Friday, November 09, 2018


A Peculiar Idiom

Jacob Wackernagel (1853-1938), Lectures on Syntax, tr. David Langslow (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009), pp. 764-765:
[I]n Ajax's famous words in Sophocles' play, 665 ἐχθρῶν ἄδωρα δῶρα κοὐκ ὀνήσιμα ('the gifts of enemies are no gifts and of no benefit'), the privative ἄδωρα is to be taken as 'non-gifts', though etymologically it means 'not consisting of gifts' (see DEBRUNNER 1917: 58 §117). On this peculiar idiom, which can involve different stems (e.g. Soph. Phil. 534 ἄοικος οἴκησις 'a dwelling that is no dwelling'), see most recently Gustav MEYER's study of the stylistic use of nominal compounding in Greek (1923: 103–4). Latin writers who imitate this have to resort to privatives in -tus, as e.g. in Cicero, Philippics 1.5 insepulta sepultura for Gk τάφος ἄταφος ('a burial that was no burial'), or in an unknown Roman tragedian (fr. 42, v. 80 Ribbeck) innuptis nuptiis for Gk ἄγαμος γάμος ('a marriage that is no marriage').—In imitation of tragedy, where such privative compounds can stand even in a predicative relation to their simplex nouns (cf. Soph. Ajax 665, quoted above), the philosophers also ventured to use this sort of pattern. So, e.g. Plato, Laws 6, 766d πάσα ... πόλις ἄπολις ἂν γίγνοιτο 'the whole city would become a non-city', Aristotle, Physics 1. 8, 191b6 (ὁ ἰατρὸς) ἰατρεύει καὶ ἀνίατρος γίνεται ᾗ ἰατρός '(the doctor) practises as a doctor or becomes a non-doctor qua doctor', Theophrastus (in Plutarch, Lycurgus 10.2) τὸν πλοῦτον ἄζηλον καὶ ἄπλουτον ἀπεργάσασθαι 'he made wealth an object of no desire and even un-wealth', and so on. Another example is ἀπάθη in the sense of 'not real πάθη' in Antiphon the Sophist, B 5 (no. 87 DIELS & KRANZ). Compare Pausanias 6.22.3 ταύτας τὰς ὀλυμπιάδας 'ἀνολυμπιάδας' οἱ Ἠλεῖοι καλοῦντες οὐ σφᾶς ἐν καταλόγῳ τῶν ὀλυμπιάδων γράφουσιν 'the Eleans call these Olympiads non-Olympiads, and omit them from the list'.
W.S. Barrett on Euripides, Hippolytus 1144 (p. 376):

See also Detlev Fehling, "ΝϒΚΤΟΣ ΠΑΙΔΕΣ ΑΠΑΙΔΕΣ A. Eum. 1034 und das Sogenannte Oxymoron in der Tragödie," Hermes 96.2 (1968) 142-155.

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