Is your middle name Louise? Join the club

Just some of the many New Zealand women who share the middle name Louise. Clockwise from left: Josie Wignall, Emma ...

Just some of the many New Zealand women who share the middle name Louise. Clockwise from left: Josie Wignall, Emma Foley, Anna Reeve, Harriet Pudney, Kirsten Matthew, Christine Jones.

Is your middle name Louise, Rose, Elizabeth, Jane, Jean, Grace, Anne/Ann, May or Marie/Maree? Yes? Well, whether you're 90, 40, 18 or 8, turns out you're far from alone.

It seems that the same approximately 10-15 most popular female middle names haven't changed much for many generations.

Though they were around in Roman times, it wasn't until the 19th century that the Western world really picked up on middle names as we know and use them now.

"It seems that middle names are a relatively new phenomenon, having only become the norm over the last hundred years - driven by the desire to commemorate well-loved ancestors," says Ancestry UK content manager Miriam Silverman.

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Actress Meryl Streep's full name is Mary Louise Streep.
John Phillips

Actress Meryl Streep's full name is Mary Louise Streep.

"This will have become particularly prominent in society following the two World Wars. These wars affected the entire country and resulted in millions of Britons commemorating their lost loved ones as new babies were born in the years following the conflicts.

"As a result, middle names are less likely to follow popular culture and more likely reflect age-old traditions or names that were popular in our parents' or grandparents' generation - hence the very traditional makeup of today's top 10 middle names."

According to Ancestry UK, the most popular middle names for Brits have been around for a long, long time.

1. Louise
2. Rose
3. Grace
4. = Jane and Elizabeth
5. Anne/Ann
6. May/Mae
7. Marie
8. Mary
9. = Amy and Catherine
10. = Victoria and Kate

The list is notable for the absence of 'modern' names, and Ancestry UK says there is also evidence that parents actively avoid the most common names when selecting their child's second name, with half of parents (50 per cent) studying lists of top names, most often to avoid selecting more common choices.

Website Namenerds.com has an ongoing online survey of female middle names in the US. From more than 9200 respondents, Marie/Maree comes in a number one, Anne/Ann at two, Elizabeth fourth, Louise seventh, Jean 10th, Rose 12th and Jane 14th.

And here in New Zealand, it appears to be a similar situation.

While New Zealand records for middle names don't go very far back, an informal Facebook survey I recently posted asked who of my friends (aged largely late 20s to 40s) had one, or more, of a list of 10 middle names.

Australian supermodel Gemma Louise Ward.
Don Arnold

Australian supermodel Gemma Louise Ward.

The list I chose was supplied by the Department of Internal Affairs, as the top ten middle names for babies born in New Zealand in 2016.

1. Rose
2. Grace
3. Elizabeth
4. Marie
5. Jane
6. May
7. Anne
8. Louise
9. Ann
10. = Maree and Jean

I was curious to put this theory to the test - have these same middle names been with us all this time?

Around 80 friends replied, and the answer, it seems, is definitely yes.

Of those that responded to my post, Louise seemed the most prominent of the middle names.

Christine Jones, a systems administrator, says her parents picked Louise because it was one of her grandmother's names.

"I love having Louise as a middle name. I have three middle names in total, Nola (my other grandmother), Louise, and Allison (a friend of my mother's and my godmother)," says Jones.

"I love knowing that my parents were as painfully indecisive as I am so felt they had to include everyone."

Pop star Madonna's full name is Madonna Louise Ciccone.
Graham Denholm

Pop star Madonna's full name is Madonna Louise Ciccone.

Executive assistant Diana Letica got her Louise from her mother's grandmother.

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"I have two older sisters and the oldest one got mum's name as her middle name, the middle sister got my mum's mum's (my gran) name as her middle name. My mum's gran's name was Louisa but mum thought Diana Louisa Letica (a, a, a) was a bit much so dropped the a to an e."

Fellow reporter Harriet Pudney is another middle-named Louise for family reasons.

Singer Aretha Louise Franklin.
Jose Luis Magaua

Singer Aretha Louise Franklin.

"My parents wanted to give me one of my granny's names, but thought that Freda was a bit much to saddle a newborn baby with. Louise was her middle name so in it went," says Pudney.

"Guess it must have been popular in the 1920s as well as the 80s-90s?

"Pretty much every time I've said my full name in a group I've had at least one or two women say, 'Oh, that's mine too!'"

Equally though, it seems these names just sound or feel right to new parents considering middle names.

Publicist Kirsten Matthew says Louise was just a name her parents liked and thought fitted with Kirsten, two double-syllable names together.

"I have a few friends with the same middle name and we were laughing on a weekend away last month that we are all Louises or Sarahs," says Matthews.

Makeup artist Josie Wignall says her mum "just liked the name and knew a few girlfriends called Louise".

But she says Louise as a middle name could soon become something of a new family tradition - "We're in the middle of choosing names for baby girl number two and Louise is a strong contender to make a comeback and be her middle name."

 

Business coach Emma Foley says her mum chose Louise simply because "she thought it was a really pretty name that went so well with Emma," but soon realised the two names together were a popular combo.

"It wasn't until I was born that mum decided on the name. She had no idea it was a common middle name and had not heard of it being used a lot.

"Growing up I cottoned on very fast to the fact when meeting other Emmas that their middle name would be either Louise or Jane.

"I do find it a bit of a laugh that even now with most Emmas I meet it's either Jane or Louise, and I guess have been running my own informal survey on the subject over the years."

Anna Reeve, who has two middle names from the list, Louise and Rose, agrees that she regularly comes across both as middle names.

"I have so many other friends with either Louise or Rose as a middle name too."

So while first name trends change from year to year, perhaps there's some appeal in including a good solid middle name that has clearly stood the test of time.

 - Stuff

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