The "Rebel" trade name has been used by Canon since the mid 1990's. The same model cameras are called "Kiss" in Japan, a name that offends and amuses the same people who dislike "Rebel," people who generally are more concerned about names and reputations than photographs.
Exactly. It was actually brilliant marketing on Canon's part, in that with a less dry alpha-numeric designation, giving a catchy name makes it sound a little more approachable to the masses. I can't speak for Japan, but looking at the North American market, the Rebel line have been among one of the highest selling DSLR's, period.
Their advertising targets everyone, from beginners, to enthusiasts, the deadfast point and shoot crowd (emphasizing how easy it can be to use a DSLR), soccer moms, etc.
To me, it's just another Canon, and I generally don't care what the nameplate says....Though in all honesty, if "Kiss" was the only nameplate available in my market, then I may just have to put my trusty black Sharpie to work! At least with the crowd I run with! LOL.