The once popular Tammy feels rather insubstantial circa 2008, but her original form retains quite a bit of strength and style.
Thanks to Another for suggesting today’s Name of the Day: Tamar.
We all know that many of our most beloved Biblical monikers were used sparingly until after the Protestant Reformation, when parents shed saints’ names in favor of choices like Nathan, Joshua and Rebecca. A similar phenomenon happened among Jewish families in the 20th century, especially in Israel, as they sought names that could be considered appropriate for their faith, but different from those favored by their ancestors.
A trio of Tamars appear in the Old Testament: Judah’s daughter-in-law; King David’s daughter and Absalom’s daughter. Because one is raped, and another referred to as a prostitute, the names were long considered taboo. But the three are actually rather virtuous characters, and their travails are less likely to deter parents in our more enlightened times.
Tamar carries an appealing meaning – it’s Hebrew for date palm or palm tree – so there’s a nice nature twist for parents unwilling to go as far as Willow.
A mythological Tamar surfaces in the tales of the Georgian people. We couldn’t verify whether Tamar, the serpent-riding sky goddess, has distinct etymological roots; much of Georgian mythology fused with Christianity and other traditions over the years. But it was the name of one of Georgia’s most famous rulers, Queen Tamar.
Queen Tamar presided over Georgia’s Golden Age, ruling from 1184 to 1213. She’s remembered in poetry, folk songs and is even considered a saint by the Georgian Orthodox Church. Her tale was especially popular in the late 19th century, when Georgia was considered far enough east to be romantically exotic. Characters based on the queen appear in a variety of forms from that era, including a ballet, but their historical accuracy is minimal.
While Tamar has never charted in the US Top 1000, she has inspired two names common in the 20th century: the aforementioned Tammy and the slightly more sophisticated Russian version, Tamara. The names have done well, but are on the decline today:
- Tamara regularly appeared in the Top 100 in the 1970s. Today she ranks #702;
- Tammy spent most of the 1960s in the Top Ten, but left the rankings after 1999;
- Tammie, Tammi and Tami all charted from the 1950s through the 1980s, but today are even less powerful choices than Tammy. Don’t go there!
Tamsin, while sharing the same first syllable, is unrelated. Instead, she’s a contracted form of Thomasina.
While the religious vibe of Tamar might put some parents off, if Abigail and Naomi can be worn by non-religious types, then Tamar is fair game, too. We like her frills-free style (in fact, she’s included on our 25 Frills-Free Names for Girls list) and find her both current and historic.
Just don’t call her Tami.
So bummed to see Tami, my childhood nickname, so thoroughly dismissed. As a kid, I rather liked it, it was pretty unique without being too out-there. I also liked even then that it stood on it’s own as a name in Japan – a multi-cultural name way before that was popular! In Japan, Tami means something like “Benefit of the people.” And it can also be used as a diminutive of the name Tamiko. Depending on where you look, that means “born in the spring”, “child of the people”, or “beautiful child.” Tami may be dated here, but supposedly it’s still popular over there, and why shouldn’t it be, with meanings like that?
I was given my name specifically because my dad was never given a nickname and always wanted one when he was a boy. So when he and my mom went researching names for my siblings and I, he was adamant that we be given formal names that had recognized nicknames, so we would go by an nn as a child, but as an adult use either as we preferred. Now I also go by Tamra. Not as common as Tamara, and a little softer sounding than Tamar. Tami is still used by my family almost as an endearment (if that makes sense). Thanks at least for the history of the Georgian queen (and she’s a saint too- who knew!?)
My name is Tamar and i never used to like it as a child; didn’t sound feminine enough for me (I wanted something more like Clarissa or Cinderella even..) but now i really like it. It’s something else, you don’t hear it often, and where i live (Netherlands) it really doesn’t get abbreviated into Tammy (although my very best friend calls me Tammie, pronounced in Dutch it sounds more like Tommy, and she is allowed to do that ;).
My name ‘trauma’ is Tamara..that version of Tamar is much better known and lots of people call me that, but it’s a totally different name to me; sounds very different, looks different.
I don’t even dislike Tamara, i’m just not her 😉
Emmy Jo says
Tamar is lovely! She does feel both exotic and strong (rather like Sarai). I always want to say these names with second-syllable stress, ta-MAR and sah-RIE, though I know they’re supposed to be pronounced the other way.
If I weren’t so into the simple, sweet girls’ names (Clara, Susanna, Violet), I might consider Tamar. I would never be tempted to call her Tammy!
It’s amazing how an unfortunate nickname can really sink an otherwise promising name!
As for Esther? I think she’s back. Ewan McGregor has an Esther Rose. And she’s at #280 in the US – not nearly the chart-topper she was at the start of the 20th century, but I’d call that respectable.
I have a secret affection for the related Hester, but my husband always responds “As in the Scarlet Letter?” He’s not wrong, but I love H-names: Hester, Hazel, Hadley, Henry, Hector. Heck, I like Hawthorne, too. If baby #2 isn’t a girl – my recurring nightmare these days, since I’ve given away most of our boy togs – maybe we’d call him Henry Hawthorne Clare.
But I’m guessing she’s a she.
Seriously, though – Esther rocks!
I like Tamara, Tamar, and the unrelated Tamsin, but I can’t stand Tammy/Tami. I wouldn’t risk it. (I’d issue apologies here to my sister-in-law with that name, but she hates it too. I understand, as my parents stuck me with one of those awful names-that-end-in-y from that era as well.)
I am just waiting for Esther to make a comeback. 😉
Lola, LOL about your surfer cousins – my darling husband has informed me that he plans to spend his retirement years surfing! I’m convinced he’ll be eaten by a shark, and hope he agrees to continue kayaking instead. (I am married to the only lawyer on this Earth who has never swung a golf club.)
And I agree – the odds of hearing her called Tami/Tammy/Tammie really put me off using this one. Though I’ve met a 30-something Tamar and it suits her perfectly, and I can’t imagine anyone trying to call her Tami.
Dana, I love Tamsin, too. If your surname is simple, Thomasina seems like fair game. It’s not any longer than Alexandra or Isabella. The one possibility is that your daughter would choose to go by Tommy/Tommi/Tommie instead of Tamsin, especially since it’s a relatively unknown short form in the US. But I’ve never been troubled by nicknames that aren’t obvious, so I’d certainly consider it.
Isn’t that funny how Tammy is almost universally unappealing? I wonder what popular name from today will have the same dated/unsubstantial curse about them twenty years in the future (I can think of a couple of contenders . . .)
Tamar doesn’t do much for me. The sounds just aren’t interesting and there are so many other beautiful biblical names to choose from.
I must say, I adore Tamsin, and Tamar is very appealing now that I know her history. But I shy away from names beginning in Tam for the same reason as Lola: I would never wat her to be called Tami. To me though, Tami/Tammy has more of a backwoods country vibe, probably because of the country singer Tammy Wynette. If it wasn’t for that, Tamsin would be near the top of my list. Do you think it would be too much to name a daughter Thomasina and call her Tamsin?
Thought I just posted this but apparently not. After talking about Sigmund, and Sigmund & the Sea Monsters the other day, I open my entertainment news to this: “
Verity… check this out: : Universal has pacted with Sid and Marty Krofft to make a live-action feature film based on their trippy ’70s kid show Sigmund and the Sea Monsters, about an on-the-lam sea monster who hangs out with two kids in their clubhouse. The Kroffts are in full comeback mode, having sold Sony the live-action rights to H.R. Pufnstuf, and Will Ferrell leading the big-screen Land of the Lost, coming next June.”
Taken from here: http://news.yahoo.com/s/eonline/20080911/en_movies_eo/28440
Since we mentioned it the other day, thought you might get a hoot out of it!
Because Tamar in my house would probably end up Tami at least semi frequently, I shy away from Tam names. Tamara has never appealed (for that matter, neither has Mara). I find Tami/Tammy perpetually a sixities surfer type moniker. Could be thanks to cousins Jamie-Ann and Sharon and their surfing lifestyles (yeah, Jamie-Ann’s Hawai’ian, Sharon’s Southern Californian and they’re both absolute freaks for surfing, even though both are well into thier 50’s now) Lots of their contemporaries are Tammi/Tammy.
But Tamar’s got an awesome history. (One I was completely unaware of.. despite being a former Catholic an all!) She sounds richer than Tammy/Tammi and I think she’ll age better, too. A midly exotic feeling choice for those looking to honor *Grandma Tammy/Tammi/Tami, Tamar’s a pretty neat option!
* Yeah, My mid 50 something cousins are rapidly heading toward Grandma-hood (Jamie-Ann actually is a Grandma of two already!), it’s only a matter of time before their Tammy friends are too!