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Why Doesn't Anybody Like This Name?

For our twin girls, we're looking at names that are trendy, but not too popular. Specifically we're thinking at the "lyn" and "bell" trends.

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?

- Puzzled

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.


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September 6, 2014 6:24 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I'm in my early twenties and the association of Clarabelle with cow is very strong for me but I don't know why. I don't think I've ever seen any shows with a cow character named Clarabelle but somehow the association is still there. I would avoid the name.

What about:
Gabriella (although you may not want two "G" names)
Ella (could be named Ellen or Eleanor which I think go very well with Gwendolyn. Especially Eleanor.

Good luck! Let us know what you decide!

February 11, 2017 10:38 AM
By Clarabelle (not verified)

2 and a half years down the road and I'm commenting on this post, wondering what names have you and your spouse named for your princesses.
As you can see from my name; yes, I'm Clarabelle and I don't see what's not pretty about the name. It means bright and beautiful; Clara sounding similar to clever and Belle (from Beauty and the Beast) beautiful. My mum named me Clarabelle and all my friends and teachers love my name and find it very unique. Though it may take some time for them to remember and may be pretty difficult for some to pronounce since I'm from an asian country.
All in all, I hope your family and your princesses themselves love their names and the meaning behind it. Thank you for reading!! :)

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