NABOKV-L post 0014224, Thu, 30 Nov 2006 09:31:30 -0500

Subject
Re: Greek C/ Sigma
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> The estimable Stephen Blackwell wrote:
>
> >at least in Medieval Greek writing, the "C" is indeed used to
> represent "sigma". This occurs mid-word as well as in word-final
> position. I can't think of any word-initial examples. More commonly,
> ordinary sigma, in word-final, looks like a blend of an "s" and a
"c"--a
> "c" with a little tail<
>
Although I intend to stay away from the assertions in this field,
especillly as they deal with Greek, I would humbly (you should
believe!) suggest that we remember to be sure that we not confuse
statements about orthography, and statements about speech.
any conclusions about the pronunciation of 'X' in Latin and in
Russian is apt to lead us down strange paths.

As regards the forms of what we might call "the letter 's'", this
letter of the alphabet has three variant shape in medieval western
Europe too. One of these is essentially like our printed 's' today --
a nice little worm, if you will. There is also one that looks much
like a written lower case 'o', ending with the little line from the
top going slightly to the right. And finally there is the one we
call the "long 's'", which we all at first mistook for a lower
case 'f', but without the little cross bar. Some scholars have
naughtily suggested that John Donne's little poem "The Flea" used
a 'long s' intentionally for its ambiguities in the lines that go,
"It sucked me first, and now sucks thee, and in this flea our two
bloods mingled be," wherein the mingled bodily fluids do nothing to
block this ambiguity. Go ahead and read the poem, consider the
Chateaubriand mosquito of Ada as like unto the flea, and then for
practice type out mr Donne's ditty using the 'long s'Once you
get the hang of it, try it on Puck's song about the bee from
Midsummernight's Dream, unless posts like this one become Bard.

John A. Rea

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