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My daughter prefers going by a short nickname than her long name. I wish I had just named her that.

Mom and toddler posing for photo
The author's daughter goes by Ella instead of by her name Elizabeth.
  • My 5-year-old daughter is named Elizabeth and goes by Ella.
  • She still gets confused about how the names are related.
  • I try to use her longer name, but she prefers the nickname.

My second daughter arrived in the world in a rush. I waddled into the hospital at exactly 3 a.m., and she was in my arms at 3:17, caught by a midwife who was still wearing her street clothes. I scooped the baby up, admiring her red hair and perfect features. There was only one problem, I thought: she still didn't have a name.

I found out we were having another girl early on in the pregnancy, and my husband and I started tossing around monikers. Our first daughter is Harriet, a name we agreed on almost instantly. I loved its old-time appeal and the fact that I'd never met a Harriet before her. My husband, an English immigrant, liked that the name was sweet and familiar, having been used by many of his classmates.

Nearly five years later, he was wiser about American culture, and we were at an impasse. I liked more unique names while he preferred something well-known. For months, we went back and forth over a name for our second, consistently coming up short.

I settled on her name but kept nickname options open

By the time my due date came and went, I realized we might need to — dare I say it — settle. So, we put together a shortlist. Rose was in the running, and so was Elizabeth. As I looked at my little redhead, Rose was crossed off the list — while the colorful connotation might have been fun for some families, it seemed too much for me.

So, Elizabeth it was. My husband has a distant family member with the name who goes by Elle. That pairing seemed like a good fit for us: a well-known name to please my husband, but a less common spin on Elizabeth's many nicknames. Elle felt a bit metropolitan for an infant, so we started calling the baby Ella.

As I wrote Elizabeth on the birth certificate, I was satisfied, but part of me wondered if I was just kicking the proverbial can, choosing a name that has infinite nicknames to avoid actually settling on one.

In school, she started requesting to go by her nickname

Ella settled into our family perfectly, but her name occasionally nagged at me. I wanted to use Elizabeth, and not just when she was in trouble, but the name felt awkward on my tongue. Other family members weren't too bothered. My husband rarely used the baby's formal name and my sister confessed that she sometimes forgot about Ella's longer given name.

When it came time for school, the teacher (Ms. Elizabeth, who went by Liz), emailed me. What name did I want my daughter to go by? I decided school would be a perfect place to practice using Ella's formal name. But three weeks in, my daughter asked with frustration why her teachers didn't call her Ella.

At her request, teachers made the switch but continued to use the longer name for written communication and name-writing practice. But before long, "E-L-L-A" was scrawled across all the papers. I couldn't blame her — what preschooler would want to spell out Elizabeth when Ella would cut it?

Explaining a nickname is complicated

During that school year, I started to wonder if I had made Ella's life more difficult by giving her a formal name and a nickname. Part of me wishes I had just gone with Ella, and saved us the confusion of the little-used formal name.

Ella is nearly 6, and she still doesn't quite understand how her names fit together. Her sister and cousin have a first name and middle name, but she has this strange formal name thrown in there too. In trying to explain a nickname to Ella, I've realized just how complicated the concept is. I have yet to find a good way to explain it, though I point out other loved ones with formal names, like my dad William, who exclusively goes by Bill.

Growing up, I always wanted a nickname. I thought it was so sophisticated the way some classmates had a formal name and then something else that they were called. On the flip side, I have an aunt who legally changed her name to her nickname as an adult, because she never connected with the formal moniker. Only time will tell where Ella will land.

Read the original article on Business Insider

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