Hypocoristics — Fun Stuff

I’ve always been intrigued by Cathy using the term “arvo” for afternoon, so I enjoyed this article, How Australian Nicknaming Conventions Turn an Afternoon Into an ‘Arvo’:

Hypocoristics are a change in a name used to convey something else: informality, affiliation, friendliness, association with an in-group. They are a personalized version of calling someone “buddy.” But in Australia, they are unusually common, and take totally different forms than anywhere else.

Australian English began to veer most dramatically away from U.K. English around World War II. Before that time, says Kidd, U.K. English was so pervasive in Australia that even some Australian personalities—newscasters, actors—would use a version of Received Pronunciation, the very proper dialect of English taught in upper-class England, in their home country. After the war, Australia began to look more inward and to codify its own identity, separate from the U.K. A greater cultural pride emerged, and a better understanding of what makes Australia unique. Australian linguists began studying the way Australians actually speak. The concept of “mateship,” an essential Australian virtue of connection, friendship, and equality, emerged.

Apparently there are rules for how these nicknames are made, including how afternoon turned into “arvo”. And presumably the rules also apply to New Zealand.

I thought the article was interesting because of that, but even more so because it describes what happened to Andy. He was born Andrew and that was his name until he went to graduate school in California. Californians are (were? that was over 50 years ago) informal like the Australians, so his name suddenly became Andy, and that’s the way he was introduced to me. So to me he has always been Andy and to his family he is Andrew. It also explains why to Kaitlin he is Father while I, born in California, am Mom. Fun stuff.


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17 Responses to Hypocoristics — Fun Stuff

  1. tammy j says:

    interesting! I always called my mother Mother. more formal I suppose.
    she always referred to our father as Father. as in “hand this to your father please.”
    I remember watching Father Knows Best when it came out. I remember loving that show. (even as unrealistic as I know it was now!)
    I was Kathy’s age. she called Robert Young Daddy. as I always had my own.
    and the middle child Bud called him Dad.
    and the oldest daughter Betty called him Father.
    I always found that rather interesting.
    and I’ve never known what Arvo means. so interesting. I should have asked Cathy about it long ago but never remembered to do it! so thanks!
    tammy j´s last blog post ..moving on old bean

  2. Linda Sand says:

    My Dave was David until I met him. His youngest brother once asked me if I called him David or Dave. I said, “Yes.” Dave’s Mother once told me first borns tend to be called by full names while following kids often get nicknames. By the way, Dave had a Mother while I had a Mom. I don’t know if those were regional or class differences. But all that happened in the USA.

    • Jean says:

      I had a Mom and Dad while Andy had a Mother and Father. He was the oldest, but his brother, third born, was named David, while the girls were known my their initials, AE and CP. That was no doubt because his sister, second born, had the same name as her mother.

  3. Cathy in NZ says:

    Basically on the parents front – it depends on your upbringing here…I’ve a friend who speaks of Mummy and Daddy – where as I called my parents Mum and Dad – then there are those of course who reference it as Mother and Father…and more modern version appears to be the proper name of the family member like say – Sarah, Peter and so forth.

    Maybe another reason we talk about “what I did this arvo…” is we are into shortening names of anything wordy like afternoon 🙂 lazy talkers and writers…

    So what did I do this “arvo” – I came back from Onehunga on the 009 bus – bought some food related things from the New Lynn bus terminus as my 195 bus had just left and I had 30mins to kill – btw it was a nice Magnum, honeycomb flavour (this icecream on a stick covered in chocolate as well)…then came home on said bus. Since – not much has happened…

    • Jean says:

      I like the term “arvo”. It is easier to say than afternoon. 🙂

    • Cathy in NZ says:

      late arvo…when the lads came home, had a convo with them about the “cars” – when yesterday, something broke my camels’ back…somehow said lads do not realise that nice lady at next unit, gives them a great solution to their problem – for free…
      [it was the first chat with the older lad of over 10 days…and it went quite well, considering some of our earlier chats this year…]

    • Jean says:

      I like the word “convo” too! I’m glad things seem to be getting better.

  4. Sharon says:

    Sharon´s last blog post ..Wordless Wednesday

  5. Rummuser says:

    For everybody else in my extended family other than my late father I was / am Raman. My father insisted on calling me by the given name Ramana till he died. He disliked all my nicknames and if someone telephoned and asked to speak to Rummy, he would inevitably say that there was nobody with that name at that number.

    English is not our national language though it is one of our official languages. Each state has a spoken English which uses a lot of local language words in it just as almost all the local languages use many English worlds in them as well.

    Sometimes such words take on completely different meanings like in Tamil, ‘assault’ has taken the meaning careless though when used in spoken English, it retains its original meaning.

    • Jean says:

      Your example of the word “assault” is interesting. That must get confusing at times! Thank you for the information.

  6. nick says:

    I did some research and found there are loads of Aussie abbreviations. For example devo (devastated), servo (service station), garbo (garbage man), muso (musician), ambo (ambulance), avo (avocado), and s’arvo (this afternoon). I guess they only use them to other Aussies though, as I’ve never heard our Aussie friends using them.

    My full name is Nicholas, but I never use it except for airlines and passports.
    nick´s last blog post ..Sleepy suburbs

    • Cathy in NZ says:


      but remember that some people might not even use the “word” in the ideal world…

      maybe I should do a post on which words I might not even use…rather than the ones I may use in certain circumstances 🙂

      and there are even differences between the 2 main islands…so I might say “I’m off to our bach this holiday w/end” but someone from they Sth Is would say “I’m off to a crib this holiday w/end”…

      can’t even see those words on that list…and a few other local terms are missing including “oh, you’ve a Westie…” referencing where I live now.

    • Cathy in NZ says:

      ooops crib and bach were there…must finish my “mocha” before I think anything …

    • Cathy in NZ says:

      but wait Nick – until you get older and require other services…

      a couple of years ago I was in a packed out patients clinic and a doctor came out and called out “Stanley”…. no one moved, so he repeated it again…still no one got up or answered.

      (I thought some old codger is deaf…turned out he was old, but not actually deaf)

      So he went away and we could hear him calling in the overflow section…and then he was back with the receptionist. Who carefully looked around and walked up the to man opposite me and said to the doctor “this is Stanley…”
      Whereby said Stanley said “but no one called me Stanley, I’m Stan…” the wife by that time had woken-up and she said to Stan(ley) “oh I always thought that just being Stan was strange…”


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