P Is For Paula, Who's A Little Bit Nutty

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Paula has always struck me as a motherly name — for a mom who's a little bit kooky.


As a little kid, Paula's the kind of girl who wants to play "school" — with real assignments and assigned seating. It's annoying, but you do it because her house has really good snacks. In high school, she's that one girl who throws actual dinner parties, where you're supposed to dress up. She won't host the after-prom party — she's not really that cool — but she might have everyone over beforehand to take pictures and eat little cheese sticks. Later, she'll grow up into the kind of mom who's always coming in while your friends are watching a movie to serve some nut balls that she just made — or some equally embarrassing treat. You love her, of course, but sometimes she does slightly off-the-wall things, like knitting the dog a sweater that goes on the back half instead of the front, or slipping a handful of paper clips into your lunchbox.

I think my perception that Paula is a mom name comes from its dwindling popularity — it was riding high in the fifties and sixties, never dipping below #54 nationwide, but by the eighties it had dropped precipitously to #236, and now it languishes at #681. So while a few little Paulas were born last year, Paula's still more likely to be a baby boomer than a baby. And judging by famous Paulas, she's likely to be a little odd.

Paula Deen seems like the kind of mom everybody loves — she makes fried Twinkies, after all. But I can kind of see her getting carried away and frying up, say, some Chex Mix or a Ziploc bag. Paula Jones has two kids, who may or may not be embarrassed about her boxing match with Tonya Harding. Comic Paula Poundstone's mom issues actually crossed the line into downright disturbing, but she's apparently incorporated her child endangerment arrest into her act, so she seems to have come to terms with it. And of course, the premier Paula is Paula Abdul, the woman Rosie O'Donnell once called "erratic." Abdul has struggled with eating disorders and painkillers in the past, and so her antics always carry a worrisome edge. Still, it's hard not to have affection for someone who once broke her nose trying to "avoid tripping over her pet chihuahua." I bet that chihuahua was rocking a back-half sweater.

According to an oddly specific survey by a British vodka maker, office workers think people named Sarah, Becky and Emma are the biggest "Christmas party girls." Paula might not be the one drunkenly making out under the mistletoe (although, actually, does anyone do this? Outside of a commercial, I mean). However, she probably does throw a mean Christmas party — as long as you stay away from the nut balls.

Paula [Baby Name Wizards]
Brits: Sarah, Chris Wildest Party Names [UPI.com]
Paula [Wikipedia]

Earlier: O Is For Olivia: Precocious, Passionate, & Up For A Lesbian Cruise
N Is For Natasha, A Femme Fatale
M Is For Michelle, An Elegant Mystery
L Is For Lisa, Whose Looks Are Deceiving
K Is For Kate, Who Kicks Ass, Takes Names
J Is For Jennifer, The Vanilla Of Names
I Is For Isabel, Who's Snooty, But Earns It
H Is For Hillary, A Barrel Of Laughs
G Is For Grace - What's That Up Her Sleeve?
F Is For Francesca, And I Wish I Were Her
E Is For Emily, Who Seems Sweet (At First)
D Is For Danielle (Or Dani, Who's Apparently Kinda Judgey)
C Is For Courtney, Who's Too Cool For School
B is for Beth (And Barack! And Bandana!)
A Is For Anna: What My First Name Says About Me



The Real Janelle

That's my name! But the only thing I can relate to myself is playing school games - except I played the teacher and I would make up a list of up to 30 students to play with myself. I'm not that kooky, really, nor am I that cool, but I kinda love my name now. It's a bit more common than it seems to be in the US though - I live in Chile and I know several other Paulas, but never more than 2-3 of my own age at a time. :)