Thoughts on a Word: Tori

(Yes, I realize how self-involved this post is. I don’t really consider it a “great truth of life” type of post. More like a personal pet peeve.)

Close up of my face from the nose to the forehead.

Recently, I had a visiting consultant come to my room, armed with some kind of official document as their guide map. And like all official documents bearing my name, this one listed my first name as “Victoria.” Technically, that is correct, but calling me that is a surefire way to indicate:

  1. You probably don’t know me well enough to be on a first name basis with me.
  2. You are my mother and I am in “youngladycomehererightNOW” kinds of trouble.

This person did not call me that. Rather, this visitor took it upon themselves to shorten “Victoria” to “Vicky” — a name that, when directed toward me, has always, always pissed me right the fuck off.

Not that I think Vicky (in this or any of its other spellings) is a bad name. It’s a perfectly fine one for someone else. But it is not my name. My name is the one that’s attached to my identity.

I commented about this recently on someone else’s blog post about women taking their husbands’ surnames after marrying, but I think it’s worth repeating. For the first five or six years of my life, I’d grown up being called Tori almost exclusively (aside from, you know, those “youngladycomehererightNOW” moments), to the extent that I didn’t recognize “Victoria” as a name that applied to me — because mostly, it didn’t. So when I switched schools just before second grade and my mom introduced me to the teachers as Victoria, I was surprised and dismayed.

“I’m Tori,” I corrected, maybe only once but at least once. And I continued to refer to myself as “Tori” in my writing for a month or so into the school year, at least until open house.

“Should we be using that nickname?” one teacher asked my mom.

“No,” she responded. “That’s just something we call her at home.”

And so at school, I was Victoria for the next seven or eight years. Being called Victoria in school and Tori outside of it felt really, really weird, like I was in some respects a different person depending on where I was.

That’s with a name that is technically one of my own, one I’ve always used for legal and official purposes. When I’m called Victoria, even though it still doesn’t feel like me, at least I understand the rational basis for using that name.

However, there is no rational basis for someone deciding to call me Vicky, which is why I loathe when it happens. That’s someone feeling entitled to shorten my name to something it is not. My name is a fundamental part of my identity; other people don’t get to change it to suit their own preferences. While choosing to call me by the wrong name does not even make the What Is Wrong With This World List — I get that — it’s nonetheless an issue with a very simple solution.

Which is why, when this visitor called me Vicky, I smiled sweetly and said, “Please don’t call me that again.”


I'm here. I like stuff. Some other stuff, I like less.

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Posted in non-asana, swadyaya
10 comments on “Thoughts on a Word: Tori
  1. Chally says:

    Ugh, been there, it is not pleasant. Good for you for sticking up for yourself.

  2. CaitieCat says:

    Yeah, it’s always a bit weird when people call me Caitlin – it’s like, yeah, that’s my truename, but nobody calls me it: Cait or Caitie or Katie or Kate or Kmmmq, so long as you pronounce it “Kate” we’re all good.

    And funnier yet because I chose it! But once I got used to using it, I realized I liked Cait better, and it suits me better.

    • Tori says:

      Yeah, I feel a bit weird when it’s my actual full name. When it’s an entirely different nickname, though, I don’t get that at all. Even if it’s a common nickname of that full name, it seems like it would be reasonable to ask if the person prefers a nickname rather than assume it.

  3. Olivia says:

    Totally agree with this. I have never called someone by a nickname or short version of their name unless that person tells me, “I prefer to be called X.” For some reason, as an Olivia, I’ve always been called that except by my extended family who like Livi. And, I’ve always appreciated it when a friend has asked if she could call me Liv or Livi.

    By the way, my daughter’s name is Victoria and we are insisting she be called that unless she ever chooses something different.

  4. Carolyn says:

    I sooooo hear you on this. I believe that calling someone what they wish to be called is just basic respect stuff. How hard is it to call someone by the name they are introduced to you by? I lucked into a name without an easy short form, but my sister has a very common three-syllable name that is frequently shortened. She says most women refer to her by her full name after she introduces herself that way. Most men shorten it without invitation. It’s such a power thing.

    • Tori says:

      Interesting. I’ve found that for me, most people do refer to me as I introduce myself — particularly if I make it a point to express a preference for Tori over Victoria. When people have spontaneously Vickified me, however, it’s tended to come pretty equally from men and women.

  5. Alison says:

    SO feel you on this. I find it really baffling when people just decide to use a nickname for someone on their own – to me, calling someone by a nickname without that person having said it’s the name they use is just as odd as calling someone by a totally different name. Like, if instead of addressing you as “Vicky”, this person had called you “Sarah”.

    I go by my full name, Alison, and have never ever ever been “Ali” – not in my family, not among friends, never. I do not like the nickname for myself at all and have always liked my full name. Yet time and time and time again when people are first introduced to me or we’re first getting to know each other – say, in a workplace or on a blog or something – they just assume it’s fine to call me Ali. Like I said, for me, that’s as weird and wrong as if they called me a totally different name. I always politely correct people, and most of them are cool, although occasionally you get someone who seems…I don’t know, offended by the correction, like how dare I be so snotty and rude as to think I get to decide what people call me. I’M AWFUL, I KNOW. ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. Pamela says:

    Found this from Feministe… I’m Pamela, and I dislike being called ‘Pam’, but two times out of three, when I introduce myself as Pamela, the other person immediately asks if I prefer Pam or Pamela. One would think they could figure it out… One of my friends and I have a game going, seeing how long it takes someone to start calling me Pam after they’ve met me, even after I express a preference. It’s usually a few months at most.

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