For the link between etymology and genealogy, we may think, with Peradotto, of the name of Penelope, who was most probably named after a kind of ‘duck’ (πηνέλοψ)—there are more ancient examples of girls being named after animals. However, as Peradotto points out, it is possible that the name itself became the object of reflection, and was reetymologized and connected to πήνη, “woof”, and λώπη “robe, mantle”; this etymology would have been an impulse or mnemonic support to generate the story of a heroine who spun a robe by day and undid her work by night. Of course, the alternative is that the myth was there first, and that a suitable name for its heroine was subsequently devised: this is a chicken-and-egg question, but however that is, there is an undeniable link between the etymology of the name and the mythological story.
Rank discusses, but rightly rejects, an allusion to an etymology πήνεα λέπουσα in Penelope’s story of her wily weaving in Od. 19.137 (οἱ δὲ γάµον σπεύδουσιν· ἐγὼ δὲ δόλους τολυπεύω “they are urging marriage; but I am weaving tricks”) on the grounds that all basis in assonance is lacking here. Peradotto’s view on the content-generating effect of names is reminiscent of Guiraud’s concept of “rétro-motivation”, with its dynamic movement from ‘forme’ to ‘fond’ (content) rather than the other way around (where there would be an actual impulse to create a motivated name, i.e. ‘motivation’). In “rétro-motivation”, the sign literally creates its referent, the ‘word’ brings about the ‘thing’. .
“Even the name of Penelope signals the theme of lament, being derived from penelops, a bird that is associated in poetry with such typical birds of lament as the nightingale and halcyon. See Levaniouk 1999”Excerpt FromEve of the Festival Making Myth in Odyssey 19Levaniouk, Olga
In Bader’s opinion Penelope’s name results from a wordplay: the p- of πήνη is substituted for the initial kh- of χηνέλοψ or χηνάλοψ, a name of a bird. According to Bader, χηνέλοψ was reinterpreted and “mutated” to give χηναλώπηξ, a combination of χήν, ‘goose’ and ἀλώπηξ, ‘fox’.Bader thus argues for an identification of πηνέλοψ with χηναλώπηξ, with πηνέλοψ being at first only a poetic formation based on Penelope’s name. Thus, according to Bader, Penelope’s name is based not on πηνέλοψ (which post-dates the name) but instead on χηνέλοψ/χηναλώπηξ, which fits Penelope’s behavior: ‘goose’ corresponds to her fidelity, while ‘fox’ symbolizes her cunning.According to the scholia to Aristophanes Birds 1302 the penelops is similar to a duck (νήττῃ μέν ἐστιν ὅμοιον), but larger, though the same scholia claim that it is about the size of a pigeon (περιστερή). Penelops is listed with geese and sheldrake by Aristotle in Historia Animalium 593b23.The sheldrake (χηναλώπηξ) is a species of duck, but it is goose-like in appearance and was seen as a goose by the Greeks. Aristophanes (Birds 1302) also lists it next to the goose.
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