Denseman on the Rattis

Formerly known as the Widmann Blog


My name

I grew up with my name, Thomas, being pronounced /’tʌmæs/ by people speaking Danish and /’to:mas/ by those speaking German. These two pronunciations are so different that I accepted it as a fact of life that names vary with the language you’re speaking. When we started going to Italy every year, I therefore found it completely natural to be told that my name in Italian was Tommaso /tom’maso/. Over the years, I’ve enjoyed adapting my name to whatever language I was speaking (Tomás /to’mas/ in Spanish, Фома /fa’ma/ in Russian, თამაზი /tamazi/ in Georgian, Tómas /’tho:məs/ [vocative a Thómais /ə’ho:mɪʃ/] in Gaelic, and so on).

In most places, people have accepted this happily, but in Russia, people often seemed to think it was wrong of me to translate my name. In Georgia, I also often had problems, but that was partly because I picked a frequent name that technically is not the translation of Thomas (which is rare).

I’ve therefore found it a bit odd that many people in this country seem to think it’s wrong to translate names, and they will attempt to pronounce my surname, Widmann, in German rather than the anglicised pronunciation that I’m using myself.

3 thoughts on “My name

  • Ok then .,,. as you say, when in Rome ,.,.,. from now on you’re Big Tam while you’re living in Scotland ! OK ?

  • I always thought foreign = exotic – translating your name to fit in sort of means adopting the banal instead of celebrating the exotic diversities of the world – I suppose that is why I would hate to translate my name to fit in and equally why I cringe when anyone tries to pronounce my surname or any of my kids’ names in anything other than their pure French form. I guess we are at opposite poles on this!

  • …and as for big Tam – please, no!


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