Baby Name of the Day: Wendy

Wendy Darling as portrayed in Disney's Peter Pan.

Wendy Darling as portrayed in Disney’s Peter Pan. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

14 Comments

I like Wendy as a nickname, but it always seems incomplete as a full name. I’ve sometimes wondered whether we’re supposed to assume that Peter Pan’s Wendy had a longer birth name.

I am the only person under 30 to defend Tammy as vintage-adorable and not just saccharine ’60s, so grain of salt… but I like Wendy.

Like my feelings on Tammy, I’m probably not brave enough to use either as a legal name, and I am pretty sure my husband would collapse into a pile of “no, no, no” if I tried, but either makes a cute nickname for a more serious name.

It helps I once knew the most beautiful Wendy, with the most gorgeous Caribbean accent. She was gorgeous, her voice was beautiful, and she was a social worker. So I think “angelic” when I think Wendy.

I know a baby Wendy (short for Wendolyn), and the name suits her. Very good-natured and sweet. I do however prefer literary Wendy’s first middle name, Moira (or perhaps even her surname, Darling).

Then there’s Windy, which has a slightly more wild vibe that I like (plus I like the old song by The Association; “Who’s tripping down the streets of the city / smiling at everybody she sees [ . . . ] Everyone knows it’s Windy”).

I really like Wendy, especially as a nickname for Gwendolen (along with Gwen and the totally inspired choice I have heard – Dolly). Unfortunately the Wendy’s fast food connection is strong in my area, and my first born son has redish hair, so the connection would be far to strong!

BTW the link to Gwendolen (Gwendolyn) only shows the first few lines 🙁 another casualty of the move!

I recently discovered that there’s a Wendell in the family tree. Wendolyn might make for an interesting tribute name. Being a GenXer, Wendy is tainted for me by bad school memories.

I had to google Wendy O. Williams, had no idea who she was.. I associate the name more with Wendy Williams (talk show host).. never seen her talk show but she is often featured on the Soup for her outlandish and sometimes brainless sayings.

I think if Wendy was only associated with Peter Pan, I would love it. But right now it still kinda seems like a middle age not too fresh name, and that Wendy Williams (show host) association leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

Yay for Wendy! I love J. M. Barrie’s Peter Pan, and Disney’s Peter Pan is my son’s favorite movie. I remember being so intrigued by her name, Wendy Moira Angela Darling, when I was a little girl. Unfortunately, the Wendy’s fast food chain has ruined it for me. I would consider Gwendolen or Winnifred with the nickname of Wendy, though.

Incidentally, my mother-in-law once told me she wished her name was Wendy when she was a little girl, due to her love of the character. I found it rather interesting that she did not become one, as her middle name Wendellyn lends itself to the nickname easily and she has never liked her first name.