Kate isn't my formal name - that's Kathleen. I like my formal name for being formal - it's kind of elegant. I like names that have nicknames. Mine has several nicknames, but I've always been Kate or Katie. I wonder - will I ever be too old to be called Katie? Is there a point where the nickname with the cute little "ee" sound at the end should be dropped? Like my cousin Jimmy (I have a lot of those) who is in his 60s. Is it time to start calling him Jim? My husband's name has no nicknames. His parents will sometimes shorten it to the first syllable - but I don't like that. It's like calling Mary "Mare" or Dylan "Dill". That's not to say that there's anything wrong with names with no easy nicknames - some of them are so beautiful and elegant - like Julia or Aimee.
When you have a name like mine, that can have several nicknames, things can get tricky. People tend to assume I'm a Kathy. I don't care for that name. I don't need a reason beyond the fact that - well - it's not my name. But then there's the memory of the Chatty Cathy doll. And there's my brother's old girlfriend Cathy. Yeah - don't call me Kathy. You would be amazed though at the people who see Kathleen and just assume they should call me Kathy. It's presumptuous - maybe I don't use a nickname at all and if I do use one, do you know me well enough to be using it? My personal opinion, if you don't know a person's nickname, don't attempt to use one. Better to be safe than sorry. Give me the opportunity to say "Please, call me Kate."
Names are important, because they are ours. They are personal. They are one of the most personal things about us. We don't (usually) choose them for ourselves, but they are ours like nothing else. Names are the first things we owned.