Maury’s uncle Red has a country place, and Maury wangled an invitation for a set of his friends to come up and spend the weekend. He intimated to me that he was bringing a new interest named Jennifer.
It was rather hot out when I arrived, so I quickly dropped my bags and changed into swim gear. I passed through the kitchen to grab a bevvy, but Maury said that he had some he was just fixing up that he would bring out shortly. So I made a beeline to the pool.
I was just setting down my towel when a fetching lady emerged through some ornamental heather near the pool’s edge. “Hello,” I said. “I’m James.”
“Hi,” she said. “I’m Gwen. In fact, I’m gwen into the pool.”
I paused. “Oh, you must be Maury’s friend. I thought your name was Jennifer. …Oh, wait.”
“Yes, that’s right,” she said. “Gwen as in short for Jennifer.”
“Because Jennifer is really a Cornish version of the name Guinevere,” I said. “Yes, I’ve seen Shaw’s Doctor’s Dilemma.”
“Yup,” she said. She quoted from the play: “‘My name is Jennifer.’ ‘A strange name.’ ‘Not in Cornwall. I am Cornish. It’s only what you call Guinevere.’ Well, thanks in part to Shaw, it’s not so strange anymore. Jennifer is now about as plane as Jane, so I went with the English version and then shortened it to Welsh roots.” This was true: Guienevere is from Welsh gwen “white, fair, blessed, holy” and hwyfar “smooth, soft”.
“You could have gone with Gaynor,” I said. Gaynor is a variant of Guinevere.
“Ew. Didn’t want to. ‘I Will Survive’ by Gloria Gaynor would be playing through my life. Anyway, it’s getting common in England, and over here sounds a bit too much like Gaylord.”
At this juncture Maury arrived with a pitcher of martinis and some glasses. “Ah,” said Gwen, “you’ve brought my namesake.”
“Juniper and Jennifer aren’t really related,” Maury said.
“Oh, jenever know,” Gwen said, playing on Dutch for “gin”. “Yes, yes, I know it’s from Latin.”
“And from juniper,” I volunteered, “come genever and genièvre and ultimately gin.”
“Maury mentioned that,” Gwen said. “But I do like the similarity of sounds. Jennifer and juniper differ only in one vowel and one consonant, and those consonants are closely related.”
“For all that,” I said, “Jennifer has a bit more of a rustle as of heather, and juniper has a little more of a nip to it.”
“Meanwhile, Guinevere starts with a g and all those variants on juniper begin with the letter g,” Gwen said. “But Maury, dahling, can you give me mine with a twist? Since I’m by the pool.”
Maury obliged and handed Gwen a decent-sized martini with a twist of lemon peel. She held it up in toast: “Gin gin!” Then she downed the whole glass and danced a quick little twist. But her foot caught on my towel and she spun into the pool with a bit of a flip and a bit more of a splash.
“Well,” Maury observed as she resurfaced spluttering, “that was a double Gaynor.”
“She did say she was Gwen in,” I remarked.
“Ha,” said she. “I will survive.” She held up the martini glass that she was somehow still holding. “Arrr. Pirate Jenny wants a refill.”
I looked at Maury as if to say, “You’ve found a winner.” He just lifted an eyebrow and the jug and refilled her glass.