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There are some names I see being put into the diminutive more than others (i.e. Hansel, Fritzchen, Liesel, Gretchen). Could any name be put into the diminutive this way? For example, I was actually on Twitter once and I wanted to talk about Suppen-Kaspar (my favorite character from Struwwelpeter) affectionately, since he's very cute in my opinion, and so I added a -lein to the end of his name. It ended up "Kasparlein". Are custom diminutives like that valid? (No one who saw my post has complained yet.)

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    Do you aim for valid or idiomatic? One could argue that it's always valid (we can form names like Defenderlein) but not necessarily idiomatic. To me Kasparlein sounds weird, Kasperle (or Kasp_a_rle if we want to stay closer to Kasp_a_r) is what I would have gone for. (This might be due to my upbringing)
    – dlrlc
    Commented Aug 18, 2022 at 13:44
  • @dlrlc here's the post. twitter.com/CatDefender2/status/1545801415314083840 I was just trying to be cute in it because of my adoration for the character. (BTW, the image is from an old movie.) Commented Aug 19, 2022 at 15:54

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As suggested in a comment, this is possible from the word-formation point of view. Note, however, that this was mostly used for children (as in Hänschen klein song, in the book Peterchens Mondfahrt, etc.). I consider this as a diminishing trend, not the least, because names from foreign languages are difficult to handle with that scheme.

Im sceptical, whether the diminuitive form would be generally recognized as cuteness indicator for adults, they may suspect you consider them not fully grown in a different respect.)

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  • Some non-German names already have a diminutive included, so adding another one seems redundant. I don't know how that would even work: Bernadette-chen? Juanita-lein?
    – RDBury
    Commented Aug 18, 2022 at 18:24
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    @RDBury There are names where the diminutive is more common and names where it is uncommon. To a German, Bernadettchen and Juanitalein sound just fine. Most German's don't know that these names already are a diminutive (I certainly wasn't aware of that).
    – user6495
    Commented Aug 19, 2022 at 4:53
  • @Roland: Well, I never cease to be surprised. In the US, for some reason, nicknames and diminutives are popular with politicians, so Jimmy (not James) Carter and Bill (not William) Clinton. Now I wonder if that happens in German speaking countries because apparently you never know. So Gerhardchen? Angelachen? Olafchen?
    – RDBury
    Commented Aug 19, 2022 at 16:40
  • @RDBury Are those Bill, Jimmy, etc really deminuitives?. Such nicknames occure also in German, but quite different than in English. Hubert Schölnast lists some of those relations like Sepperl, Hansi, Berti etc, but they are friendly nicknames IMHO, not deminuitives. Further nickname examples are Angela shortened to Angie, Joachim to Jogi, Ulrich or Ulrike to Ul(l)i, Alexander/Alexandra shortened to Alex, Susanne to Sanne or Susi etc. There are other names, often short ones, where no good nickname exists (to my knowledge) like for Otto, Anja, Uwe, Ingo, Marie,... But this is a new question :) Commented Aug 19, 2022 at 22:05
  • @planetmaker: Jimmy is definitely a diminutive in English; the nickname would be Jim. But you're right, the boundary between nickname and diminutive can be fuzzy, and sometime the diminutive is in the name from birth, so Betty Ford was born Elizabeth, but Betty White was born Betty. Then there's Willy Brandt, but apparently that's a very long story.
    – RDBury
    Commented Aug 20, 2022 at 8:53
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There are more diminutive suffixes than just -chen and -lein, but they are often not used in the whole German speaking area. For example, in Austria and Bavaria you hear very frequently the suffix -erl in words like Pickerl, Sackerl, Kipferl, Nockerl and many more, but this suffix is not used in northern regions, because people from northern regions find it hard to correctly pronounce this syllable. (Btw: The words listed here are not dialect words, they belong to Austrian Standard German)

So, in Austria and Bavaria you can find Joseph → Sepperl, Gertude → Truderl, Maria → Mizerl

Not to forget the suffix -i that is also a diminishing suffix and its mainly used for names: Joseph → Seppi, Johann → Hansi, Georg → Schurli, Herbert → Berti, Robert → Berti, Bertram → Berti

The example of Joseph shows, that there can be more than one diminished form (there is also Joseph → Sepp), and the many variation of Bert show, that different names can have the same diminished form. But although my own first name Hubert is a bert-name, it is not diminished to Berti but Hubert → Hubsi (I also heard Hubert → Hubertl but I didn't like it).

And my examples also showed, that diminished names often also dramatically change the stem of the name (like Georg → Schorsch and Georg → Schurli) (For Georg there is a question here on German.SE that deals with this phenomenon in more detail)

I can't think of any name that has not a diminished form. Names from comments: Bernadette → Detti, Juanita → Nitti


diminished forms of Kasper

In regions where Allemannic dialects are spoken you find Kasper → Kasperle. And in regions with Bavarian dialects you find Kasper → Kasperl. Both diminished versions (Kasperle and Kasperl) are names for a funny puppet figure for children. In many regions there is a long tradition of theater plays with this figure and his friends, and in Austrian TV (ORF) the weekly show Kasperltheater (since 2008 with the new name »Servus Kasperl« and is broadcasted twice a week) is one of the oldest TV shows in Austria. It started in 1957.

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    I'd argue that while the Austrian "-erl" is clearly a diminuitive, "-i" is borderline not, but rather just an abbreviation or term of endearment, just like "Sepp" and "Schorsch" aren't. ("Sepp" is definitely not a "small Joseph")
    – tofro
    Commented Aug 19, 2022 at 8:42
  • This comment is an addition about switzerland. Here, the diminuitive is "-li". Kasper -> Kasperli, Joseph -> Seppli, Deckel -> Deckeli, Baum -> Bäumli, Haus/Huus -> Hüsli. The only words that I can think of where this diminuitive cannot be added are some words that end in a vowel (Claudio, Anita, Antibiotika), but not all (Nase -> Näsli, Auto -> Autööli)
    – kscherrer
    Commented Aug 19, 2022 at 10:48
  • Ad "I can't think of any name that has not a diminished form": I've never heard one for "Jürgen", "Martin" or "Thorsten", just to name a few examples :) While it may be possible to form diminuatives, they are rarely used, proabably for phonetic reasons - people tend to find alternative nicknames, of course.
    – Hulk
    Commented Aug 19, 2022 at 11:23
  • twitter.com/CatDefender2/status/1545801415314083840 This is the post I made, just to show you the case in which I used it. (The person I replied to and I are both big Struwwelpeter fans. The picture is from an old movie.) Commented Aug 19, 2022 at 16:07

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