Way back in 1927, Jesse Bell founded Bonne Bell cosmetics, which was named after Bell’s 4 year old daughter, who was named after a character (“Bonnie”) in a book (and silent movie) by Emerson Hough called “The Man Next Door.” In the story, Bonnie’s western ranch family relocates to the sophisticated east coast, and you can imagine the drama and humor that arises. But 1916 drama and humor (or 1923 for the movie). It sounds a bit like it may have influenced “The Beverly Hillbillies”.
Getting back to the Bonne Bell company, whose first big product was the “Ten O Six” skin care formula, introduced in 1933, and you could actually buy it in a gallon glass jug. Now the product line is called “Formula 10.0.6”. Another popular product came much later when they introduced their first of over 800 flavors of Lip Smackers in 1973 (it was strawberry). I remember my sister having a flavored lip gloss that was Bonne Bell, and I remember there were soda flavors like Dr. Pepper. The Lip Smackers and Bonne Bell brands were sold in 2015, but the lip products are still being sold, and the new owners are probably still coming up with new flavors.
But as a first name, Bonnibelle is unusual, if non-existent in the US. I’m not sure it’s even all that common in Scotland, where it originates. It means pretty, or fine. We used to sing an old Scottish song with the line “the bonnie, bonnie banks of Loch Lomond”. We were taught that it meant the banks of the lake were beautiful. And I don’t know if there is a French connection, but “belle” is French for pretty. So if your name is Bonnibelle, whatever you do, you’d better look good doing it. For your parents’ sake, at least, since they chose the name.
Of course, here in the US, we don’t pay much attention to the meaning of names. We named our daughters names that mean “lives in an ash tree grove” (though we never did that), “a place of linden trees” (wait, is there a theme? ), and “unheeded prophetess” (scratch the tree theme). But trust me, we chose each of the names because at least one of us liked the way it sounded. Nothing deeper than that. For our sons, we chose a family name for one, and a movie character for the other. Still not very deep…
So, is it true that, as Shakespeare’s Romeo said, “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet”? That is, names don’t mean very much, if anything? And yet, we are so attached to our names, and companies are obsessed with names. The original Coke formula may be valuable, but the Coca Cola name is absolutely the company’s most valuable asset. In 2005, the SBC company bought AT&T, largely to replace their own name. We can “make a name for ourselves”, or we can “ruin our name”.
Many countries actually have lists of disallowed names. Like “Harriet” in Iceland, or “Spinach” in Australia. Here in the US, there are no such restrictions, except maybe for trademarks, which would explain why there aren’t a bunch of Coca Colas and AT&Ts running around on the playground.