Tag Archives: Friday Funny Words

Friday is for Funny Words

This week I don’t have a particular word, but a funny exchange from Aristophanes’ Clouds, one of my favorite plays. Strepsiades, whose name is related to the Greek word στρέφω, which can mean to turn back and forth, to twist, or to guide (in the case of horses), goes to the The Thinkery (φροντιστήριον) to meet Socrates. One of the disciples answers the door and begins to tell Strepsiades about all the wonderful things Socrates spends his time thinking about, one of which is whether a gnat buzzes from its mouth or anus. The disciple tells Strepsiades that Socrates has realized that it is through the anus (of course, we’re talking Aristophanes here) that the gnat makes its sound and Strepsiades replies thus:

Στρεψίαδης
σάλπιγξ ὁ πρωκτός ἐστιν ἄρα τῶν ἐμπίδων.
ὦ τρισμακάριος τοῦ διεντερεύματος.
ἦ ῥᾳδίως φεύγων ἂν ἀποφύγοι δίκην
ὅστις δίοιδε τοὔντερον τῆς ἐμπίδος.

Strepsiades
Then the anus of the gnat is a trumpet!
Oh thrice-blessed is his ass-ray vision(1)!
Quite easily would the one seeking to flee from justice escape it
who can examine the intestines of gnats!

(1) The word used here by Aristophanes has to do with looking at entrails, but is used to mean ‘sharp-sightedness’ here, poking fun at the fact that Socrates the lofty thinker spends his time discerning such things as gnat intestines. If you have never read Clouds, you really should. You could read it this weekend in one sitting and laugh your πυγή  off.

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Friday is for Funny Words

This week’s funny word is βρεκεκεκὲξ, a sound meant to imitate that of the frogs in Aristophanes’ “Frogs.” It is followed by “κοὰξ κοάξ” (ln. 209).

The chorus of the frogs is:

βρεκεκεκὲξ κοὰξ κοάξ
βρεκεκεκὲξ κοὰξ κοάξ
λιμναῖα κρηνῶν τέκνα,
ξύναυλον ὕμνων βοὰν
φθεγξώμεθ’, εὔγηρυν ἐμὰν ἀοιδάν,
κοὰξ κοάξ,
ἥν ἀμφὶ Νυσήιον
Διὸς Διόνυσον ἐν
Λίμναισιν ἰαχήσαμεν,
ἡνίχ’ ὁ κραιπαλόκωμος
τοῖς ἱεροῖσι Χύτροισι
χωρεῖ κατ’ ἐμὸν τέμενος λαῶν ὄχλος.
βρεκεκεκὲξ κοὰξ κοάξ.

Brekekekex Koax Koax
Brekekekex Koax Koax
Marshy children of the water
Harmonious crying of hymns
Let us sing, my sweet sounding song,
Koax Koax,
which we roared for Nymphian
Dionysus of Zeus
at Limnae
When the crowd drunk in revelry
During the holy feast of pots
Comes to my precinct
Brekekekex Koax Koax

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Friday is for Funny Words

This Friday’s funny word is my favorite Latin word: pullarius or “chicken master.” Cicero in his De Divinitate (On Divination) talks about the duties of the pullarius and his skepticism concerning the efficacy of their omens. In the morning, a pullarius would go out to feed the chickens in silence. If the chickens ate with fervor, it was a good omen. If not, it was received as a bad omen. One of the most famous instances of this type of augury in antiquity was when Publius Claudius Pulcher, during the First Punic war (mid-3rd century BC), sailed out against the Carthaginians even though the chickens did not eat with vigor that morning. He lost the battle (probably because the men were so frightened they were incapable of fighting well) and was subsequently exiled for his sacrilege.

Tum ille: “Dicito, si pascentur.” “Pascuntur”. Quae aves? Aut ubi? Attulit, inquit, in cavea pullos is, qui ex eo ipso nominatur pullarius. Haec sunt igitur aves internuntiae Iovis! Quae pascantur necne, quid refert? Nihil ad auspicia; sed quia, cum pascuntur, necesse est aliquid ex ore cadere et terram pavire (terripavium primo, post terripudium dictum est; hoc quidem iam tripudium dicitur) – cum igitur offa cecidit ex ore pulli, tum auspicanti tripudium solistimum nuntiatur. Ergo hoc auspicium divini quicquam habere potest, quod tam sit coactum et expressum?

My translation is thus:

Then he said: “Tell me if they eat.” “They are eating” responds the Augur. “What birds? And where?” He says, “A man brings the chickens into the birdcage and on account of this is called the chicken master (pullarius).” These chickens are therefore the mediators of Jove! And whether they eat or not, what does it matter? Nothing to the auspices; but because, if they eat, it is necessary that something will fall from their beak and strike the ground (this was at first called terripavium, afterwards called terripudium, and now it is indeed called tripudium [a favorable omen when chickens eat greedily]) – therefore when the food falls from the beak of the chicken, then it is said that the most perfect chicken omen has begun. Therefore how is this omen able to have anything divine, which is so forced and strained?

Come to think of it, tripudium solistimum (the most perfect chicken omen) is pretty funny too.

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My new favorite Greek verb

Those of you who have taken courses on a foreign language wherein translation was the main component will appreciate this one. The verb is λωεβιζομαι – that is, “I use the Loeb (for myself)”.

When someone in your class has trouble recognizing a present tense verb one week, but comes in with the most polished translation the next(sounding a bit like 1950’s English), you can use this verb.

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Friday is for funny words

This has been a rather busy week, so I don’t have a funny word, but a funny phrase:

Postquam Crassus carbo factus, Carbo crassus factus est. – Terence

After Crassus became ashes, Carbo became fat/rich.

Terence is describing a situation in which Crassus, a rich man, dies and becomes ashes (carbo), while his heir, Carbo, becomes fat/rich (Crassus). Isn’t Latin fun?

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