Daniel Dockery

animî nostrî dêbent interdum âlûcinâri

Home of published musician, recording artist, mathematician, programmer, translator, artist, classicist, and general polymath.
Things from Sappho to call your girlfriend • Daniel Dockery

Things from Sappho to call your girlfriend

June 10th, 2017

thoodleoo wrote:

  • ἀστέρων πάντων ὀ κάλλιστος (of all the stars, the fairest)
  • πόλυ πάκτιδος ἀδυμελεστέρα, χρύσω χρυσοτέρα (far sweeter-sounding than the lyre, far more golden than gold)
  • τὰν ἰόκολπον (violet-tressed, one with violets in her lap)
  • ὦ κάλα, ὦ χαρίεσσα κόρα (o beautiful, graceful girl)
  • ἦρος ἄγγελος ἰμερόφωνος ἀήδων (nightingale, sweet-voiced messenger of spring)

“Violet-tressed”? How do they get “tressed” out of that word? “Violets in her lap” also won’t work; the best there would be violet-lapped or having a violet lap, and if that makes no sense, it’s because it’s a mistake. More common is seeing it translated as “circled/girdled in violets”, but that comes from replacing the actual word ἰόκολπον with ἰόζωνον as emendation as if they were the same. It’s a compound word, ἴον + κόλπος, “purple breasts”; swapping out ἰόκολπον with ἰόζωνον allowed them to change it to “girdled with violets”, a trend that seems to’ve gotten its start in the Victorian translation era where they were afraid to to suggest anything vaguely “improper”, like, you know, breasts.

In earlier dictionaries, like the Lexicon Græco-Prosodiacum of Thomas Morell (London, 1824), they were more direct, so that on page 415 of said work,  Ἴοκυλπος is defined as pulchrum pectus habens. That is, “having beautiful breasts.” In support, it cites a fragment of Alcæus, ἄεισον ἄμμι τὰν ἰόκολπον: “I sing of beautiful breasts.” It gives a footnote to the word, for any confused by how a prefix that literally means “purple” is being read as “beautiful”:

Uocem ἴον in hoc composito pro pulchro quodam ac lucido colore accipio: sicuti purpureus apud Latinos fulgentem simul atque albam cycnorum speciem denotat. Tenendum porro in memoria, uiolarum quasdam esse candidas.

That is, “I take the expression ἴον in this compound for something beautiful as well as of a white, as in clear or unblemished, complexion: in the same way purpureus (i.e. ‘purple’) in Latin writings indicates a kind of white swan, and further remembering that uiolarum quasdam (‘something violet’) means to be clear/spotless/white.” A modern Greek etymological work gives [ΕΤΥΜΟΛ. < ἴον + κόλπος «μπούστο»]—where μπούστο is modern Greek for “bust”.

Now, all that said, it’s still a nice thing to say, just remember, your flowery language is actually complimenting her boobs. Compliment away! As the monk Adso of Melk once said, Pulchra sunt ubera!

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

Daniel Dockery

animî nostrî dêbent interdum âlûcinâri

Home of published musician, recording artist, mathematician, programmer, translator, artist, classicist, and general polymath.

If you enjoy the original research and material I provide here, perhaps consider a small tip. Anything is appreciated.

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com