Linda Rosenkrantz of Nameberry.com has written a fascinating article that explains the evolution of nicknames. It’s must reading for anyone with the slightest interest in nicknames. Here’s a very brief sample of some of Linda’s fascinating facts:
From Henry to Hank: The Dutch form of Henry is Henryk, which was shortened to Henk. The “e” was changed to an “a” which produced Hank.
From Richard to Dick: Richard used to be pronounced Rickard, which was shortened to Rick; Dick is a rhyming cousin. “R” is hard for young children to say, which made Dick the more popular nickname.
From Margaret to Peg: The “a” in Margaret was switched to an “e” which produced Meg. Peg is a rhyming cousin (and Peg is easier for young children to pronounce than Meg).
From John to Jack: Once upon a time, John was pronounced Jen. Adding the Norman pet form “kin” produced Jenkin—which morphed into Janken, then Jackin, then Jack.
From Sarah to Sally: Because “r” is harder for young children to pronounce than “l,” younger siblings found it easier to call Sarah Sally.
From Francis to Frank: Adding the Norman pet form “kin” produced Frankin, which was shortened to Frank.
From Barbara to Babs: The Normans introduced the “r” sound when they invaded England, which the Brits dropped in nicknames.
From Charles to Chuck: The Middle English term of endearment, Chukken, imitates the clucking sound–so the short form of Chukken (Chuck) worked well as a nickname for Charles.
From James to Jim: In Scotland, James was pronounced Jeames, the pet form of which was Jem, which ultimately morphed into Jim.
Linda’s article is a gem (which rhymes with Jem). I hope these tidbits convince you to read the original article by clicking on the link.