Ooh-la-la. Tra-la-la. What sounds could be more lilting, more rhythmic, more energetic than these? This is surely one reason why parents–both celebrities and civilians– are flocking to names with double L-starting syllables, such as:
LILY. This is the most classic of the bunch, a lovely flower name that has re-blossomed in the last several year, and g iven some modern celeb cred by singer Lily Allen. We’ve counted at least eight recent starbaby Lilys–and that doesn’t even count Lou Diamond Phillips‘ LILI, Chris O’Donnell‘s LILLY and Johnny Depp’s LILY–ROSE. The more formal versions, LILLIAN and LILIANA are also showing signs of rebirth.
The sexy LOLA (though several degrees lower on the thermometer than LOLITA) is also on the rise. First brought to prominence as the nickname of Madonna daughter Lourdes, it’s now heard almost daily on TV via the daughter of Live with Regis and Kelly‘s Kelly Ripa. It’s also been bestowed on their little girls by Denise Richards and Charlie Sheen, Chris Rock, Jennie Garth, Lisa Bonet, Carnie Wilson and several other celebs–all of whom ignored the warning of the song “Whatever Lola Wants, Lola Gets.”
LILA is a relatively sedate member of this group, even if it did start life as a diminutive of the seductive biblical Delilah. But don’t confuse it with the variously spelled LAILAs, LEYLAs, LAYLAs and LEILAs out there.
And then there’s the Disneyfied LILO, sure to be a favorite with baby’s older siblings.
Looking for something a little more unusual? We like the charming LILOU, now very hot in France; some other names in La-La land include LALA itself, LALIA, LALITA, LALLY, the Hawaiian LEILANI, LELIA, LILIA (a fictional character in The Ten Commandments movie, LILITH , LULA and LILLA.
And even rarer: LILEAS/LILIAS — the Scottish version of Lily, and LALAGE— a classical name, pronounced lal-a-ghee, heard both in the ancient poetry of Horace and the John Fowles novel, The French Lieutenant’s Woman.
By the way, I also have some thoughts about the oo part of oo-la-la. Stay tooned
Before I was born, my mother had two names picked out for me–I was going to be either Lydia or Laurel. She liked them because they were slightly unusual and, being an artist herself, saw them as having a creative feel–plus she was also following the Jewish tradition of using the first initial of a deceased relative. In this case, it was my father’s mother, Rose, who had recently died, and whose first and middle initials were R and L.
But once I actually made my appearance, Lydia and Laurel were never heard of again. (Might I have become bolder as a Lydia? Quieter as a Laurel?) In any case, whatever transpired that day in the hospital I’ll never know–probably something to do with pressure from my Dad’s two sisters for names closer to their mother’s–but in any case, I arrived home a couple of days later with a birth certificate reading Ruth Leila. To confuse matters further, I was never ever called Ruth. Instead I was known to one and all by my Jewish name, Laila.
So little Laila became who I was– until the fateful day when I started kindergarten and my teacher, looking at my records, naturally called me Ruth. Ruth? What? Who is this Ruth? In one fell swoop, my was shattered. (Obviously, I’m not the ideal person to come to for advice on changing a child’s name post-toddlerhood.)
I returned home from school that day completely confused and distraught, no longer sure quite who I was. Sympathetic mommy came up with a solution: ‘OK, dear, if it would make you feel any better, how about starting from scratch and picking a totally new name for yourself?’ Not having a name book handy, she proceeded to make lists of names starting with those two letters (again Lydia and Laurel went missing)–Leah, Leslie, Louise, Rachel, Roxanne, etc. I picked Linda, which at the time sounded appealingly bright and shinier than the other options to me. But choosing a new name at the age of five doesn’t mean you necessarily instantly internalize it and make your own–which is something I never really did.
But I have no doubt that what the experience did do, though, was trigger my lifelong fascination with names and set me on the path that eventually would lead to Beyond Jennifer & Jason and Nameberry –as well as to my becoming a compulsive, lifelong list-maker.
Through the years I’ve accumulated a number of nicknames–perhaps because my friends also sensed that I wasn’t quite a Linda. My family often shortened it to Lin, while others came up with Linnie, Lindy, Linneth, Linden, Linsy, and even–in the internet era–my own self-created email tag of Lindro. Lately, though, with the growing popularity of so many pretty double-L names, like Lola and Lila and Lilo and Lily and Leyla, I’ve started to really miss Laila. As a matter of fact, one new acquaintance, upon hearing my name saga, has started to call me that.
Not that I think I could ever commit to it wholeheartedly, but I have to admit that in a certain way, it does feel like the more authentic me.
Does anyone else have a story about a name change that didn’t take, or of not feeling comfortable with your own name for some other reason?
When Pam and I wrote our first name book, Beyond Jennifer & Jason (back when Jennifer & Jason were still baby names), we had a little section called NAMES THAT ARE TOO MUCH TO LIVE UP TO, listing examples that had such a potent image that whey would overpower an innocent babe–including such biblical temptresses and goddesses as Jezebel, Salome and Venus. Well, things have now changed to the point where those names and others equally powerful have slipped into the mainstream. Why? Partly the current anything-goes atmosphere, partly some tipping point moments, such as:
JEZEBEL: WHY? Scheming, promiscuous New Testament hussy; name came to mean hussy. DEFUSER? Feminists started to see her as a victim, became the name of a hot weblog. Name still means hussy.
LOLA: WHY? Sexy 19th century Spanish dancer/courtesan Lola Montez, sexy Marlene Dietrich character in The Blue Angel, sexy Pajama Game song ‘Whatever Lola Wants, Lola Gets’. DEFUSER? Madonna nicknames baby Lourdes Lola, Kelly Ripa mentions daughter Lola every morning
SALOME: WHY? Deceitful dancing New Testament seductress, seen as even worse in Oscar Wilde play and Strauss opera; DEFUSER? Not sure, but it was defused enough for TV actress Alex Kingston to use it for her daughter.