About A Name: Wynn
January 2, 2013 § 4 Comments
There always has to be a ‘first baby,’ born in every city and celebrated for their timeliness every New Year’s Day. This year, the first baby born in Toronto, Canada’s largest city, was a bit of a celebrity bub (well, I certainly enjoy his father’s music, it’s my thing). Not only was he the first baby born in Toronto, but his timing was so impeccable that he arrived at midnight, to the second.
Casey Laforet is one-third of Ontario-based alt-country indie rock band Elliott Brood (pronounced broad), and his girlfriend, screenwriter Jane Maggs, delivered their son, Wynn Christopher Laforet, at the exact moment the great big ball dropped in New York’s Times Square (yes, even Canadians know it’s a new year when the ball drops. We even watch it on time delay on the west coast). Laforet had to cancel his band’s annual New Year’s Eve gig to get Maggs to the hospital.
The couple chose the name from a book of “Rock N Roll Baby Names” that they received as a gift from Maggs’ sister. And while Wynn isn’t the most obvious rock n’ roll name I’ve ever heard, it certainly fits for the musically inclined. Wynn Stewart, born Winford (his mother, Cleo’s, maiden name), was a 20th Century country music singer-songwriter of the ’50s and ’60s, an early influence on country music legends like Buck Owens and Merle Haggard, and alt-country stars from Dwight Yoakum to k.d. lang. Raised primarily in California, Stewart initially balked at the growth of rock n’ roll and his fellow country artists earning crossover success, though by the late-1950s he had stopped fighting the future and released a series of rockabilly singles. But despite making music until his death in 1985, he never achieved mainstream success.
And still within the musical realm, trumpeter Wynton Marsalis is one of America’s most prominent jazz artists, currently serving as the Artistic Director of Jazz at New York’s Lincoln Center. The name is a variant of Winton, and means “friend’s settlement.”
Former NFLer Deion Sanders’ middle name is Luwynn. He also played pro baseball and released a rap album in 1994, which keeps us on the musical track. According to a 1989 Sports Illustrated article, his cousin came up with his names, and it would appear he was meant to be Deon Wynn, but his mother, Connie Knight, told the mag she added the extra letters “because anything else seemed too plain.” Luwynn appears to have been an invention, although Lewin means “dear friend.”
Wynn has multiple possible origins, all of which are valid. As a derivative of Old Welsh gwyn, which means “fair,” it described Anglo-Saxon invaders – Winford, as in Wynn Stewart, is believed to mean “fair lord.” The pre-7th Century Old English word wine, meaning “friend,” became a given name in the Middle Ages, and derived countless modern variations. Wynn could derive from Old Norse hvin, which literally translates to “gorse,” better understood to English audiences as a “prickly person.”
But Wynn as a first name did exist in Old English, the other possible origins notwithstanding (because their presence in surnames no doubt contributes to Wynn’s first name use today). Wynn, or more accurately the runic Ƿynn, means “joy.” The symbol was the forerunner to the modern W, and about a year ago, Nook of Names highlighted beautifully all kinds of feminine names from Anglo-Saxon times that used -wynn, from Ealuwynn (“ale-joy”) to Wulfwynn (“wolf-joy”).
In modern times, we’re more used to seeing the second N dropped, or the Y replaced by the letter E, in names like Bronwyn, Olwyn, or the interesting and Lord of the Rings-esque Elowyn. Bronwyn and Olwyn are both believed to derive from the Welsh gwyn, while Elowyn is believed to be Old English for “elm tree”). Male name Alwyn/Alwin means “friend of elves.” (But may, as per Nook’s post, also be a modernized form of Aelfwynn, meaning “elf joy.”)
As a surname, we’ve seen Wynn on 20th Century vaudeville star Ed Wynn (born Isaiah Edwin Leopold), who starred in his own TV variety program in 1949-50, and appeared in countless films including Mary Poppins, Babes in Toyland, and was the voice of the Mad Hatter in Disney’s animated Alice in Wonderland. A much-loved character actor, he only took up acting on screen at the urging of his actor son Keenan Wynn. Keenan must have liked the spelling of the adopted family surname, because he named one of his daughters Edwyna.
But the most prominent surname bearer today, and an unapologetic influence on the given name, is Las Vegas casino billionaire Steve Wynn, whose surname is plastered over one of the most high-end hotels on the strip (it’s where Prince Harry stays when he wants to make naked headlines).
Back in 2009, Appellation Mountain mentioned a couple in Timmins, Ontario, who were inspired to name their daughter Wynn Victoria after a visit to the gambling and entertainment mecca. While the couple, Ryan and Sonia Taylor, thought the name was more masculine than feminine, they loved the name Ava but saw it swiped by a friend one month before their due date. They still had Wynn in mind, and embraced it.
And they aren’t the first – American actress Wynn Everett recently appeared in a recurring role on HBO’s The Newsroom, and previously appeared on CW’s cult hit Supernatural. In 2009, NBA star Ray Allen and his wife welcomed a son named Wynn Ryder.
Although nothing is absolutely certain about the origin or even the established sex of the name Wynn, what does seem possible is it’s potential for wide appeal. It’s a nickname, could evolve from a family surname, could mean “fair,” “friend,” or “joy,” and is equally at home on boys or girls.
Apart from that, we’re a few years removed now from the whole “WINNING!” debacle, a la Charlie Sheen, so at least that’s one less thing to worry about when it comes to possible associations for playground teasing. What do you think about Wynn? Is it a winner, or not?