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Subject:st st
Time:12:04 pm
Current Mood:impressedimpressed
quod semel dictum est stabilisque rerum (Horace, carm. saec. 26)

Mueller pronounced the homophony of -st st- in 26 to be 'unmöglich', which PHI shows not to be quite the case, but it comes close enough to be an important factor: This would be the only instance in H., it is absent from Virgil (Aen. 7.552-3 abunde est: / stant, with line-end and strong punctuation, the only one such instance, is less offensive), Catullus has one example (78.5 Gallus homo est stultus, where the offense and the effect may be deliberate), as does Lucretius (5.1365), Propertius has two (2.34.53; 3.15.30), Tibullus, none. Ovid is fairly unconcerned, with eleven instances (Her. 15.1; 19.146; Ars 2.444; Rem. 207; Met. 3.186; 4.300; 6.55; 8.451 (across line-end); Fast. 5.448; Trist. 2.1.257; 5.12.62), Lucan has three (3.461; 6.378; 8.592), Statius, one (Ach. 1.600). It was also avoided by prose authors, Livy, for instance, having only ten examples, with intervening punctuation in all but three cases. (Richard F. Thomas's commentary on Horace's fourth book of odes and the carmen saeculare, Cambridge University Press 2011.)

PHI: Packard Humanities Institute, CD ROM 5.3 c. 1991.

I must be deaf, "st st" never offended me.
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goulo
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Time:2012-12-22 12:43 pm (UTC)
> I must be deaf, "st st" never offended me.

Heh, same here; I don't see a problem. It's certainly not 'unmöglich'. :)

E.g. English speakers seem to have no problem with it in "first star" (Star light, star bright, first star I see tonight)...
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cnoocy
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Time:2012-12-22 01:05 pm (UTC)
It does create a pause, though, in both languages. I wouldn't call it offensive, but it's noticeable, like a strong spice that not every cook likes to use. It would be interesting to look at what Ovid does with it in those eleven instances.
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finalarrowhail
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Time:2012-12-22 10:12 pm (UTC)
I pronounce "first star" sort of like "fir-star" but it's obvious to anyone what I'm saying. Perhaps it's similar in Latin?

Edited at 2012-12-22 10:12 pm (UTC)
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leopold_paula_b
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Time:2013-03-09 01:02 pm (UTC)
A riddle from Joyce's Ulysses also ignores the difference between "st" and "st st":

Q: Which opera is like a railway line?
A: Balfe's "Rose of Castile" ("rows of cast steel")
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leopold_paula_b
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Time:2012-12-24 02:23 pm (UTC)
I do hear it now, but as I said I never did before.

"I must stick to my guns" wouldn't sound awkward, would it? I assume in everyday language the first "t" would almost be silent. But on the stage of the German theatre (I'm from Vienna) "Ist's Tag?" (Is it day?) would be quite a tongue-twistster. So yes, impossible after all.
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beluosus
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Time:2012-12-23 11:09 am (UTC)
Reminds me of my favourite line in Aeschylus' Persae :

      οὓς αὐτὸς ἄναξ Ξέρξης βασιλεὺς

-ks ks-...ks

and four sigmas as well.
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leopold_paula_b
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Time:2012-12-24 02:34 pm (UTC)
Wonderful example. And of course what's wrong about it? Homer started the Odyssey with no less than four poly's and thirteen p's in the first four verses:

Ἄνδρα μοι ἔννεπε, Μοῦσα, πολύτροπον, ὃς μάλα πολλὰ
πλάγχθη, ἐπεὶ Τροίης ἱερὸν πτολίεθρον ἔπερσε·
πολλῶν δ’ ἀνθρώπων ἴδεν ἄστεα καὶ νόον ἔγνω,
πολλὰ δ’ ὅ γ’ ἐν πόντῳ πάθεν ἄλγεα ὃν κατὰ θυμόν,
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falmouthroad
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Time:2013-02-02 03:25 pm (UTC)
Mueller's 'unmöglich' means 'unlovely' not 'unique' and perhaps he was right. Here the effect seems to be to slow the line down to an almost standstill (to try to capture something of the effect - i.e. to add weight to the concept of 'stabilis').

Gilbert Highet has an article 'Consonant Clashes in Latin Poetry' CP Vol. 69, No. 3 (Jul., 1974), pp. 178-185 which examines the effect of the same consonant terminating a word as begins the succeeding word (of which the -st st- is, in effect, an extreme example) and has long lists of examples. A flavour of his analysis can be seen from the following:

Obviously a sound which is repeated, not
after an interval occupied by other sounds
(as in initial alliteration), but immediately,
after a minimal pause between two words,
will be striking in its effect. Thus we actu-
ally seem to hear the hiss of the serpents in
"tot Erinys sibilat hydris" (Verg. Aen. 7.
447). Very frequently the particular sound of
the two colliding letters is heard elsewhere
within the line or near it, and is thus strength-
ened still further, as here in "hydris."

On alliteration in general, early Roman poetry seemed to have no problem with and, indeed, find attraction in some crude alliterative effects. A famous (...notorious) example being Ennius Annales Fr. "Tite tute Tati tibi tanta tyranne tulisti." which seems almost laughable to a modern reader (and probably did to the Augustan ear (cf. too e.g. 'At tuba terribili sonitu taratantara dixit' which is perhaps a little more palatable). It is interesting that even Gallus (in elegiacs) was not averse to 'domina deicere digna' Gallus Fr. 2.7 (Courtney). By Vergil and Horace's time, there was a more judicious approach to alliteration, although, of course, it is still an important and pervasive feature.
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falmouthroad
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Time:2013-02-02 03:35 pm (UTC)
'Mueller's 'unmöglich' means 'unlovely' not 'unique' and perhaps he was right.'

Scratch that - my German is worse than I thought it was...!
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