Dear Prudence

Dear Prudence Uncensored: Junior’s Nickname

This week, Calvin Kasulke joins Danny Ortberg to discuss a Prudie letter. This week: junior’s nickname.

Danny: for what it is worth, and in the interest of full disclosure, I don’t think naming a son after his father is odd—it’s actually enormously common, so I’m not sure where you got the idea it’s odd at all—but I do absolutely hate it!

Calvin: Oh goodness

Missing the forest for the trees a little bit, here. You have already given him his father’s name, so the “individual” part of “responsible individual” has already taken a hit


Danny: I want to try to be fair here—it’s not a practice I like, but I also don’t think you’ve doomed your son to a lifetime of confusion and hopelessness because you’ve been calling him Lil’ Dad


but I definitely agree that you should find a different nickname

I’m just imagining if he kept that nickname for his whole life

and like, showed up at a job interview saying, “I’m Mr. Lil’ Papa, nice to meet you”

Calvin: “Please, Father was my father. Call me Lil’ Pops.”

Danny: I also truly love the “As he’s (my son) gotten older” bit

thank you for pointing out one of the inherent drawbacks to giving a child the same name as your partner!


Calvin: Did you know Allen Iverson’s mom had another son and named him Mister Allen Iverson

Danny: I DID know that

I don’t know why I know that

Calvin: Yeah no her husband drank from the fountain of youth and has NOT gotten older, troublingly

Danny: because I don’t know much about baseball

Calvin: Because of your lifelong fandom of the Philadelphia 76ers

Basketball!! Daniel!!

Danny: but it is a relevant point, that naming conventions can vary a lot between racial groups, and I don’t want to totally dismiss out of hand all forms of patronymics

Calvin: Not at all! And that’s not to say he can’t have a name at home that isn’t used elsewhere


That is extremely common even among non redundantly-named families

Danny: I think Allen Iverson’s mom actually talked about wanting to use “Mister” as a given name for her son because of the way it built-in automatic respect that white people had consciously withheld

yes, absolutely

So! you and your husband can definitely find a different nickname or variation on the name

Calvin: Perhaps whatever his middle name is, or a non-lil’d version of his given name if possible (Ricky instead of Richard, or what have you)


Danny: and if your kid ever transitions this will all be moot and you will have to learn a new name

Calvin: If you are worried of the “lil” implications on his grander autonomy


I guess also you could give him a grandiose nickname, or one like Mister, to impose some kind of destiny on him

Fully swing the pendulum the other way, call him Charlemagne or The New Pope

Right, also get used to the impermanence of names, he may also become a teen and decide his name is something else now, or get an organic nickname through his words and deeds

Danny: too bad The Young Pope is already taken


Calvin: The young Pope moniker has kept Jude Law from fulfilling his greater purpose

Danny: which is … ?

Calvin: Law school


Danny: Calvin

Calvin: Lil’ Calvin, please

Danny: Calvi

Calvin: I do think this is something the kid will soon be old enough to voice his own opinion on

Danny: i think this should be good, btw

Calvin: Like how you refuse to be called Dan

So it really might all be moot

Danny: N E V E R

Calvin: Exactly. Like, by the time he can spell his name and introduce himself he will have opinions. Enjoy exercising this power over his autonomy while you can, I guess

Is my final thought on this

Danny: a message to all parents, really