Nein to Umlauts. Long Live Distigmai!

Breaking news is a common thing in textual criticism in terms of interesting fragments, variants, and digitized bits and bobs popping up on the blogosphere and discussion lists. But in a breathtaking blitz on the common use of "umlaut" to describe the pairs of dots in the margin of Codex Vaticanus, Philip Payne has officially declared* that they henceforth be called "distigmai" (pl) or "distigme" (sing) for the following reasons:

1. It will be readily recognized as a technical term with a specific
meaning, namely the presence of two (di) points (stigmata).
2. It has no other meaning that might distract from its use to
identify the locations of textual variants.
3. It is related to other expressions that described textual variants
in antiquity and is the most in keeping with the standard lexicon of
Greek paleography.
4. It is the expression most likely to gain universal acceptance.

Thanks to this modification, we will also know what to call the marks discovered by James Snapp in Codex Sangallensis 50 (a beautiful 9th century gospels codex, see the covers and pastedowns in the "binding" menu). It is generally accepted that they indicate textual variants in Vaticanus, but this is not indicative of their purpose in other contexts. This clarification is helpful, in that umlaut has always been a silly makeshift designation - I just tended to call them double stigmai when not in mixed company. See Evangelical Textual Criticism for the whole story behind this shift in terminology. I don't expect to hear about this on Paul Harvey anytime soon. Willker has an excellent page on these distigmai (which is just today outdated!), from which this image is shamefully stolen:

*Apparently this will be codified in the forthcoming: Philip B. Payne and Paul Canart. "Distigmai Matching the Original Ink of Codex Vaticanus: Do they Mark the Location of Textual Variants?" pages 191-213 in Patrick Andrist, ed., Le manuscrit B de la Bible (Vaticanus gr. 1209): Introduction au fac-similé, Actes du Colloque de Genève (11 juin 2001), contributions supplémentaires. Prahins, Switzerland: Éditions du Zèbre, 2009


Anonymous said...

Given that Payne was the first to call attention to these marks in Vaticanus and invented the term 'umlaut', it's fair enough that he should be allowed an opportunity to rename them with a more appropriate technical term.

P. Smith said...

What will the bars in B be called? Saloonigmai? Please excuse my attempt at humor.

Thanks for the update Mike. I'll need to rework a current paper.

M. Leary said...

Anonymous, I hear where you are coming from, but wonder if Payne will refer to this in the upcoming essay collection. And this happens all the time in codicology, as different descriptions of the same cataloged feature can vary widely (end sheet, lined sheet, end liner, pastedown, etc...). It is nice when some comes along and says: this is called "this".

If I am not mistaken, beyond the precedents listed in the ETC blog, most databases (like Schoyen and U. Mich, for example) uses variations of stigme for dot notations.

Pete, it took me a second to get your joke. And then I groaned inwardly.

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