Nicky Wagner, RN. It just didn't sound right. Even though Nicole Wagner had been Nicky for as long as she could remember -- from Girl Scouts and camp to softball and sorority life -- the nursing student was concerned that future patients would hesitate when she showed up to draw their blood as Nurse Nicky.
"I wanted to be taken seriously in the medical profession, so I decided to go back to my full birth name," says Wagner, 22, of Concord. "But I think the switch was easier for me than for my family."
Pet names or diminutive nicknames have a way of clinging. They often become part of one's identity, a lifelong term of endearment or a reminder of youth and innocence. However, everyone has to grow up sometime. When Ricky Schroder of "Silver Spoons" joined the cast of "NYPD Blue," he dropped the "y" faster than he grew that cop scruff. And while it's possible that his mother still gets to call him Ricky, experts say most people, particularly men, drop diminutive names long before they enter the professional world.
"Diminutive or cutesy nicknames can last a lifetime within families and among good friends, but outside an inner circle, they don't usually survive past grade school," says Linda Murray, global editor-in-chief for BabyCenter.com, one of the biggest sources for baby naming on the Internet.
However, if current naming trends continue, diminutives won't be an issue. There wasn't a single "y"
"If parents don't like certain nicknames, they will stay away from the name altogether," she says. Each year, BabyCenter polls thousands of parents on naming. Seventy percent think that a good name can help a child be successful, she says. "Because we're in a rough economy right now, I think parents want their kids to have a name that will sound good on a résumé."
Sometimes, however, a pet name creeps in, often with no relation to the person's first name. Think BoBo, Pookie or Huggy Bear.
Chris Lotterer was barely 2 years old when he uttered his first words: "Weegie Waggie." Soon after, people began calling him that. His father's friends would come over and ask, "Hey, where's the Weegie Waggie?"
Over time, it morphed into The Weeger, and, eventually, into The Weege. When he got his first car, the letters graced his license plate. "In college, I was just introduced as Weege," says Lotterer, who is 40 and lives in Los Gatos.
When he got his first cellphone, he requested a number
The only place Lotterer is still known as Chris is at Nasdaq, where he works as an associate for the IPO sales team. "I kind of separated the two when I got to Nasdaq," he says. "But even a few people there know me as Weege. It won't die. I love it."
But not everyone loves to be called by a nickname. And if you're bringing your girlfriend over to meet the family for the first time, you may want to give your family a heads-up to avoid pet names, Murray suggests.
"Of course that would egg my family on," she says. "So sometimes you just gotta roll with it and suck it up. We've all got embarrassing family traditions."
When a name must go, Murray says boys often make the switch before girls. Powerful women throughout history have had diminutive names, she points out, including Katie Couric, Kristi Yamaguchi and Betsy Ross.
Daniel Post Senning, the great-great-grandson of Emily Post, remembers the day he sat down with his mother and asked her to stop calling him Danny. "I was entering high school, meeting a new group of teachers and having my name in roll call, so I figured it was a good time," he recalls. "She supported me."
Getting others to stop calling you by a nickname can be difficult. Post Senning says you must be persistent and recognize that old habits are hard to break. "Put a smile
Entering a new grade, job or other milestone -- your first set of business cards, for instance -- are great times to retire a name, he says.
Paula Dodd Aiello, of Berkeley, remembers when her nephew, then in his mid-20s, applied to business school and asked everyone in the family to stop calling him Jamie. He preferred James.
"It took us years to get used to it," she says. "We have an aunt in her 80s who still can't get used to it."
As for Aiello's four children, only the youngest, Cameron Aiello Dodd, now 16, has a nickname. He started out with dozens. Cameron was born prematurely, weighing just 2 ½ pounds. After spending the first five weeks of his life in neonatal intensive care, his family, especially his mom, had come up with many affectionate terms for their little fighter.
First, they called him "Rooty-Tooty." Then "Rooty-Patooty," which morphed into "Wooty-Tooty."
"I gradually started using 'Woots,' which we liked because it sounds like a cheer, as in 'Woot!' " she says. "He let me know in late elementary school that it was not to be used in public. But I will always use it at home."
Tommy Lee Jones