Call Me by Their Names by
(304 Stories)

Prompted By Nicknames

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Call Me By Their Names

My parents named me Dana after two relatives they never knew – my father’s grandmother Dinah who perished in czarist Russia,  and my mother’s uncle David who drowned as a teenager in the Rockaways.

I like my name and never minded that it’s a bit uncommon, but it’s always disconcerting when people spell it wrong or mispronounce it.  And because Dana can be a masculine name as well, I certainly wasn’t happy when as a high school senior I got mail from armed forces recruiters that began,  Dear Mr Dana …

But what I really missed was not having a nickname as many in my family did.  I remember trying to give myself one a few times, but it never would stick!

My mother’s name was Jessica and she once told me her parents named her for Shylock’s daughter. but my father Arthur always called her Jess.  (See My Game Mother)

She had two brothers, the older was my uncle Milton who we called Milt,  and whose wife, my aunt Rosanne we called Rosie.  (See Rosie and Milt, the Literary Lady and the Second-Story Man)

The younger was my uncle Paul who like me didn’t seem to have a nickname, although his Hebrew name was Peretz which means Prince.  Paul’s wife was my aunt Babette who was always called Babs.  (See Aunt Babs and Uncle Paul and Still Life)

And both my uncles and my aunts called my mother Jessie, and thus to their kids, my cousins,  she was always their aunt Jessie.






Actually I can’t remember anyone calling my mother Jessica except my elegant mother-in-law Hermine.  In turn my young son who couldn’t pronounce Hermine, called her Grandma Meen.  (See Hermine’s Morning Joe)



Although my father’s name was Arthur he was never called Art or Artie.  Not that he was a formal guy – quite the contrary  – but he just didn’t seem like an Art or an Artie.  (See My Father, the Outsider Artist)

Actually when he was born his parents named him Albert.  But when his younger brother Stephen was learning to talk,  he couldn’t pronounce Albert and so he called my dad Obie.  And later my uncle Stephen, who we called Stevie,  and his wife, my aunt Dorothea who was always called Dede,  used the nickname Obie for my father all their lives. Thus to their kids,  my cousins,  he was always their uncle Obie.  (See Birthday Calendar and My Aunt, Dede Allen)



But when my dad started grade school, his older sister Frances,  who was always called Fran,  insisted that their immigrant parents change her brother’s name to what she thought was the more American-sounding Arthur.  (Years later when my father applied for a passport,  my grandmother had to sign an affidavit stating that Albert and Obie and Arthur were one and the same!)  (See White Shoulders for Aunt Frances)


And my mother had her own name for her husband.   My father was a  Renaissance guy –  a scientist,  an artist,  and a self taught classical pianist,  who greatly admired the renown conductor Toscanini,  and thus my mom called him Arturo after the Maestro.


When my baby sister was born my parents named her Laurie.   Her name,  like mine,  didn’t lend itself to a nickname,  although I called her Zuzu after a character in a children’s book we used to read together.   And Laurie was very proud of her middle name which was Frances,  after my father’s much beloved sister Fran.  (See Take Care of Your Sister)


I had no older sisters,  but I did have an adored, older cousin Esther who had been my babysitter when I was young.  Her friends and later her husband called her Essie,  but I had a childhood nickname for her although neither of us could remember where it came from – I called her Conkeydoodle!  (As that was a pretty long moniker,  when writing to me, she shortened it to Conkey.)  (See My Conkeydoodle)


And I also had two male cousins,  one from each side of the family,  who shared the same nickname.  They were both called Ricky,  although one’s name was Eric and the other’s name was Frederick.  As I child it tickled me that I had not one,  but two cousin Rickys.


RICKY S.    (See also  My Cousin Rick)

And now they’re all gone,  but they all live on in my heart.   Call my name and they’ll come.

– Dana Susan Lehrman

Profile photo of Dana Susan Lehrman Dana Susan Lehrman
This retired librarian loves big city bustle and cozy country weekends, friends and family, good books and theatre, movies and jazz, travel, tennis, Yankee baseball, and writing about life as she sees it on her blog World Thru Brown Eyes!

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Tags: Names, Nicknames, Family
Characterizations: funny, well written


  1. Betsy Pfau says:

    Dana, you have given us the complete run-down on your family and their nicknames, but your last line grabbed my heartstrings. They do still live in your memories of them, in your photos and now you’ve shared them with us so their legacy can continue. Thank you.

  2. Marian says:

    Lovely reminiscences, Dana, especially with the photos. It’s interesting how many names evolved because our parents and grandparents needed or wanted more American sounding names, a part of my story as well.

  3. What an interesting introduction to your family! Thank you for providing pictures of them, too.

  4. Suzy says:

    I echo what Marian and Joan said, it’s nice to get this introduction to your family, complete with pictures – and cross-referenced to other stories you have written about them. Your librarian training is showing. 🙂

  5. Here you’ve given me a nickname and you don’t even have one — not fair! I’m calling you Dee from now on! (Unless you don’t want me to, of course!)

  6. Laurie Levy says:

    Dana, this is a beautiful, poignant story about all of your late relatives and the nicknames you hold in your heart. I love that you included pictures of them so they became more real people for me. By the way, we named our youngest Dana because we loved the name and thought it was nickname proof. She always claimed it was too short, and later became the queen of nicknames, bestowing them on everyone in her life except herself (although her friends called her D sometimes).

    • Thanx Laurie! Nice to hear you have a Dana in the family!

      Perhaps my mother was sorry her own lovely name – Jessica – was seldom used and thus she gave her kids names – Dana and Laurie – that didn’t easily lend themselves to being “nicked!”

  7. How wonderful to honor your family with stories of their nicknames. I love family stories and yours are always a joy to read. As you can read in my piece about nicknames, I had the same challenge.. As girls with an uncommon names. we were surrounded by Carols, Lindas, Susans and Barbaras! Do you remember the “big name button” fad? There was even a song about it “Big name button, you’ve got to wear a big name button!” How I wanted a button with my name, but there wasn’t one out there! I felt. a bit left out.

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