Thanks to Katie for suggesting a name she’s considering for her baby-on-the-way! Our Baby Name of the Day is Emmylou.
It’s been a good few years for Em- names. Emma and Emily have both held the #1 spot in the US in recent years, and both were still in the Top Ten as of 2013. They’ve brought Em- surnames (Emery and Emerson), less common forms of classic names (Emilia, Emilie), smooshes (Emmalyn, Emmalee), and novelties (Ember) along for the ride.
Lou is just starting her rise. It’s the short and simple name chosen by Heidi Klum for her youngest daughter, Lou Sulola. Names like Lucy, Luna, Lucia, and Lucille are trending for girls, while Luke, Lucas, and Luca are solidly established for their brothers. Formal names for Lulu range from the expected (Louisa) to the out-there (Ludovica).
In other words, while Emmylou is a rarity, her constituent parts are well-established. At any moment, you could meet a girl with an Em- name or a Lou- name. No surprise that sometimes they’re smooshed together.
Girls have been named Emmylou in small numbers for years. Then along came singer-songwriter Emmylou Harris. (Yes, it’s her real name.) She’s racked up 13 Grammys since the 1970s.
Harris has an eclectic style – a little bluegrass, a little folk. She was part of the O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack and has collaborated with a who’s who of modern music, including Gram Parsons and Bob Dylan. She toured with Elvis Costello in the early 2000s.
But somehow, she’s not quite a household name.
Despite that, it’s clear that her first name has inspired plenty of parents over the years. The first time five or more girls were given the name Emmylou was 1924. The second time was 1978.
I kept thinking about what Ms. Harris brings to her given name, and I think it’s this: integrity. Annie Kate is just as sweet, but Emmylou has a built-in role model, one with creative courage.
Most years since 1978, a handful of girls have received the name. 2013’s 52 Emmylous marked a new high.
Chalk up the quiet and steady rise of Emmylou to a few things:
- Ms. Harris certainly deserves some credit. Her long career has established her as incredible talent. And let’s face it – if she were going to implode, Miley Cyrus-style, those days are probably in the past. (Miley fell 46 places to #387 in 2013. And Ms. Cyrus’ antics haven’t been any less controversial since – oh, the perils of borrowing a name from a young pop star!) Instead, Emmylou feels venerable – a grand dame of the craft.
- Our affection for Em- and Lou- names doesn’t hurt, either.
- Smoosh names have always had the potential to catch on. Annabelle is the current darling, but there’s always room for more.
- But here’s the factor that matters most, I think: we are less and less attached to formal names, and more inclined to put the name we prefer for daily use right on the birth certificate.
Of course, if you find Emmylou a touch too sweet, there’s always the possibility of using it as a nickname for Emma Louise, Emily Lucille, or any other name combination with the right sounds, from the familiar to the daring. Emmeline Ludovica, anyone?
If you’re looking for a name that’s slightly Southern, creative but not reckless, and straddles the stands-out/fits-in divide, Emmylou might be one to consider.