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Diminutive boys' names

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I just found out that Highlights is going to publish a story of mine that they bought many years ago during one of their contest. Yay! They edited it quite heavily, which is just fine, but they changed a characters' name from Will to Billy. To me, "Billy" seems like a cliched name children's writers use, even though it hasn't been common in decades.

Two questions. 1) Am I off-based in thinking that "Billy" is a problem? 2) If not, what would be a good alternative. I think they wanted the diminutive to signal that it is the main character's little brother. Willy? Jamie? Danny? Kenny? Other?
#1 - April 22, 2014, 12:09 PM
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kittypye, I share your concern. I know I'd feel the same way if a character name were changed to Billy.


Can you ask what the reason is behind the name change? If they want a "little" sounding name, then ask if one of your alternatives with the -ie or -y ending would be okay to substitute.
#2 - April 22, 2014, 12:24 PM
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Like mrh, I can certainly understand being concerned with a name change.  For what it's worth, though, my first grader has a classmate named Billy, so it is still in use.


Congratulations on the upcoming story!  I'll be on the lookout for it!!


 :love5:
#3 - April 22, 2014, 12:29 PM

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I don't know if this has anything to do with it, but The Year of Billy Miller was very big last year - a Newbery Honor Book, I think.
#4 - April 22, 2014, 04:37 PM

Interesting.... Is "Billy" perhaps making a comeback?
#5 - April 24, 2014, 08:37 AM
WHISTLING WINGS
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I don't know any Billy's, and I do pay attention to names. In general I'd say "-ie" diminutives for boys aren't being done much right now (although I do sometimes call my 6 year old Chetty, instead of Chet, no one else does - certainly not his older siblings, friends or teachers) . I'd find another way to signal that he's younger. For instance, I have a friend married to a John with a kid named John and he's always "Son John" when she's differentiating. Which is a little strange, but still, I'm just trying to think of other ways...

I think the other names you mentioned sound dated, also. I tend to hear full names on little kids, and then they get shortened as they get older. So, Samuel, Nathaniel, and Grace are in kindergarten, but in a few years they may well be Sam, Nate, and Gracie...
#6 - April 24, 2014, 08:54 AM
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Kittypye, you might want to ask your editor about the name change. Sometimes, it could be something as simple as the particular issue having the same name in a different story. I've always been allowed to pick alternative names for a character if there's been a problem (and in one story, research on their part showed that a particular name was an inappropriate slang word in Britain ... oy. We changed that name pronto!)

I know a couple of Billy's here. Perhaps it is still common in the South.
Vijaya
#7 - April 24, 2014, 08:57 AM
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This may make you feel better. I work in an elementary school, K-4th grade, close to 500 students. There are a couple of Wills. There is also a Billy, and he's in 4th grade with no sign of resenting his name.

There seemed to be more Wills five or six years ago than there are now.
#8 - April 24, 2014, 09:02 AM

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Billy is definitely not making a comeback, nor is Bill.  Will has risen in popularity and is currently stable.  I predict that we'll be seeing more Williams nicknamed to Liam in the future, even though Liam is a full name in its own right.
#9 - April 25, 2014, 03:41 AM

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Billy *definitely* feels dated to me. My dad went by Billy as a kid. He's 91 now. Will feels fresh, as does Liam (although I never made the William/Liam connection! *feels stupid*)
#10 - April 25, 2014, 04:55 AM

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I think it goes beyond whether or not the name is currently popular (it's not, certainly not where I am). I teach beginning writers, and, frankly, Billy is the name that's "grabbed out of the air" for boy characters. I see it over and over, especially when the writer is of a certain age and/or is only getting a start at trying to create characters. I think your instinct that it's cliched is accurate. Some of the alternatives you mentioned may not be newer, but they are fresher.


That said, if you request the change and they don't make it, I'd let myself have a mild regret or two and then brush it off. Your story will still be excellent, and the thrill of getting it published in Highlights will be just as real.  :fireworks
#11 - April 25, 2014, 06:49 AM
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That said, if you request the change and they don't make it, I'd let myself have a mild regret or two and then brush it off. Your story will still be excellent, and the thrill of getting it published in Highlights will be just as real.

Yes.
#12 - April 26, 2014, 10:52 AM

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