“Is it just me or does literally every girl have the middle name Louise? Trying to figure this out.”
This was the title of a post written by The Tab‘s Roisin Lanigan last weekend, which has already been shared thousands of times.
“There is one constant in life and it’s that every girl you know has the middle name Louise,” she wrote.
“The middle name Louise transcends all differences which divide us as women.”
Okay, so Lanigan is talking about the UK, and she is exaggerating slightly. But there’s some truth to what she’s saying. Louise is a ridiculously common middle name in Australia too. Why is that? What’s so special about Louise?
Well, I’m a former names researcher and I can answer that question for you.
Back in the 1980s, Louise was the third most popular middle name for girls born in Australia, behind Anne and Jane. By the 1990s, it had crept up to second spot.
It’s not like Louise was ever a really popular first name in Australia. So what was going on?
Well, it’s all about the rhythm. Most popular ‘80s and ‘90s girls’ names had two or three syllables, with the accent on the first syllable: Jessica, Sarah, Amy, Emma, Katherine, Rachel, Hannah, Georgia, Caitlin. To make a pretty-sounding combination, most parents would – subconsciously – choose a middle name with one syllable (Anne, Jane, Lee, Kate), or else two syllables, with the accent on the second syllable (Louise, Marie, Renee, Nicole).
Sarah Louise just sounds better than Sarah Lucy or Sarah Lisa, doesn’t it? In fact, almost every name sounds good followed by Louise: Emma Louise, Hannah Louise, Lucy Louise, Lisa Louise. It’s light and almost musical. Louise is a winner.
For parents in the ‘80s and ‘90s, naming children was less about commemorating family members than it once had been. They simply wanted to give their daughters the gift of a beautiful name.