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:

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

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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