Wednesday 9 December 2015

Travails with the Letter "S" Ancient & Modern

The remainder of the current blog may create an odd effect, but I can’t currently make my mouth and teeth yield what would hit your ear like the alphabetic entity in my title.  I am therefore writing the way I declaim and pledge to avoid the relevant letter (bar the indented material quoted from other people below).

For I have today taken the orthodontic plunge and had metal put within my teeth to de-rabbit them.  The brilliant Dr Clare McNamara, of Cheltenham Orthodontic fame, warned me about the problematic letter.

On returning home I found an email from the British Broadcathting Pronunthiation Unit, which read, unbelievably,

Dear Professor Hall,
One of our broadcasters has asked us to research the correct pronunciation for some of the alternative names of Odysseus and I was hoping you were available to advise us today.
If you do happen to have some time, could you please help us with the pronunciations of the following names?
 Olysseus/ λυσσεύς
Oulixeus /Ολιξεύς
I’d be happy to call you if you send me a contact number and a convenient time to call.

I cannot tell you what a droll phone dialogue that would have been. Try reading the above email but  putting “th” or “f” in for every you-know-what and for every “x” too. I recommended another academic.

Dionythiuth of Halicarnatthuth
Ancient Greek oratory often avoided the letter I cannot currently utter. An expert on putting together language called Dionysius of Halicarnassus deemed the effect of the letter we are talking about “charm-free” and "repellent", but then, with that name, he had probably had enough of it.

Pericleth' Funeral Oration
The Athenian general [dammit! I can’t refer to Greek nomenclature without my alphabetic item!], of whom the name began with "P", a great orator, avoided it. The tragedian beginning with “E” liked the effect it made in the mouth of clever and angry people like Medea, often aurally catlike.

Another, anon. drama, of which we have a fragment, experimented with avoiding the letter altogether. Had the author been having dental work done? In it the Titan beginning with “A”, who held up the firmament on their neck, and the hero beginning with “H”, who performed many a labour, had a quarrel off Gibraltar. The aural effect will have been like hearing me in my current condition.

The technical name for omitting one letter throughout a work = (ha! You thought you would catch me out with conjugating the verb “to be”!) LIPOGRAMMATIC.  I offer you here a very rough Anglophone rendition of the mediocre ancient Greek lipogrammatic dramatic dialogue chunk with A  and H. I am too tired to bother imitating the effect of the lack of the naughty letter here, and drop it in liberally. But I would love to hear from anyone feeling up to the job.

Atlas         I promised to bring apples here. Here they are. Take them. I didn’t promise anything else. I have kept my promise.
Heracles   I have been deceived. Perfidy! Infamy! I call upon heavenly Themis [goddess who protected people who’d had oaths sworn to them] to witness that Atlas has been dishonest with Heracles, although immortal by birth. I shall pursue him, even though I am a human on my mother’s side, since Zeus is my true father.
Atlas         Go and scare others, not me. Mother Earth is proud that she bore me first among the Titans, blood relatives of Cronus. We ruled with him on Mount Olympus.

Heracles   Justice, who supports the gods, has given a fierce look, even though she lives far away. [From Bodmer Papyrus 28]

1 comment:

  1. Which reminds me that in college, I once convinced my roommate that the aged Royal portable typewriter I had on my desk was just fine except the letter "e" did not work.

    He got down to the last page of a required ten page research paper before he tumbled to the fact I had been putting him on and he did not have to stop and painfully hand write in each "e."

    He was less than amused.