Perhaps you were named after a great-aunt who happened to have a not-so-great first name. Or maybe your name is so common that it makes you feel like you can never really stand out. Whatever has you on the losing end of the name game, there's a neat little trick to get around a name you loathe: find a nickname you love.
Unlike the red tape process involved with legally changing a name, the beauty of a nickname is that all you have to do is say, "Hi, I am Katherine, but please call me Kat," and, for the most part, your work is done. After all, unless you are on the witness stand or work as a notary public, how many times during the average day are you required to write out or say your full legal name?
Facebook, business cards, non-work email accounts, the name you use to sign birthday cards...once you are serious about using a nickname as an alternate first name, there is no shortage of places and ways to reinforce this new identity.
And now here's the fun part. When choosing a nickname, there really are no rules for what or how to create one, though most nicknames tend to be shortened versions of longer names—or somehow related in spelling; it's true that many people find it easier to "sell" their new first name when it sounds similar to their old one, especially among family and friends. Middle names and special family names are other popular picks.
In need of some name-spiration? Check out the results of these moniker makeovers.
Goodbye Jennifer and Jason, Michael and Michelle
Yes, there is strength in numbers, but if you are a member of the Jennifer and Jason generation of the 70s and 80s, you may be itching to finally make a break from the pack. For Jennifers, instead of sticking with Jenn or Jenny, think about less common nicknames like Jean or Jeanie, Jenna, or, for something completely different, Fern. Jennifer Lopez used a first-last name combo in coming up with her famous JLo nickname. Maybe the letters in your name are just waiting to come together in a cool new combination.
Jasons can switch it up with the shorter nicknames, Jay or Jace (Jase), or focus on their last syllable and re-emerge a Sonny. Jasons with middle names like James or David typically have an easy time making the transition to JJ or JD.
Maybe your parents skipped a few letters beyond J and you ended up a Michelle or Michael instead. For a nickname with more personal flare, Michelles have such picks as Mimi, Mickey, Mish, Melley, Leelee, Elle or Ellie, as well as the more traditional Shelley. Michaels can go beyond Mike to see if foreign-flavored monikers like Mishka or Mikael feel right. Other Michael nicknames include Mikey, Mick, and Mickey.
An Abundance of Katherines (and Elizabeths and Margarets)
Classic first names like Katherine (Catherine), Elizabeth, and Margaret are beloved by many, but do you secretly favor a name with more modern appeal? Katherines can go with the obvious Kate, Katie, or Kathy nicknames, but for a contemporary twist, give Kat, Kay, Kitty, Kiki, Rin, or Rinna a try. Elizabeth yields such fun choices as Bess, Betsy, Betty, Elle, Ellie, Lisbeth, and Lizzy. When it comes to Margaret, there is always Maggie, Meg, and Peggy, but unusual picks like Maisie, Margo, Margie, Madge, Midge, or Greta, may feel more true to who you are.
Taming Traditional Names
Being given the same name as a great-grandmother or grandfather is a family honor, but you may find that a nickname satisfies the part of you that has always wanted a name all your own. Share the same name as your dear old aunt Ruth? Try Rue on for size. Since the release of the Hunger Games movie, this traditional shortened form of Ruth has rocketed up the baby naming charts.
Named after your grandfather Leonard? Len or Lenny are available, but Leo or Lee may feel more like your own creation. William is another common family name that often ends up shortened, either as Will, Bill, Billy, or Willy. But what about the more unique, Liam?
For girls, enduring names like Patricia can be shortened into Pat, Patty, Tricia, or for a splash of sass, Trixie. Harriet can become Hattie. Mary can change into May or Mady. Josephine yields Jo, Joey, Jojo, Josie, Sefina, and the very fun, Fifi. And Juliette can get a little bit rock n' roll with the name change to Jett.
Whatever nickname you come up with, before you make any kind of formal announcement, try the name out with strangers, say it to yourself in the mirror, and practice signing your new name. Certain you've found The One? Then it's time to take a deep breath and reveal the new you.