Harry Campbell writes,
Who better than you to consult about my life-long puzzlement over the pronunciation of Ulysses. I've always stressed the second syllable, I’m not sure why, but initial stress seems to be the norm. What are the rights and wrongs of this, from a classicist’s point of view?
With last Saturday being Bloomsday, the airwaves were full of discussions of James Joyce’s novel Ulysses. And everyone I heard on BBC Radio Four called it ˈjuːlɪsiːz.
Not me. I’ve always called it juˈlɪsiːz, like the eponymous hero of the Odyssey, Greek Odysseus əˈdɪsjuːs and Latin Ulysses or (less usually) Ulixes (apparently via Sicilian Greek Οὐλίξης). In accordance with the Latin stress rule (stress the penultimate if it is a heavy syllable), all three forms of the name are traditionally stressed on the penultimate. The double s of Odysseus and Ulysses, like the x of Ulixes, makes the syllable heavy.
In the 12th edition of EPD (1963), the last to be edited by Jones himself, the pronunciation of Ulysses is given as
juˈlɪsiːz (rarely ˈjuːlɪsiːz)
(I’ve modernized the phonetic notation.)
By the 14th edition (ed. Gimson and Ramsaran, 1977) the word ‘rarely’ has been removed, but priority is still given to juˈlɪsiːz. It was only when Peter Roach took over as editor that the priority was changed, placing the antepenultimate-stressed version first. Judging by what I heard on the radio, Peter was right to make this change.
Perhaps I ought to do the same for LPD. Or at least conduct a preference poll.
The Merriam-Webster Collegiate and other dictionaries suggest that Americans still retain the traditional penultimate stressing. Perhaps it’s only the Brits (and only some of them) who have abandoned it.
The influence of my schooldays in the Classical Sixth is still strong. I don’t think I’m going to change my own pronunciation.