When I was a kid, I asked my parents why they named me Wendy.
“Because your brother’s name starts with a ‘W’, so we wanted your names to match,” she said.
“But why did you name Jamie Jamie then?” I asked, wondering about my sister’s name.
“Well… when I was pregnant with Jamie, I watched a movie with Jamie Lee Curtis in it, and I liked the sound of her name,” she replied.
“Wait, what? Then why did you name Gor Gor Wayne?” I asked incredulously. (Gor Gor means ‘older brother’ in Cantonese.)
“Because your daddy’s name is John, and we used to watch movies with John Wayne in it, so we thought it would be nice–John Wayne, so John, Wayne!”
I was disappointed that my parents hadn’t seemed to put in much thought in naming me. I was hoping for an intricate story laced with sentimental value and reminiscent ruminations. Maybe my parents had met a Wendy who’d left such a deep impression on them that they decided to christen me after her. Or maybe they had carefully chosen the name after poring over baby name encyclopedias, searching for the perfect appellation entailing characteristics that they just knew I would embody. Or better yet, maybe one night the both of them had a fantastic dream at the same time in which an angel descended from heaven and declared to them with a voice of a million strumming harps, “Wendy!”
But no–reality was, my name was just an addendum to complement my brother’s.
At least Gor Gor’s and Jamie’s names had a little more meaning to them–they were named after famous people whom, at one point in their lives, my parents sort of liked after watching a movie they starred in. (That totally makes sense, right?)
Because I’d always been intrigued with names and their meanings, naturally I read up on the history of my own.
Apparently, Wendy was first popularized by the 1904 play Peter Pan. Its author was inspired by a nickname given to him by a little girl he was friends with. As she couldn’t pronounce her ‘R’s properly, she used to call him her “fwendy wendy”. This I had already known.
Yet there was more to it than that: the little girl, Margaret Henley, had died when she was six. And her “fwendy”, author J. M. Barrie, had used this nickname for his character Wendy Darling, who symbolized “mothering, caring, loyalty, and undying friendship.” ¹
It was touching to learn this; although after reading it I couldn’t help but think, “I’m not motherly at all!”
There’s also a possibility that Wendy is related to or a diminutive (shortened form) of the Welsh name Gwendolen/Gwendolyn, which means:
“white ring”, derived from the Welsh elements gwen “white, fair, blessed” and dolen “ring”. This was the name of a mythical queen of the Britons who defeated her husband in battle, as told by Geoffrey of Monmouth.²
Well this was a much richer narrative, very Lord of the Rings.
I think if my parents had named me Wendy for one of the above reasons, that would’ve been pretty cool–at least I’d have a legitimate claim to its etymological roots, and thus have an interesting story to tell you today.
But I’ve resigned myself to the fact that they chose Wendy simply because they liked the sound of it.
And I guess… I’m actually okay with that.