English to Ancient Greek dictionary receives vulgar update with F-bombs
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For a hundred years, classics students who have researched the ancient Greek verb ?? in a commonly used English dictionary would find it modestly translated as “Ease yourself, do your need”.
Now the translation is “To sh-t.”
This much coarser translation can be found in the Cambridge Greek Lexicon, a new dictionary in the works for two decades that has taken an in-depth look at the meaning of ancient Greek words, after they were tempered by Victorian translators.
“We aim to get the flavor of the original words, and to do that we have to use modern English, even if that English is a bit vulgar,” said James Diggle, professor emeritus and editor-in-chief of Cambridge. As it happens host Carol Off.
The idea of updating the much used 1889 by Liddell and Scott Intermediate Greek-English Lexicon was proposed by the late scholar John Chadwick in 1997. At the time, the plan was for it to be completed in five years.
But Diggle, who was then chairman of the advisory board, says it became clear that they had a lot of work to do.
“We quickly found out that the original design we had, which was to revise an existing dictionary, was a failure,” said Diggle.
So they started from scratch.
The team took on the enormous task of re-reading most of ancient Greek literature – from Homer to the early 2nd century AD. The resulting two volumes were recently published by Cambridge University Press.
“It was a moment of relief and tremendous pleasure, because for at least 15 years the project had taken over my life and I had no time for anything else,” said Diggle.
The new dictionary takes a much more colorful approach to words that don’t bow to Victorian sensibilities. It does not obscure profanity with dashes.
“We don’t spare a blush,” Diggle said in a press release.
This is not the case with the original dictionary which inspired the project.
“Much of the language he uses is old-fashioned,” said Diggle. “This is the kind of language that was used by teachers in Victorian schools, perhaps, and it just does not cover literature enough for the needs of modern students.”
For example, the verb ?? has been described as “inire, chur, of illicit sex” by Victorian translators. Diggle says the meaning is not “strictly correct”. So they just translated it as “fk”.
In the 19th century dictionary, ?? was translated as “to the maiden”. This now translates to “sucks c – ks”, which Diggle says is “the first time this will appear in a dictionary”.
Diggle says these new translations will give students reading these ancient texts a much richer, albeit rougher, experience.
“It should give them a very, much easier understanding of what they’re reading about Aristophanes’ text. Lysistrata. “
Written by Sarah Jackson. Produced by Katie Geleff.