My first name is "Jean-Baptiste". "Baptiste" is not a second or middle name, however I noticed that it's not unusual for native English speakers to address me just as "Jean".

I don't mind it at all, I'm not offended and find it actually charming, but it would be quite unusual for a speaker of my native language (France's French) to call me like that (either native speakers address me with my full first name, or they use various nicknames - and the nickname is never "Jean").

So I'm curious as to why many native English speakers seem to spontaneously call me "Jean".

The two hypotheses I have is that either my full first name might be a bit difficult to pronounce (so just saying "Jean" is easier), or because they mistakenly think that "Baptiste" is my middle name - as compound first names are unusual in English (correct me if I'm wrong).

I'd tend to think it's the second option, as I noticed that it also happens in writing, but I'd be interested in having the insight of people who know English language and English-speaking cultures better than I do. Maybe I'm completely on the wrong track!

When it happens, I usually don't have the opportunity to ask people why they are calling me like that (e.g. in a professional context we usually don't have the time for that, plus in this kind of situation I don't want to make people feel like they offended me), that's why I ask this question here.

Thank you,

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    I think you're right, compound first names are very unusual in English. Therefore, native English speakers don't know how to handle it. Commented Aug 16, 2023 at 9:05
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    Definitely written down & hyphenated, it's clear that it should be considered a single name. I think it's more along the lines of shortening longer names as a sign of familiarity/warmth, e.g. similar to how someone called Jennifer might have their name shortened to "Jen" or Timothy->Tim even though they're clearly a single name. (That said, you'd hope people would check if you didn't mind being called that first!). Generally compound names are less common in English, but you do get ones (e.g. Anne-Marie) that people would be quite familiar with. Commented Aug 16, 2023 at 9:16
  • Where exactly was this? I am sure it varies by region. Commented Aug 16, 2023 at 9:33
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    @anotherdave It did not even occur to me that it could be simply people being nice, that's good to know! Commented Aug 16, 2023 at 9:38
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    @Tetsujin True, the few native English speakers who I heard pronouncing my full name indeed pronounced the "p" (while it's supposed to be silent). In my experience, it's also true for many native speakers of other languages. Incidentally, one of my nicknames among my family of origin is "Jean-Bap", where the "p" is surprisingly not silent; go figure! Commented Aug 16, 2023 at 11:44

1 Answer 1


I am confident that this is something that varies a lot by region, for example "Billy-Ray" or "Mary-Jane" would not be an uncommon names in parts of America.

Since you're French, I'm going to assume you're going to mostly talking about native British English speakers. In that case, it isn't so much that people don't understand it's that the British almost never use long first names. Someone called "Christopher" will be called "Chris"; someone called "Elizabeth" will be called "Liz" or "Beth"; "Richard" will be called "Rich", "Richi", or "Rick"; and so on. Using the longer version is normally reserved for expressing mild disapproval, so if I want to mildly rebuke my friend Chris I will exclaim "Christopher!".

So ingrained is this that people who prefer the longer version of their name will struggle to get others to consistently use them and may even be seen as a bit weird.

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    Thanks! I completely understand the rationale. In France people will often shorten my name with "JB" (even if it has familiar undertones and might be inappropriate in some professional contexts). My surprise probably came from the fact that native French speakers don't use "Jean" to shorten my name; it did not occur to me that it could be an equivalent to French people calling me "JB". Commented Aug 16, 2023 at 10:06
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    I worked with a guy called Richard Head - absolutely insisted on Richard. [What were his parents thinking?]
    – Tetsujin
    Commented Aug 16, 2023 at 10:43
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    'Almost never' is a bit of an exaggeration. I choose to use a shortened form of my name (and being called Katherine makes me feel as though I'm back at school), but I know several C/Katherines and even more Richards. I think it's mainly that British people aren't used to compound given names these days. Commented Aug 16, 2023 at 12:39
  • @Jean-Baptiste I've known a Jean-Pierre (mother tongue French) who was invariably JP, and a John-Paul (mother tongue English). So we can adopt the French style. I've also known British people with a double first name like yours who deliberately use the first half. Sticking with both hapoens too but less often
    – Chris H
    Commented Aug 16, 2023 at 17:07
  • Oh, and I work with a Christopher - it's quite handy when we're in meetings together, but that's rare. I've had one discussion where 4/6 people were called Chris, and none used the full form
    – Chris H
    Commented Aug 16, 2023 at 17:13

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