Just before her ninth birthday, my daughter asked me how I’d chosen her name. Given that it’s one piece of parenting that I’ve never regretted, I’m happy to share that information with you now.
In the run-up to her birth, I’d had plenty of time to consider. I’d been hoping for her arrival for many years. All that time, I’d anticipated a Sophie, a Chloe or, best of all, a Catherine, the latter particularly favoured for its many variables. (An old friend, who spelt hers with a K, had run through most of the possibilities while we were at school, and my great-grandmother saw nothing wrong with christening two of her daughters Katie and Kathy.)
There was a touch-and-go moment when we thought that she might have turned out to be a boy, though I really longed for a little girl. In a weak moment, I agreed that if our baby turned out to be a boy, he could choose what to call it, whereas I had the naming rights over a girl. If indeed I had given birth to a boy, he would have rejoiced in the name of Munro, in honour of my (Scottish) husband’s hero, Sir Hugh Munro, who charted all the Scottish mountains with a height of over 3,000 feet. Not keen, I tried to influence his choice, suggesting Hamish as having a suitable heritage. “Och, no!” came the chorus of replies from his assembled Scottish relatives as we discussed possiblities in Kincardine-on-Forth. (Only later did I discover that Hamish is actually a Scottish derivative of James. As Gordon already had a son called James, we would have been stepping into Kathy-and-Katie territory here.) Laura regularly reminds us of her near miss and rolls her eyes , saying “I’m SO glad I was born a girl!”
Five months into my pregnancy, an amniocentesis confirmed categorically that I was carrying a girl – so Sophie, Chloe or Catherine she would be.
But then, just a few weeks before she was born, the name Laura suddenly came into my head, and I knew at once that was what she would be called. I’d never really known another Laura, but, post-rationalising, I can see that two of my heroines, both pioneers in different ways, were responsible for this inspiration.
I’d followed Laura Ashely’s ascent from cottage industry at her kitchen table to international style and fashion mogul, and I adored her style, even after it had long gone out of fashion. I mourned her premature death, while in my house, and in my wardrobe, she lives on . I suppose her early designs made me ever associate her name with all things pretty, natural, unpretentious and feminine – all things that I’d like a daughter of mine to be.
My other role model was Laura Ingalls Wilder. Forget the saccharine TV programmes that her books have spawned. Read those books instead. I defy anyone to fail to be awed by her and her family’s courage, optimism, self-reliance and flexibility (again, great qualities in any child) as they moved ever westward in search of the perfect place to settle. And of course, she wrote like an angel, a further quality that scores very highly with me. (I daresay her outfits would have charmed Laura Ashley, too.)
Anita Roddick (the admirable founder of Body Shop) would also have been in with a chance, if I didn’t dislike the name Anita. Had Cath Kidston raised her profile a little more before Laura’s birth, she could have kept me straight on the Catherine path.
But Laura she is, and there are plenty of other reasons that I adore the name. It’s pretty without committing its bearer to a certain image, size or shape (I’d never have risked a Grace, a Fleur or a Rose, just in case she turned out beefy). It’s classical, too, with a hint at Greek laurel wreaths – appropriate considering she was born 9 months after our stay in Athens.
It hasn’t been hijacked by Hollywood or the pop charts either – a phenomenon presumably to blame for the three Ethans in her school of 85 pupils (thank you, Mr Hawke) and the imminent Rihanna in reception. You have to feel for the hundreds of Kylies and Madonnas now hitting their twenties.
It’s a name everyone knows how to spell (I pity the poor child I came across whose parents decided to be different and christen their daughter Abbeygale).
But it’s not so common as to cause confusion. (I remember in my first class at secondary school there were four Susans in our class of thirty.)
It’s poetic without being twee or soppy, and classless and timeless, so it shouldn’t date.
Nine years on, I’ve never regretted my choice. The name hasn’t dated or gone out of fashion, nor been blighted by the bad behaviour of a celebrity Laura. Consequently I’m predisposed to like any new Lauras I encounter, whether in person, on the phone or online. I expect them to be sweet, kind, big-hearted and gentle – just like my Laura – and to have a healthy sense of humour too. In the last few days, I’ve added several new Lauras to my collection, and they’ve all complied with these expectations. I love the notion (and glorious phrase) of nominal determinism: the presumption that you will grow into the name you are given, although my rational side assures me that it must be nonsense.
My own name, Debbie, has its perks – for example, a recent survey showed it to be the top name for female CEOs (my brother and father’s name, Peter is top for men). But already it seems old-fashioned. I know quite a few Debbies, and there have been some pretty damn cool ones, from my best friend at primary school, Debbie Hasletine, to the peerless Debbie Harry of Blondie. But I don’t know any now under the age of thirty, and I suspect that in another twenty years, my name will have all the cachet of a Gladys.
But whatever fashion dictates, I know I’ll still have claim to one name that I will always love: and that name is Mummy.
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45 thoughts on “Why I Named My Daughter Laura (For Lauras Everywhere)”
Thank you for sharing! I think I share many of the traits you described in your own daughter. My parents loved the great smoky mountains and were married in Cades Cove. That love continued in my name, Laura Brooke, for the laurel and brooks that reside there. I too adore the name and I am so thankful my parents chose it. Now that I’m an adult, I have a daughter Scarlett. I wanted something strong and timeless, and she is proving it was a good choice for her.
For what it’s worth, I have a dog named Sophie!
What a romantic story that is about your own name, Laura! Scarlett is a beautiful name too, and how lovely that she’s grown into it. My cat, by the way, is called Dorothy – we took her in as a stray, and to start with we called her Dora the Explorer, as in the children’s TV programme, because she was in to everything. But then a postcard arrived from my aunt showing the famous red slippers from the Wizard of Oz, as she’d just been to see an exhibition of famous film costumes, and Dora got expanded into Dorothy – another adventurer in a strange land! Glad to say Dorothy now thinks of our house as home.
I’m trying to find a name for my latest protagonist (having decided that Rebecca doesn’t suit her). Maybe she should be a Laura. Laura and Alex, that sounds nice.
Oh, that would be lovely! Can’t wait to read it!
I love Laura Ingalls Wilder with a serious passion! I have a similar story for my oldest daughter. She was supposed to be named Megan until suddenly I kept hearing the name Erin- Erin Brockovitch, I got an Erin Beanie Baby (LOL) and there were a few other instances. I felt like it was meant to be! 😀
Thank you, Laura! I reckon a mother’s instinct is never wrong when it comes to things like this!
My eldest daughter is Laura, too, for much the same reason as your Laura. Also for a woman I loved that I babysat for, and a Laura that I babysat.
That’s nice, Susan! I always find that if I’ve really liked someone with a certain name, I expect to like anyone else that I meet with that name!
Nice posting. I thought it is about how Laura Ingals got her name, but actually it’s about your beloved daughter, Laura. Great thought. I adore Laura Ingals too, and it’s nice to know her positive qualities inspires other people. I hope your daughter would inherit the good spirit in her name, and surely inherit good qualities from her mum and dad. And she has a very pretty smile. 🙂
Thank you for those kind comments. It would be really interesting to know how Laura Ingalls’ parents chose her name! I wonder if anyone knows? I’d love to find out, wouldn’t you?!
she was named after her grand mother( her father’s) who’s middle name was laura.
Thanks, Lee, that’s good to know!
It seems like it should be an easy name to pronounce, but people butcher mine, calling me “Lora”. Hopefully that doesn’t happen to your daughter. I also love Laura I. Wilder
Hi Laura! It does seem that however simple a name is, there will always be someone who gets it wrong! I was very glad when my Laura’s slightly younger cousin learned to pronounce it properly – for a year or two there, she was called LawLaw, according to him!
Being a Laura myself, it is nice to hear how other Laura’s came by their name. My mom knew a Lori in high school, and she liked the name, but couldn’t see an older woman being called Lori, which is why she picked Laura. She found out after I was born that my Great Grandmother was also a Laura, so it is nice to know I am keeping the family name alive.
And heck, how can you not love your name when it is also the title of one of the best film noir movies made!
Hi Laura, I have to agree that Laura is a great name, whatever your age. I like Laurie/Lori and Lauren too but love Laura the best. How lovely to have your Great Grandmother’s name. I did think of calling Laura after her Great Grandmother, which would have made her a Lily – but probably best that I didn’t, as she now has another Lily as one of her best friends! I must admit I haven’t seen that movie but I will now look out for it!
When I was a little girl, Laura, Laurie, Laurel, etc were very popular names and there were usually at least two of us in every class throughout my school years. Now, with my kids in school, I rarely hear it. LOTS of Emma’s and Sophias…two of each in my daugher’s class last year. Laura really is a beautiful name and I am so glad my mom chose it as I am sure your daughter is 😀
Thanks, Laura. I completely agree with you – it is a very beautiful name (though I suppose I would still think my daughter’s name beautiful, whatever she was called, as I love her so much!) I was quite keen on Sophia or Sophie as a name, also Chloe and Phoebe, at one point, and Emma is a lovely classic name too, but there are so many of all of those around now that I’m very glad I chose Laura instead (and so is Laura!)
Great posting. As another Laura (and one with an affinity for LIW and LA), I love it!
But I must share this — I visited the Laura Ingalls Wilder home in Mansfield, Missouri, several years back. No word of a lie, EVERYWHERE I went in that town where I had to give my name, they all asked me to SPELL it. Seriously. Here’s a name they see everywhere, every single day, and they have to ask this ridiculous question?
On a funny note, being adopted and given the name by my parents, I went on to find my first mother who, unknowingly, named her daughter Laura. So now my half-sister and I share a name.
And, best yet, before I married my husband my name was …… Laura Young.
That is a wonderful tale, Laura, thank you so much for sharing it. And there was I thinking my Laura was one of a kind! Bizarre that you had to spell your name everywhere in Mansfield – I wonder why? Maybe the locals had been taken to task before for assuming that everyone whose name sounded like Laura’s spelled their name the same way as Laura IW’s – and so are now very cautious.I would love to visit the LIW home one day – and to take my daughter with me. It would be very special. Best wishes to you from me and my little Laura Young!
I love the post (bet you can’t guess why)! Great thoughts, great name. 🙂 I love Laura Ingles Wilder too!
Thanks, Laura! Feel free to pass it on to any other Lauras you know!
And what a great name it is! Actually, all the reasons you wrote about why you still like the name are the same reasons why I like it, too. It is rather timeless. Oh, but it can be misspelled — I get the occasional Lora. And then there was the time my first boyfriend’s parents kept calling me Dora. Ah well, all in all, it’s a name that serves its bearer well and I’m happy to be one of the ‘new ones’ to have made your acquaintance.
Thank you, Laura! You were definitely one of the new Lauras that I was thinking about when I wrote this post!
I have just read your blog about Laura’s name via my linked in updates. It was so lovely – the last line bought a tear to my eye.
Saskia had a homework about this recently. I told her my test for a name was always whether it suited both a little girl and a grown up woman with a responsible job. If someone suggested a name I would try it out like this “This is Saskia Pember, political correspondent reporting for the BBC” or “I’m Dr Saskia Pember – I am your surgeon”. I liked Lola but it just didnt seem right in these contexts so Saskia won!
Looking forward to your next blog!
Thanks, Vicky – and what a great way to decide on a name! I never considered that aspect of choosing a name but glad to realise that the name Laura passes this test also – “There follows a statement from the Prime Minister,Laura Young!”
Wonderful story! I always enjoy reading your posts, and it was fun to get some insight into the origins of Laura’s name. My mother almost named me Laurel, but went with “Sharon” instead. However, that name never quite seemed to fit me, and I was disappointed that it didn’t have a short a version. So when a friend started calling me “Shay-ron” and then shortened it to “Shay”, I decided that name suited me far better … and I’ve been Shay ever since. 🙂
Yes, you are very definitely a Shay! (I’ve never known another one and you deserve a unique name!) Thank you for your kind comments too! x
Our daughter is named Laura too. Not really sure why we picked the name – but I know it was one of the few names we both liked. It sounds soft when spoken and four of the five letters have a rounding, which makes it kind and peaceful too to me. Lauras are special in many different ways!
I’d never thought of the shape of the letters before, but you’re right, Simone, that does make a difference! I nice, soft, gentle, cuddly kind of a name. And works in so many languages too, including your native Dutch! You and I have such good taste! x
It’s funny how these names come about. I love your ‘laura’ role models too – especially Laura Ingalls Wilder – I devoured all her Little House books as a child,
They are so absorbing, aren’t they? I can’t wait till my Laura reads them so we can talk about them together! I tried them on her a bit too early so am leaving it a bit before trying again. She always likes it when I buy something from Laura Ashley as she gets to have a carrier bag with her name on it!
The Laura Ingalls Wilder books was a favorite on mine when I was younger, and probably a big part of the reason I’m such an avid reader today!
Hi Shay! Don’t you think she would be astonished at her legacy, continuing so many years after her death? A truly amazing lady. I still re-read her books every so often now. “The Long Winter” is always a great read when it’s cold – it makes me realise how lucky I am to live in a country and age where it’s easy to keep warm in winter!
a lovely name- I know two very nice Lauras. Was thinking that if I’d had a girl I might’ve called her Thea but suspect that’s because I had a boy instead and called him Theo (the boy in the Cosby Show was called Theo and I liked the sound of it – this was 15 years ago and it was more unusual then)
I suppose liking someone with a particular name shouldn’t affect how you feel about that name for the rest of your life, but it certainly does (whether they are real people or characters in TV shows). I loved the Cosby Show and I remember Theo well – great name!
I love the name Laura, I’ve only known one Laura but she was one of the nicest people. It is a beautiful name, classic & timeless.
A beautiful name for a beautiful girl, lovely pic 🙂 xx
I have a Laura too – named after a great-great grandmother. We don’t know any others so it’s nice to find a traditional name which isn’t too common. We live overseas and it works in both our native and adopted languages too so everyone’s happy. I’ll raise a glass to Lauras everywhere too!
It’s so lovely when names run down through the generations like that – it creates a real link. I guess it’s the classical origins that help make it globally appealling. When we’re in France on holiday, if asked what her name is, Laura will always say “Je m’appelle Laure!”
Thank you! I’m so used to her being Laura now I can’t imagine how I ever thought she would be a Sophie, a Chloe or a Catherine!