Names that Sound Funny to Russians

Name Nerds main

Dear Norah,

I spent very enjoyable time visiting Your excellent website. Although I’m not at all sure that You are interested in any comments from people, who are not native English speakers, I decided to write a letter to You. Unlike in the Russian language, where there are very few names which are also common nouns (when not capitalized), in English there is wide variety of them. I have always been wondered whether such ambiguity–provoking names (inexhaustible source of inspiration for punsters and tongue–twister–makers, I suppose) cause any inconvenience to their owners, 
and how people cope with it.

So, I opened my favorite “Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English” and that’s what I found there (I mean the explanations of words when written not capitalized).

To begin with, William and John seem to be nearly the most miserable names ever.

William’s diminutives are Bill, Billy and Willy.


1 a written list showing how much you have to pay for services you have received, work that has been done etc

2(BrE)a list showing how much you have to pay for food you have eaten in a restaurant; check AmE

3 a written proposal for a new law, which is brought to a parliament so that it can be discussed

4(AmE)a piece of paper money; note BrE

5 a programme of entertainment at a theatre, concert, cinema etc, with details of who is performing, what is being shown etc

6 a printed notice advertising an event

7 a bird's beak

8(BrE spoken) the police


(BrE, AustrE) a tin pot for cooking or boiling water when you are camping


(BrE informal) a penis

Now let’s take a look at John and its diminutive Johnny. Hot guys!


1(AmE informal) a toilet

an imaginary dialogue: “Where’s John?” – “He’s in the john.”

2(AmE slang )the customer of a prostitute

an imaginary dialogue between two prostitutes: “How many johns did you had last night?” – “I don’t know, I didn’t ask their names.”


1(BrE slang) a condom

2(old-fashioned) a man

3(AmE slang) a penis

Oops! A safe–sex campaign slogan: “Before having sex, every sensible johnny should put a johnny onto his johnny!”

Now let’s take a look at more fortunate names.


(AmE) a small metal object like a button with two metal sticks that are put through several pieces of paper and folded down to hold the papers together


(technical term) a fungus that causes an infection in the mouth and throat of children or in a woman's vagina (synonym – thrush)


a word meaning valley, used in former times or in the names of places, especially in the North of England

Dick (diminutive of Richard)

1(slang) a penis

2(slang) a stupid annoying person, especially a man

3(AmE old–fashioned) a private detective

Eddy (diminutive of Edward or Edwin)

a circular movement of water, wind, dust etc


a very hard mineral that is used for polishing things and making them 

Fanny (diminutive of Frances)

1(AmE old–fashioned) the part of your body that you sit on

2(BrE taboo) a woman's outer sex organs


a low plant with small purple, pink, or white flowers which grows on hills

Jack (diminutive of Jacob)

1 a piece of equipment used to lift a heavy weight off the ground, such as a car, and support it while it is in the air

2 a card used in card games that has a man's picture on it and is worth less than a queen and more than a ten

3 an electronic connection for a telephone or other electric machine


1 a hard, usually green stone often used to make jewelry

2 the light green color of this stone

3(old use) a woman, especially a rude or immoral woman


a red, yellow, or brown stone that is not very valuable

Jimmy (diminutive of James)

(AmE) a metal bar used especially by thieves to break open locked doors, windows etc


1 the regular paid work that you do for an employer

2 something that you have to do which involves working or making an effort

3 if it is your job to do something, it is your duty to do it

4 an action done by a computer

5 (informal) a crime in which money is stolen from a bank, company etc

Kit (diminutive of Catherine or Christopher)

1 a set of tools, equipment etc that you use for a particular purpose or activity

2 something such as furniture that you buy in parts and put together yourself

3 (BrE) a set of clothes and equipment that you use when playing a sport

4 a set of clothes and equipment used by soldiers, sailors, etc

Net (diminutive of Janet)

1 a piece of material consisting of strings, threads, or wires woven across each other with regular spaces in between, used, for example, for catching fish, protecting vegetables etc

2 very thin material made from fine threads woven together with very small spaces between

3 a bag made of net on the end of a stick used for catching butterflies

4 a communications or computer network

5 the Net (technical)– the Internet; a system that allows millions of computer users around the world to exchange information

Olive (diminutive of Oliver or Olivia)

1 a tree grown in Mediterranean countries that has small bitter egg-shaped fruits, usually black or green

2 the fruit of this tree, used for food and also for its oil

Peg (diminutive of Margaret)

1 a short piece of wood, metal etc fixed to a wall or door, used for hanging things on, especially clothes

2 (BrE) a small piece of plastic or wood used for fastening wet clothes to a line to dry

3 a pointed piece of wood or metal that you push into the ground in order to keep a tent in the correct position

Pen (diminutive of Penelope)

1 an instrument for writing or drawing with ink

2 a small piece of land enclosed by a fence, used for keeping farm animals in

3 (AmE slang) penitentiary, a prison

Terry (diminutive of Teresa)

a type of thick cotton cloth with uncut threads on both sides, used to make towels, bath mats etc


1 a flat piece of plastic, metal, or wood, with raised edges, used for carrying things such as plates, food etc

2 (especially BrE) a flat open container with three sides used for holding papers, documents etc on a desk

I cannot but mention several names which arouse strange associations (at least, for me personally) because of the way they sound:

Ashley– reminiscent of ashes

Bridget– reminiscent of bridge, fidget or midget

Clifford– reminiscent of cliff and ford

Dolores– reminiscent of dolor and dollars

Frank– are all men bearing this name supposed to be frank?

Gail– are all women bearing this name supposed to be gale–strong?

Guy–here’s an imaginary dialogue: “See that guy over there? What’s his name?” – “This guy’s name is Guy.”

Jean– are all women bearing this name supposed to wear jeans?

Howard– reminiscent of coward

Marsha– reminiscent of marsh

Nell– reminiscent of knell

Owen– reminiscent of oven

Pierce– prankster Pierce prepared his prick to be pierced properly!

Rob– are all men bearing this name supposed to rob?

Roger– are all men bearing this name supposed to roger around?

Scott– are all men bearing this name supposed to live in Scotland?

Sue– are all women bearing this name supposed to sue?

Tyler– are all men bearing this name supposed to work as tilers?

Virginia– are all women bearing this name supposed never to have sex?

Wallace– reminiscent of walled palace

Just to be honest, I must tell You a little about Russian names which can mean something when used as common nouns. They are: Lubov (love), Nadezhda (hope), Vera (faith) – these are female names; besides, Slava, the diminutive form for male names Veacheslav or Yaroslav, means “fame”. And the last one: Russian variant of Basil is Vasiliy, and its affective diminutive formV asilekmeans “cornflower”. As You can see, all associations are quite pleasant.

Dear Norah, let me wish You all the best!


Kiril Rasskazov (Mr), Moscow / Russian Federation

PS sorry for imperfect English :–)