Saturday, July 29, 2006


Saturday Salmagundi

Peter Head at Evangelical Textual Criticism takes a humorous look at the computer-generated index of Wayne C. Kannaday, Apologetic Discourse and the Scribal Tradition: Evidence of the Influence of Apologetic Interests on the Text of the Canonical Gospels (Text-Critical Studies 5; Atlanta GA: SBL, 2004). I'm reminded of the words of F.R.D. Goodyear, The Annals of Tacitus. Books 1-6 edited with a commentary, vol. 1 (Cambridge, 1972), p. 15, n. 1:
There is much in Gerber-Greef with which one may disagree. Naturally so, for it is a scholarly work and full of controversial opinions. I esteem it the more every time I look at the wretched computerized products which now masquerade as lexica and concordances.

From the Associated Press:
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has ordered government and cultural bodies to use modified Persian words to replace foreign words that have crept into the language, such as "pizzas" which will now be known as "elastic loaves," state media reported Saturday.

On the subject of philosophers and beards, here is Thomas More, Epigram 139:
If a long beard makes one wise, what prevents a bearded goat from being able to be a Plato?

Si promissa facit sapientem barba, quid obstat
  barbatus possit quin caper esse Plato?
This is a translation of a poem from the Greek Anthology (11.430, by Lucian):
Εἰ τὸ τρέφειν πώγωνα δοκεῖς σοφίαν περιποιεῖν,
  καὶ τράγος εὐπώγων αἶψ᾽ ὅλος ἐστὶ Πλάτων.

In the last post, I quoted G.G. Ramsay's translation of a passage from Juvenal. The translation contained the words "against whose statue more than one kind of nuisance may be committed!" The Latin is "cuius ad effigiem non tantum meiere fas est." Ramsay euphemistically conceals Juvenal's crude language. A more literal translation is "against whose statue it is permitted not only to urinate." Juvenal implies "non tantum meiere fas est, sed etiam cacare," that is, "it is permitted not only to urinate, but also to defecate" on the statue.

Of the two Juvenal editions with commentaries on my bookshelf, E.G. Hardy's school edition omits this line altogether, and J.D. Duff's edition includes the line in the text, but does not comment on it. There is a parallel in Horace, Satires 1.8.37-39, where a statue of the god Priapus swears this oath:
But if I am telling a lie in any respect, may I be fouled on my head with the white turds of crows, and may Julius and frail Pediatia and the thief Voranus come to urinate and defecate on me.

mentior at siquid, merdis caput inquiner albis
corvorum atque in me veniat mictum atque cacatum
Iulius et fragilis Pediatia furque Voranus.
Arthur Palmer's edition with commentary of Horace's satires omits these lines.

There is a likewise a parallel to Priapus' oath in Aristophanes' Wasps, at the end of a prayer to the hero Lycus, where Philocleon promises (393-394, tr. Alan H. Sommerstein):
O take pity now on me who dwell close to thee, and save me, and I vow never to piss or fart beside your wicker fence.

ἐλέησον καὶ σῶσον νυνὶ τὸν σαυτοῦ πλησιόχωρον·
κοὐ μή ποτέ σου παρὰ τὰς κάννας οὐρήσω μηδ᾽ ἀποπάρδω.
This is a parody of the do ut des ("I give so that you may give") type of prayer. What Philocleon gives is a promise not to defile the fence around the hero's shrine, in return for which he wants the hero to pity and save him.

Philocleon is actually making a considerable sacrifice. The beneficial health effects of urinating and breaking wind simultaneously are well known. As the jingle goes,
Mingere cum bumbis,
Res saluberrima est lumbis.
Meio and mingo are synonyms in Latin, both meaning urinate. There is a small town in Iowa named Mingo.

G.K. Chesterton, All Things Considered:
I believe firmly in the value of all vulgar notions, especially of vulgar jokes. When once you have got hold of a vulgar joke, you may be certain that you have got hold of a subtle and spiritual idea. The men who made the joke saw something deep which they could not express except by something silly and emphatic. They saw something delicate which they could only express by something indelicate. I remember that Mr. Max Beerbohm (who has every merit except democracy) attempted to analyse the jokes at which the mob laughs. He divided them into three sections: jokes about bodily humiliation, jokes about things alien, such as foreigners, and jokes about bad cheese. Mr. Max Beerbohn thought he understood the first two forms; but I am not sure that he did. In order to understand vulgar humour it is not enough to be humorous. One must also be vulgar, as I am.

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