Notes on Odysseus' Name and Pseudonyms

(1.68) Odysseus so odious --an effort to translate a pun on Odysseus' name, which means "he who gives or receives pain." See Murnaghan's introduction, xxvi-xxvii and note (19.440-48) below.

(9.361) my glorious name --in Greek, m'onoma kluton or "my famous name."

(9.364) Noman = Outis = "no man" or "no one" in Greek. When the other Cyclopes say, "Is some man is rustling your flocks" and "If no man is hurting you" (9.404, 9.409), they use another Greek form of the negative, mê tis, which means "no one" or "no man." This word sounds very much like another Greek word--mêtis--which means "cunning intelligence," and which forms part of Odysseus's usual epithet polymêtis, or "much cunning intelligence." Odysseus himself makes the pun at 9.411-12, which might be more literally translated as: "my heart within laughed / at how my name and faultless cunning [mêtis] had fooled him."
(9.402) Polyphemus --In Greek, "much telling" or "much fame"--in other words, a braggart. Note that we learn the Cyclops' name only now, and that Odysseus, too, both hides his own name and talks a lot about his fame.

(19.199) My name is Aethon which means, "red," or "ruddy." Another form, aithomenos, means "burning, to kindle, set alight." Dimock suggests that in this passage Odysseus' fiery lies melt and dissolve Penelope to tears (see lines 19.219-225).

(19.440-48) Odysseus' name is related to the Greek verb odussomai, which usually means "to be angry at," "to hate," or "to be grieved." However, as George Dimock points out, in Homer's Odyssey the verb usually means "to cause pain" or "to bear a grudge against." Thus, Odysseus' name means "he who causes pain or makes others angry." Hence when he names Odysseus, Autolycus associates that name with his own tricky behavior: "odious, yes, / Hateful to many for the pain I have caused" (19.445-46). In addition, the verb associated with Odysseus' name can also mean "to suffer or receive pain." Lombardo translates this meaning (ôdinô, ôdusato) as "odious to" (1.68, 5.341, 5.425) and "hit him hard" (19.303). (In what ways does Odysseus cause pain, and in what ways is he grieving or long-suffering? Should a hero cause pain?) See the introduction, "The Man of Pain" (xvii-xxvii).

In addition, the theme of the name is immensely complicated by the meanings of the pseudonym that Odysseus uses to trick the Cyclops. Odysseus is a "no man" or "nobody" (ou tis), an "any man" ( tis) who is also famous for being extremely clever (mêtis). A hero cannot be a nobody, but must make his name glorious and famous by doing great deeds. If he dies unknown, as could have happened to Elpenor, his name and fame die with him, and he has little chance of being celebrated by poets and future generations.

(24.313-15) Alybas . . . Apheidas . . . Polypemon --These names that Odysseus tries to pawn off on his father are translated by Robert Fagles as "Roamer-Town," "Unsparing" and "old King Pain" respectively. According to Georg Autenrieth, Polypemon means "A great possessor or sufferer."

(24.315) Eperitus, Odysseus' last pseudonym, is translated by Fagles as "Man of Strife." George Dimock says the name sounds similar to peiretizon, "to put to the test" (328), precisely what Odysseus is doing to his father. (See lines 24.225 and 24.245-47.) To my ear, however, Eperitus seems closest to eperetos, "at the oar," or "furnished with oars."

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