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Thursday, August 23, 2012

Baby Name to Consider: Thames

Nichole writes:
For some reason, my husband has become completely enamored of the name Thames and wants to use if for our next son.  I looked up pronunciation and the Thames River in England (and thus the British pronunciation) is "temz".  But the Thames River in Connecticut (and thus the American pronunciation) is said to be "thaymz or taymz".

My questions: 1) how do you / how does your average N. American reader pronounce Thames when read and spoken?; and 2) is "Thames" a name that is too off-the-wall to consider as a first name?

Thank you!!


Oh, interesting! I immediately pronounced it "temz" in my mind---but if I saw it as a child's name, I'd wouldn't assume that was the way it was pronounced. I wasn't familiar with the Thames River in Connecticut, but I still would have wondered if Thames as a name might be pronounced to rhyme with James, with a soft TH sound; I'm not sure if the river in Connecticut is well-known enough to affect the U.S. pronunciation. I'd also wonder if it might be a creative spelling of Thomas. Or I'd wonder if it might be thay-mus, to rhyme with Seamus/Shamus. I'd be very uncertain, and would feel uncomfortable even taking a stab at it.

According to the Social Security Administration, the name is unused or nearly unused in the United States: Thames is not in the data base, which means it was used for fewer than 5 boy or 5 girl babies in 2011.

My own opinion is that it would be a hassle to carry that name in the United States, with more confusion over spelling and pronunciation than would be worth it. I think, however, that it would make a terrific and distinctive middle name.

What does everyone else think? Let's have a poll over to the right. [Poll closed; see results below.]

And in the comments section, say how you would have thought Thames was pronounced if you encountered it as a child's name.

44 comments:

Anandi Raman Creath said...

Yeah, I hear "temz" in my head so I like the idea for middle name instead of first. (And this comes from someone who has to correct EVERY.SINGLE.PERSON I meet about my name's pronunciation. It gets old.)

Jen said...

I thought taymz on the pronunciation initially. I would venture to guess if you want the British pronunciation, you'd need prepare yourself for a lot of correcting.

Rayne of Terror said...

I immediately thought temz or in my midwestern accent tims, like "We're going to Tim's house."

Bitts said...

I think probably only Americans from CT (or familiar with the CT river) would pronounce it 'Thaymz.' the only way I've ever heard it is 'Temz' as in the British river - that's the only pronunciation that would even occur to me.

Clarabella said...

See, if you really think about whether the name is "too off-the-wall," the answer will always be "no" considering JUST. HOW. OFF-THE-WALL. names can get: I am thinking of Swistle's lists on Twitter of Kree8tyv spellings and names that are accidentally obscene. Just a thought.
Regardless, I automatically think "temz" when I see it, but if it was a child's name, especially if he wasn't British, I might think it was more James with a "th."
I think if you love a name enough, you make it work. If you love it enough to correct/instruct people most of the time, go for it. If not, I vote for the middle name slot.

Erin said...

I personally know a family whose surname is Thames and they pronounce it "Thaymz". (Not in CT, btw. Floridians.)

plantingoaks said...

I would say it like 'James' then immediately remember that wasn't right.

Even given that, I think it's as fine a name as many others that don't get a second glance.

Susan said...

If I saw the word in any context except as a person's name, I would immediately think "Temz." (I'm not familiar with the other river in CT.) However, when I saw the post headline, I assumed it would be pronounced "Thaymz" (with an unvoiced "th") to rhyme with James, and that it was a made-up name, not connected with the River Thames in England.

If I met a child named "Thames" and the parents pronounced it "Temz," I'd have no trouble either remembering that or spelling it correctly ever after. My first impression is that I like the name and think it would be cute on a little boy -- and distinctive on a man.

gail said...

Temz, for me. I agree with everything Swistle has said....."Especially the great in the middle part".

Anonymous said...

To me it is "temz". I agree that unless someone is from Connecticut, their first association is going to be the river in England.
I also think a lot of people not familiar with the river in CT would assume parents of a boy named Thames-rhymes-with-James were uneducated. The name would require explanations for his entire life and it just doesn't seem worth it. I do agree with Swistle that it would make an interesting middle name.
For a sound alike name besides James, you might want to consider Thane. http://www.behindthename.com/name/thane

Abby said...

I kind of really really really LOVE this name. A lot. That said, I'm not sure if it's too much for the US - but I love it. If you decide not to use it as the first name, then definitely a strong middle name contender.

Martha said...

I would say taymz when I first saw it, but I am aware of the British pronunciation so I could easily be corrected. I have a brother-in-law with a very unusual first name that people don't know how to pronounce (if you google it, he is the first result and it has never appeared in the SSA lists) has made me realize how difficult it is to have a name that is so unusual and requires constant correction. Thames could be a very awesome middle name, I think!

AirLand said...

I think Thaymz is a legitimate pronunciation of Thames... I wouldn't think you're uneducated. There's a Seattle Mariner with the last name and he pronounces it that way.

I like it a lot. But I do agree that you would have to deal with people not knowing how to spell it or pronounce it. Almost everybody has to deal with that though- even people with more common names.

hillary said...

I don't think it would be that difficult to carry off, actually. In my experience, most children are introduced verbally before their names are seen on paper, so a simple introduction of, "This is Temz, spelled like the river in England," would forever cement it in most people's minds (both pronunciation and spelling). Given how many times I have to repeat and spell my daughter's name (which is Jane and gets mistaken for James, Jade, or Jaden almost every time she meets someone new), I think you wouldn't be in much worse shape. And thinking about the names in her kindergarten class, there were several that were more mysterious as to pronunciation/spelling than Thames. A boy named Thames would probably get called James or Tim sometimes, but that's not really a big deal in the scheme of things!

liz said...

I'd pronounce it Temz, especially because of this book "Thames Doesn't Rhyme with James", which is the sequel to "Remember Me to Harold Square".

Anonymous said...

When it is merely written, I assume Thames is pronounced Temz. As a name, I jumped from Thaymus (like Seamus) to Thaymes (like James) to Temz (Tim's) in that order.

If I saw this on a resume or class roster, I would assume it was a modern version of the smushed name trend that formerly included names like D'Shawn.

Anonymous said...

I read it as a "Temz" like the river, but if I knew it was someone's name, I'd probably think it rhymed with James.

My taste in names errs on the traditional, Biblical side, so take my opinion with a big grain of salt. But if I knew an American named Thames-pronounced-Temz, I'd think their parents were a little pretentious (like an American named St. John and pronounced Sinjun). If I knew an American named Thames-rhymes-with-James, I'd think their parents were uneducated.

And I hate to feel that way, because Thames is beautiful is many ways. But for a first name, the pronunciation issues make it too off-the-wall. It would make a great middle name, though.

StephLove said...

I thought Temz, I am trying to decide how to vote in the too-off-the-wall? poll now so I want to grab onto the middle name idea as a compromise position.

Erin said...

I thought "Temz", but agree that it would be better suited for the middle name slot here in the U.S.

Anonymous said...

I read it as rhyming with James, which I like!

Portia said...

I first thought "Tems," but agree that if I saw it on a child, I would hesitate on how to pronounce it. I wouldn't be surprised to hear it was Thayms.

I'm not sure what pronunciation you want, but if it's Thayms, I wonder if you'd consider changing the spelling slightly?
I think spelling it Thaimes would go a long way towards getting that pronunciation without, as some have mentioned, looking like you didn't know about the river in England.

As for off-the-wall, I actually think Thaimes-rhymes-with-James is a cool name. It reminds me of names like Thaddeus and Theobald, but without the musty feel.

Anonymous said...

I live in CT so Thames (rhymes with James) for me

Anonymous said...

When I read the headline, I pronounced it rhyming with James, but then immediately my brain jumped to "Wait there is a river in England pronounced Temz."

I think if I just saw it written, my mind would make too many leaps to how it could be pronounced, and I would be scared to say it out loud.

I do think it would make a really cool middle name.

British American said...

I'm a Brit who lives in the US, so I immediately read it as "Tems" like the river in London.

How does your husband pronounce the name?

I can see Americans wanting to say the name like James with a Th. The more I look at it in this post about names, the more I want to say it like James.

If I did meet a boy named Thames and pronounced like the London river, then I would want to ask the parents about their connection to London / England. (Maybe just because I'm a British expat.) I guess I would be a little disappointed / confused if there wasn't a cool story behind the name - like you met in London or went there on your honeymoon or your husband is from London etc.

It seems like a name that should have a special meaning story behind it - because of the link to the iconic London river and because of the non-intuitive spelling - rather than being a name that you like because of the sound. Something you can tell your son one day, when he wonders about the river and the non-phonetic spelling.

I don't think it's "too off the wall" but I like it better with a special meaning.

Nicole said...

I immediately pronounced it "taymz," but maybe because I'm from New England? I kind of like the name...

Patricia said...

I was curious about how the River Thames got its name and why it's pronounced 'temz' and found that there are several theories about that but no certainty: "Conflicting Origins of the Name of the River Thames" http://www.wwjohnston.net/wj/thames.htm

That added to the uncertainty of pronunciation of "Thames" among many Americans and the uncertainty of correctly spelling a name pronounced "Temz" makes it a name I wouldn't recommend.

Would you consider the great British classics Thomas or James? Or you might name a son THomas jAMES, with "Thames" as his at-home nn.

Patricia said...

Here is an interesting linguistic discussion of how the name of the tiny --15 mile -- Thames River in CT is pronounced as compared to the famous River Thames in England: http://writation.blogspot.com/2012/03/thames-river-in-connecticut.html

I think the only way Thames *might* work as a baby name is for a major character in a very popular movie to be called "Thames" (Temz) and then for Thames to catch on because of that. Had Harry Potter's best friend been a cool guy named Thames, that could have made Americans familiar with the name's spelling and pronunciation, and we might have seen it turning up on the SSA's "Beyond the top 1000 names" list. (But on the other hand, Hermione certainly hasn't caught on...)

Erin said...

I think it's a lovely idea, but agree that it might work best as a middle name. On the other hand, it's not such a big deal to have to help people out a bit the first time they encounter it. My son's name is Iván, and many people aren't sure how to pronounce it. But once we say it a few times, everybody's on board and ready to go. And is it so bad for a kid to learn to speak up for himself and his name in school? I remember meeting a little boy called Thayre many years ago - and I still remember both him and his lovely name!

Anonymous said...

at first glance I would pronounce it to rhyme with James (thaymes), but I realize that is not the most common pronunciation. If I really thought about it I would probably pronounce tems. As a first name, I like the THAYmes pronunciation. People will mispronounce all more uncommon names. It wouldn't discourage me.

Anonymous said...

I also really like the idea of changing the spelling a little. Thaimes. It is a really nice name

phancymama said...

I agree that changing the spelling would be helpful, although I like the "Thames" spelling the best. I would not know how to pronounce it, and would also wonder the connection to the river in England.
I think the Thomas James, nn Thames is brilliant.

My uncle recently sent me this website. It might be useful.
http://www.pronouncenames.com

Anonymous said...

I'm from CT and know the Thames River there, but I'd still pronounce it "temz"--it's just too dominant in my mind. It wouldn't occur to me (except maybe in CT) that someone might be using the pronunciation from there.

I like the Thomas James solution, though. If it makes him too crazy to be explaining the name all the time, he can always go to the more traditional names.

gail said...

You never actually say how your husband is pronouncing Thames, but if it's to rhyme with James, have you considered the name Thane? Quite legit, also English, only one pronunciation that I know of. Please let us know when you decide, this is fascinating.....

jerilyn said...

Personally I'd go with James.

Tara said...

I hear taymz in my head, and though it's a little out there to me, I LOVE it.

Lyly said...

You know I kind of like the name. It will be mis pronounced. My last name is never pronounced correctly. I just correct them if they are someone that will have to use the name over again. The name Thames makes me think of Thaddeus. I can't figure out why maybe someone will remind me. Good luck.

Mary said...

I say Temz. It will be mispronounced constantly though.

What about Thayer instead?

Hilary P said...

I was going to suggest Thane, too! English connection but pronounced as it sounds.

Thayer would be lovely, too. There's the wonderful New England artist John Abbott Thayer.

I do like Thames, though. BUT, I think if you go with Thames, you need to pronounce it correctly (or like the better-known river). Better to say "Oh, pronounced like the London river" rather than spend your life saying "Oh, Thaymz like the CT river." Unless you have a special connection to that body of water.

Good luck!

Eva.G said...

I voted that no, I don't think Thames is weird! But I am a lover of word names and have Nile on our name list, so I have a soft spot for names like this.

Literally all my life I have pronounced the Thames river as Taymz. So when I heard the announcers talking about the Thames river during the London Olympics and pronouncing it Temz, I said, "WHY are the announcers pronouncing that wrong?? Don't they know how to pronounce it?" I was SHOCKED to find out it was pronounced Temz. I'm well traveled and am a tad obsessive about spelling and pronunciation, so I don't know how I spent my whole life not knowing this.

My point is, I much prefer saying Taymz to Temz. But if I came across a boy with this name, I would first think the parents want it Temz, like the river...and would then also consider Taymz. I wouldn't think of Th-aymz but I'm sure some would. But with the abundance of unique names nowadays, I think you could go with several pronunciations easily. There are much stranger names with even stranger pronunciations than Thames! I like it!

SF said...

I kind of like it. I'd think the pronunciation might be Taymz or Thaymz (like James), but I haven't heard of Temz. Could just be me.

Hot Wheels Gal said...

I like names from other countries, a lot more than American names. We named our son Tor. We were going back and forth with the spelling, the common way to spell it is Thor. BUT as we know, it won't be said without the H here in US, so we dropped it. Sometimes though, people must think I'm saying it Thor so I still correct them!

I'd say, if it's a name you love, use it!

Anonymous said...

I think it's great!
My first instinct is the "temz" pronunciation, but if I were told it's actually pronounced "taymz", I wouldn't be too thrown.

I think confusion with any other option ("thay-mus", etc.) would only result from over-thinking it.

My name is unusual, but pronounced phonetically. Still people are confused and either try a soft "aa" sound or a hard "ay" sound. I like my name, and the fact that I usually have to correct people a few times doesn't bother me at all.

Nedra said...

I have always struggled to pronounce Thames as "temz" -- even though I know that's what's correct (at least for the river). Every time I say it, I have to say, "remember, it's an old and weird and foreign word, and that's why its pronunciation makes no sense." So there's absolutely no way that I would see Thames on a person and pronounce it the way that I pronounce that weird, old, foreign word.

It doesn't make much sense to me as a name. It would confuse people -- those who HAVE trained themselves to correctly pronounce the name of the river would be thrown off if you used the rhymes-with-James pronunciation....and those who don't know how to pronounce the river in England would have no idea that they should pronounce it as "temz" if you went that route. People might even judge you for it -- they'd either think you were a bit batty for pronouncing it "temz" or you might even get some people who thought you were I'll-educated for pronouncing it thaymes.

I'd avoid this name.

Katie said...

As a Londoner this is too strongly associated to the river for me to ever use - the Thames is not a particulalry clean or aesthetically pleasing river, so it, in itself, has no namesake value.
However the more I look at it as a name the more I love the 'James-like' pronounciation. I agree with a PP that it would be cute on a (non-British) child and distinctive on a grown man. But not the soft 'th' sound, more like Taymes. I would be interested to hear of someone using it!