I love Daniel Jones’ Everyman’s English Pronouncing Dictionary for many reasons, foremost among them its scrupulous care in distinguishing the various contexts in which the word might be found (“Note.—Earl Waldegrave is ‘wɔ:lgreiv [‘wɔl-]. Some others with this name pronounce ‘wɔ:ldǝgreiv [‘wɔl-], In Waldegrave Hall the pronunciation is ‘wɔ:ldǝgreiv [‘wɔl-].”) and especially its cheerfully verbose guides to local usage. S.v. Waltham:

Note.—The traditional local pronunciation at Great Waltham and Little Waltham in Essex is ‘wɔ:ltǝm, and this is the pronunciation used by those who have lived there for a long time. Some new residents pronounce -lθǝm. In telephoning to these places from a distance it is advisable to pronounce -lθǝm; otherwise the caller is liable to be given Walton(-on-the-Naze), which is in the same county.

No mention, of course, of the pronunciation used in the Massachusetts town, which is ‘wɔlθæm; in the words of the Wikipedia article, “The second vowel is pronounced properly (“Wall-tham”, to rhyme with tall-ham, IPA: /ˈwɔlθæm/), and not elided into a schwa (“Wall-thumb”, IPA /ˈwɔlθəm/) as might be expected in American English.”
N.b.: I have the 13th edition, 1967 (photo here for the time being); I regret to report that the current edition has brutally cropped the entries, eliminating all the personal tidbits that make mine so delightful.


  1. For what it’s worth, “Bogtikken” is a pun. “The shop” is in Danish “butikken” /bu’tikn/ and “book” is “bog” /bɒw/.

  2. Waltham
    It’s an interesting general trend with English -tham or -sham placenames: “insider” pronunciation (usually with appeal to historical etymology) as -tǝm and -sǝm versus “outsider” pronunciation as -θǝm and -shǝm. The latter tends to win out over time with increasing urbanisation (see Placenames: prescription vs description). Here in Topsham (UK), for instance, “Topshǝm” and “Topsǝm” coexist. The former is observably by far the majority pronunciation, but articles continue to say the latter is the correct pronunciation, mainly (I suspect) because the pundits that editors contact for historical information tend to be Topsǝm-prescriptivists.

  3. Waltham is indeed an exception here in Mass. Even the similarly spelled Wrentham and Chatham are pronounced with the schwa: Wrenth’m, Chat’m (and note that the “th” in Chatham becomes a “t”). Most “-ham” cities/towns in Mass. do use the schwa (Dedham = Ded’m, Needham = Need’m, Hingham = Hing’m, etc.). Exceptions include Framingham and Bellingham, in which the “-ham” is pronounced just like the word “ham”: Framing-ham, Belling-ham.

  4. Thanks for explaining the pun, Sili, and for that excellent link, Ray—apparently in the mid-18th century Guildhall was pronounced Yielhall /’yilhɔ:l/!

  5. The propagation of the standard pronunciation of Waltham was greatly facilitated by radio ads throughout the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s for Jordan’s Furniture in Waltham. (“Main Street to Moody Street.”)

  6. Not as nicely phrased, but the Longman Pronunciation Dictionary does have both the Essex and the MA (non-schwa) pronunciations. I just bought the third edition and it’s great. I never liked Daniel Jones so much, and that was obviously because I’d only seen the bowdlerized versions!

  7. Yeah, both Jones and Fowler must be experienced in their original baggy splendor.

  8. You just know he personally had experienced the frustration of trying to call Waltham and being connected to Walton-on-the-Naze.

  9. Ah yes, the Everyman. Two copies on my shelves, the later one being the fourteenth edition (1977, revised by AC Gimson). I have recourse to it several times a week. Nothing else seems so thorough, especially in giving some variants in parentheses to show that they are less frequent, annotated if necessary to show degree of greater rarity. OED is way behind; and SOED is often enough plain wrong, or inconsistent in its system of representation.
    I can now report that the latest editions of Australia’s Macquarie have finally fixed pronunciation of acciaccatura. I have contemned the earlier gross error at least twice, chez LH.
    How about Gimson’s An Introduction to the Pronunciation of English? Again I have two, the later one being the second edition (1970). A fine work of about 330 pages. I appreciate the nuanced treatment of continuous speech, especially of sandhi and changes of stress within words according to context in the sentence.
    (Everyman gives two pronunciations for Gimson, by the way: /g-/ and /dʒ-/.)
    Can anyone here report on later editions of Gimson’s Introduction? I see there is a seventh edition (2008), by Alan Cruttenden. Here it is at Amazon.

  10. (Speaking as a native of Massachusetts with, moreover, a uncle who has lived in Waltham for more than twenty years, there is a slight variance on the pronounciation of Waltham–some people seem to pronounce it with the syllablic division after the “th”, although not all.
    I suspect we pronounce Framingham and Bellingham as spelled because of the “g” plopped into the middle of the name.
    The various -cester names seem to be pronounced in the English manner–Gloucester, Worcester–but of course with the Yankee morphing of the final -er; so I say Glo’stah and Wu’stah.

  11. Of course, so do the equally non-rhotic Brits.

  12. I actually met someone yesterday from the little town of Waltham, Vermont, and they took pains to correct me when I elided the final vowel to a schwa.
    No news on Waltham, Maine, to see if it’s a pan-New-England phenomenon.

  13. “Wall-tham”, to rhyme with tall-ham, IPA: /ˈwɔlθæm/”
    Maybe my knowledge of the IPA is at fault here, but (a) wouldn’t ‘wall’ be IPA /’wɔ:l/, not /ˈwɔl/? And (b) don’t Americans tend to use a more open vowel anyway? So how is the first syllabub of the place in Mass. really pronounced?

  14. Eastern New England has caughtcot merger, so, really, /ɔ:/ or /ɑ:/ is okay. (But not /a:/; that’s cart.) But /wɔ:l/ makes more sense, since that’s how those of us who still make the distinction pronounce that word. Phonetically, it’s usually [ɒ:], a mix of the two vis-a-vis Midwestern.
    But assuming the goal isn’t to sound like a parody of a native, pronouncing it like you pronounce wall is the best explanation.
    YouTube has a series of videos by The Waltham Tourism Council. Part 1. The speakers have more or less Standard American, but I do not think natives would object to the pronunciation. On the other hand, I believe in this real-estate video, the female speaker pronounces it wrong (unlike the male speaker). If you want a native, here‘s a Waltham detective describing an incident where a car plowed into the police station.

  15. Eastern New England indeed has the caught/cot merger, but unlike areas in North America with the merger, it’s much more a case of the LOT vowel (equivalent, to other North American merged speakers, to the PALM vowel, realized as [ɑ]) merging into the THOUGHT vowel than the other way around. So the local dialect would have a sound whose quality really can’t be described as [ɑ], but rather somewhere between RP /ɒ/ and /ɔ:/. Since it is the vowel in palm or father that is generally given to /ɑ:/, and the vowels in those words are phonemically distinct from the Waltham vowel for Eastern New Englanders, it doesn’t make sense to use /ɑ:/ for Waltham.

  16. As you can see, I used /a:/ for the palm vowel. That is, father distinct from bother.

  17. Another insider-outsider one: Holborn, in central London, pronounced “hoe-burn” rather than “holl-born”.

  18. wouldn’t ‘wall’ be IPA /’wɔ:l/, not /ˈwɔl/

    Horribly belated answer: American English doesn’t have phonemic vowel length (the differences between vowels are firmly attributable to quality), so writing a vowel length mark between slashes doesn’t make sense.

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