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I just had a kid! His first name is an Italian one, but I'll leave conversations about the actual name for another post. My family is Italian on both sides, but my parents and I were born in America. For the last nine months or so I have been trying to learn about modern-day Italian nicknames but I haven't really found any information. I can't even figure out what word is the best translation for the word nickname.

Do Italian children have nicknames? Are they short versions of their full name, other related names, or just another name entirely bl that happens to be short? Or are they characteristics, like "tall" or "older" or "loud"? Are they assigned by the parents when they are very young, or chosen by the child, or assigned by friends? Are the chosen immediately or after you know the child's personality?

I'd be just as happy to read a reference about this. I just can't find one.

Thank you!

PS Part of the issue here is the name we chose doesn't really have a nickname. Since we don't know Italian culture as well as we'd like, we don't want to inadvertently choose a nickname that sounds silly.

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    My experience is that nicknames are chosen by random chance, parental obnoxiousness and a fair amount of childish cruelty. There isn't really a "procedure". Is there one in the US? It has not been my experience but then I did not exactly frequented kindergartens in my years here. – Denis Nardin Dec 22 '16 at 21:50
  • Italian Americans have a particularly strong tradition of nicknames, mostly because of everyone being named after their grandparents. Here, the nickname are often characteristics... Early in life you are "Vinnie, Antony's son" and later you are Vinnie the Chatterbox. Unfortunately, in America this tradition is associated with the Mafia, so I am looking for another approach that is still true to my cultural heritage. – LoftyGoals Dec 23 '16 at 6:41
  • Don't worry, Michelangelo is not associated with a Mafia name, congratulations! – CarLaTeX Dec 23 '16 at 13:53
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I'd say that there is an enormous variability, mainly along social and regional axes, as well as more than one type of soprannomi.

The simplest case – not even actual nicknames – is the fact that, especially for longer names, friends often use a shortened version of the name. In Rome (and in most of the South) it is almost automatic to truncate a name after the main stress. So Marcello, which is stressed on the “e”, becomes Marce' (stressed again on the “e”), Francesco becomes France', Antonio becomes Anto' and so on. In other parts of Italy something similar happens, but the truncated version is stressed on the first syllable.

Then there are nicknames which are distortions, sometimes originated as a child, of (part of) the real name, such as Ciccio o Chicco for Francesco, Titti for Cristina, Beppe for Giuseppe and so on.

Lastly there are actual nicknames, that is, ways of addressing a person not related to the actual name. These can be anything from a personal characteristic (height, hair colour), to a food or object, to a place (of origin or otherwise).

And the same person may well go under more than one nickname, in different circles––say one at home, one with friends, one at work. Or none at all.

But most importantly, all of these are not chosen deliberately by parents or anybody, but emerge, so to say, organically, spontaneously, from a mispronunciation as a child, at school, from a joke by a friend, from an unexpected mental association, from a specific life episode.

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    It's worth noting that some nicknames, frequently those originated at high-school or at the workplace, come from the distortion of the surname, not of the first name. – Massimo Ortolano Dec 24 '16 at 13:36
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In Tuscany they often use a Diminutive of the name.

Antonio -> Antonino -> Nino (a small Antonio)

Cosimo -> Cosimino -> Mino (a small Cosimo)

Cristoforo -> Cristoforino -> Rino (a small Cristoforo)

Often is used a "Vezzeggiativo". see Hypocorism.

Mario -> Marietto (a small & CUTE Mario)

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Just a few additional information and examples.

Some nicknames can be attributed to an entire family. This was common for at least some of the Italian dialects. A branch of my family from Torino area were known (using a common word in piedmontese dialect) as troon (thunder), because a group of them were got caught by lightning (nobody got seriously injured, thank God).

Another family may be known by their profession, I remember a family known as cui dla ressia (literaly: those of the saw, as the family business was about professionally sawing wood.

In my experience proper dialects are very rich in nicknames: almost everyone has one in areas where dialects are still spoken in the family.

Some of the best types of nicknames are sort of invented: my sister is known in the family as Lalla, but her given name is completely different.

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Despite the fact that Italy looks like one country, it's culture is in fact still defragmented in hundred pieces, and how people get nicknames shows that very well.

Having said that there are many ways to get a nickname (soprannome and nomignolo are synonyms):

  1. Common nicknames based on the real name: eg. Nino for either Gaetano or Antonio, Ciccio for Francesco, Enzo for Vincenzo, Tina or Titina for Concetta, Gino for Luigi, and so on. Parents have a limited control on that, when they choose the name and the way they call the baby (as usually others stick with it);
  2. Nickname based on family history (this is common in the South): those may be related to family business or habits or distinguishing feature of one or more members of the family. You don't choose it, but neighbours or acquittances gave it to your family, and usually that happened decades or centuries ago;
  3. Nickname based on the family name (this is common in the North): it may be a truncated version of the surname of an association of the surname to same natural element. You don't choose it, but others (often at school) give it to you;
  4. parents may use some (especially when they're newborn) that will stick to the baby for a long time (if not forever): eg. Ninno (bambino), Nenna (bambina), Cicci, etc.
  5. Nicknames based on the person attitude/action/body: you can get one from others and choose by yourself;
  6. Some people are know by the name of the father or grand-father, although they have a different official name.

In any case it's not uncommon to have multiple nicknames in different environments (home, school, work, friends) and those from 5. may change from time to time, while those at 6. may decide to discontinue that at some point in their life.

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