Keeping names short and sweet

Cultures all around the world typically shorten or twist names to express familiarity. But while it’s a universal trait, there’s definitely no global standard.

Spanish standard

In Spanish speaking countries names are conveniently abbreviated in the same way. Jose Manuel is always Pepe. Jose Maria is always Chema. However, the onus is on the guest resident to familiarise themselves with each moniker as people will introduce themselves with the formal name.

From Brazil to Australia…

In Portugal nicknames are often formed by inserting the diminutive infix ‘inh’ or ‘it’  before the final vowel in the name. Teresa becomes Teresinha (‘little Teresa’), and Carlos becomes Carlinhos (‘little Carlos’). In Australia it’s very likely that Damien will be called Damo, and Sharon (or Maria Sharapova) will be called Shazza. ‘Aussies’ also change surnames: Potter to Potsy, Jones to Jonsey.

Short and sweet

Many names in the US and the UK also have traditional abbreviations. Sarah to Sadie, Charles to Chuck, Anne to Nancy (even if no one is really sure why Margarets are always called Peggy). In Thailand people will always introduce themselves with their nickname, except in extremely formal situations, which are usually just one or two syllables and far easier to pronounce (and remember).

Westernised in Asia

In China and Vietnam, people often have a house name, which is usually only for family. Nowadays, many young people in both countries often choose a western name as they believe their given names are too hard to pronounce for foreigners. In Japan, a family name is often abbreviated and then connected to a first name to form a single word. For example, Miike Takashi could be nicknamed Miikashi. You will also hear Brad Pitt being referred to as BradPi. First names are also commonly shortened by a syllable: Takeshi to Take. Momoko to Momo.

From Russia with love

In Russia, names are always long but routinely shortened, not just in conversation. The author of War and Peace’s full name is actually Lev Nikolayevhich Tolstoy. There are also standard abbreviations like Sasha which is often the nickname for Alexander or Alexandra.

Nicknames near you

So, as it would seem every culture prefers to make names short and sweet, why not try and research how nicknames are typically formed in your host country? Being able to use abbreviated or altered monikers with local friends will help you to express familiarity and form a closer bond with them.

This article was originally published for the thousands of expat partners that Global Connection supports around the globe. It is reproduced here in its original form.

Stay up to date

Sign up for our newsletter and always stay up-to-date on the latest articles.

Sign up for the newsletter