Virginia Ironside’s Dilemmas: I feel uncomfortable about my friend's nickname

Dear Virginia,

I have a friend who I met recently called David. He’s really nice, has had lots of girlfriends – and we are getting quite close ourselves – but for some reason all his close friends call him Daisy. It all goes back to some party they went to ages ago at university, when they dressed up as women for a joke. He doesn’t seem to mind this at all, but I feel really uncomfortable and wish they wouldn’t. I can’t stop them calling him Daisy, but feel self-conscious when I call him David. Am I being silly?

Yours sincerely, Tiggy

What we’re called and what we call people is far more important than most of us realise. For instance I cringe if anyone dare call me “Ginny” – a name always immediately given me by most Americans I meet, after even five minutes’ conversation.

And yet I don’t mind the affectionate “Ironside” that some blokes seem to enjoy using. Or, on occasions, “Vee”. But if anyone dares use the special nickname that I was known as by parents and very close friends as a child – Pinny – I feel almost intimately asaulted though, of course, I say nothing.

You yourself have a nickname, I see, and I wonder how many other names you’re called by? Count them. Presumably you have a rather more austere given name lying around somewhere? Aren’t you also sometimes known as Ms or Miss someone? You may find you have quite a few names when you count them up – different names to be used by different groups.

You’re not being asked to call your boyfriend Daisy, after all – and I would imagine he’d find it rather peculiar if you tried to ally yourself with the members of the blokeish gang he surrounds himself with in the pub, or wherever he meets his Daisy friends. There might be moments when it would be appropriate for a woman to call him Daisy – perhaps the female partner of one of his mates – but “Daisy” just wouldn’t sit well between the two of you.

If you wanted, you could probably get around it by calling him “Dais” but only if, in your mind, you spelled it “Days” or “Daze”. Or you could call him “Dee” – always acceptable. But don’t worry about him being called Daisy by his friends. Far from being a sign that he might be girly in some way, these female nicknames are usually given to each other by men to emphasise, oddly, their very heterosexuality, as in “he’s such a confident bloke he doesn’t mind being called Gloria.” I know. Weird, but that’s men for you.

The real problem would come if you were to find yourself in a situation in which you felt obliged to call your boyfriend by a nickname you found really embarrassing – I wouldn’t have liked to have been Prince Charles who was, aparently, asked to call a large member of his polo club “Fatty” – but you’re not being asked to do that. You can call him what you like. You could called him “Hunk” or “Flower”. Doesn’t matter.

In fact, I’m sure he’d be flattered to have a personal nickname given to him by someone he clearly finds rather special. And his friends might well be rather envious.

Readers say...

Embrace his past

The question you have to ask yourself is: is it the fact that it is a woman’s name that makes you uncomfortable? Or the fact that he uses any nickname with his close friends?

If it is the later, then you shouldn’t worry, but instead feel happy that he has a group of friends that care for him. I wouldn’t worry about calling him David in front of his mates, if you are not comfortable calling him Daisy. They probably won't even notice that you don’t.

You also don’t need to worry about it being a reference to a past without you. It’s his past that makes him the man you love.

Spartacus (don’t ask!)

By email

Remember Dickens

I think you should read Dickens’ novel David Copperfield, in which you will find that the worldly Steerforth calls his younger friend David, Daisy. Steerforth is alluring and sexy, but seduces poor and humble Little Em’ly while the sympathetic David becomes a successful writer and marries.

So, if your ‘nice’ David is anything like Dickens’, you are on to a good thing. And if you’re the only person who calls him David, that establishes that you have a special relationship with him.

Graeme Smith

Gargunnock, Stirling


You aren’t well suited

I think your intuition is already telling you that you and David, and his group of friends, aren’t well suited.

None of my male friends would allow themselves to be known as Daisy, and none would enjoy calling a male friend by a girl’s name except as a one-off wind-up.

There’s nothing wrong with what David and his friends choose to call each other but if it’s making you feel uncomfortable, then the obvious conclusion is that you don’t share their tastes and outlook. You like David, but you’ll have to face the fact that your relationship is unlikely to have much of a future. It’s better to realise that now than take things any further. Although you suspect that this is a petty and silly thing, it's probably an accurate indicator of incompatibility, and you shouldn’t dismiss it.

Mike Hockney

Newcastle upon Tyne

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