Sunday, September 21, 2014

Laurel

Photo Courtesy of Mali Workman Photography

Laurel is one of those names it seems like I've always admired. Unlike some names though, I can't quite pinpoint where I first heard it, or even when I first started liking it.

Possibly I've just always liked names with the "Lor" sound. As a child, I had a Barbie name Laura and another doll named Lori. Lorelei is another long time love - elaborate and "fancy" but not too delicate.

But Laurel remains my favourite. As down to earth and friendly feeling as Laura and Lori, not quite as elaborate as Lorelei but reminiscent of her charm. In my eyes she's preppy but not snobby, not too popular, but not at all weird. A nature name with enough history as a name that you almost forget it's also a nature word. In many ways she reminds me of Ivy, and with Ivy on the rise in much of the Western World (it rose in Australia, the UK and the US in 2013), could it be possible that Laurel may not be far behind?

Laurel herself has enjoyed some modest popularity over the years. In the US she has was a fixture in the top 1000 from 1917 to 2008, peaking at 241 in 1956. In 2013 she was #873. This steadiness is one of the appealing points about this name. It means that Laurel doesn't feel tied to a particular age group, whereas these days a Laurie is most likely to be a grandma while a Lauren is probably becoming a mother herself.

Pronounced LAWR-el or LORE-el, Laurel is a Latin nature name, given to many different plants. By far the most recognisable is the Grecian or Bay Laurel, the tree whose shiny green leaves were used to make the wreaths awarded to winners in the ancient Olympic Games. This symbol of victory is behind the saying "to rest on one's laurels", meaning that one stops trying because they are so satisfied with their past achievements.

It doesn't hurt that my favourite
artist - Alphonse Mucha -
created this beautiful piece
titled 'Laurel' in 1901

But Laurel is not just a nature name - in many parts of the U.S she is also a place name. There is also a class of ships with this name, a 17th century English coin; and a car made by Nissan. Plenty of famous faces also bear this name, both as a first name and a surname. Examples include:

  • Comedian Stan Laurel (of comedy duo Laurel and Hardy)
  • Author Laurell K Hamilton
  • Former Philippine President Jose P Laurel
  • Astronaut and Doctor Laurel Clark
  • Character Laurel Lance in TV show 'Arrow', played by Katie Cassidy; and 
  • DC comics superhero Laurel Gand, a.k.a. Andromeda.

It's worth noting at this point that I do keep referring to Laurel as a girls name. It doesn't have to be used exclusively for girls - there are male Laurels out there. Not many, so if it's a unique boys name you want Laurel could be a great choice. It's not too far removed from Laurence, and of course Lauren and Loren were originally male names which have since become "stolen" by the girls. This is another case where the fact that Laurel has never been a chart topper is a benefit, as it doesn't mean it's overwhelmingly entrenched as a girls name.

Saying that though, I personally have always loved it as a girls name.

One of the things I did notice about this name is that quite a few (female) Laurels have added their endorsement of the name on the Baby Name Wizard entry for this name. Often on popular names you'll find a couple (sometimes a few) replies under "Personal Experiences with this name". I think the fact that this has so many responses means that people have real affection for this name. As one Laurel puts it, "if you are attracted to flower names but don't want your daughter to sound too dainty, this is a nice choice".

But of course Laurel is not without it's problems. The fact that Laura and Lauren are much more popular means that many Laurels often have their name confused for one of these options. Rhyming words include Oral, Moral and Immoral, which could possibly be used for teasing. Or people receive a lot of Laurel and Hardy jokes. But generally Laurels seem happy to overlook this, and appreciate having a different, "unique" and pretty name.

Love it or hate it, it's hard to deny that the stylish Laurel is a subtly dignified name that still hints at a fun personality. She's a name that wears well in many walks of life and would delight many a girl.


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