Monday, April 18, 2005



Here are some miscellaneous notes inspired by sightings in the blogosphere.

Sauvage Noble discusses the new species of slime-mold beetles named after Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld, with an emphasis on the Latinity of the scientific nomenclature. I once suggested that a Latin equivalent of George Walker Bush might be Agricola Ambulator Arbuscula.

Sauvage Noble also unearths an interesting ancient equivalent of "when pigs fly" in the pages of Varro's De Lingua Latina (7.39). It's a fragment of Naevius, "atque prius pariet lucusta Lucam bovem," meaning "and locust will give birth to Lucan ox (i.e. elephant) before..."

Philologists call this rhetorical trope an adynaton (impossibility). Examples are ubiquitous in ancient Greek and Latin literature. Among the earliest are these:There's an entire book on the subject by E. Dutoit, La thème de l'adynaton dans la poésie antique (1936).

Dennis Mangan muses on the word philology. Without a qualifier it often means just classical philology. The American Philological Association consists only of Greek and Latin scholars, although you can find articles on other languages (Persian, Old English) in early volumes of its Transactions. Likewise the American Journal of Philology today confines itself mostly to Greek and Latin language and literature. Compare catholic (universal), which now usually means just Roman Catholic.

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