Grammar

Donder or Donner? Did Santa Change the Name of a Reindeer?

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Donder or Donner? If you’ve ever had doubts about your memory of the reindeer traditionally listed in seventh place, you’re not alone.

When you list Santa Claus’s famous reindeers, do you list the seventh one as Donder or Donner?

I heard a friend recite a portion of the classic poem, A Visit From St. Nick the other day. You probably know the poem from its first line: “Twas the night before Christmas.”

When the co-worker reached the point at which Santa’s reindeer are listed, she read the name “Donner” for the seventh one.

At first, it didn’t faze me. But after a few moments, it dawned on me that I thought the reindeer’s name was “Donder.”

The more I thought about it, the more I began to wonder if “Donner” was what I’d heard more often. Still, I know I’ve heard both at different times.

I consulted another source in which the list appears: the 1949 song, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. It also lists “Donner.”

So where did this ‘Donder’ come from?

Was it some sort of false memory? Did I just mishear the name at some point?

The mystery deepens when you look at a map of the town of Santa Claus, Indiana. (Yes, it’s a real place.) You’ll find on the map a point at which Donder Lane and Blitzen Lane intersect.

It turns out, when you go back to the original printing of that famous aforementioned poem, you’ll find something curious. You’ll actually find more than one curious thing, including the controversy over who wrote it.

The poem originally listed “Dunder and Blitzem” as reindeer. That’s not a typo. It turns out that Dunder and Blitzem are the Dutch words for thunder and lightning.

Years later, during one of many reprints of the poem, the names became “Donder and Blitzen.” Snopes.com theorizes Blitzen was an attempt to make that name rhyme with Vixen. Donder may have been a typo or it could have been an attempt to get one letter closer to Donner. Donner and Blitzen are the German words for thunder and lightning.

So Dunder became Donder and Donder became Donner.

But if you were part of a generation that knew that seventh reindeer as Donder, then you surely passed that pronunciation down to your kids.

And some of us have been unclear on which name is right ever since.

In any case, I hope Donner and Blitzen, along with Rudolph and the rest, guide Santa Claus to your home and that you get what you’re hoping for under your tree!

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!

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Patrick is a Christian with more than 28 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.