The New Belle Epoque
What do these names have in common?
OK, the -bell part is a gimme. But there's more. None of them are traditional given names, and all of them have been submitted to Namipedia by readers. They have plenty of of company in the Bell system, too, including 16 names on the girls' top 1000 list. Put it all together and you have the strongest Belle generation this country has ever seen, eclipsing the previous 18th-century peak. (For those of you keeping track at home, I'm only counting names with a full "bell" sound, not names like Campbell and Mabel that swallow the vowel.)
I believe there's still more to come. Bel, Belle and Bella are remarkably flexible combining forms. Most two-syllable girl's name ending in a vowel sound will work, and there's an endless supply of those. Avabella? Sure. Jennabelle? Heck, why not?
Here's how some of the parents who submitted their Belle names to Namipedia described it:
"My husband and I like Elizabeth, but I did not like the possibility my child would be called Liz. Therefore, my husband came up with Elizabella. This allowed us to keep the feel of the name Elizabeth, but have the advantage of calling her Bella for short."
"I have always loved the name 'Bella,' but always felt that something should be added to the name, for example 'Isabella.' I looked for three letter first names with strong meanings. And found 'Adi.' So far, I have been receiving compliments about the name. It's unique, and when you read the name backwards, it's particular meaning says 'Beautiful Diamond or Jewel.'"
That "beautiful" connotation of Belle and Bella is an extra boon to parents who like the idea of names having meanings. It's an interesting example of the difference between "meanings" and "origins". The original -bel names that established the style, like Amabel and Isabel, weren't constructed from the Latin root for beauty. But they coincided happily with it, and centuries of parents have jumped on that coincidence.
That brings us to one other thing that list of Belle names has in common. I let them all stay in Namipedia, based on likely appeal to other parents. The Belles have a powerful style weapon: unlike most contemporary mix-and-match styles, they follow a traditional, old-fashioned form. That leaves even the new inventions with a sweetly antique style that appeals across the fashion spectrum. Admit it, traditionalists -- you kind of like Miabella, don't you? As for Avabella...coming soon to a Namipedia near you.