We were strolling through Tartu one day when we happened upon a cat that had escaped its fenced-in yard and made it to another person's property. When we returned the cat we met his owner, Bruno, a Latvian man, perhaps in his 60s or 70s, who spoke fluent Estonian and was funny and good natured.
The only problem with our Bruno was that he insisted on calling me 'Jasmine'. At first I thought he was calling me 'Rasmus', which isn't a bad name considering someone just sent an e-mail to me addressed to 'Julian' -- whoever that is.
But no, when I listened carefully, I heard it again and again. 'Jasmine this' and 'Jasmine that'. Finally Epp stepped in on my behalf and politely told Bruno that my name was not 'Jasmine.' Fortunately, Bruno did not mistake me for a former NSync heartthrob. No, he turned to his wife and asked, 'But what was that princess' name?' 'Jasmine' came back her response. 'Jasmine,' he muttered to himself, and then we left it at that.
'Jasmine' is far closer to my name than what my wife's grandparents, Karl and Laine, call me. I am pretty sure that Karl knows my name is that of the saint. But to Laine I am 'Sass', which allegedly sounds close to my name, though I am not hearing it. 'Sass' is a nickname for Aleksander -- another one of Estonia's peculiar diminutives.
When forming nicknames in Estonia, usually they chop the front half of your name off and at 's' to the end. 'Peeter' becomes 'Pets', 'Toivo' becomes 'Toits', even 'Epp' can become 'Eps'. Then there are those more outrageous derivations. 'Andres' gets shortened to 'Ats', and, somehow, they make 'Sass' out of Aleksander.
This doesn't happen with all names though. Fellows named 'Hannes' are apparently stuck with 'just Hannes'. There will be no wild nicknames for them. But if Hannes Võrno is ever feeling sorry for himself, he can thank Taara that his name isn't Jasmine.
[The picture is 'Kaik Kerdub' by Annely Vassar (2001)]