Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Words Pirithous Doesn't Know

The problem with writing Pirithous in the modern world, is that on the one hand, you have everyone around him who speaks English fluently, born into it, with all the cultural context they require, and on the other -- there's Pirithous, whose culture context is somewhat limited by the fact that he's been in Hades for the last three thousand years. You might remember my post on what expression Pirithous might use for Thalia's *ahem* backside, for example.

I mean, sure, Pirithous has learned English by now, but if I start going on about the Nixes, how many people on the street are going to know what the heck I'm talking about? Without context, language loses a lot of meaning. Maybe you can put together by context in the conversation that the nixes had something to do with water, or were some mythical creature, but how confident would you be in adding "Nix" to your vocabulary?

Waterhouse Hylas and the Nymphs Manchester Art Gallery 1896.15
Nymphs, of course!

So here I am, once again, struggling to find the right word for Pirithous to use as a pet name for Thalia. Would he really have the cultural/religious context and confidence to employ the word "imp" even if he'd picked it from Thalia's vocabulary? What about "minx," which probably never crossed her mind? Nymph is the most obvious choice, but since he's already used that one with another woman in his life, I'm not sure reuse is appropriate -- even if it is a different book.

Even more challenging, even if I knew enough Greek to employ something cultural appropriate (do Greeks have any Greek-specific pet names?) it wouldn't be the right language for Pirithous. He predates Classical Greek culture by somewhere around 600 years. And while I do fudge things a little bit to allow some level of (mis)understanding -- in my defense, they have a really hard time communicating while it lasts -- I'm not sure I can get away with putting words in his mouth that don't fit his cultural context.

So I went looking through the words captured in the Linear B tablets, since after all, Pirithous does hail from that era -- not that I had much luck, there, either:

i-je-re-ja -- priestess (female) (ιέρεια -- priestess)
pi-pi-tu-na -- Pipituna ? Goddess name ? (a bird goddess? from Indo-European: 'pī̆p(p)-', 'to peep, squeak'
Po-ti-ni-a -- (The Great Lady ) Goddess surname Etym.Indo-European 'poti-s', 'host, husband, lord, master, owner' and 'gu̯ē̆nā 'queen, wife, woman'
ku-na-ja -- woman (γυναίκα -- woman) from Indo-European 'gu̯ē̆nā, 'wife, queen, woman'

Not a one of these words would roll off the tongue casually, no matter whether you were raised in it or not. (Though, I must admit, Pipituna does kind of appeal, or it would if it weren't  four syllables.) So where does that leave me?

Friends and Followers, I am stumped. Hopefully something will present itself naturally in the next couple pages, or I might scream.


  1. Perhaps he shortens Pipituna into Pipi...or tuna :P Or Potinia into Tinia? Nia? I don't know.

    1. hahaha. seems like shortening to Pipi would result in the nickname meaning "squeaker" or something similar.

  2. Don't assume that the words were pronounced as written. Linear B was derived from Linear A, and probably didn't accommodate all the sounds in the Mycenaean Greek tongue.

    1. I actually kind of assume the opposite, that it's all crazy moon language. One of the historians I've spoken too suggests that the difference between Classical Greek and Mycenaean Greek might not have been insurmountable though, which is fascinating to me. he compared it to a modern day person hearing Shakespeare, or maybe a slightly more challenging, but still understandable.


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