May 17, 2006

Retreat of the Laurens

Well, it's finally happened. The year 2005 was the first year since 1984 that "Lauren" was not one of the top twenty baby names in the U.S. I'm relieved, I suppose, but the damage has been done. It's funny because when I was a child, I was the only Lauren in every school I went to, without fail. And I attended nine different schools. People had difficulty remembering it and spelling it, so very often I was called Laura, Laureen, or Lorna. Few people complemented me on the name, either; it was just too unusual. For my birth year, 1958, there were lots of Lindas, Susans, Karens, and Barbaras. Only weird people gave their kids weird names.

Then in college there was a girl whose name was "Lauryn," like Lauryn Hill. Her mother had wanted her to be named Lauren, and the father wanted her to be named Katharine, so they "compromised" with "Lauryn." Not much of a compromise. Anyway, she was in my History of the English Language class, and having another student with my name was unsettling. I couldn't be completely sure, sometimes, who people were talking to. It used to be so easy.

Then the field was blown wide open in the 1980s. Vice President Bush's granddaughter was named Lauren and then it seemed that every few weeks in a supermarket I could hear a mother calling out, "Lauren, don't touch that!" "Come here this minute, Lauren!" It was years before I stopped jumping at these commands. Around this time people started telling me I had a beautiful name, and thus began a decade or so when I really loved my name because people loved my name. They were learning how to spell it, too, and now I hardly ever have to spell it for people.

Another thing has happened, though. Now it's not interesting to meet a Lauren. No spark of recognition, no conversation of "How did your parents come to name you Lauren?" No instantaneous bond forming. My name isn't special any more. Sure, it's a fine name, but, like Caitlyn and Jessica it's been beaten to death. My mother was looking for an unusual name on purpose, and she just happened to like the way it sounded. She got the idea, of course, from Lauren Bacall, but would get her knickers all in a twist every time my Dad would say, as a joke, that I was named "after" Lauren Bacall. "I did not name my daughter after a movie star," she would say, getting all snobby and huffy, the full Katharine Hepburn act.

Anyway, this means also that a number of people have both my first and last name. Thank goodness my middle name is so weird that only dead people have it.


Rachel said...

So what's your middle name?!!!

Lauren said...

Oops. It's Dillaye. Anglicized French. It was my mother's and grandmother's middle name, but as a surname it seems to be extinct.

Amishlaw said...

At least your husband has a standard issue name. (I'm talking about his last name, of course.) Did you ever wish you had a different name when you were a little girl? What was it?

liz said...

My best friend as a young girl was a Lauren. Lauren Gropp. We lived two doors away from each other and she and I and her sister Amy would play together all the time.

Thus, Lauren is one of my all-time-favorite names.

Anjali said...

From here on out, I'm going to call you Dillaye. Soon, everyone else in the world will call you that, too.

Lauren said...


I wanted to be named Caroline. After you can guess who.

Scrivener said...

When our oldest was born, there were a few names that we liked but specifically avoided because they were too popular (like Emily). So we decided to name her Ella, after Ella Fitzgerald in the same way you were named after Lauren Bacall, and we met some resistance to the name from family and friends who said it sounded too old-fashioned and weird. In 2001, Ella did not even appear anywhere on the list of top names. Ella had never been one of the top 100 names for babies stretching back at least as far as the late 19th century, in fact.

But then a couple of weeks after she was born, I was sitting on the couch with her asleep on my chest watching E.R. and goddamned Dr. Green and his wife had their baby and named her Ella too. I literally woke Ella up yelling an expletive. By 2004, Ella was the 24th most popular name for girls. We've been running into Ellas nowadays--two people who work in my wife's firm named their daughters Ella last year.

When we named our second daughter Chloe, that wasn't quite so obscure as a name--it was #1 in France--but the name still wasn't on the lists in the states. It's now way high on the list too. When Chloe started daycare another girl came in jsut after she did who was not only also named Chloe but shared the same last initial, so we had to write her full name on everything we brought in.

Scrivener said...

Have you played around with that "name voyager" doohicky?

Sugarmama said...

Oh my! What a way to blow 20 minutes! That name voyager thing is a time-suck for sure.

I've always liked your name, and down South at least, it still seems fairly uncommon. I know of only one other here.

As for my own girls, I named one Iris and one Lula. Iris is always told how pretty her name is, but Lula invariably gets a "WHAT did you say her name was? Lula?!? Oh. Hmmm. Well." It's a family name and was common in the early 1900's, but apparently now is nearly extinct.

John said...

Curse you Scrivener. You and the time wasting doohicky you rode in on.