Saturday, September 27, 2014


Walt Longmire, played by Australian actor Robert Taylor

Since watching the TV show 'Longmire' (based on the Walt Longmire mystery novels by Craig Johnson), I've slowly been falling more and more in love with this name. A few years ago, all it made me think of was Disney. Now however it makes me think me think of a stoic, steadfast cowboy.

The meaning of Walt seems to point more towards this impression of the name too. Walt is a form of Walter, a Germanic name meaning "commander of the army" or "ruler of an army". Although with the empire that Walt Disney has created, there's no denying he must be a pretty good leader and commander himself.

The popularity of Walt and Walter is quite interesting. Walter was brought to Britain by the Normans and has been used fairly steadily there for the past 900 years. It seems to have been much more popular in the U.S though. Walter has never dropped below the top 400, and was actually a top 20 name until 1931, and a top 100 name until 1973. I've seen some say that thanks to the character Walter White on 'Breaking Bad' and a current love of "grandpa" names, Walter is ready for  revival. But can it really be called a revival when it seems Walter has never truly fallen completely out of fashion?

Walt on the other hand is a very different story. It feels like a largely American name, mainly because the two most famous bearers are American. One being Walter "Walt" Elias Disney (1901-1966), founder of The Walt Disney Company; and the second one being poet Walter "Walt" Whitman (1819-1892). But note that it's two most famous bearers are actually Walters, and maybe it's easier to understand why Walt is rarely seen as a given name. It is extremely rare outside the U.S, but even in the U.S it is by no means common. Despite being given to more than five boys in a year almost every year since 1914, it has only cracked the top 1000 a handful of times in the 40's, 50's and 60's. This is possibly an indication that the Walt Disney connection is just too strong for many to think it is usable.

But I don't think this has to be the case. One thing I like abut Walt is that it feels like be would fit in well with many names styles. He could be a cowboy with friends named Hoyt, Duke and Cord; a preppy boy who hangs out with Tripp, Ames and Spencer; a mate to Will, Rafe and Ned. I could go on, but all you would have to do is picture him alongside the names on your own list to see if you agree.

What do you think - is Walt an under-appreciated gem that deserves more attention, or does it remain rarely used for a reason? And if you were choosing between Walter and Walt, which would you choose?

Sunday, September 21, 2014


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.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

A Quick Hello

Just a quick post today! I feel like I need to apologise to my regular readers as it has been a few weeks between posts now, which is pretty rare here at Baby Name Pondering.

Without going into too much detail, we've recently done our first cycle of IVF. I found it to be quite an emotional time, and the hormones left me feeling sore and tired most evenings, when I usually write posts. As I like to keep things mostly upbeat here, I just wasn't in the right frame of mind to be waxing lyrical abut what I find interesting and beautiful in names.

Unfortunately our first attempt was unsuccessful, but we plan to keep trying until it works for us. In other news though, I've started a second blog called Everything Else, which will basically chronicle those other things in my life besides names. It will definitely include our IVF journey, so if you are going down a similar path feel free to stop by. Hopefully there will be good news to share there before too long. I'll also share some of my craft projects, maybe the occasional recipe and probably some gratuitous photos of my adorable cat Luna and my Christmas decorations (which I have an unexplainable obsession with). And whatever else takes my fancy at the time.

And of course there will be new name posts coming soon here - I promise! There are still plenty of names and name related topics that I want to explore, so stay tuned. And most of all, thanks for reading