This one ought to be as edgy as naming your baby boy Racer or Rogue. But instead of sacking Rome, he sounds like the type to study Latin.
Thanks to Alicia for suggesting Wendell as Name of the Day.
It’s hard to connect Wendell with the barbarians who sacked Rome in the fifth century, ushering in the Dark Ages. Historians tell us that the Vandals weren’t any more destructive than their peers – including the Romans themselves – but the label stuck.
Wendell, Wendel and Wendal come from the Germanic wandal – the name for a member of the tribe. But it’s not all bad – it probably relates to their word for wanderer.
One of the earliest bearers of the name wasn’t a marauding bandit, but a shepherd-turned-saint. Also called Wendolinus, Wendelinus and Wendelin – a diminutive form – he lived in the early 600s. You can still visit the picturesque town of Sankt Wendel in Germany, not too far from the French border.
So Wendell went from vandal to saint within his first few hundred years. He’s remained a gentle soul ever since. Don’t get me wrong – I’m no advocate of hyper-masculine picks like Cannon. And Wendell would share a playground with Joshua and Noah, Oliver and Simon. Soft, smart-sounding boys’ names aren’t really a problem, though some parents fret that their little Ezra might be mistaken for a girl.
There have been plenty of notable Wendells over the years, including:
- Wendell Wilkie, former US presidential candidate from 1940, best remembered for winning the popular vote but losing in the electoral college to FDR;
- It was the middle name of Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. – the noted nineteenth century poet – as well as his son, influential and long-serving Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.;
- Wendell Neville served as Commandant of the Marine Corps in the 1920s;
- Abolitionist and reformer Wendell Phillips was active in the nineteenth century;
- Wendell Stanley snagged a Nobel prize for his twentieth century work in biochemistry.
W-names are in vogue for boys, from classic William to cowpoke Wyatt to retro Walter. And yet Wendell seems to not quite fit with this trio.
Perhaps it is simply too soon to reconsider Wendell. The name peaked in 1940, at #114. While plenty of classic boys’ names were in use, a glance at the Top Ten suggests just how differently parents thought about names. Donald stood at #9; Ronald occupied the #10 slot. Other Top 100 picks included:
While they’re all perfectly respectable, even classic, choices, none can be considered fashionable. For the most part, they’re not even proto-fashionable, like 1920s favorites Raymond, Arthur, Chester, Oscar and Homer. If there’s an era currently in a fashion blind spot? The 30s and 40s must be it.
Then again, someone was the first to bring back Leo. But in Wendell’s case, that someone will probably be one of our children.
If you’re set on honoring a grandpa Wendell, two altenratives emerge – the Eastern European Vendelin, for boys, or the Scandinavian Vendela – worn by a supermodel and a historic novel – for girls.