She’s the big sister in Peter Pan, a sensible schoolgirl with a fanciful name.
Thanks to Kristin and Lola for suggesting Wendy as our Baby Name of the Day.
Before Wendy Darling wore the name, there were a very, very few women and men who answered to Wendy. Chances are that it was short for Gwendolen, or in at least one case, Wendell. In any case, a smattering of Wendys show up in census records in both the US and the UK.
But it was J.M. Barrie who made Wendy famous. Barrie may have heard the Welsh rarity in passing, but it appears he was inspired by young Margaret Headly, the child of Barrie’s friend, William. Young Margaret referred to Barrie as fwendy – friendy – a bit of baby talk name that inspired the writer.
That same innocence can be found in the logo of fast food chain Wendy’s, named after found Dave Thomas‘ daughter Melinda Lou. That’s right – Melinda led to Wendy thanks to a childhood mispronunciation that stuck. Her freckle-faced, red-haired image became the restaurant’s icon.
The comics gave us Wendy the Good Little Witch, a companion for Casper, the Friendly Ghost.
All of this lends Wendy a sweetness and light, a girlishness that appealed to parents in the 1960s and 70s. Wendy went to kindergarten with Tammy and Tina, Lori and Julie, Sherri, Shelley, Terri, and Jodi. Wendy first entered the US Top 1000 in 1936, peaked in the 1960s and 70s, then started falling, down to #676 in 2011.
Today she’s a mom name, and many famous bearers are now driving the carpool – or even older:
- Sister Wendy is a British nun who became an unlikely art expert in the 1990s, via the series of documentaries on the BBC.
- Oscar-winning actress Wendy Hiller was best known for her stage work.
- Wendy Richard was another actress, a comedienne who made her name on Britcom Are You Being Served? before graduating to EastEnders.
- Wendie Mallick has had a long and successful run on American television, from Just Shoot Me! to Hot in Cleveland.
But then there’s one more Wendy, a Wendy that takes her name in a completely different direction, free of pixie dust and freckles. Wendy O. Williams – yes, that’s her birth name – was a constantly on-the-edge frontwoman for daring punk band The Plasmatics. Her work was beyond controversial, but she eventually graduated to an almost-respectability, with a Grammy nomination in 1985. Wendy did – and can – grow up, though Williams ended tragically.
Perhaps the best evidence that Wendy might not be gone forever is the fact that it made the shortlist of DIY bloggers John and Sherry Petersik, of Young House Love fame. They named their daughter Clara Kenley, and also considered Alice and Jane. If Wendy can keep company with such stylish choices, maybe she really does belong in the literary classics category, rather than the fading 60s too-cute column.