Wenlock and Mandeville

Wenlock and Mandeville, Olympics 2012 mascotsTickets for next year’s Olympic Games in London go on sale next week, and it got me thinking about those two little curious characters, pictured here, who are the mascots for the Games.

Meet Wenlock and Mandeville, the mascots of Britain’s 2012 summer Olympics.

The one on the left, with the triangle on his head, is Wenlock. The other, naturally, is Mandeville.

I won’t bore you with the meaning behind their design. Britain’s Daily Telegraph explained the thinking behind the pair. Suffice it to say that Wenlock and Mandeville, so far, have met with a lukewarm reception from the British public.

What I was curious about, naturally, was the origin of those names. Where the heck did they come up with Wenlock and Mandeville? Here’s where.

Wenlock is named after a Shropshire village named Much Wenlock, near Wales. (Apparently it is named Much Wenlock to distinguish it from nearby Little Wenlock).  Much Wenlock’s claim to fame, and its Olympic connection, is that it was the site of an annual sporting event which proved inspirational to the modern Olympic pioneers, Dr. William Penny Brookes and Pierre de Coubertin, founder of the International Olympic Committee.

Wenlock, according to Wikipedia, is a name of Welsh origin, meaning “white place,” although what exactly is “white” about Much Wenlock I have not been able to determine.

Mandeville, whose three-colored helmet features the red, blue and green Paralympics colors, is likewise an adapted placename, related to the Paralympics event being held in conjunction with the London, 2012 Olympics. Mandeville is named for the village of Stoke Mandeville, in Buckinghamshire (not far from Much Wenlock).

Stoke Mandeville was the site of a sports competition for injured soldiers, starting in 1948, which, though no longer held there, became a forerunner of the modern Paralympic Games. Stoke Mandeville Hospital is a renowned facility for paraplegic and spinal injuries.

The name Stoke Mandeville has its roots in Old English and Norman French. Stoke is derived from the Old English word “stoc,” meaning outlying farm or hamlet. Mandeville, not surprisingly, is of French origin. It comes from the Norman French de Mandeville family, who appeared in England around the time of the Norman invasion in 1066, and who owned said “stoc” in Buckinghamshire in the 13th century.  Sources attribute the Mandeville name to a place in Normandy, although the precise location seems to be lost in the fog of history.

Now the big question — will we be seeing a surge of little Wenlocks and Mandevilles in British schoolyards a few years from now? Well, maybe a few, I’m guessing. But I don’t think they will take the world by storm. Both names are rather stuffy, and old-fashioned.

Then again, I didn’t think Alfie and Archie would be making a comeback either, and look where they are now.

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