I first got to know Lou when I realised she was following my blog. I think that was when I found out that WordPress doesn’t alert you if another WP user hits the “follow” button; you have to haunt your own dashboard with stalkeresque obsession to discover this. Up until that point, I barely knew I had a dashboard, so much of a novice was I.
Naturally I went and checked her blog out, although at first I thought it was called Merde Noms, which struck me as either aggressively punk or unnecessarily modest. Eventually I worked out that it was actually Mer de Noms, with the subtitle Floating Around in the Oncoming Tide of Names. The blog’s name is a reference to the debut album of rock band A Perfect Circle.
Lou is an English girl from Nottingham, a city most of us are familiar with, because of the dastardly Sheriff who gave Robin Hood such a hard time in the stories. According to her avatar photo, she has long, wavy, red hair, and cunningly hides her real identity behind dark glasses.
At first we bonded over neither of us being from America, but luckily there was so much more to her blog than not being American, as membership of the Commonwealth can only take you so far.
I immediately became a fan of her crammed-suitcase style of blog writing, where multiple subjects are covered under the one heading. For example, in this blog entry on names from her French textbook, she also manages to cover the Canadian Grand Prix, the drought in England, other blogs she has read that week, family names, her gay cousin’s wife’s cat called Edith, and sisterly nicknames.
The thing I like most about Lou’s blog is that she is an avid, even obsessive, name collector, and will find names absolutely everywhere. You might not think that a teenager’s life in a small Midlands city would yield a rich crop of interesting names, but you would be wrong.
A visit to the Tate Gallery in Liverpool gives rise to an examination of the name Tate for boys. A disturbingly empty pantry leads to a long shopping list of herb and spice names, both homely and exotic. The late-night BBC Shipping Forecast listened to while kept awake with nausea makes her ponder the names of British seas and waterways.
Sport is a major focus of name inspiration for Lou, who keenly follows English football, rugby, cricket, and motorsports. The names of sporting stadiums provided the subject matter for one blog; Jenson Button, Lou’s favourite F1 star, has worked his way into many entries discussing the popularity of his name; and the name of Silverstone Circuit itself has been analysed. Her French studies are also zealously mined for name material, with not only French textbooks, but French dictionaries, French films, and French place names encountered on school trips proving valuable resources.
Other popular name-gathering areas are family and friends, children’s books, video games, television, English place names, music, and names of British celebrities. Celebrity babies are announced, as are interesting happenings in the blogosphere.
A favourite blog idea is to suggest alternatives to popular names, unconventional long forms for common nicknames, and unexpected nicknames for standard names. There’s also name data – lots of name data. A dedicated number cruncher, there’s nothing Lou enjoys more than looking at the popularity of names, whether aristocratic, natural, common, rare, or double-barrelled.
Lou has been on WordPress for over a year, and started out on Blogspot, so she’s an experienced blogger by now. She releases male and female Names of the Week; Name Spot of the Week, where she looks at a particular name or group of names; Sibset of the Week, where the families of famous people are brought to light; and Weekend Posts, which look at all manner of naming issues.
These can be found by clicking on The Week, and going to the drop-down menus for each category. I think she has made work for herself there, as she could have sorted them into WordPress Categories and then added a Category Menu, but it’s perfectly neat and easy to use.
She also has Master Lists for Male and Female Names on the blog, offers her ten favourite posts under Get Started, and is busy working on providing popularity data for each name as well. There aren’t any tags on her blog entries, but she does have a handy search bar called Browse Some More, so it is relatively easy to find things.
When I first subscribed to Lou’s blog, it had the Gray-Z theme, which looked cool and grungy, but never quite struck me as in tune with the blog’s subject matter. Recently, she swapped over to the mellower Notepad, which seems like a better fit. In line with this revamp, she joined Twitter, and you may follow her there by simply clicking the blue button. You can also easily subscribe to the RSS feed by clicking the orange button right next to it.
These changes all let you know that the blog is growing and evolving. Lou’s blog posts from last year are slightly stiff and self-conscious, as is common for nearly all of us when we first begin to blog. I think that she has found her voice as a writer, and developed a more confident, relaxed and chatty style which is very readable. She’s settled into a tolerant and egalitarian stance toward naming, and demonstrates that mixture of sturdy practicality and fey anarchy which we think of as the hallmark of the English character.
Lou’s ideas on names, and mine, are quite harmonious, and I have at times stolen ideas found inspiration from her blog. She is a conscientious and considerate commenter on other people’s blogs, so if you can snag her as a subscriber you’re on a good wicket. Unfortunately for me, her opinions on names seem to correspond so well with my own that I’m often left racking my brains to come up with something to add to other people’s blogs, as “Yeah what she said” seems an inadequate response.
What you get at Mer de Noms is a name blog from a modern English perspective, plenty of zippy Gen-Z ideas, savvy insights into the blogosphere, and a very broad scoop from the sea of names. The tide is rising, and this is a young blogger who’s going places. The next generation of naming is here, and the future is in safe hands.
Q & A With Lou
Name: I’m Lucy Emma, if we’re going to be strictly honest about it, even though I regularly lie and say that I’m Lucy Emmeline. Generally speaking, I mostly go by the short form Lou, namely because people were starting to shorten my name to Luce, which they said the same as the word loose, not exactly the best thing to have shouted at you in public. I also consider Lucy to be a rather girly name, not perhaps fitting for a girl who can rattle off all the names of current drivers in F1. Since shortening down to Lou, I’ve had people calling me Lo instead, proof you never can win with some people.
Name you would like to have: Sometimes I wish my parents had gone with their initial front-runner, Demelza, but then I wouldn’t have been Lou, a name I’ve grown fond of. Out of all the names you could get Lou from that aren’t Lucy, I think I lean heavily towards Luca or Lucretia. I met a female Harry the other day, a name I reckon I could’ve rocked just as well, albeit perhaps as a short form of Harriet.
What began your interest in names?: I’m the eldest of four, so I think it started when I was six, and about to welcome my second sibling, who was due to arrive in a few weeks. My parents let me join in on the naming discussion, not thinking I would amount to much; I promptly started campaigning for the name Jack because I thought it’d be nice for him to share his name with the game (not that I told my parents that reasoning). Unbelievably, my parents actually used the name, and so things looked good when another sister turned up when I was nine. They failed to use my choice that time, the botanical Clover.
How did you start blogging?: One of the rules of life I live by is Thumper’s [from Bambi] – if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all; this makes life on name boards difficult when you’re faced with the suggestion of Elixyvett. I eventually had to pull myself out because I hated seeing people’s front-runners torn apart by the unforgiving. Afterwards, I just limited myself to blogs, but couldn’t really identify with the few that were going at that time. Mostly because, since most were American ones, they were out of step with the current styles here in England, so I just started my own.
Your favourite blog entry on Mer de Noms: I’m still quite satisfied with my post on Gyles Brandreth’s kids. I remember I only knew the first names initially when I wrote up the post, but I then combed all sources available to me looking for the middle names, to see if they’d gone traditional, or equally eye-popping, with them.
I also really enjoyed writing my post on names in British comedy, since that’s pretty much all I watch on the TV, aside from the news and sports.
Your pet naming peeve: I always feel bad for the guys, since female names are usually covered in much more breadth than male names are; I know I’m as guilty as this as everyone else. Of course, my other pet peeve is seeing great names cast aside because someone on the Internet hated it and told you your child would be ridiculed for having such an unusual name – I grew up with a female Brogan who’s never had issues with having a male name.
Your favourite names: Right now, I find myself drawn to short and fun names, things like Beck, Mika, Wren and Kit, but I’m an indecisive person – shelves of biscuits [cookies] in the shop can and have caused much distress for me – so I fully expect to embrace names like Deborah or Meredith in the near future. I also know that I tend to lean towards male names that aren’t exactly butch; I consider all of the above names male. (editorial note: surely not Deborah?!)
Names you dislike: A style of naming I’m not 100% behind is naming your child after a famed person with a notable name, who is still alive. It is kind of rich coming from me, since I love Jenson, but I’m a cynical person and I know there’s still every chance that Button could still do something really dodgy, not dissimilar from the Tiger Woods saga of last year; an example of a name pretty much ruined overnight by its most famous bearer.
Names you love, but can’t use: I love the name Clover, but alas, sister #2 kind of has dibs on that name (I also decided about a year ago that I love Jack, go figure!). When I found out that the name Wren is used pretty much equally for males and females here in England & Wales, the name really clicked for me as a name for a lad instead of a lass, although I do believe the name is set to begin to rise as a female name. I also quite like the name Nancy, but my Great Auntie is one, and my family truly hates the idea of family names, something I’m more than happy to honour.
Your future children’s names: I have names in the back of my head, which I’d love to use – Darcey, Stanley, Jenson, Harry, Flora – but right now I’ve no idea whether I’ll still like them when/if I have children. The only name I’ve consistently loved for years is Cassius, and perhaps Zuleika.
The one piece of advice you would give to someone choosing a name for their baby: No name another person loves can ever be better than the one you love. Going around the naming forums, you pick up on the same scenario quite a few times: you and your partner love this one name so completely, but someone else – usually a family member – tries to write if off. One of my sisters would’ve been Isobel if my Nana hadn’t intervened.