names; bullying; friends; Australia; harassment;
When you were born your parents gave you a name.
Maybe you were named after someone in the family. Maybe they chose a name they really liked. Maybe you were named after someone famous like a movie, sports or rock star.
Whatever - you were given a name before anyone knew you and what you would be like.
As people got to know you then maybe they would call you by a nickname. A nickname is another name you are called by people in your family or by others who know you. It could be that you have different nicknames when you are with different people like sports teams, school friends or, unfortunately, you could be called a nickname you don't like by people who like bullying others.
How you get nicknames
Nicknames are very popular in Australia.
- Often they are a short version of your actual name.
They can be a slight change of your first name eg. Alex or Ali or Sandy if your name is Alexander, or Alexandra.
- There might be a change, or a bit added to your last name, eg. Hall could become Halley, Fox could be Foxy, and Smith could be Smithy.
- You can 'earn' a nickname by sharing some experience with others, eg. being the last to get up on a camp, and everyone starts calling you Sleepy!
- You may get a nickname through sport. Like Speedy, Surfie, Socco, Flash, Hoops etc.
- You may get a nickname that is just for you in your family.
- You and your friends may choose nicknames for each other.
- You may get a nickname that says something about your personality, eg. Brainy or Brainiac, Arty, the Geek.
- Sometimes a nickname just seems to come of its own accord. These are the names that good friends who share experiences, give each other.
- Sports teams are often given nicknames, eg 'The Reds' for Adelaide United (soccer), 'Boomers' and 'Opals' - Australian basketball teams.
When nicknames are not fun
- Sometimes unkind nicknames are used to put people down or hurt their feelings. Names like Dumbo, Four eyes, Metal mouth are really hurtful and not very smart.
- Sometimes a nickname that is used by the family and started when you were a baby can be really embarrassing when people outside the family are around! Being called 'Droopydrawers' or 'Precious' when you were a baby is not ok now you are much older!!
- Sometimes your friends call you a name that you 'earned' through some embarrassing incident that you shared, eg. when you chucked up on the bus. 'Spew' isn't exactly the name you wish to be known by for the rest of your life is it?
- Sometimes people who are not your friends start to use a nickname they have heard your friends call you.
What can you do when you don't like your nickname?
- Don't answer to a nickname you don't like.
- Ignore anyone calling you a nickname you don't like.
- Say quietly but firmly that you prefer to be called by your real name or a preferred nickname.
- Explain that your nickname is only used by your close friends or family.
- Ask what their least favourite nickname is and say that's what you'll call them if they continue.
- Tell them the nickname you prefer to be called
- Have a 'new nickname' competition with your friends so that everyone gets a new name. Well at least it will be fun, and you don't have to keep it.
- Make sure that you introduce yourself to new people by your name or preferred nickname.
- If it's hard to shake a nickname you hate then don't stress. Keep saying your preferred name and remember that your hated nickname is not who you are. It's only a word; it's not you.
- Nicknames don't need to follow you around. As you meet new people and share new experiences your nickname can change too.
- Remember that most nicknames are given to people whom others care about, share with, are friends with and are given to you as part of a group.
Some famous Australian nicknames
Australians often call our country Oz, and many places in Australia have well known nicknames, eg. Freo for Freemantle.
Often a name has a bit added on like Johnno.
Redheads may be called Bluey or Red.
We talk about Posties (postmen), truckies (truck drivers), hosties (air hostesses) and Pollies (politicians).
Many famous Australians have nicknames. See if you can match these famous people and their nicknames.
What kids say
- "I got my nickname, 'Jumpy' when I won the High jump." Brooke
- "I got the nickname, 'Demolition Dallas' when I broke a glass door at school by falling through it." Dallas
- "My nickname is 'Bubbles' at home and at school, because I have a bubbly personality."
- "My nickname is 'Blakey' at home and school." Blake
- "My friends call me 'Sporty' because I win races." Maisie
- "My nickname is 'Corky'. My uncle called me that when I was little and I didn't like it at first but I do now, and all my friends call me Corky too." Courtney
Dr Kim says
Nicknames are usually affectionate and friendly ways of referring to someone. They make us feel part of the group.
When they are hurtful then it's not ok to have to put up with a nickname. See our topic Stick-up for yourself! - being assertive if you'd like some ideas on how to deal with hurtful remarks or name calling.
We've provided this information to help you to understand important things about staying healthy and happy. However, if you feel sick or unhappy, it is important to tell your mum or dad, a teacher or another grown-up.