Sunday, September 27, 2009

Spanish speakers love nicknames

Nicknames in English as well as Spanish often have their origin in how a baby brother or sister pronounces the name of an older sibling.

Anyone here who has the name Jesús is likely to be called Chuy (pronounced chewy).

Eduardo is often Lalo, and the comic strip that we know as Hi and Lois is known here as Lalo y Lola.

Francisco is Pancho or Paco. Guillermo becomes Memo. Alfonso is often Poncho with a long O sound.

Women named Guadalupe, after the Virgin of Guadalupe, are often called Lupita or Lupe, as in "Little Latin Lupe Lu," a song made famous by Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels.

The noted writer Gabriel García Márquez is commonly called Gabo. Gabriela is Gabi.

Graciela is Chelita. Socorro (help, as in our Lady of Perpetual Help) is often nicknamed Coco. Maria Teresa becomes Maite and Maria Fernanda is MaFe.

In all my time in Latin America, I have never met anyone nicknamed Chico, which would be considered derogatory. It means boy or kid and would have been used by English speakers. There were 10 players nicknamed Chico who played in the major leagues, but notably none since 1982, maybe reflecting the changing status and attitudes of Latin players.

The best of them was Alfonso "Chico" Carrasquel, an All-Star shortstop from Venezuela who played for the Indians, White Sox, Orioles and Athletics. He´s my brother Mike´s all-time favorite player.

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