When I was in graduate school I lived in Astoria, Queens and walked every day past a bar that has long since closed, named Nukterides. Even though there were little pictures of bats on the awning and I had spent years studying ancient Greek, it took me almost three years of walking by that awning before it dawned on me that “nukterides”—which in Ancient Greek would mean “daughters of the night”—meant bats.
(And, of course, the bar was populated almost exclusively by elderly Greek and Italian men. I really do miss that neighborhood…).
This morning I was trying to figure out how one might talk about sleep-walking in Ancient Greek and I got distracted by the sheer number of nukti-compounds in the LSJ. Some of these only appear once in Greek literature, but I am glad they survived.Here are some of my favorites:
νυκτιχόρευτος: “of night-dancing”
νυκτάκλωψ: nuktaklôps, “night-blindness”
νυκτεργασία: nuktergasia, “night-work”
νυκτιδρόμος: nuktidromos, “night-running”
νυκτιλάλος: nuktilalos, “night-chattering”
νυκτίβιος: nuktibios, “night-living”
νυκτινόμος: nuktinomos, “night-grazing”
νυκτιπλάγκτος: nuktiplangktos, “night wandering”
νυκτιπλοία: nuktiploia “night-sailing”
νυκτογραφία: nuktigraphia “night-writing
νυκτoνηχόμενος: nuktonêkhomenos, “night-swimming”
Another site in Astoria whose name evaded me for years was the bakery Lefkos Pyrgos. I didn’t even think what it meant until one day I looked at the building and realized it appeared to be an old “White Castle”. Guess what Lekfos Pyrgos means in Greek?
One thought on “Night-Words”
Also the title of a truly wonderful George Steiner essay on erotica, “Night Words”, that is. %%r