Theoden Janes

It’s not easy being THAY-den, or Thee-OH-duhn, or...

Théoden Janes, er, Theoden (Bernard Hill), King of Rohan, rallies his Rohan soldiers to battle at Pelennor Fields in New Line Cinema's epic adventure, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.
Théoden Janes, er, Theoden (Bernard Hill), King of Rohan, rallies his Rohan soldiers to battle at Pelennor Fields in New Line Cinema's epic adventure, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.

Before I tell you the origin of my name, I’ll tell you what it’s not.

It’s not American. It’s not Asian. It’s also not Swedish, although come to think of it, if you take the accent off the “e” and put an umlaut over the “o,” it could easily be passed off as the name of, say, an underbed storage box at Ikea.

“The THEÖDEN instantly turns the space under your bed into a smart place for storing!”

Is it Greek, then? Nope. More like Geek.

Théoden was the name of the King of Rohan, a character who first appeared in author J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Two Towers,” the second volume of his trilogy “The Lord of the Rings.” In today’s terms, it’d be like putting Dumbledore on a baby boy’s birth certificate.

Anyway, now that that’s out of the way... want to take a shot at pronouncing it?

Based on the spelling alone, there are several ways to try to get one’s tongue around my name. Thee-OH-duhn. THEE-uh-den. THEE-YODE-in. Thuh-OH-din. The Johns and Steves and Dougs of the world do not know this pain.

“No, it’s Mike. Like ‘Pike,’ except with an ‘M’ at the beginning. No, no, like this: ‘MYE-kh!’ 

And then there are the people who just completely ignore the spelling of my name.

Me: “Charlotte Observer, Théoden speaking.”

Caller: “Hi, is Theodore available?”

Me: “I’m sorry, Theodore is watching TV with Alvin and Simon at the moment. This is Théoden.”

(And when I say it, I say it like this: “THAY-den.” That “Th” sound is a hard “Th,” as if you’re saying “thing” or “think,” not a soft “th” like you’d find in “then” or “there.”)

Once people have heard it out loud, all bets are off.

Caller: “Say it one more time?”

Me (pronouncing it): “THAY-den.”

Caller: “David?”

Me: “Oh, sure. Why not.”

Or Dayton, or Hayden, or Jayden, Caden, Theta, Beta. Sometimes Fabien. Occasionally Vader, to which I respond with heavy, mechanical breathing. Once, I was called something even more sinister.

Me (pronouncing it): “THAY-den.”

Caller: “SATAN??”

(At which point I wished I had a voice-changer app on me so I could set it to “demon voice” and bellow “Your soul is MINE!” followed by a distorted, disturbing laugh.)

Caller (after being assured I’m not Lucifer): “What an interesting name. Where’s it from?”

Me: “My parents got it out of ‘The Lord of the Rings,’ and for the record, I hate ‘The Lord of the Rings.’ 

Caller: “Wow! I wonder how close they came to calling you Bilbo...”

(At which point I wished I had just done what I do when I order a mochaccino at Starbucks, which is tell them my name is “T.J.” and then bite my tongue when they decide that they heard “D.J.”)

In all seriousness, though, I like my name. It’s unique. There’s a story behind it – a nerdy story, but a story nonetheless. And it’s memorable, even if the pronunciation people commit to memory isn’t always right.

In fact, the only folks who nail it every time are hardcore “Lord of the Rings” fans and my parents. They know the proper way to say it is “THAY-o-den.” With a little bit of an “o” sound between the “THAY” and the “den.”

And now you know: Even I can’t pronounce my own name.

Janes: 704-358-5897;

Twitter: @theodenjanes

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