TǍMINE / common dolphin

photo source: wikimedia

tǎmine“, s.f. pronounced [t(ɔ̃/ʊ̃)mẽɪ̯̃n(:)] 🔊, lit. Thomine, (the Norman female diminutive variant of the name Thomas) is the Old Sarkese name for “beaked” dolphins, otherwise known under the generic term as “márėsuên“. The name was reintroduced as a name for “common dolphin” (Delphinus delphis), based on the description given by John Hamon to Patrice Brasseur in the 1970s, thanks to whom this intriguing word was recorded and preserved for the future, since it hasn’t been recalled in the 21st century by any of the last active speakers, not even by Bas Adams.

Although used today as the primary name for “common dolphin”, the use of the word “tǎmine” for any sharp beaked dolphin, is not discouraged; see “grôse tǎmine” and below.

origin: obscure name derivation / first recorded for Sarkese: 1975 (PB) / current status in the 21st century: forgotten, reintroduced

“tǎmine” is a feminine countable invariable noun (a she-word that does not change in plural). We say “une tǎmine”, a/one (common) dolphin, “dê tǎmine”, some (common) dolphins, without any change in how we pronounce or write the word. The pronunciation is regular, though specific, as with the rare nasal ‘ǎm/ǎn’, which may be pronounced both as [ɔ̃] and [ʊ̃], or even something between, depending on the speaker and how quickly we speak (though rarely as [ɑ̃]/[ɒ̃]), as in l’Mǎnẏ, the Manoir. The final ‘-ine’ is pronounced as [ẽɪ̯̃n:] in final stressed position, but if a word directly follows the noun, the ending gets regularly simplified to [ɪ̃n].

On the origin and the meaning

The unusual Sarkese name “tǎmine” for “beaked” dolphins has no known counterpart in the Norman languages, in terms of either meaning, form or a combination. It was first recorded in 1975 by Patrice Brasseur while consulting John Hamon, a native Sarkese speaker and fisherman, who confirmed it as a common Sark Norman name for dolphins that have “beaks like garfish.”

a common dolphin with its prominent beak
photo source: wikimedia

“Il’ôn un běke cůme un hórfi. Un grân! I’sòte hǒr l’yò é châse lê hórfì.” (JH)

They have a beak like a garfish. A big one! They jump out of water and chase the garfish.
(John Hamon, recorded by P. Brasseur in 1975)

The name itself originates from the diminutive form of the female given name “Tǎmine”, Thomine, the Norman female variant of the name Thomas. Though not used in Sark in as a proper name, at least according to the registers, it once used to be fairly common in Jersey, under the spoken form “Tanmine”, and written in French as “Thomine” – though originally feminine, this name may alsp be used as an informal diminutive for men. In Sarkese, in the meaning of “dolphin”, it is only feminine (a she-word).

The reason why the Old Sarkese fishermen adopted this female diminutive name for one of the “beaked dolphins”, which fall under “márėsuên“, dolphins, is unknown. Moreover, since the name wasn’t recalled in the 21st century, we may never be certain which exact subspecies of dolphins this name originally concerned in Old Sarkese, since there are several kinds of dolphins living in the local waters. Nevertheless, thanks to John Hamon and Patrice Brasseur we not only know it was commonly used for “beaked” dolphins, but because the specific description of a “garfish-like beak” fits the “common dolphin”, which was once the most common dolphin around Sark, we have our most probable candidate.

The word was therefore reintroduced mainly as the name for “common dolphin”, since bottlenose dolphins, the current most frequent dolphins around Sark, have been called simply “márėsuên“, dolphins. The use of the word “tǎmine” for any sharp beaked dolphin is not discouraged, and an optional neologism “grôse tǎmine” for “bottlenose dolphin” has been proposed, to eliminate the possibility, that even this subspecies of the dolphins, though with less sharp a beak, but still a distinctive and a large one, was once too called “tǎmine” in Sarkese.


Citation: NEUDÖRFL, Martin. tǎmine/common dolphin. In: Sark Norman Dictionary Online [on-line]. https://www.bonjhur.net/sndo-vocab-fauna-tamine

Relevant SNDO Entries:

→ back to the MARINE FAUNA OF SARK section