschla
Marianne            Mara

Problems can arise…

Sometimes the Swiss have problems with my name. Lisa is seldom a stand-alone name. Here it is usually a nickname for Elisabeth (which is never written with a “z” here) – you can see “Lisa” in it. Most people here assume that my real name is Elisabeth, which it is not. On all my official papers it’s Alicia otherwise it is Lisa. At one of my jobs I gave my name Lisa for the payroll. Every month I got my check and all was well.

Then one July the check didn’t come, I waited about a week and then asked others at work if they didn’t get their check either. Everyone had. We called the post office bank (yes, the post office!) and asked if they had received the money. They checked and said it came but they sent it back.

“Why???!! “

“Well, it was addressed to Lisa and not Alicia. That obviously is not the same person. “

“Wait, wait, wait, up until now there were no problems. My check has always arrived.”

Summer help

It looks like the summer help was being especially alert. He saw two different names and thought this can’t be the same person and asked his boss. The boss agreed and back went the money. Who cares if the check had been coming in regularly for 4 years at the same address. Who cares that the double last name is exactly the same. Especially, who cares if they don’t get their check on time. Who cares? Me!

Finally the manager said if I don’t want to have that happen again then I should change my first name on the check! Then, thank goodness, Ben got on the phone and took over the conversation. He said very clearly that Lisa is a nickname to Alicia. Just like Bobby is a nickname to Robert and no, we wouldn’t change it. We finally did get our money.

Believe it or not, the same thing happened once again a year later (maybe the same summer help, who knows). The difference being, we waited exactly one day before we called. Ben did all the talking on the phone that time. It never happened again and we didn’t change my name. I wonder what exactly Ben said to the man??

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