Saturday, May 12, 2007


Saturday Salmagundi

I was intrigued by defeated French presidential candidate Ségolène Royal's first name. It is apparently a Gallicization of German Sieglinde, itself from Sieg (victory) and Linde (shield made of linden wood). See Gerhard Köbler, Althochdeutsches Wörterbuch, s.vv. sigu* and linta.

I wondered if English blather was related to Latin blatero or blatio, both meaning babble. Apparently not, although English blatant may come from blatio. Edmund Spenser coined blatant, which originally meant "noisy".

Worth reading:

Seneca (Thyestes 957) on Allen Ginsberg: "It is pleasing to howl." (Ululare libet.)

The Wikipedia article on mooning gives two examples from olden times:I recently happened upon an interesting example of mooning in Renaissance Latin Verse: An Anthology, compiled and edited by Alessandro Perosa and John Sparrow (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1979), p. 66 = Giovannantonio Campano (Ioannes Antonius Campanus, 1429-1477), Eleg. epigr. VIII i (In reditu a Germania), line 4. Here are the first two couplets of the poem in my rough translation, followed by the Latin original:
I leave the Tridentine Alps and the Rhaetian rocks,
  Places never to be seen from this day forward by my eyes.
Ye barren Germany, here is Campanus' back,
  Ye barbarian land, here are my bare buttocks.

Linquo Tridentinas Alpes et Rhaetica saxa
  nunquam oculis posthac aspicienda meis.
Accipe Campani, sterilis Germania, terga,
  accipe nudatas, barbara terra, nates.

Tony Prost writes in an email:
Here is one for your apneic collection. This is from the Katomyomachia by Theodoros Prodromos c. 1160, which I recently translated. I am not aware of another English translation of this play at all.

The scene is the the forecourt of the palace of the Mouse King. The Queen and her handmaidens are anxiously awaiting word from the battle field, where the Mice are fighting the Cat. At this point the Chorus sees the messenger approaching:

σίγα σίγα, δέσποινα, δεινόν τι βλέπω.
καὶ μὴν ὁρῶ θέοντά τιν᾽ ἐψευσμένον
καὶ πυκνὸν ἀσθμαίνοντα καὶ πεπληγμένον.

Silence, silence, queen, I see something frightening.
Yes indeed, I see someone rushing, running
And gasping rapidly, and wounded!
Tony also notes that the citizens of Thomas More's Utopia worked only 6 hours a day.

I started this blog just over three years ago, on May 10, 2004. Bill Vallicella, the Maverick Philosopher, was my inspiration. When I look back at my posts for that first day, I see some themes which I have revisited over the years: Luddism, scatology, and solitude.

Fred Reed discusses honor, and concludes:
Honor seems to me to be little more than systematized, prickly vanity coated inches deep in amour propre. When you find yourself among honorable men, I say run like hell.
In the process of dishonoring honor, Reed also attacks duels:
Dueling is a sure sign of arrested development, goiterous self-love, and perhaps doubt—the exact parallel of meeting your third-grade enemy after school, but with better clothes. Vanity will drive the witless to all manner of ridiculous stupidity. Anyway, the offender and offended proceeded to shoot each other, or perhaps stick each other with swords, much to the genetic betterment of the race. (Galois was an exception, alas, who wasn't witless.)
Before reading Fred Reed's essay, I had been musing about dueling and half-wishing it would revive. The genesis of my wish was disgust over hearing politicians constantly demanding apologies from each other at the slightest whiff of offense. Instead of Nancy Pelosi demanding an apology from Dick Cheney and vice versa, I wish they'd just take their quarrel to the "field of honor," like Alexander Hamilton and Vice President Aaron Burr.

Dueling would also be a good way to defend the honor of your Greek professor. See Hugh Lloyd-Jones, Blood for the Ghosts (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1982), p. 156 (on Max Müller):
He had an excellent education at a school and later at the university in Leipzig. In that city he consorted with Mendelssohn and Schumann, had Fontane as a fellow student, and fought a duel with someone who had spoken disrespectfully about his Professor of Greek. That Professor happened to be Gottfried Hermann, one of the greatest Hellenists.
Wikipedia has a list of famous duels, and the etymology of the word itself is interesting -- see the Online Etymology Dictionary s.v. duel:
c.1475, from M.L. duellum "combat between two persons," by association with L. duo "two," but originally from L. duellum "war," an Old Latin form of bellum. Retained in poetic and archaic language and apparently given a special meaning in M.L. or L.L. of "one-on-one combat" on fancied connection with duo "two."

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