Some Useful Words for Current Events

πόρνη: harlot, prostitute; likely derive from πέρναω, since most prostitutes were slaves who were purchased

πορνίδιον: little harlot (a diminutive)

πορνοβοσκεῖον: a brothel

πορνοβοσκός: a keeper of prostitutes

πορνογέννητος: born of a prostitute

πορνογράφος: writing belonging to prostitutes

πορνοδιδάσκαλος: a sex-teacher

πορνοκόπος: one who spends time with prostitutes

πορνομανής: crazy for prostitutes

πορνομοιχής: one who commits adultery with prostitutes


The terms πορνοβοσκεῖον (a brothel)  andπορνοβοσκός (keeper of prostitutes) are a little disturbing insofar as they are composed of a verb boskeô, which is more often used with grazing or caring for herd animals.

Image result for medieval manuscript prostitute

Royal 20 C V f 96v

Etymology and Your Grandfather’s Grandfather

Varro, on the Latin Language (VII. 3)

“It is not surprising [that ancient words have unclear meanings] since not only was Epimenides not recognized by many when he got up from sleep after 50 years, but Teucer as well was unknown by his family after only 15 years, according to Livius Andronicus. But what is this to the age of poetic words? If the source of the words in the Carmen Saliorum is the reign of Numa Pompilius and those words were not taken up from previous composers, they are still 700 years old.

Why, then, would you criticize the labor of an author who has not successfully found the name of a hero’s great-grandfather or that man’s grandfather, when you cannot name the mother of your own great-grandfather’s grandfather? This distance is so much closer to us than the period from now to the beginning of the Salians when people say the Roman’s poetic words were first in Latin.”

Nec mirum, cum non modo Epimenides sopore post annos L experrectus a multis non cognoscatur, sed etiam Teucer Livii post XV annos ab suis qui sit ignoretur. At hoc quid ad verborum poeticorum aetatem? Quorum si Pompili regnum fons in Carminibus Saliorum neque ea ab superioribus accepta, tamen habent DCC annos. Quare cur scriptoris industriam reprehendas qui herois tritavum, atavum non potuerit reperire, cum ipse tui tritavi matrem dicere non possis? Quod intervallum multo tanto propius nos, quam hinc ad initium Saliorum, quo Romanorum prima verba poetica dicunt Latina.

Teucer was a king of Salamis who was absent during the Trojan War.

Epimenides was a poet from Crete who wrote a Theogony. He allegedly went to sleep as a boy and awoke 57 years later. Here’s his strange entry from the Suda.

“Epimenides, son of Phaistos or Dosiados or Agiasarkhos and his mother was Blastos. A Cretan from Knossos and epic poet. As the story goes, his soul could leave his body for however long the time was right and then return again. When he died, after some time his skin was found to be tattooed with words. He lived near the 30th olympiad and he was among the first of the seven sages and those after them. For he cleansed Athens of the plague of Kylôneios at the time of the 44th Olympiad when he was an old man. He wrote many epic poems, including in catalogue form about mysteries, purifications, and other riddling matters. Solon wrote to him asking for the cleansing of the city. He lived 150 years but he slept for 50 of them. “The Epimenidean skin” is a proverb for mysterious writings.”

᾿Επιμενίδης, Φαίστου ἢ Δοσιάδου ἢ ᾿Αγιασάρχου υἱός, καὶ μητρὸς Βλάστας, Κρὴς ἀπὸ Κνωσσοῦ, ἐποποιός· οὗ λόγος, ὡς ἐξίοι ἡ ψυχὴ ὁπόσον ἤθελε καιρόν, καὶ πάλιν εἰσῄει ἐν τῷ σώματι· τελευτήσαντος δὲ αὐτοῦ, πόρρω χρόνων τὸ δέρμα εὑρῆσθαι γράμμασι κατάστικτον. γέγονε δὲ ἐπὶ τῆς λ′ ὀλυμπιάδος, ὡς προτερεύειν καὶ τῶνζ′ κληθέντων σοφῶν ἢ καὶ ἐπ’ αὐτοῖς γενέσθαι. ἐκάθηρε γοῦν τὰς ᾿Αθήνας τοῦ Κυλωνείου ἄγους κατὰ τὴν μδ′ ὀλυμπιάδα, γηραιὸς ὤν. ἔγραψε δὲ πολλὰ ἐπικῶς· καὶ καταλογάδην μυστήριά τινα καὶ καθαρμοὺς καὶ ἄλλα αἰνιγματώδη. πρὸς τοῦτον γράφει Σόλων ὁ νομοθέτης μεμφόμενος τῆς πόλεως κάθαρσιν. οὗτος ἔζησεν ρν′ ἔτη, τὰ δὲ Ϛ′ ἐκαθεύδησεν. καὶ παροιμία τὸ ᾿Επιμενίδειον δέρμα, ἐπὶ τῶνἀποθέτων.

A Person’s God

From the Suda:

“A person is a person’s god.” This proverb is for when people are unexpectedly saved by human being and become famous because of this. There are also the proverbs “A person [like] Euripos”; “Chance [like] Euripos”, “An opinion [like the] Euripos”—these proverbs are for people who change easily and are not stable.”

Ἄνθρωπος ἀνθρώπου δαιμόνιον: παροιμία ἐπὶ τῶν ἀπροσδοκήτως ὑπὸ ἀνθρώπου σῳζομένων καὶ δι’ αὐτῶν εὐδοκιμούντων. καὶ Ἄνθρωπος Εὔριπος, Τύχη Εὔριπος, Διάνοια Εὔριπος. ἐπὶ τῶν ῥᾷστα μεταβαλλομένων καὶ ἀσταθμήτων ἀνθρώπων.

Explained elsewhere:

“Euripos: A sea strait, or a water body between two [bodies] of land. This one is between Boiôtia and Attica. The water there changes direction seven times a day.”

Εὔριπος: πέλαγος στενόν, ἢ τόπος ὑδατώδης μεταξὺ δύο γαιῶν. τουτέστι Βοιωτίας καὶ ᾿Αττικῆς. ἑπτάκις δὲ τῆς ἡμέρας τὸ ἐκεῖσε ὕδωρ τρέπεται.

Sarcasm! Flesh-Tearing With a Counterfeit Grin

Suda (10th Century CE)

Sarcasm: a species of irony

Σαρκασμός: εἶδος εἰρωνείας.

Aristophanes, Frogs 996 (5th Century BCE)

Σαρκασμοπιτυοκάμπται: “Saracastic-pine-benders”


“Aristophanes uses this instead of “great men” (megaloi) because he is describing those who take and use falsely the means of war, not because they are truly interested in it, but because they care about strength. For this reason he also called Megainetus “Manes”, not because he is barbaric but because he is stupid. [In the Frogs] he appropriately uses a compound word because this is Aeschylus’ habit.”

Σαρκασμοπιτυοκάμπται: Ἀριστοφάνης φησί, ἀντὶ τοῦ μεγάλοι. ὡς ἁρπάζοντας καὶ προσποιουμένους τὰ πολεμικά, οὐκ ἀληθῶς δὲ τοιούτους, ἰσχύος δὲ ἐπιμελομένους. διὸ καὶ τὸν Μεγαίνετον Μάνην εἶπεν, οὐ πάντως βάρβαρον, ἀλλ’ ἀναίσθητον. ἐπιτηδὲς δὲ ἐχρήσατο τοῖς συνθέτοις, διὰ τὸ Αἰσχύλου ἦθος.

Plutarch On Homer 718 (2nd Century CE)

“There is a certain type of irony as well called sarcasm, which is when someone makes a criticism of someone else using opposites and with a fake smile…”

῎Εστι δέ τι εἶδος εἰρωνείας καὶ ὁ σαρκασμός, ἐπειδάν τις διὰ τῶν ἐναντίων ὀνειδίζῃ τινι μετὰ προσποιήτου μειδιάματος…

Homer, Iliad 1.560-562

“Then cloud-gathering Zeus responded to Hera in answer,
‘Friend [daimoniê] you always know my thoughts, and I can never trick you—
Buy you can’t do anything about it….

Τὴν δ’ ἀπαμειβόμενος προσέφη νεφεληγερέτα Ζεύς·
δαιμονίη αἰεὶ μὲν ὀΐεαι οὐδέ σε λήθω·
πρῆξαι δ’ ἔμπης οὔ τι δυνήσεαι…

Schol. bT ad Il. 1.561a

“Divine one”: “blessed”, used sarcastically.

ex. δαιμονίη: μακαρία, ἐν σαρκασμῷ. b(BCE3)T

Phrynichus Atticus, 16.5 (2nd Century CE)

“To steal is best”: the repetitive structure (symploke) is witty. For you also have “to commit adultery is best, and similar things”. It is a kind of sarcasm to praise an evil to excess.”

ἄριστος κλέπτειν (fr. com. ad. 850): ἀστεία ἡ συμπλοκή. καὶ ἄριστος μοιχεύειν, καὶ τὰ ὅμοια. σαρκασμοῦ τρόπῳ ἐπῄνηται εἰς ὑπερβολὴν τοῦ κακοῦ.


Oxford English Dictionary


Etymology: < late Latin sarcasmus, < late Greek σαρκασμός, < σαρκάζειν to tear flesh, gnash the teeth, speak bitterly, < σαρκ-σάρξ flesh.(Show Less)

  A sharp, bitter, or cutting expression or remark; a bitter gibe or taunt. Now usually in generalized sense: Sarcastic language; sarcastic meaning or purpose.

1579   E. K. in Spenser Shepheardes Cal. Oct. Gloss.   Tom piper, an ironicall Sarcasmus, spoken in derision of these rude wits, whych [etc.].
1581   J. Bell tr. W. Haddon & J. Foxe Against Jerome Osorius 324   With this skoffe doth he note a certayne figure called Sarcasmus.
1605   J. Dove Confut. Atheisme 38   He called the other Gods so, by a figure called Ironia, or Sarcasmus.
1621   R. Burton Anat. Melancholy i. ii. iv. iv. 197   Many are of so petulant a spleene, and haue that figure Sarcasmus so often in their mouths,..that they must bite.
1661   O. Felltham Resolves (rev. ed.) 284   Either a Sarcasmus against the voluptuous; or else, ’tis a milder counsel.
Greek comedy was a popular form of theatre performed in ancient Greece from the 6th cent. BCE

Thunderous-Mouth-Milling and Petty-Bragging: Some Words for a Thursday

The Suda has the following anecdote which seems to be taken and altered from Diogenes Laertius or something similar.

“thunderous-mouth-milling”: Eubulides says this “the eristic, asking his horn questions and discombobulating the orators with his falsely-intellectual arguments, taking with him the “thunderous-mouth-milling” of Demosthenes.

Ῥομβοστωμυλήθρα: Εὐβουλίδης φησίν: οὑριστικὸς κερατίνας ἐρωτῶν καὶ ψευδαλαζόσιν λόγοις τοὺς ῥήτορας κυλίων ἀπῆλθ’, ἔχων Δημοσθένους τὴν ῥομβοστωμυλήθραν.

ῥομβοστωμυλήθρη (lit. “thunderous-mouth-milling” (?) seems to be a misunderstanding or humorous take on ῥωποπερπερήθρη, usually translated as “braggadocio” but is more like “cheap/petty bragging”
From Diogenes Laertius, Lives of the Eminent Philosophers 2.10

“The eristic Euboulides, asking questions about horns
And discombobulating the speakers with his falsely-intellectual arguments
Has gone off, taking the petty self regard of Demosthenes with him

For it seems that Demosthenes was a student of Eubulides and was able to stop his problems with the letter ‘r’ because of it. Eubulides was also in conflict with Aristotle and undermined him a lot.

οὑριστικὸς δ᾿ Εὐβουλίδης κερατίνας ἐρωτῶν
καὶ ψευδαλαζόσιν λόγοις τοὺς ῥήτορας κυλίων
ἀπῆλθ᾿ ἔχων Δημοσθένους τὴν ῥωποπερπερήθραν.

ἐῴκει γὰρ αὐτοῦ καὶ Δημοσθένης ἀκηκοέναι καὶ ῥωβικώτερος ὢν παύσασθαι. ὁ δ᾿ Εὐβουλίδης καὶ πρὸς Ἀριστοτέλην διεφέρετο, καὶ πολλὰ αὐτὸν διαβέβληκε.

Eubulides is now known for some interesting paradoxes.

Image result for ancient greek eubulides

Demosthenes, no longer thunderous-mouth-milling.

Skatokhasm: Another Word You Know You Need

How does one say “shithole” in Ancient Greek? As with other such esoteric considerations, this takes us into the depths of metaphor and meaning. Is a “shithole” a place whence shit emerges or one in which shit properly settles to age? To be more pointed, when we say “shithole”, do we mean the rectum (so is it a synonym for “asshole”) or do we mean a receptacle too primitive and unformed to be graced with the designation ‘toilet’?

I think when the leader of what was once the free world uses the term , he probably means the second meaning–that the countries designated so are “primitive”, bereft of proper sanitation, and, as such, both filled with excrement (in his excitable mind) and a worthy place for excrement to stay. Thanks to the magic of the conceptual metaphor, of course, the “shithole” can simultaneously indicate both origin and receptacle. One reason it is terribly racist is that the people who move from one to the other or inhabit them are, by extension, excrement.

Because I process trauma and horror through ancient Greek and lexicography, I need to ‘own’ this word by putting it in Greek. I think the stronger force of this metaphor is the location of discarded shit not the organ of excretion. Ancient Greek does not have a clear parallel (and believe me, gentle reader, I looked). I would love to hear some other suggestions. I put the call on Twitter.

The best suggestion, I think, is σκατοχάσμα (skatokhasma, see below). I like it because it has clear parallels (e.g. skatophage). Also, it sounds like “shit-gasm” which is what I think happens every time a certain chief executive speaks. Weaknesses: khasma is not very productive in ancient Greek compounds and is also rather ‘epic’ in scope. In English, “hole” is dimunitive a small. Shitholes are thus additionally awful because of their insignificance.

Honorable Mentions: τὸ σκατώρυγμον (skatorugmon). this has the sense of something hastily and poorly made by people. Also, κοπροβάραθρον is, as one correspondent declared, totally “metal” and, really epic. (Also, coprophilia is something the captain of our ship might cop to). The Lexicographer Zonaras treats all three of these nouns as synonyms (“Barathron: A ditch. A depth. The maw of the earth.” Βάραθρον. ὄρυγμα· βάθος· χάσμα γῆς). For me, barathron is mythical; orugmon is man-made, and khasma is more generic and ‘natural’. I prefer it, in sum, because of its huuugeness. It is really big. And the speaker mentioned above doesn’t do anything small.

Some Instructive Compounds

κοπρόνους: “manure-minded”
κοπράγωγεω: “to collect crap”
κόπρειος: “full of crap”
κοπρολογεῖν: “to gather crap”
κοπροφαγεῖν: “to eat crap”
κοπροστόμος: “foul-mouthed”
σκατοφάγος: “shit-eater”
κόπρανα: “excrements”
κοπραγωγός: “shit-bearer”
κοπρία: “dung-heap”
κοπρίζω: “to make dung”
κοπρικός: “full of it”
κοπροθέσιον: “a place where dung is put”. ‘Shit-bucket”
κοπροδοχεῖον: “cess pool”
κοπροποιός: “dung-making”
σκατοφάγος: “shit eater”
σκαταιβάτης: “shit-walker”
σκωραμὶς: “shit pot”; cf. Ar.Lys. 371: σκωραμὶς κωμῳδική: “comedic shitpot”

Image result for medieval manuscript toilet

From Beekes:


Plouthugeia: “Wealth and Health”

Some Words:

πλουθυγίεια: “wealth and health”

πλούταξ: “a rich churl”

πλούταρχος: “master of riches”

πλουτογαθής: “delighting in riches”

πλουτοκρατέομαι: “to live in a state governed by the rich”

πλουτοκρατία: “an oligarchy of wealth

πλουτοποιός: “enriching”

πλουτοτραφής: “raised on wealth”

πλουτόχθων: “rich in things of the earth”

Image result for ancient greek wealth

Some Ideas

Xenophon, Memorabilia 4.16.12

“[Socrates] believed that kingship and tyranny were both governments but that they differed from one another. For he believed that kingship was government of a willing people and according to the laws of the city, while tyranny was when people were unwilling and against the laws, but instead according to the wishes of the ruler. Whenever leaders were selected from those who meet the standards of the law, the governement is in aristocracy. When they are chosen from those who have enough property, it is a plutocracy. When they are elected from everyone, it is a democracy.”

Βασιλείαν δὲ καὶ τυραννίδα ἀρχὰς μὲν ἀμφοτέρας ἡγεῖτο εἶναι, διαφέρειν δὲ ἀλλήλων ἐνόμιζε. τὴν μὲν γὰρ ἑκόντων τε τῶν ἀνθρώπων καὶ κατὰ νόμους τῶν πόλεων ἀρχὴν βασιλείαν ἡγεῖτο, τὴν δὲ ἀκόντων τε καὶ μὴ κατὰ νόμους, ἀλλ᾿ ὅπως ὁ ἄρχων βούλοιτο, τυραννίδα. καὶ ὅπου μὲν ἐκ τῶν τὰ νόμιμα ἐπιτελούντων αἱ ἀρχαὶ καθίστανται, ταύτην μὲν τὴν πολιτείαν ἀριστοκρατίαν ἐνόμιζεν εἶναι, ὅπου δ᾿ ἐκ τιμημάτων, πλουτοκρατίαν, ὅπου δ᾿ ἐκ πάντων, δημοκρατίαν.

Sallust, Second Letter to Caesar 4

“Greed, however, is a feral beast, huge and not to be tolerated—wherever it wanders, it lays waste to cities, fields, places of worship and homes. It mixes up the human and the divine. No armies or walls can stand up to it when it pierces with its force. It despoils all portals of repute, shame, children, country and parents.”

Ceterum avaritia belua fera, immanis, intoleranda est; quo intendit, oppida, agros, fana atque domos vastat, divina cum humanis permiscet, neque exercitus neque moenia obstant, quo minus vi sua penetret; fama, pudicitia, liberis, patria atque parentibus cunctos mortalis spoliat

Dicta Catonis, 32

“Greed always loves lies, theft, and rape.”

Semper avarus amat mendacia furta rapinas

(Pseudo-)Aristotle, On Virtues and Vices

“There are three types of injustice: impiety, greed and arrogance. Impiety is offense against the gods and powers or even to those who have died, parents and country, Greed is taken what is against contracts, what is under dispute despite what one deserves. Arrogance is what makes people pursue pleasures for themselves while heaping reproach upon others.”

Ἀδικίας δέ ἐστιν εἴδη τρία, ἀσέβεια πλεονεξία ὕβρις. ἀσέβεια μὲν ἡ περὶ θεοὺς πλημμέλεια καὶ περὶ δαίμονας, ἢ περὶ τοὺς κατοιχομένους καὶ περὶ γονεῖς καὶ πατρίδα· πλεονεξία δὲ ἡ περὶ τὰ συμβόλαια, παρὰ τὴν ἀξίαν αἱρουμένη τὸ διάφορον· ὕβρις δὲ καθ᾿ ἣν τὰς ἡδονὰς αὑτοῖς παρασκευάζουσιν εἰς ὄνειδος ἄγοντες ἑτέρους,

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