Why Doesn't Anybody Like This Name?
Following the girls we know named Madelyn, Brooklyn, and Ashlyn, we're really liking Gwendolyn. This has been met with mostly positive responses from our family and friends.
Inspired by Bella, Anabelle, Campbell, and many versions of Isabella, we're thinking about naming our other daughter Clarabelle. Our friends overwhelmingly don't like it.
I've been trying to figure out why a name that clearly fits in naming trends isn't a hit. The only 2 Clarabelles I can find are a cartoon cow from the '30s and a clown from the '50s. It's been more than 60 years since those characters were on TV--are they really strong enough to taint this name? If we use the name anyway, does she stand a chance at overcoming people's negative associations with the name?
I'm not surprised that you're puzzled. The fashion math doesn't seem to add up. If Clara is rising in popularity and names ending in "belle" and "bella" are red hot, why is the combo so much less than the sum of its parts?
The answer is that in the realm of style, illusion can be as powerful as reality. The -belle names have soared due to their antique charm. "Antique," though, turns out to be in the eye (or ear) of the beholder.
Most old-fashioned name are actual revivals from an earlier era, but fashion doesn't always conform to history. A name like Ava can sound old-fashioned even though it only became popular in the 21st century. A boy named Royal can sound boldly modern even though the name is a 19th-century throwback. And parents who like "turn-of-the-century names" look right past most of the distinctive names of that period, names like Virgie, Wilbert and Albertha.
While most of the -belle names hit the antique style bullseye, a handful like Clarabelle, Maybelle and Idabelle conjure up a past that's too mundane. Your friends hear these names in a flat farmland twang, rather than an elegant drawl. In other words, they sound old but not antique; second-hand rather than vintage.
As a rule of thumb, choosing a name that your friends all loathe is a bad move. They represent the community that's going to be reacting to your child's name as she grows up. Yet given the rise of the "belles," there's a chance that you're just a step ahead of the curve with this one, and that Clarabelle will find its fashion footing soon. It certainly has all the right ingredients. If you really love the name, the spelling Claribel might be a middle ground to help people see it in a new light.