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View Full Version : How did Sasha come to be a diminutive for Alexander?


ultrafilter
03-17-2011, 06:17 PM
The question's in the title. All the other diminutives I can think of are at least a little bit similar to the original name, but this seems to be out of left field.

rocking chair
03-17-2011, 06:39 PM
it is from the sandr part of aleksandr. the sa of sandr with the sha diminutive gives you sasha.

kinda like some alexanders get called sandy instead of alex.

ultrafilter
03-17-2011, 06:57 PM
Is that a common method of forming diminutives in some languages?

Chronos
03-17-2011, 07:02 PM
-sha as a diminutive is certainly common in Russian, which is also I think where "Sasha" comes from. Russian seems to have a lot of diminutive forms, and I understand it's usual for a person to go by many different nicknames with different friends. The Russian students I've met here all seem to be a bit bemused by the fact that everyone they meet calls them by the form with which they introduce themselves.

Lasciel
03-17-2011, 07:02 PM
Is that a common method of forming diminutives in some languages?


Russian, I believe. It's more complicated than that, but there are a lot of Russian nicknames formed in that general way - Ivan becomes Vanya, Alexander becomes Sanya or Sasha, etc.

Also, while there are other spelling variants of Alexander in various languages which make Sasha a little more obvious, it's not the strangest one out there - a common example is Daisy for Margaret. The flower that we know of as a Daisy is called a Marguerite (spelling?) in France, and so even though Marguerite and Margaret aren't precisely the same name, Daisy for Margaret ended up as quite a popular diminutive for a while.

rocking chair
03-17-2011, 07:03 PM
in russian, yeah. you take a few letters and add a diminutive ending. the ending is by gender and familiarity.

the common niks for alexander in russian are: alek or sasha.

micheal is misha, take the mi add the sha.

WotNot
03-17-2011, 07:25 PM
Is that a common method of forming diminutives in some languages?
It's just the same in English: take the "sand" part of Alexander (or Alexandra) and add the diminutive -y ending to get the nickname Sandy.

Did you know that Peggy is a diminutive of Margaret? Fun, eh?

Chronos
03-17-2011, 07:58 PM
micheal is misha, take the mi add the sha. There's also "Masha" for "Maria".

Springtime for Spacers
03-17-2011, 09:26 PM
in russian, yeah. you take a few letters and add a diminutive ending. the ending is by gender and familiarity.

the common niks for alexander in russian are: alek or sasha.

micheal is misha, take the mi add the sha.

My Ukranian ex pa in law called his son Michael Mahashku.

DCnDC
03-17-2011, 09:28 PM
All the other diminutives I can think of are at least a little bit similar to the original name, but this seems to be out of left field.

There's also "Richard" and "Dick."

Pai325
03-17-2011, 09:47 PM
I think Polly was a nickname for Mary at one time. As Sally was for Sarah.

Chefguy
03-17-2011, 10:27 PM
It seems a large part of the western world was named after Alexander The Great. The names Saunders and Sanders both come from it.

Antinor01
03-17-2011, 10:55 PM
Huh, I didn't know that. This can be my thing to learn for today. Thanks. :)

Inner Stickler
03-17-2011, 11:06 PM
Reading Chekhov without understanding a bit of the russian diminutive process can be confusing. I remember throwing The Cherry Orchard across the room crying that every character had three names and no one was referred to by the name in the character list.

Elendil's Heir
03-17-2011, 11:09 PM
The President's daughter Sasha is simply named that - it's not a diminutive for Alexandra, in her case, IIRC.

pulykamell
03-17-2011, 11:15 PM
There's also "Masha" for "Maria".

The ending (spelled a little differently, but pronounced the same) is common in Polish for feminine names.


Marya -> Marysia or Masia "Marisha/Masha" (Mary)
Małgorzata -> Małgosia/Gosia "Mao-gosha/Gosha" (Margaret)
Katarzyna -> Kasia "Kasha" (Catherine)
Barbara -> Basia "Basha" (Barbara)
Dorota or Teodozja -> Dosia "Dosha" (Dorothy or Theodora)

etc...

Shakester
03-17-2011, 11:36 PM
Slavic (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slavic_languages), not "Russian".

People from what used to be Yugoslavia, for instance, aren't Russians and don't speak Russian, but they do use the same diminutives in their names, and someone called "Sasha" is just as likely to be Serbo-Croatian as Russian.

pulykamell
03-18-2011, 01:35 AM
Marya -> Marysia or Masia "Marisha/Masha" (Mary)

Little slip of the keyboard there. I meant to type "Maria" for "Marya," although the latter is an older Polish spelling of the name, as is "Marja," so far as I understand.

Rigamarole
03-18-2011, 03:34 AM
Huh, I didn't know that. This can be my thing to learn for today. Thanks. :)

I had never heard this before either. Finally explains why Sasha Baron Cohen has a girl's name.

Eliahna
03-18-2011, 06:31 AM
I had never heard this before either. Finally explains why Sasha Baron Cohen has a girl's name.

Next you'll be telling us that Nikita is a girl's name.

Polycarp
03-18-2011, 06:55 AM
My Ukranian ex pa in law called his son Michael Mahashku.

And Ukrainians speak Ukrainian, a quite different language from Russian. As any Ukrainian will be at great pains to make clear to you, right? :D

Polycarp
03-18-2011, 07:06 AM
Reading Chekhov without understanding a bit of the russian diminutive process can be confusing. I remember throwing The Cherry Orchard across the room crying that every character had three names and no one was referred to by the name in the character list.


The other one is fun. The Chekhov play known in Russian as Дядя Ваня (transliterated Dyadya Vanya) is usually half-translated (since Dyadya carries a 'father' connotation) as "Uncle Vanya." But to be consistent you should probably translate nickname as well as relational title, and render it "Uncle Johnny."

Polycarp
03-18-2011, 07:10 AM
Next you'll be telling us that Nikita is a girl's name.

Nope. (You do know about Sir Elton, dontcha? ;)) Except for the late premier Khrushchev and one actor/model who apparently were actually named 'Nikita' at birth, it's a diminutive for Nikolai.

pulykamell
03-18-2011, 10:43 AM
Slavic (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slavic_languages), not "Russian".

People from what used to be Yugoslavia, for instance, aren't Russians and don't speak Russian, but they do use the same diminutives in their names, and someone called "Sasha" is just as likely to be Serbo-Croatian as Russian.

Sure, but it doesn't work in Polish for male names, so you can't quite extend that to Slavic languages as a rule. In Polish, the male diminutive is usually "-ek" or "-uś" (or even both as "--uśek"). Female names get the "-sia/cia/dzia/nia" and "-ka" endings (I may be missing one in there.)

Annie-Xmas
03-18-2011, 10:48 AM
The President's daughter Sasha is simply named that - it's not a diminutive for Alexandra, in her case, IIRC.

Nope (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Family_of_Barack_Obama#Immediate_family). It's a diminiutive for Natasha.

Acsenray
03-18-2011, 11:17 AM
The question's in the title. All the other diminutives I can think of are at least a little bit similar to the original name, but this seems to be out of left field.

There are plenty of diminutives in the Anglo-American tradition that are quite distant from the original -- Peggy (Margaret), Polly (Mary), Betsy (Elizabeth), Hank (John or Henry), Sandy (Alexander), Dicky (Richard), Bobby/Dobby/Hobby/Nobby (Robert)

Annie-Xmas
03-18-2011, 11:25 AM
I've never understood how Edward got to be both "Ted" and "Ned."

Acsenray
03-18-2011, 11:30 AM
Those fit right in with the other examples I gave, don't you think?

pravnik
03-18-2011, 01:15 PM
Ditto Jack and John.

Floater
03-18-2011, 01:49 PM
It's a diminiutive for Natasha.
Which, in itself, is a diminutive for Natalya.

Chessic Sense
03-18-2011, 02:19 PM
I've never understood how Edward got to be both "Ted" and "Ned."

It's common (for some reason) to change or add a first letter to a name.

Edward->Ed->Ted/Ned
William->Will->Bill
Richard->Rick->Dick

And in the "last half + diminutive" family, we have:

Anthony->Tony

dotchan
03-18-2011, 02:19 PM
Slight hijack, I was very surprised to discover that "Dot" is short for "Dorothy" and not Princess Angelica Francesca Banana Nana Bo Besca III. :p

Elendil's Heir
03-18-2011, 02:33 PM
Nope (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Family_of_Barack_Obama#Immediate_family). It's a diminiutive for Natasha.

Thanks, but the Wiki article cites to an NBC News report that says nothing about her full name actually being Natasha. I've read elsewhere - can't remember where, but it seemed reliable at the time - that her given name is simply Sasha.

Elendil's Heir
03-18-2011, 02:34 PM
Nope. (You do know about Sir Elton, dontcha? ;)) Except for the late premier Khrushchev and one actor/model who apparently were actually named 'Nikita' at birth, it's a diminutive for Nikolai.

Maybe he was thinking of this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/La_femme_nikita

Scarlett67
03-18-2011, 02:38 PM
Then there's Margaret > Peg.

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