Friday, June 17, 2022


Changes in the Meaning of Words

Claudian, Against Eutropius 2.206-208 (tr. Maurice Platnauer):
Why give fair names to shameful weakness? Cowardice is called loyalty; fear, a sense of justice.

                    quid pulchra vocabula pigris
praetentas vitiis? probitatis inertia nomen,
iustitiae formido subit.
George Orwell, 1984, chapter 1:
The Ministry of Truth — Minitrue, in Newspeak — was startlingly different from any other object in sight. It was an enormous pyramidal structure of glittering white concrete, soaring up, terrace after terrace, 300 metres into the air. From where Winston stood it was just possible to read, picked out on its white face in elegant lettering, the three slogans of the Party:
Cf. Thucydides 3.82.4 (tr. Richard Crawley):
Words had to change their ordinary meaning and to take that which was now given them. Reckless audacity came to be considered the courage of a loyal ally; prudent hesitation, specious cowardice; moderation was held to be a cloak for unmanliness; ability to see all sides of a question inaptness to act on any. Frantic violence, became the attribute of manliness; cautious plotting, a justifiable means of self-defence.

καὶ τὴν εἰωθυῖαν ἀξίωσιν τῶν ὀνομάτων ἐς τὰ ἔργα ἀντήλλαξαν τῇ δικαιώσει. τόλμα μὲν γὰρ ἀλόγιστος ἀνδρεία φιλέταιρος ἐνομίσθη, μέλλησις δὲ προμηθὴς δειλία εὐπρεπής, τὸ δὲ σῶφρον τοῦ ἀνάνδρου πρόσχημα, καὶ τὸ πρὸς ἅπαν ξυνετὸν ἐπὶ πᾶν ἀργόν: τὸ δ᾽ ἐμπλήκτως ὀξὺ ἀνδρὸς μοίρᾳ προσετέθη, ἀσφαλείᾳ δὲ τὸ ἐπιβουλεύσασθαι ἀποτροπῆς πρόφασις εὔλογος.
Cf. also B. Hale Wortham, tr., The Śatakas of Bhartṛihari (London: Trübner & Co., 1886), pp. 8-9:
The moderate man's virtue is called dulness; the man who lives by rigid vows is considered arrogant; the pure-minded is deceitful; the hero is called unmerciful; the sage is contemptuous; the polite man is branded as servile, the noble man as proud; the eloquent man is called a chatterer; freedom from passion is said to be feebleness. Thus do evil-minded persons miscall the virtues of the good.
Thanks to Kevin Muse for drawing my attention to Plato, Republic 560e (tr. Paul Shorey):
In celebration of their praises they euphemistically denominate insolence 'good breeding,' licence 'liberty,' prodigality 'magnificence,' and shamelessness 'manly spirit.'

ἐγκωμιάζοντες καὶ ὑποκοριζόμενοι, ὕβριν μὲν εὐπαιδευσίαν καλοῦντες, ἀναρχίαν δὲ ἐλευθερίαν, ἀσωτίαν δὲ μεγαλοπρέπειαν, ἀναίδειαν δὲ ἀνδρείαν.
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