ANS Member Research: “American and Russian Nicknames of Persons” by Anna Tsepkova

Recently presented at the 2024 Annual Meeting of the American Name Society, Anna Tsepkova’s work explores American and Russian Nicknames. You can watch the presentation here:

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Nicknames of persons coined by means of mixing linguistic and extralinguistic motives form a unique group of unconventional anthroponyms performing identifying and characterizing functions by means of combining a person’s official name with lexemes referring to qualities, attributes, situations associated with nickname-bearers. These nicknames are formed by means of:

  • substituting a name by an appellative sounding similar (false etymology): Madison from Maddie + “always mad at something” (US); Парадокс / Paradox from Paradovsky + an irregular person (Rus);
  • substituting a last name by an appellative reviving its etymology: Blood from Trueblood + “a cool head under stressful situations” (US); Goose from Goosev + appearance (Rus);
  • blending a name with an appellative: Encyclo’pete’ia from Pete + “no matter what you talked about he thought he was an expert on it…” (US); Olgushonok from Olga + lyagushka [frog]: cold limbs (Rus);
  • inevitable associations with a famous name / person: Marco Polo from Mark + “always looking for an adventure” (US);
  • meaningful abbreviations of first, middle/patronymic, last names: M&M: “because I love M&Ms and m is the first letter in my first and last name” (US); ОМ from initials of the teacher of physics / reference to Ohm (Rus).

If small in number (46 nicknames / 5.5% in the American sample; 54 / 1.5% in the Russian sample), this group is the most diverse in terms of coinage patterns, demonstrating the phenomenon of linguistic creativity, aimed at catching and carrying multifaceted audio-visual and emotional experiences of human interaction.


Anna Tsepkova is an Associate Professor in the English Language Department at Novosibirsk State Pedagogical University (Siberian region of Russia) and has a PhD in Philology. She is a Fulbright Alumna, a member of ICOS and the ANS. She is currently working on “A Cross-Cultural Dictionary of American and Russian Nicknames”


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