Saturday, January 05, 2008



The Greek suffix -ίδης (-idēs), when combined with a proper name, forms a patronymic, e.g.All of these forms appear in Homer, and later Greek poets follow him. Choices for translators are limited. When Ἀτρείδης, say, occurs in Greek, it can be rendered as "son of Atreus" or "Atreus' son," paraphrased as Agamemnon, or simply transliterated as Atreidēs.

Some English names are patronymics as well. Johnson, for example, is "John's son." My father's first name was Vernon, so I could possibly be called Vernonson.

Frederick M. Combellack translated the Greek poet Quintus Smyrnaeus in a book with the title The War at Troy: What Homer Didn't Tell, by Quintus of Smyrna (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1968; rpt. New York: Barnes & Noble, 1996). In his translation Combellack adopted a unique way of translating Greek patronymics:To my mind, this is an unhappy experiment which should not be repeated. I do a double take every time I read one of these weird forms in Combellack's translation. It is just as odd as writing Samuel Johnidēs instead of Samuel Johnson.

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