Saturday, December 03, 2022


A Wrestling Hold

Michael B. Poliakoff, Combat Sports in the Ancient World: Competition, Violence, and Culture (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1987), p. 4, with note on p. 163:
[W]e learn, for instance, from ancient lexica that a wrestling hold called mesoperdein or mesopherdein appeared on the comic stage, and some discussions of ancient sport duly note it as an unexplained tactic. What the word really denotes, however, is a rude (and hilarious) imitation of the common wrestler's waistlock, mesolabein, "to hold around the middle": by replacing -labein ("hold") with -perdein ("fart") the comedian has created a tactic that surely never appeared in a palaestra: "to squeeze out a fart."3

3. On this problem, see Poliakoff, Studies, 48-49.
The reference is to Michael Poliakoff, Studies in the Terminology of Greek Combat Sports (Königstein, 1982 = Beiträge zur Klassischen Philologie, 146; rpt. Frankfurt am Main: Hain, 1986), which is unavailable to me. I don't have access to Rudolf Kassel and Colin Austin, Poetae Comici Graeci, Vol. VIII: Adespota (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1995) either.

See Ryan Seaberg, Lexical Blends in Greek and Latin Comedic Idiom (diss. University of Minnesota, 2019), pp. 128-129:
Poll. 3.155
καὶ πλαγιάζειν δὲ καὶ κλιμακίζειν παλαισμάτων ὀνόματα· μοχθηρὸν γὰρ τὸ μεσοπέρδην (adesp. com. fr. 775) ἐν τῇ κωμῳδίᾳ σχῆμα παλαίσματος

τὸ μεσοπέρδην Dobree: τὸ μέσον ἔρδειν Poll.A: τὸ πέρδην Poll.FC: τὸ πέρδειν Poll.SB

And both plagiazein (“throw sideways”) and klimakizein (“hold one's ground”) are names of wrestling moves. But unsuitable is the word mesoperdên, a kind of wrestling move in comedy

Hsch. μ 928
μεσοπέρδην· μεσοφέρδην τὸν μέσον φερόμενον· τὸ γὰρ παλαιὸν τῷ π ἀντὶ τοῦ φ ἐχρῶντο προστιθέντες τὸ τῆς δασύτητος σημεῖον

μεσοπέρδην· μεσοφέρδην] μεσόπερα ἦν· μέφερα ἦν mss.

mesoperdên: (they say that) mesopherdên (is) one who is being carried in the middle. In antiquity they used pi instead of phi, adding the mark of rough-breathing

Phot. μ 302
μεσοπέρδην· ἐκ τῶν μέσων· ἀντὶ τοῦ μεσοφέρδην μεμενηκότων τῶν ἀρχαίων χαρακτήρων

μεσοπέρδην] μεσομερδην Phot.g: μεσoμέρδην Phot.z

mesoperdên: from the middle; instead of mesopherdên, recalling the ancient characters
Id., pp. 130-131 (footnote omitted)
μεσοπέρδην is a blend of μεσοφέρδην “(borne) by the middle” and πέρδομαι “fart”. The word is unlikely as an adverb in -δην.


[A]s a blend, the form and meaning of the word are clear, with the phonetic overlap (-φερδ- and περδ-) exploited to meld the two source-words into a blended word with a combined meaning that serves as the punchline of a joke: that one may cause an opponent to fart (πέρδομαι) while carrying (φέρω) him by the middle (μέσος).


<< Home
Newer›  ‹Older

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?