by Ewa Nowogorski
Americans don’t really have nicknames for each other. Sometimes friends create nicknames on an as-needed basis for each other if their friend’s name happens to be very long or difficult to pronounce. Since America is the melting pot of immigrants, there are a lot of people with unique names and difficult pronunciations. Chinese people especially are known to have names that non-Chinese Americans can almost never pronounce, so nick-names or American names are created for them. Sometimes these names become adopted as official names, being used more often than the original name. Nicknames are not used among friends as a sign of closeness or endearment, but as a practical means to call someone without offensively butchering their name.
In Japan, nicknames are given for different reasons and in different ways. Sometimes the nickname is an abbreviation of the original name. For example, “Takahito” may simply be shortened to “Taka” for ease of saying. 4-syllable names often get shortened to 2-syllable names because they sound cuter as well. In other cases, names can be changed up a little bit with a playful syllable or two attached to the end to make a funny or cute nickname that is used mainly by close friends. For example, “Misaki” might just become “Misatan” or something that sounds cute. It’s very common for students to call each other these kinds of things for laughs and fun. But in adult society, nicknames are not really used.