Sunday, June 30, 2019


Pedantic Quibbling

Gotthold Ephraim Lessing (1729-1781), Laocoön: An Essay on the Limits of Painting and Poetry. Translated, with an Introduction and Notes, by Edward Allen McCormick (1962; rpt. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1984), p. 157 (chapter 29):
But I shall refrain from accumulating more trifles. It could scarcely be taken as censoriousness, but anyone who knows my high regard for Herr Winckelmann might consider it krokylegmus.12

12 ["Pedantry," perhaps best rendered here by "pedantic quibbling" or "a carping display of pedantry." The word is composed of κροκύς, a flock of wool, and λέγω, to gather. Originally it meant a person who nervously twitched or plucked bits of wool from his clothing or blankets. The equivalent word in German is Kleinkrämerei, literally, "dealing in trifles."]

Doch ich enthalte mich, dergleichen Kleinigkeiten auf einen Haufen zu tragen. Tadelsucht könnte es zwar nicht scheinen; aber wer meine Hochachtung für den Herrn Winckelmann kennt, dürfte es fur Krokylegmus halten.
Liddell-Scott-Jones, s.v. κροκυλεγμός:
κροκυδισμός, Hsch.
Hesychii Alexandrini Lexicon ... Editionem Minorem Curavit Mauricius Schmidt, 2nd ed. (Jena: Hermann Dufft, 1867), col. 924:
κροκυλεγμός· τὸ κολακευτικῶς τὰς κροκύδας ἀπολέγειν τῶν ἱματίων.
Liddell-Scott-Jones, s.v. κροκυδισμός:
picking of flocks, Gal.19.412:—hence -ιον, τό, Dim. of κροκύς, Id.10.867, Theognost.Can.125.
Liddell-Scott-Jones, s.v. κροκυδίζω:
pick loose flocks off a garment, τὸ κάταγμα κροκυδίζουσαν Philyll.22, Gal.10.928; of persons in delirium, twitch the blankets, Aret.CA1.1.
Liddell-Scott-Jones, s.v. κροκύς:
...κροκύδα ἀφαιρεῖν, typical of a flatterer, Thphr.Char.2.3...
I could be mistaken, but it seems that McCormick's connection of κροκυλεγμός with pedantry has no warrant in ancient usage. I suspect that Lessing meant flattery rather than pedantry. See Hugo Blümner, "Zu Lessings Laokoon. (Krokylegmus.)," Vierteljahrschrift für Litteraturgeschichte 4 (1891) 358-360.

Thanks to Kenneth Haynes for drawing my attention to Jochen A. Bär, "Erbsenzählerei unter Schwerstgelehrten: Bemerkungen zum vorletzten Wort in Lessings Laokoon," Der Sprachdienst 43–44 (1999) 108-111. In the manuscript of Laocoon Lessing originally wrote Krokalismus (something to do with pebbles? < κροκάλη); it appeared as the meaningless Krobotismus on the proofs; and Lessing then corrected it to Krokylegmus.

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