Posts Tagged ‘etymology’

on naming things

I was going to title this “Nascent Blog,” but there cannot be a more unlikely pairing of words: beautiful, ancient, rich “nascent” with the cacophonous modern monstrosity of a word, “blog.”

Blah. Blech. Blob. Blog. Surely we could have coined something better. (I know: short for weblog, and Merriam-Webster’s word of the year a few years ago. Still.)

Thus I arrive with snide remarks into the world of blogging.

Choosing a title for this blog was laborious. Since I don’t have a specific soapbox or subject matter in mind, titling this, my very first blog, feels like titling my life.

So I thought of deriving the blog title from my name (Wendy Kidd Shank) or perhaps the meaning of my first name, which refrigerator magnets have always told me was “wanderer” — like in the hymn “Come, come ye saints, no toil nor labor fear, but with joy wend your way…”. The meaning rings true for me; I love to travel. If there were a name that meant “restless” it would fit me perfectly. Airliners overhead taunt me because I’m not on them. Just to be sure, I looked up “Wendy” on a meanings-of-names website and found that unfortunately there was no reference to the meaning “wanderer.” Instead, I find that my name is probably only traceable to J.M. Barrie’s “Peter Pan,” and came from a juvenile term for friend: “Fwendy.” Ugh! The cuteness! Such unsubstantial drivel!

This reminded me of a couple of South Africans I once met in 1982, who gallantly took pity on me when I was wending my way alone, desperately trying to drag my heavy luggage down a walkway to make the ferry from Ostend to Dover. Over a couple of pints in a Dover pub (waiting for a train during a Britrail strike), they asked me how I liked being named after a character from a fairy tale, and why didn’t I have a proper name? Their names were Peter and Tobias, so I had nothing snappy to retort. (Other than that, they were very chivalrous young gentlemen, seeing me all the way to London safely, for which I am still grateful.)

But thankfully there also exists a wonderful possibility for my etymology: “Wendy” may have pre-dated Peter Pan as a shortened form of “Gwendolen,” a name my sister insists on calling me from time to time because she knows I never liked it. As it turns out, though, “Gwendolen” is Welsh and means “white ring,” gwen meaning “white, fair, blessed.” So I can imagine myself as a a white-ringed welsh beauty–picture Waterhouse’s Lady of Shalott, but without all the tragedy. Gwendolen. Now there’s a name you can stand up under. Take that, Patricia Lynn.

The truth is that alas, my parents didn’t have internet to learn all of this, and I don’t think gave much thought to the meaning of my name at all. They just liked the sound of “Wendy.” Not short for anything, or referent of anyone. (That they didn’t elect to honor a matriarch spared me more objectionable names: Leona, Alice, Mildred. Beloved women, all, of course, but any of those names would have caused more agony than the Peter Pan–er–Welsh name ever did.)

And so I claim the root name “gwen” as meaning “blessed,” because it fits me. (We’ll leave “white” and “fair” alone, for now.) Wend-y. Blessed-y. Fully blessed.

Now, of course “blessed” as a blog name would not only be taken already, but would also immediately portray me as a brainless religious fanatic, probably of the prosperity-gospel ilk. So as a blog name, “blessed” is out, and “blessed-y” just sounds dumb.

So I turn to something more substantial than my name: my identity. And there is not much I know more firmly about my identity than whose I am, and by whose choosing. Many, many hymns and verses could communicate my response to being the recipient of the grace of Jesus Christ, but few say it with such beautiful words and rich, watery metaphor as “O the deep deep love of Jesus” –

O the deep, deep love of Jesus, vast, unmeasured, boundless, free!
Rolling as a mighty ocean in its fullness over me!
Underneath me, all around me, is the current of Thy love
Leading onward, leading homeward to Thy glorious rest above!

O the deep, deep love of Jesus, spread His praise from shore to shore!
How He loveth, ever loveth, changeth never, nevermore!
How He watches o’er His loved ones, died to call them all His own;
How for them He intercedeth, watcheth o’er them from the throne!

O the deep, deep love of Jesus, love of every love the best!
‘Tis an ocean full of blessing, ’tis a haven giving rest!
O the deep, deep love of Jesus, ’tis a heaven of heavens to me;
And it lifts me up to glory, for it lifts me up to Thee!
– Samuel T. Francis

Fully blessed indeed.

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