It’s 1946. The girls’ nicknames Judy and Trudy are the height of charm. But while Judy springs from the youthful hit Judith, Trudy is short for the tired old standby Gertrude. What’s a trendy, Trudy-loving parent to do? The answer for some was Trudith, a 1940s-only concoction born of a nickname.
Starting with a nickname is a common approach to baby naming, and a logical one. It prioritizes the name you’ll actually call your son or daughter—their everyday identity— while preserving the situational flexibility of a formal/nickname pair. If you can get two names for the price of one, why pass up the bargain?
A name like Trudith, though, takes the concept to a different level. Even when a nickname can come from an array of formal sources, like Ben (Benjamin, Bennett, Benedict etc.), the nickname and formal name still play their traditional roles. Ben can be either “short for Benjamin” or “short for Bennett,” but those names aren’t “long for Ben.” Trudith is “long for Trudy.” The nickname is the source from which the formal name derives, reversing the fundamental relationship.
This kind of reversal is clearest when the short name wasn’t originally short for anything at all. Wendy, for instance, is not a traditional nickname but a literary name, popularized by Peter Pan character Wendy Darling. It has nickname style, though, so some parents sought out a more formal given name to match. At the height of Wendy’s popularity in the 1950s and ’60s, hundreds of families created names like Wenda and Wendolyn.
The name Trey, meanwhile, is a traditional nickname but still isn’t short for anything. Trey was originally used to refer to a “third” like South Park creator Trey Parker, aka Randolph Severn Parker III. When Trey became popular in the 1990s, formal elaborations like Treyson and Treyton soon followed.
Even a nickname that started life as a form of a longer name can take on an independent identity and spawn spinoffs. Peggy comes from Margaret but doesn’t look like it, leading to the ’50s name Pegeen. The heyday of Ted (traditionally from Edward or Theodore) brought us Tedford.
Today, the generative nickname of the moment is Ace. For generations Ace existed as an earned nickname: one bestowed by others based on a person’s traits or accomplishments. The name Ace acknowledged prowess, like a WWI flying ace who proved himself in combat or the mainstay of a baseball team’s pitching staff. In the case of KISS guitarist Paul “Ace” Frehley, the nickname was reportedly given by grateful high school buddies to honor his ability to find them dates.
Ace has recently exploded in popularity as a given name. It’s up 4000% since the turn of the millennium, and an American boy is now more likely to be named Ace than Aidan. Take a look at some boys’ names from the 2019 US name statistics that were unknown before Ace’s sudden rise.
The name Aceson is particularly telling. Parents appear to pronounce it like Jason without the J. But back in the 1970s and ’80s, when Jason was one of America’s most popular names and spellings like Jayson and Jasen were common, nobody at all was named Jaceson. Jaceson didn’t appear until 2013…the peak year of the given name Jace. It was a formal-styled elaboration of that name that put the nickname in charge. Now Aceson follows the same path: a Trudith for the 21st Century.