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Friday, January 18, 2013

How Do You Pronounce the Name Blythe?

My mom has brought up another issue with the name Blythe: how is it pronounced? I haven't even considered that it would be pronounced any way except with a voiced TH (as in bathe or breathe or tithe, as opposed to an unvoiced TH as in bath or breath or Ruth). My mom thinks it can be pronounced either way, or that maybe it's correctly unvoiced because the word blithe has an unvoiced TH. But neither of us has ever known a single person named Blythe, so we're not getting anywhere discussing it. (I've also never heard Blythe Danner's name said out loud, or heard people talking about Blythe dolls, or seen an Anne of Green Gables movie with someone saying Gilbert Blythe.)

So let's see if we can figure this out with a poll over to the right. We need extra-long poll options here, as when we tried to figure out the pronunciation of Rowan/Rowen, because some of us actually KNOW a Blythe and some of us have only seen the name in print: I remember reading a book about a Phoebe and thinking it was pronounced "foh-EEB." I know this makes the poll bulky, but I think it's worth it. [Poll closed; see results below.]


[Edited to add: I'm not sure our poll is worth anything, considering the percentage of people who can't hear the difference between a voice and unvoiced TH. I can picture us all totally in agreement and yet voting opposite options!

Try this exercise. Say "this," but say the "th" part for a few seconds before ending in the "iss" part: the "th" kind of buzzes the tongue. Now say "think," and do the same thing: say the "th" part for a few seconds before moving on to the "ink" part. Now it's just breath/hissing, like a whisper. The word "this" has a voiced TH; the word "think" has an unvoiced TH.

Or try it at the end of the word: say "bath," but let the end sound go on for awhile. Now say "bathe," and let the end sound go on for awhile. First no buzzing; then buzzing. Bath is a non-voiced TH; bathe is a voiced TH.

Or try it with breath/breathe. First say "Take a breath," and extend that TH sound. Now say "Just breathe," and extend that TH sound. Different, right? Breath doesn't buzz; breathe does. Breath is the non-voiced TH; breathe is the voiced TH.]


Poll results for "How is the name Blythe pronounced?" (531 votes total):

I know a Blythe; it's like bathe - 75 votes (14%)
I know a Blythe; it's like bath - 85 votes (16%)
I know at least one pronounced each way - 4 votes (1%)
I don't know a Blythe; I thought it was like bathe - 187 votes (35%)
I don't know a Blythe; I thought it was like bath -  180 votes (34%)


The extremely small number of votes for "I know at least one pronounced each way" is possible support for the theory that the poll is thrown off by so many of us not knowing/hearing the difference between the two ways. If the two pronunciations were used about 50-50, as the "I know a Blythe" categories suggest, it seems likely that more people would know one of each---rather than, as in the comments, knowing SEVERAL Blythes, all of whom pronounce it the same way. Or perhaps its regional?

36 comments:

Jessica said...

What would the phonetic spelling be like without a TH sound? I think my brain is moving slowly this morning, but I just can't figure it out. I keep trying to say Bath-Blythe, but it's not working!

I've always pronounced it like bathe, but have only seen it in print and that's a pronunciation made up in my own head, so it may be completely wrong!

Swistle said...

Jessica- It would still have the TH sound, but it would be unvoiced/soft, like Ruth. Blyth. ...That's funny, I wanted to rhyme it with something, but I can't think of any other long-I words that end in a soft TH. Lithe, maybe---but maybe that has a voiced TH, too!

StephLove said...

I'm having some trouble hearing the difference, but I knew a Blythe and she pronounced it just like the word blithe. Is that voiced or unvoiced?

Anonymous said...

Blythe is my middle name, I pronounce it like the TH in bath and have never heard it the other way as a name, only as an adjective.

Anonymous said...

I know a Blythe, we say it like the "th" in "bath" and I wouldn't have thought to do it any other way! Blythe Danner says it that way as well. I think it sounds weird to say it with a "th" like "bathe".... probably because I've never known a Blythe who pronounces it that way!

Kit said...

speaking of the Anne of Green Gables movie, they say Gilbert Blythe and is bathe

Jenny said...

There is a town called Blythe nearby and folks say it with the voiced -TH (that is, not like "blithe").

azterya said...

I assumed it was like blithe (rhymes with tithe). That's how it is in my head snyway.

Annika said...

I am a little embarrassed about how much coffee it took for me to be able to hear the difference between bath and bathe in my head.

Blythe said...

My name is Blythe! I will go over and comment about my general thoughts on the other post, so I'll just talk about pronunciation here.

My mom, who chose the name and was born in Blythe, California, (yes, good thing she wasn't born in Grand Rapids or Peoria, ha ha that joke never gets old), pronounces it softly, like BATH. I grew up in a small western town where no one knew how to pronounce it, so they all learned from my family, so we all pronounced it with the soft TH. That pronunciation does cause some people to hear "Life" when I say my name.

When I got to college with people who had heard the name before, most of them read and pronounced it like BREATHE.

When I introduce myself, I still use the soft pronunciation, but I don't correct people when they say it the other way. It's such a small difference (to me, anyway) and I can tell who they are talking about either way, so it doesn't bother me.

Normally I am just glad they aren't calling me Blight or Blanche or Life.

joolie24 said...

I have to admit - even reading all of these comments I cannot figure out the difference between the pronunciation of the "th" in bath and bathe; and therefore cannot determine which it is I use for the name Blythe.

To me the difference in these words ending in -th or -the is that the ending e makes the preceding vowel long (bath without an "e" has a short "a", whereas the "e" on bathe makes it a long "a"). I say Blythe with a long "i" sound for the "y", like the word blithe.

Giselle said...

I cannot even understand the issue with this. It's like you are talking about a foreign language that I have not been introduced to. And I'm from Ohio, so it's not like I just moved to an English speaking country!

I would like to second everything that joolie24 said above me. I hear the difference in the vowel...not the "th". Bathe and bath both end in the "th" sound as far as I'm concerned...it's just a long /a/ versus a short /a/.

This whole post is a little frustrating to me, to be honest. Why can't I understand this? I'm going to go quiz my friends on how they say bathe and bath and see if I can hear a difference.

Anonymous said...

I grew up with a friend named Blythe and the only way I have ever heard it pronounced is with a soft th sound (like bath)

Matti said...

So, if you go to an online dictionary, such as www.dictionary.com, and look up each of the following, you can hear example pronunciations which I found helpful in confirming that I agree with joolie24 and Giselle. To me the differences between the words is mostly in the vowels sounds in the middle, but if you listen and say them very carefully, instead of voiced or unvoiced you MIGHT be able to say that the 'th' or 'the' is, perhaps stressed or unstressed according to what I did in high school English class when I was taught poetry line scansion or the iambic pentameter of Shakespeare.
Bath=(bahth)
Bathe=(beyth)
Blithe=(blahyth)
Blythe=(blahyth)

Blythe said...

To me, the "bathe" pronunciation feels similar to how I pronounce "the." It produces a buzzing on my tongue and is more vocal. I use my voice to make it.

The "bath" pronunciation is more like the first two letters of "thick." I just use my breath to make it.

(Is this the weirdest comment ever?"

Anonymous said...

I've heard Blythe Danner's name being said & it's always been with a soft th, like bath. Though to be honest, it's really hard for me to hear the difference. Maybe you could search youtube for interviews with her-you might be able to catch her being introduces.

Anonymous said...

It rhymes with tithe. I've never heard it any other way.

Anonymous said...

it seems like it would also correlate with which long-I sound you're using. Apologies--no idea what the linguistic terms are, but the long-I of "ice" and "height" sounds more clipped and shorter to me than does the long-I sound of "Guy" or "violin." For me, if Blythe is said with a "bathe" TH, it takes a longer long-I (same sound as "Guy"). In order for it to take a "bath" TH, I have to use the shorter ("ice") long-I.

Amanda H. said...

Blythe Danner's name is pronounced with the same TH sound as in Ruth. I've heard it said on several TV interviews.

Meredith said...

I know several people with Blythe as a first name, and several others with the surname of Blythe. Both are pronounced with an unvoiced TH. (This is also the way I've heard Blythe Danner's name pronounced by the media.) It never occurred to me that someone might pronounced it with a voiced TH.

JH said...

"Rhymes with tithe" is the best comment yet. That is exactly it!

Giselle said...

Blythe,

Your explanation of the difference makes total sense to me. I can feel the difference in the /th/ when I say it. I guess I just can't hear it.

This is why Laura's always get mad at me too. Apparently I pronounce that wrong also, but I swear I can't hear the difference.

Anonymous said...

Isn't it weird that so many people know SO many Blythes, when the name is so uncommon? I think our data is getting plumped.

Diane said...

I actually prefer Blythe as in bath, but I always hear it Blythe-rhymes-with-tithe because of the Anne of Green Gables movies, though even there I'm not 100% sure all the actors pronounced it the same way.

Alix said...

It's like:
"Bli" as in "Blind"
"Th" as in "Thin"

Erin said...

I actually know two girls with the name Blythe (they happen to be best friends, too, ironically). They both pronounce it with the bath ending. Blythe seems like a totally normal, no brainer name to me after knowing the Blythes. lol

Manday said...

For once, a phonetic differentiation I get!!

I def was thinking that it was like bath, but that was a shot in the dark, I have never heard it spoke!

Anonymous said...

It's my last name, and in our family it's pronounced to rhyme with "fly." So, I always thought Gilbert Blythe = Gilbert Bly.

But for a first name, I would assume Blythe as in bath.

"Tithe" and "bathe" have the same "th" sound to me...is that the same for others?

Annelise said...

Whoever said "buzzing on my tongue" has got the difference between voiced and unvoiced. Or, hold your hand lightly over your windpipe and make the two different sounds written as "th" The vibrate-y one is voiced (as in bathe) and the non-vibrate-y one is unvoiced (as in bath).

Anonymous said...

http://www.forvo.com/search/blythe/

Cait said...

This confused me a bit also... in my head I hear the name almost as if it were spelled "Blive" (I'm guessing this is the unvoiced one?).

Anonymous said...

Thanks anonymous for that link to Blythe pronunciations! So on that link (http://www.forvo.com/search/blythe/) the first and last pronunciations are voiced, and the 2nd & 3rd are unvoiced (correct?). I have always pronounced Blythe with an unvoiced "th", as in the pronunciation of Blythe Danner on the link above.

Joanne said...

I have heard and would say Blythe (unvoiced) Danner but I always read and heard Gilbert Blythe (voiced), like in the excellent movie of Anne of Green Gables.

Anonymous said...

I say it like "bathe" based on the Anne of Green Gables movie and Gilbert Blythe. IMO the most important piece of the pronunciation is the long "y". It may just be me, but I say "blithe" with a shorter "i" sound - it still sounds like "eye" but I don't linger as long on it. Exaggerating to show the difference: I say "Blythe" like "Blyyythe" (with voiced "TH") and "blithe" like "blythe" (also with a voiced "TH" but overall said more quickly).

Tonni said...

My daughter is 8 months and named Blythe, and we pronounce it with the voiced "th"... rhythms with tithe. I'll remember that for future pronunciation assistance situations :)

Anna said...

Swistle, thank you so much for posting this and doing the poll for me!! It never occurred to me that Blythe would be pronounced with a voiced th (as in bathe or tithe).
Personally I like it better pronounced with the unvoiced th, sounds softer. I know an adorable little girl who pronounces it this way as well, so it's the my only association with the name.
I think we have decided to give Blythe the middle name spot, I still love it, but it might be too complicated for a first name.
Caroline Blythe and Morgan Kate are our final two! Thank you for everything!