Saturday, December 14, 2013


Use of Diminutives in Requests

Scholia to Dionysius Thrax AB. 855, in Alfred Hilgard, ed., Scholia in Dionysii Thracis Artem Grammaticam (Lepizig: B.G. Teubner, 1901), p. 226, lines 17-19 (my translation):
"Kindly give me a little horse." For I disparage the thing asked for, to make the one possessing it more ready to give it.

ἱππάριόν μοι χάρισαι· μειῶ γὰρ τὸ ζητούμενον ἵνα ἑτοιμότερον πρὸς τὸ δοῦναι ποιήσω τὸν ἔχοντα.
Michael Syncellus, in J.A. Cramer, ed., Anecdota Graeca, Vol. IV (Oxford, 1837), p. 273, lines 9-11 (my translation):
Diminutives necessity, as if someone belittles what he asks for, to make the favor smaller; the comic writers used this, as the "little kettle" in Menander [Dyscolus 472].

γίνεται δὲ τὰ ὑποκοριστικὰ ... δι' ἀναγκαιότατα [sic], ὡς ἐὰν ὃ αἰτῇ τις σμικρύνῃ, ἵνα μὴ μεγάλην ποιήσῃ τὴν χάριν· ᾧ κέχρηνται οἱ κωμικοί, ὡς ἔχει τὸ παρὰ Μενάνδρῳ λεβήτιον.
There is a good example of this in a fragment from another play with the title Dyscolus, this one by Mnesimachus. See Athenaeus, Deipnosophistae 8.359 c-d (tr. Charles Burton Gulick):
Again, the Peevish Man, who was a terrible miser in the play of that name by Mnesimachus, says to the young man who leads a spendthrift life: 'A. Nay, I entreat you, don't exact too many things from me, your own uncle—things which are too cruel, too overlaid with money. Make your demands moderate. B. But good Heavens, man, how could they be more moderate? A. How? Fool me by using diminutive terms. Call fishes little fishes; if you speak of any other dainty, call it a little dainty. Then I shall die more happily, by far.'

ὁ δὲ παρὰ Μνησιμάχῳ ἐν τῷ ὁμωνύμῳ δράματι Δύσκολος φιλάργυρος ὢν σφόδρα πρὸς τὸν ἀσωτευόμενον νεανίσκον φησίν·
Α. ἀλλ᾽ ἀντιβολῶ σ᾽, ἐπίταττέ μοι μὴ πόλλ᾽ ἄγαν,
μηδ᾽ ἄγρια λίαν μηδ᾽ ἐπηργυρωμένα,
μέτρια δέ, τῷ θείῳ σεαυτοῦ. Β. πῶς ἔτι
μετριώτερ᾽, ὦ δαιμόνι᾽; Α. ὅπως; σύντεμνε καὶ
ἐπεξαπάτα με· τούς μὲν ἰχθῦς μοι κάλει
ἰχθύδι᾽ ὄψον δ᾽ ἂν λέγῃς ἕτερον, κάλει
ὀψάριον. ἥδιον γὰρ ἀπολοῦμαι πολύ.
Related post: Diminutives in the Begging Scene of Aristophanes' Acharnians.

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