Penthesilea and satyrs

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Melvyn Bragg trailed this week’s In Our Time (on the Amazons) on Radio 4 this morning (Thursday 11 April) at 8.30 pronouncing these two words as /penθəˈsiːlɪə/ and /ˈsætaɪəz/.

I was interested to learn what he was going to say in the actual programme, when confronted with three Greek scholars. On the first mention of the name, he repeated /penθəˈsiːlɪə/, but then asked if this was correct. His guest was very kind, and said that there were two spellings, and that this was the pronunciation of one of them. They then both went on with /penθesɪˈl(e)ɪə/, which is the only stress pattern I can find in most dictionaries, British or American. However, the Oxford Dictionary of Pronunciation does give /penθəˈsɪlɪə/ as an American pronunciation, so perhaps Lord Bragg has picked it up there at some time.

I was not aware of the word satyrs being used in the programme, but perhaps I wasn’t listening carefully enough.

One Comment

  1. In Modern Greek, at least, it’s Πενθεσίλεια — of which Melvyn’s /penθəˈsiːlɪə/ is, I would have thought, a very reasonable anglicization. I wonder what the other (presumably Greek) spelling was that his guest had in mind.

    I doubt, incidentally, that the presenter “picked up” his first pronunciation in America: to me it looks far more likely to be the result of a well-educated person’s reasonable stab at an unfamiliar word.

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