Friday, September 22, 2023


A Comical Compound

Aristophanes, Clouds 332:
K.J. Dover ad loc.:
-αργο- (cf. 316 n.) and -κομήτας (cf. 14 n.) are plain enough. σφραγίς is 'seal' (commonly set in a ring), and ὄνυξ can mean the gem 'onyx'. This was used in signet-rings, as we see from IG ii2.1338.86 (cf. i2.282.128), and if that is the meaning here σφραγιδονυχαργοκομῆται are well-to-do, fashionable idlers who wear valuable rings. But they are keeping odd company, and we should consider the commoner meaning of ὄνυξ, 'fingernail'; the reference is then to unkempt creatures, like the Socratics, whose only 'seal' is the marks they can make on wax with their nails. Ar., I think, intends a pun, and Socrates can make the point clear by a gesture with his forefinger.
S. Douglas Olson ad loc.:
"seal-ring-fingernail-lazy-longhairs", i.e. wealthy people (cf. 14n.) who have possessions valuable enough to keep under seal and whose nails are unbroken because they do no hard physical labor.

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