An Apology For Saying “Be Well” Instead of”Good Morning

Lucian, Pro lapsu inter salutandum (“A Slip of the Tongue in Greeting”)


“It is hard for someone who is a mortal to avoid random divine anger; but it is much harder to fashion a defense for a senseless slip caused by a god—both things befell me when I visited you to greet you in the accustomed fashion.  It would have been right for me to utter that customary greeting and to bid you to rejoice [khairein] but I, the golden fool, messed up and said “health” to you.  This is also a nice thing to say, but it was not proper for the time: it is not a morning greeting.

As soon as I said that, I was turning red and I was completely undone. Some who were present excused it as a mistake, a probable thing; others thought me a fool because of my age; and others thought that I was still half-drunk from the night before. But you bore it especially well—not signaling what had happened with the mistake of my tongue with so much as the beginning of a smile. Therefore, it seems right to me to write some exhortation to make myself feel better, so that I might not be too upset at my mistake or consider it unbearable if as an old man I have slipped so far from normal behavior before so many witnesses. For I don’t think there a great need for an apology for a tongue-slip if the result is so kind a wish.”


Χαλεπὸν μὲν ἄνθρωπον ὄντα δαίμονός τινος ἐπήρειαν διαφυγεῖν, πολὺ δὲ χαλεπώτερον ἀπολογίαν εὑρεῖν παραλόγου καὶ δαιμονίου πταίσματος, ἅπερ

ἀμφότερα νῦν ἐμοὶ συμβέβηκεν, ὃς ἀφικόμενος παρὰ σέ, ὡς προσείποιμι τὸ ἑωθινόν, δέον τὴν συνήθη ταύτην φωνὴν ἀφεῖναι καὶ χαίρειν κελεύειν, ἐγὼ δὲ ὁ χρυσοῦς ἐπιλαθόμενος ὑγιαίνειν σε ἠξίουν, εὔφημον μὲν καὶ τοῦτο, οὐκ ἐν καιρῷ δὲ ὡς οὐ κατὰ τὴν ἕω. ἐγὼ μὲν οὖν ἐπὶ τούτῳ εὐθὺς ἴδιόν τε καὶ ἠρυθρίων καὶ παντοῖος ἦν ὑπὸ ἀπορίας, οἱ παρόντες δὲ οἱ μὲν παραπαίειν, ὡς τὸ εἰκός, οἱ δὲ ληρεῖν ὑφ’ ἡλικίας, οἱ δὲ χθεσινῆς κραιπάλης ἀνάμεστον ἔτι ᾤοντό με εἶναι, εἰ καὶ ὅτι μάλιστα σὺ ἐπιεικῶς ἤνεγκας τὸ γεγονὸς οὐδ’ ὅσον ἄκρῳ τῷ μειδιάματι ἐπισημηνάμενος τῆς

γλώττης τὴν διαμαρτίαν. ἔδοξεν οὖν μοι καλῶς ἔχειν παραμυθίαν τινὰ ἐμαυτῷ συγγράψαι, ὡς μὴ πάνυ ἀνιῴμην ἐπὶ τῷ πταίσματι μηδ’ ἀφόρητον ἡγοίμην, εἰ πρεσβύτης ἀνὴρ τοσοῦτον ἀπεσφάλην τοῦ καλῶς ἔχοντος ἐπὶ τοσούτων μαρτύρων.

ἀπολογίας μὲν γὰρ οὐδὲν ἔδει οἶμαι ὑπὲρ γλώττης εἰς οὕτως εὔφημον εὐχὴν ὀλισθούσης.

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