At the top of a squatty, three-story brick Sue and Johnsy had their studio. "Johnsy" was familiar for Joanna. One was from Maine; the other from California. They had met at the table d'hôte of an Eighth Street "Delmonico's," and found their tastes in art, chicory salad and bishop sleeves so congenial that the joint studio resulted

This passage is from the story named "The Last Leaf" written by O. Henry.

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    I'm a native speaker (northeastern American English) and I had to read this sentence twice to make sure I understood it correctly. I am dimly aware of the phrase "familiar name" meaning "nickname" but I've never seen the phrase "X was familiar for Y". Just so you know, you might not be easily understood if you try to use this phrase in your day-to-day life :)
    – apsillers
    Apr 17, 2018 at 18:53
  • @apsillers: "Johnsy was familiar for Joanna" operates under the same principle as "short for" (as in "Theo is short for "Theodore"). Other adjectives could apply as well: exalted for, Greek for, formal for, etc.
    – Robusto
    Apr 17, 2018 at 21:11
  • @Robusto What does exalted for mean? Can't find it in Google.
    – Eddie Kal
    Apr 18, 2018 at 20:02
  • @EddieKal: You won't find every potential combination of words in Google, nor is Google the arbiter of what is "correct" or "good" or "possible" in English. The point is, there are many potential "adjective for noun" combinations using that pattern.
    – Robusto
    Apr 18, 2018 at 21:17
  • @Robusto I understand your point. I am just trying to figure out what somehing is exalted for something. means, as you have suggested it is a meaningful combination. I understand the rest on your list.
    – Eddie Kal
    Apr 18, 2018 at 21:33

2 Answers 2


It just means that "Johnsy" was a familiar name—we would call it a "nickname"—for Joanna.

See nickname. Also, familiar is used in the sense meaning "friendly" or "informal".


I would take it to mean it was an intimate name for someone whose real or given name was Joanna. Sue is living with a person named Joanna who prefers to be addressed as Johnsy. Much as in my case "Jack" is familiar for John. Someone who actually knows me will call me Jack, someone who doesn't know me very well will call me John. In other words, someone who is familiar with me will use my preferred name much like a member of my family might.

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