Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Stupid Greek Tricks

Rod Decker has posted some fun Greek trivia, and it provides excuse for me to share a few stupid Greek tricks I use in my class.

Principal parts: I go (ερχομαι - present) to an ηλθον (aorist: ie, an ale-thon! Thanks, Brian!). While I am there, I πινω (present of "drink" and usually associated with a pina colada) and afterwards, in the future, I have to πιω!

The preposition δια with the accusative indicates motion through. It can be used as a verbal prefix, e.g., with the verb ῥεω which means flow, stream, gush. Put them together, and you have
δια-ῥεω = to flow through!

You've probably heard this one, but I have a postscript to it:
In the fourth century, the Roman philosopher Ambrosius Theodosius Macrobius reports in his Saturnalia (Book 2.4.11):

When Augustus heard that Herod king of the Jews had ordered all the boys in Syria under the age of two years to be put to death and that the king’s son was among those killed, he said, “I’d rather be Herod’s sow than Herod’s son.” ― Macrobius, The Saturnalia, trans. Percival Davies (New York 1969), 171. [Latin: Cum audisset inter pueros quos in Syria Herodes rex Iudaeorum intra bimatum iussit interfici filium quoque eius occisum, ait: Melius est Herodis porcum esse quam filium.]
It was doubtless a pun in Greek where hus /ὑς means pig and huios / υἱος means son. The joke is that, by Jewish observance, Herod wouldn't kill a pig, but he had no such scruples about his sons.

So I did some checking, and an alternative spelling for ὑς was συς. It struck me that the vocative form of this would be: συε. At least in the Midwest United States, as my grandfather who was a farmer could have told you, if you want to call a pig, you yell, "Sooey." (Sooey is in the dictionary.) My grandfather didn't know Greek, but I have to believe that is exactly what he was saying!

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