Ask before you give someone a nickname…

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Or, an alternate title for this post could be: WHY I HATE BEING CALLED JENNY.

I was born in 1978.

Back then, Jennifer was a very popular name. Not only was it uber popular, but it was actually the #1 name registered with the Social Security Administration…for EIGHT YEARS IN A ROW.

As a child, I was always Jenny to my family.

Sometime in my tween years, my cousin began calling me…

Jenny Minny Money Penny.

He would sing-song it and drive me batty.

My witty comeback?

I called him Kevina. It was the only thing I could think of. His name was Kevin and I wasn’t really given a lot to work with. I’m horrible at making fun of people. It’s just not in my nature!

So I began to secretly destest being called Jenny.

In the sixth grade, I started spelling my nickname Jennie instead of Jenny. No one paid any attention, except for my sweet grandparents, who still spell it that way 20 years later.

I desperately wanted to be called Jennifer but with at least two other Jennifers in each class in middle school, that wasn’t happening. I couldn’t take Jen because Jenifer Jonstone had already beat me to it.

My loathing of my given name grew throughout middle school, and when I got to high school, it became even worse.

While I had perhaps 500 kids in my middle school, there were over 1000 in high school. There were tons of Jennifers in each and every class, and even being called Jenny wasn’t an option. There were already a few of those too.

So what happened?

Teachers started calling me by my last name.


I was referred to as Pridemore – not Jennifer, not Jenny, not Jenn…

As much as I hated it, I tried my best to embrace it.

I started wearing my father’s old Army jacket with the name tag sewn across the breast. I started signing my classwork J R Pridemore. It worked for F Scott Fitzgerald and J D Salinger, right?

I tried to make it work.

But I hated it. 

I even briefly considered going by my dad’s nickname for me, which I also detested, JenRea – my middle name was Renea – because I was so desperate for an identity of my own!

As much as I hated it, Pridemore was what I was called all through my high school years. As I entered the work force, it stuck.

After I got married, my last name became Quillen and I started being called Quillen.

And then? Just Q. If I was lucky, my coworkers and supervisors would call me JQ.

Where am I going with this?

When you meet someone, don’t just assume you can call them whatever you want. If you meet a Jennifer, ask them what they prefer, don’t just automatically assume they like being called Jenny or Jenn. I actually don’t mind being called Jenn at all, and often introduce myself as such.

But Jenny? When people call me Jenny, I have flashbacks of my cousin holding me down and dangling a string of spit in my face, singing “Jenny Minny Money Penny…”

And then I will probably hate you forever.


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  1. says

    i HATE being called Jenny too!!!!! my stepson doesnt get it, i try to tell him that only my parents can get away with calling me that, i too went through various variations of my last name, in high school i was Fritz or Fritzie and we had four Jens on my college softball team. I totally feel ya!!

  2. says

    My dad named me Denice which I always hated growing up. The name is suppose to be spelled with an “S” as in Denise. You couldn’t find anything with my name spelled correctly on it so I didn’t have the little license plates for my bike or barrettes for my hair. My aunts, uncles and cousins all called me Dee Dee which I didn’t mind and when one of them had a daughter and named her after me I became Dee and she was Dee Dee. Then it became Big Dee and Little Dee. I HATED Big Dee. When I got older everyone I met who learned my name was Denice would always ask where D Nephew was. That joke got old the second time I heard it but after the 1,000th time I was ready to strangle someone.

    Now that I’m older I like the spelling of my name and will correct anyone who spells it with an “S”. It’s my individuality and I’m proud of it even though everyone still calls me Dee.

  3. Jessica says

    I am a Jessica and I have to say that even after I introduce myself, people call me Jennifer! When I correct them they say “oh, sorry I thought it was Jennifer” like it’s close enough…

    Drives me nuts! In high school everyone called me bunni and I went by that until I got married lol

  4. says

    Oh crap, I think I may have called you Jen before. sorry! I can feel where you’re coming from though. Growing up my name was Catherine but everyone (including my family) called me Cathy … a name I DETEST. That’s why I just go by Cat now. Simple. Short. And doesn’t irritate the piss out of me.

  5. says

    Oh gosh! Having a cousin dangle a string of spit in front of my face while taunting me would certainly give me cause to hate any name he used for me! LOL! I do know a lot of Jennifer’s our age! :)

  6. says

    I totally get it. I heard Sheri Berry, Sher Bear or my personal LEAST favorite… Scary Sheri. Not nice. My cousin is a Jennifer and has been called Nifer since birth, and my SIL is Jen but her nickname is Nen because that’s how she said it when she was little.

  7. says

    I always ask what people prefer because my son’s name is Nikolaus and we NEVER wanted anyone to call him Nicky. Nik was OK, and we taught him to tell people who called him Nicky that it wasn’t his name because, “Nicky is a girl’s name.”
    I’m with you Denice, I could never find anything with my name spelled correctly on it when I was a kid because my dad added the “e” on the end of my name, he said it looked unfinished with just the “i”: Lorie.
    My son also has a friend who’s given name is Christopher, but his nickname isn’t Chris, it is Tofer… I think his older brother called him that when he was little as he couldn’t say the whole thing. =)
    I think you can hit anyone who call’s you Jenny – I take umbridge with anyone who calls me “Lor” without asking first, WAY too personal.

  8. says

    Too funny, I started calling my sister who is named Jennifer – Jenni-Leigh (her middle name is Leigh) – she hates it, but to this day she only allows ME to call her Jenni or Jenni-Leigh and about knocks out anyone else who calls her that. It’s funny the look on their faces when they are like “well your sister calls you that.” and she explains “yeah my sister is the ONLY person who can get away with it” lol So she doesn’t’ like it but has been okay with me calling her that, because it’s sort of just “our thing” and stuck many years ago!

  9. says

    I absolutely agree! I always introduce myself as Rebekah, but Bekah is a perfectly acceptable nickname. However, I don’t like Becky and hate when people assume it’s okay to call me that.

    My husband has it worse than me though. His name is Michael and it’s absolutely crazy the number of people who just automatically call him Mike – bankers, auto salesman, etc., etc. Drives us both nuts.

  10. says

    I couldn’t agree more! A lot, and I mean A LOT, of people take it upon themselves to call me Rob and I can’t stand it. Rob is a boys name and I find it so offensive when people make up their own nicknames.

  11. says

    Yeah I would not have chosen the nickname Candy at ALL but yet I was called that all the way up until my thirties when I introduced myself as Candace since it sounds more professional. I don’t get mad when people call me it but I prefer my full name in professional circles and as a student.

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