How the heck do you get Polly out of the name Mary?
Dick out of Richard?
If you’ve been puzzled by how formal names got their shortened nicknames over the years, then this article is what you’ve been waiting for. Prepare to be educated, buddy.
1. Richard = Dick
Okay, I’ve always wondered how this one worked out. Turns out there were so many people named Richard during the Middle Ages (and there weren’t that many first names yet) that people started using nicknames to tell each other apart.
Richard became Rick and then people started rhyming it with other words to create a new name…and now we have Dick.
2. William = Bill
The rhyming nickname game struck again with William! Again, so many people were named William during the Middle Ages that it was shortened to Will, and then, voila!, Bill!
3. Ann(e) = Nancy
A different example, because the nickname is actually longer than the formal name. People frequently used the affectionate term “mine Ann” when addressing people with this name and that turned into “my Nan.” The nickname trend of the time also saw people adding “cy” to the end of names, so the name Nancy was born.
4. Edward = Ted/Ned
You guessed it, the same pattern as Ann=Nancy. Edward was a common name and nicknames were needed for people to distinguish themselves.
If a name started with a vowel, a consonant was added, and so that is how Edward was shortened. This one also confused me…
5. Helen = Nellie
The Helens out there were called “my Helen” which turned into “my Nell” and then into “my Nellie.” Are you seeing a pattern here?
6. Margaret = Peggy
Another one that never really made any sense to me. But here we go: As we’ve seen with other names, Margaret was shortened to Meg or Meggy, and then those Middle Ages folks who really loved the rhyming game came up with Peggy. And there you have it.
7. Mary = Polly
During the Norman times of the 11th and 12th centuries, people would often substitute the letter R with other letters. In this case, the R in Mary was replaced by two Ls (same case with Sarah/Sally). Mary turned into Molly, and Molly turned into Polly. Mind. Blown.
8. Charles = Chuck
In what’s known as the Middle English period, roughly 1150 until 1500, the name Charles was actually Chukken. For real.
Did you enjoy this little history lesson? I sure hope so, because I did.