Thursday, October 21, 2010

What's In a Name?

So I recently realized that even though we finally decided on a name for our Baby Girl after finally meeting her (three weeks ago now...can you believe it?!?!), I never share why we chose her name.

You may remember that I previously shared my criteria for selecting a name.   Here is how her name--Eleanor Debra--stands up to what I was looking for:

  1. Be more "traditional" than "trendy":  Check!  In fact, I'd say that "Eleanor" is so much on the "traditional" side that my mother-in-law originally turned up her nose at it, saying that it "sounded too old for a little girl".
  2. Be just unique enough that it is easily recognizable and prounceable, and yet not have five other girls in her class with the same name (ie, probably not a name in the top 20 of today's most popular names--turns out that Laura was #20 the year I was born, and I don't know too many other Laura's):  Check!  "Eleanor" is ranked #218 in popularity...though "Ella" is already ranked #14.  Both have gained popularity in the last ten years, but hopefully she will still be "unique enough".
  3. Not remind either of us of someone "mean" who we knew with that name: Check!  On the contrary, my childhood friend--who taught me everything I know about what it means to be a good friend--was the inspiration behind "Eleanor".  But since "Eleanor" may sound a little too grown-up for a baby (see item #1), we opted to just stick with "Ella" for now (besides, with a name like "Laura" that can't be shortened...I always wanted my child to be able to have a nickname).
  4. Have a significant meaning:  Check!  "Eleanor" means "Light".  Though we chose the name first rather than the meaning, I do think that it is significant that her name means "Light", because she truly has brightened our world after the darker periods of loss.  And in case you're wondering, "Debra" means "Bee".
  5. Work well with the middle name that we have chosen to honor my mom, as well as our last name:  Check!  Though this was harder than we had imagined!  But I think that once we realized that a three-syllable first name would work best with "Debra", it made it a bit easier to narrow it down to "Eleanor Debra".
  6. Sound good as she's walking across the stage at graduation:  Check!  I like that it sounds traditional and...sophisticated.  And actually, the book of baby names that we purchased years and years ago when we first started trying has a list of "Intelligent Sounding Names" (as well as other lists...including "Blonde Sounding Names"), and I was pleased to see that "Eleanor" made the list (although I admit that I don't know how the list was actually generated).  I should admit that we also considered how her name would sound at her wedding...years and years and years from now.
And yes, "Eleanor" was on my husband's list as well...though I think he took it from the old Beatles' song.  It wasn't originally #1 on his list...but after delivering her, I think he would have given me absolutely anything in the world for which I may have asked.

I was also pleasantly surprised to find the name "Ella" in a significant piece of literature (at least for me) the other day.  I was named after Laura Ingalls Wilder (you know, from the Little House on the Prairie series), and have read and reread the books multiple times.  In fact, my parents have a picture of my dad reading one of the books to me when I was about Ella's age.  So of course, I in turn have begun reading them to Ella (and plan to do so again when she is old enough to appreciate the story).  It turns out that Laura's cousin is named Ella!  It's such a minor little part--the cousins come to visit for Christmas--but it still felt so fitting when I found that name alongside the character who inspired my name.

So there you go.  "Eleanor Debra"...or simply "Ella"...she is so incredibly precious to us!

And while on the topic of her name, I feel it's only right to recognize the two women behind her name as my blessings.  I have learned so much about what it takes to be a daughter, a mom, and a friend from each of them in their own way.  They are both amazingly strong, committed, caring, and nurturing.  They have both seen me at my absolute worst...and both help me to reach my optimal best.  I truly am blessed to have my "Eleanor", my "Debra", and my "Eleanor Debra" in my life.


  1. LOL one of my criteria was being able to have a nickname too! Dawn doesn't shorten yet everyone else in my family had a name that did & I was always so envious. I truly do love her name! Hope you are all doing well! Can't believe it's been 3 weeks!!

  2. We were the exact opposite! We wanted a name that could NOT be shortened because I am so sick of having all my official documents under "Katharine" but only being called "Katie" my whole life. People will ask for Katharine and I don't even feel like that is me! And I never remember which place has me on file as which so I always have to offer the two options, as in "Well, my name is Katie. But it could be under Katharine. Like Katharine Hepburn. Oh, and let me spell my last name for you..." Ugh. I LOVE the name you picked for Eleanor and the nickname Ella though!!! That was on our list but my sister already claimed it!

  3. I love your write-up, Laura. I'm pretty sure, though, that the book I was reading to you as a newborn was The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.


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