Many Mexicans love to play about with names. It is something that people do from the moment they meet you, rather than something that happens over time as you get to know them.
I was lucky to be born with a name that is common in Mexico, although spelt differently. However, no one seems to want to believe my name is Susannah or at least they don’t want to call me that. Many old colleagues would call me Susan, even though they could clearly see from every email I sent that my name is not Susan.
I have rung for appointments with doctors, dentists, you name it and once I have told them my name, they reply “Great Susi, we will see you tomorrow at 9” by which I am always taken aback. In England, we probably get to diminutives of names after about a year of knowing someone so the doctor’s receptionist changing my name at the first encounter by telephone is mind blowing to my English sensibilities.
I have noticed that a lot of name changes, alter someone’s name to sound more like the English version of a name too, so Ricardo becomes Richard, Roberto becomes Robert, Alejandra becomes Alex and Susana becomes Susan. It is something that has always fascinated me
Then there is also the diminutive -ita or –ito that gets added to a person’s name for an affectionate nickname. The -ita or -ito ending makes something smaller, for example a house (Casa) would become Casita if it was small. I become Susanita, which I love, Diegos become Dieguitos, and Alvaros become Alvaritos. I especially like Susanita because it often comes accompanied by a little song about a girl called Susanita with a little pet mouse.
But name changes in Mexico get even more confusing than this. So many Mexican names have a completely alternative name that is used as frequently as an official name. For example, if someone is known as Paco everyone will know that their official name is Francisco. This took me a long time to learn as so many of the names seemingly have very little in common with each other. I just presumed my friend Pepe’s real name was Pepe until I realised it was “short” for José. If you have also struggled with this, here is a little list to help you along:
Francisco becomes Paco or Pancho
Jesus becomes Chucho or Chuy, the nickname for Chucho!
Ignacio becomes Nacho
Sergio becomes Checo
Consuelo becomes Chelo
Rocios becomes Chio
Dolores becomes Lola
Jose becomes Pepe
Eduardo becomes Lalo o Yayo
Gregorio becomes Goyo
Socorro becomes Coco
Guillermo becomes Memo
Guadalupe becomes Lupe
Martita and Bertita becomes Tita
Alfonso becomes Poncho
And I am sure the list goes on and on and on…
Susannah Rigg is a freelance writer and Mexico specialist. Her work has been featured in BBC Travel, CNN Travel, Conde Nast Traveler, AFAR and The Independent among others . Check out her portfolio here. Contact Susannah by email, info [at] mexicoretold [dot] com and join her on Instagram and Twitter.