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4:24pm on Thursday, 22nd December, 2011:

Ham Tham


I drove up the A1 today to meet my dad for our annual exchange of Christmas presents (he gave us more than we gave him — yay!). The place we meet is the Downtown store just outside Grantham.

OK, so this is about English place-names.

Grantham is pronounced "GRANtham". It ought not to be pronounced like that: it should be "GRANTam". There are hundreds of cities, towns and villages in England that have -ham as a suffix, the standard way to prounounce it being "am". You drop the h. If you want to impersonate an American pronouncing a town's name then you don't — "NODDing ham" but otherwise you don't. Well, unless the place is actually called Ham, in which case you would.

Now Grantham has a t before the h, so what seems to have happened is it was joined together and pronounced "th". There are other places where similar things look to have happened — Masham is "MASHam", for example — but others where it hasn't. In particular, there's a town near Colchester called Witham that's pronounced "WITam" like you'd expect. Eeerily, Grantham's river is the River Witham, but I don't know whether they pronounce that "WITam" or "WITHam".

Conceivably, Grantham could be "GRANtham" because it meant "Granth's home", but the Internet seems to think it means "Granta's home".

Bah! I wish these ancient Anglo-Saxons would make their minds up.

Why is it Stansted and not Stanstead?

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Copyright © 2011 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).