Don’t Be Half-Assed This Weekend: Three Donkey Proverbs from Photius

While perusing some comic fragments and testimonia I came upon one which attributed a strange proverb to Cratinus.  I had to investigate the source, the work of the lexicographer Photius.  What I found was exhilarating: a group of donkey proverbs.

Here is a short excerpt (yes, there’s more):

“A Donkey’s death”: A saying for those who tell stories about strange things

“A Tipping Donkey”: When a donkey leans in suddenly, hens are frightened and bust out of their pen. The owner of the birds brings a suit against the owner of the donkey. This is where the proverb comes from.

“Donkey Shearings”: A saying applied by Attic writers to endless and impossible things. These following sayings are similar: “washing a brick”; “plucking a wineskin”; “decorating a pot” and “fumigating an outhouse”. Aristarchus says that this saying developed because Cratinus imagined a man braiding a rope in Hades and a donkey eating it as he did so.”

῎Ονου θάνατος: ἐπὶ τῶν ἀλλόκοτα διηγουμένων

῎Ονου παρακύψεως: ὄνου παρακύψαντος, ὄρνιθες πτοηθεῖσαι ἱστὸν ἀνέρρηξαν· ὁ δὲ δεσπότης τοῦ ἱστοῦ τοῦ ὄνου δεσπότηι ἐνεκάλεσεν· ὅθεν ἡ παροιμία.

῎Ονου πόκαι: ἐπὶ τῶν ἀνηνύτων καὶ τῶν μὴ ὄντων λέγεται ἡ παροιμία ὑπὸ τῶν ᾿Αττικῶν· ὥσπερ αἱ τοιαῦται· πλίνθον πλύνειν· ἀσκὸν τίλλειν· χύτραν ποικίλλειν· εἰς κοπρῶνα θυμιᾶν· ᾿Αρίσταρχος δὲ διὰ τὸ Κρατῖνον ὑποθέσθαι ἐν Αἵδου σχοινίον πλέκοντα· ὄνον δὲ τὸ πλεκόμενον ἀπεσθίοντα·

Image result for Hindu goddess on a donkey

Zooglossia 2: What’s With the Donkey’s Bray?

This is a second entry in a totally unnecessary series of posts about the representation of animal sounds in Ancient Greek.

Hesychius

Ongkêthmos: the cry of a donkey”

ὀγκηθμός· κραυγὴ ὄνου

Earlier today I tweeted about this

I have been thinking about the ‘reconstruction’ of animal noises from verbs that represent them–here ὀγκάομαι, like many alpha-contract verbs is denominative. So, I figured I could just reconstruct a ὀγκ- ὀγκ to represent donkey sounds based on the abstract noun above and the verb form. Beekes is not completely down with that:

donk

I don’t know if I can resist believing that this verb is zoophonetic (based on the animal sound). Even if it does have another etymology, that does not mean that it was not adapted to this context because of a serendipitous similarity to the donkey’s bray…

There are some other details about donkey sounds that are, perhaps, worth knowing.

Zonaras

brômasthai: ongkasthai: this is used for donkey speech. Ongkasthai is also used, but that is more infrequent.”

Βρωμᾶσθαι. ὀγκᾶσθαι. ἐπὶ ὄνου δὲ λέγουσι τοῦτο. λέγεται καὶ ὀγκᾶσθαι ἐπὶ ὄνου, ἀλλὰ σπάνιον τοῦτο.

LSJ lists βρωμάομαι, “to bray” (cf. Lat. Rudere) as onomatopoetic

Photius distinguishes between them

brômasthai: this is the braying of a hungry donkey. Also, brôma. This is the sound itself.”

Βρωμᾶσθαι· τὸ ὀγκᾶσθαι πεινῶντα ὄνον. καὶ βρῶμα· ἡ φωνὴ αὕτη.

Moeris asserts that the former is Attic and the latter is general Greek.

File:Kylix by Epiktetos showing an aroused Satyr mounting a donkey which is also aroused, ca. 510 BC, Museum of the Ancient Agora, Athens, Greece (14103090773).jpg
510 BCE, Museum of the Ancient Agora, Athens

Don’t Be Half-Assed This Weekend: Three Donkey Proverbs from Photius

While perusing some comic fragments and testimonia I came upon one which attributed a strange proverb to Cratinus.  I had to investigate at the source, the work of the lexicographer Photius.  What I found was exhilarating: a group of donkey proverbs.

Here is a short excerpt (yes, there’s more):

“A Donkey’s death”: A saying for those who tell stories about strange things

“A Tipping Donkey”: When a donkey leans in suddenly, hens are frightened and bust out of their pen. The owner of the birds brings a suit against the owner of the donkey. This is where the proverb comes from.

“Donkey Shearings”: A saying applied by Attic writers to endless and impossible things. These following sayings are similar: “washing a brick”; “plucking a wineskin”; “decorating a pot” and “fumigating an outhouse”. Aristarchus says that this saying developed because Cratinus imagined a man braiding a rope in Hades and a donkey eating it as he did so.”

῎Ονου θάνατος: ἐπὶ τῶν ἀλλόκοτα διηγουμένων

῎Ονου παρακύψεως: ὄνου παρακύψαντος, ὄρνιθες πτοηθεῖσαι ἱστὸν ἀνέρρηξαν· ὁ δὲ δεσπότης τοῦ ἱστοῦ τοῦ ὄνου δεσπότηι ἐνεκάλεσεν· ὅθεν ἡ παροιμία.

῎Ονου πόκαι: ἐπὶ τῶν ἀνηνύτων καὶ τῶν μὴ ὄντων λέγεται ἡ παροιμία ὑπὸ τῶν ᾿Αττικῶν· ὥσπερ αἱ τοιαῦται· πλίνθον πλύνειν· ἀσκὸν τίλλειν· χύτραν ποικίλλειν· εἰς κοπρῶνα θυμιᾶν· ᾿Αρίσταρχος δὲ διὰ τὸ Κρατῖνον ὑποθέσθαι ἐν Αἵδου σχοινίον πλέκοντα· ὄνον δὲ τὸ πλεκόμενον ἀπεσθίοντα·