Daily Archives: March 20, 2009

wend

A word for making one’s way, but with a winding and weaving waft to it. And this word, too, has wended its way through English – in a rhizomatic relationship with some others. A first look may bring to mind Wendy, one word that is not related to it: the name for a girl was invented by J.M. Barrie in his Peter Pan of 1904, taken from a childhood nickname a friend of his had for him: Fwendy-Wendy (childish labializing of the r in friend plus a playful reduplication). If you wonder (while you wander) whether wind is a related word, the answer is a definite yes if you mean the verb, [waInd] (as opposed to the breezy noun, [wInd], which also used to be pronounced [waInd]). Wend is in fact a causative formed from a preterite of wind (like throng from thring, among others). Wind first referred to rapid or forcible motion, as with projectiles or water, and it also referred to self-directed motion for persons and other agents. It came to refer specifically to curved motion. Wend referred thus first to moving an object, and subsequently gained a sense of independent motion and sometimes specifically with curvature. Generally it became a synonym for go. A past tense version of it was went. But went came to be used so commonly for going anywhere in the past that it took over from the past-tense forms of go (which had been Old English eode, Middle English yede, yode, also not originally formed from go – who knows where the equivalent of “goed” had gone), while the present and infinitive of wend largely went out of common use. The word experienced something of a poetic and literary revival around 1800, especially in the phrase wend your [his, her, my, etc.] way – or, in the past, wended, since went was now married to someone else. Wend does not mecessarily imply a curved, indirect, or weary path, but there are enough echoes to wend it thusward. And after a path of some three turns, say – \/\/ – we now end… or is there no end? Will we know when?