Nicknames in Edwardian Age


Ben Lemmon

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I thought this might be the best place to put this thread. I was wondering if nicknames were a common fashion back in the Edwardian Age. One case I know of is Douglas Spedden calling his nurse Muddie Boons. Was this a unique case or did it happen quite often? If so, what was a common nickname for Robert besides Bob (not that I have anything against Bob, Bob)
 

Bob Godfrey

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I've never been anything but Bob, Ben! Nicknames, along with 'familiar' forms of given names (which is what I think you have in mind) were just as popular then as now, maybe more so. It seems to me that nowadays a lot of people with names like William or James strongly object to being called Bill or Jim, for instance. Lord knows why - maybe they regard those old familiar names as uncool. And Jack, a name which was once commonly adopted by those christened John (like Jack Thayer), seems to be falling out of favour too.

Apart from the obvious Bob and Bobby, a Robert might be known as Rob or (in Scotland) Rab or Rabbie. Robbo is not unknown, but that one's too recent for 1912.
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Bob Godfrey

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Whilst nicknames are still popular, they are now generally specific to an individual, whereas in the past they were often generic. If you joined the British army in either of the World Wars and you were the only Scotsman in your unit, you would be 'Jock' whether you liked it or not. If Welsh, you would be 'Taffy', if Irish 'Mick', etc. If your surname was White you were doomed to be known as 'Chalky', if it was Miller you'd be 'Dusty' and so on. And there would always be a 'Lofty', a 'Curly', a 'Ginger' etc. Nowadays many people would protest at having such nicknames foisted upon them, but in those days they were generally cheerfully accepted.
 
Jun 12, 2004
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Also consider the example of Charles Lightoller. His friends and shipmates called him "Lights" on occasion, so nicknames derived from actual names (not abbreviations, such as "Bob" or "Ben" for Robert and Benjamin respectively) were apparently bestowed on individuals as well, although it might not have been as common as it is today.

I am sometimes addressed as "Hoppy," from my surname "Hopkins," which is common. My father, before he died, was addressed the same way.

By the way, I read this somewhere--and someone please tell me if I'm wrong--but wasn't Boxhall at times called "Boxie"?
 

Bob Godfrey

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And of course the same person might have different familiar names or nicknames depending on who was addressing him/her. Charles Herbert Lightoller was 'Lights' to his fellow officers but 'Herb' to his wife.
 
Jun 12, 2004
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I know I read or heard it somewhere, Mike. *shrugs* Maybe it was a casual tag used only by the person who had written the passage in which I read it.

Whatever.
 

Inger Sheil

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By the way, I read this somewhere--and someone please tell me if I'm wrong--but wasn't Boxhall at times called "Boxie"?
Boggle goes the mind. If Boxhall was ever called "Boxie", I've never heard of it. Nor have his family ever suggested to me that he was a "Boxie". "Joe", yes. Boxie...never heard of it.

James Moody's family all had endearing nicknames for each other. James was also known as "Jim" to his shipmates. Harold Lowe, according to his son, was always an emphatic "Harold". However, I have found an instance very early in his career when a "Harry" slipped in.
 
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Jack is still popular somewhat on this side of the pond as a given name. My great uncle Jack got his name from The Kid because he had a resemblance to Jackie Coogan. His given name was Henry Damillo Auwater but his Parents saw The Kid and started calling him their little Jackie before he could walk and talk. In Fact my Grandmother told me when he Graduated there was a mini Drama in the Family because Graduation Diploma's tend to list formal names so the School used Uncle Jack's legal name of Henry which he'd never remember being called by. So the School re-did the Diploma to say his Formal name plus "Jack".
 
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Also the occupational "Sparks/Sparky" nickname for a wireless operator.

My parents' friends acquired nicknames in their youth that stuck through their lives - for some it was probably because their first and last names were the same. eg. John Smith [not their real name]. One was called "Muscles" because he lifted weights. The other was called "Banana" because of his long nose. My father was "Joe", after the comedian Joe Penner.

I've read - somewhere, I think it was in a book of Canadian lawyers' humourous anecdotes titled "Court Jesters" - that close knit Maritime communities have clan nicknames. eg. If your great-grandfather was known as "Whistling" McKenna because he always whistled, then you would be John "Whistling" McKenna or "John Whistling". Your distant cousin may be Keith "Snorer" [McKenna] I suppose it happens when large families stay in the same place.
 
Dec 2, 2000
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I don't know about clan nicknames but onboard ship, sailors have no difficulty coming up with nicknames for each other. On my first ship, I was known as "Flash" because of the heavy flashlight I got into the habit of carrying. That thing came in handy at times.
 

Grant Carman

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Michael

It's convenient to SAY it's because of a flashlight. But I think we should ask for proof. You KNOW how you navy types are!!

<grin>
 

Ben Lemmon

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I'm glad someone decided to wind up the jack-in-the-box. Anyway, I have another question for names. I know that middle names were commonplace in the world of etiquette when referring to someone. I just have to look at the Titanic survivor and victims list to see that. However, what I want to know is if it was commonplace for brothers to have the same middle name. I know of one example, which is J.M. Barrie's youthful friends who all had the same middle name of Llewelyn. Were they the exception or part of the clique by giving their children the same middle names? Also, how many names did parents give their children? I think that sometimes after the mother was married, she used her name as a sort of middle name, like Meredith Anne Bishop Terry, or something similar, like Meredith Anne Terry (nee Bishop). Anyway, I'm rambling. I would just like an answer to the question, if anyone could spare the time. Thanks in advance.
 

Bob Godfrey

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Try this article in Wikipedia for an American perspective: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Middle_name

In Britain we may or may not have middle names (my grandmother had two, my grandfather none, I have one) but we rarely use them except in formal documents. So it's easy for us Brits on ET to detect that Michael H Standart and Mark Robert Hopkins, for instance, are probably Americans! We do, however, generally reduce both the first and middle names to initials for brevity in our signatures, so 'J M Barrie' sounds typically British but 'James M Barrie' would more likely be American. Writers often use initials rather than full names for various reasons, one being to conceal their gender. Joanne Rowling, for instance, became J K Rowling because her publisher thought her books would sell better to the target audience of young males if it was assumed they were written by a man. The 'K' was an invention, as she had no middle name.
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Bob Godfrey

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'Double-barelled' surnames, sometimes hyphenated, sometimes not, are quite common in the upper levels of British society, Ben. The boys associated with J M Barrie were of the Llewelyn Davies family. In other words, Llewelyn was part of their surname, not a middle name.
 

Ben Lemmon

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Thanks for responding, Bob. So what you are saying was that it wasn't common practice to give sons the same middle name? It doesn't look like a foreign concept, but has it been done?

If my book ever got published, do you think that I should use a pseudonym or my actual name? I don't really think that I could use my first and middle initials because it would be B.D. Lemmon. That just doesn't work. I don't think I would use my last name for one reason. I do like my last name, but I think that it might be harder for someone to take the book seriously. I could use my family's former last name, Terry. However, that is the last name of the characters in my novel. Talk about conceited.
 
Jul 22, 2001
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Hi
happy.gif


Sometimes children - especially boys - were given their Mother's maiden name as a middle name.

Em
 

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