Friday, June 30, 2006

Today's Word: Batrachomyomachy


Several of you have asked about that word I mentioned during my appearance the other day on NPR's "Talk of the Nation."

The word is batrachomyomachy (BAT-truh-koh-my-AHM-uh-kee), and it means "battle between frogs and mice." Now, why, you may ask, should there be a need for such a word?

It's a reference to Batrachomyomachia, an ancient Greek parody of The Iliad. The mock-heroic poem is a silly satire that points up the absurdity of war -- this one involving such characters as "Crumb-snatcher, son of Bread-nibbler," an "Pot Visitor, son of the Great Cheese-Carver." It's been eons since I read it in Greek, but as I recall, it was pretty funny. There's a great illustrated English translation here.

Was also interested just now to learn just now that the German equivalent of batrachomyomachy, which has come to mean "a silly altercation," is another nice mouthful: Froschmäusekrieg.

3 Comments:

Blogger ZZiby said...

So are you suggesting that this word - batrachomyomachy - meant "a silly altercation" in greek too? Or that maybe it came to mean silly altercation in greek.

Not a great example but it reminds me a little bit of "jump the shark" - which describes the moment you know your favorite tv show has reached its peak. It came from "Happy Days" when Fonzie waterskied and had to jump over a shark.
I use the term sometimes to describe companies that can't grow anymore so their stock has reached it's peak.

8:17 AM  
Anonymous daz said...

Reminds me of the Kafkaesque situation when you wake up one morning and find that you fit into a door lock, and say to your friend, "Patrick! Oh, my! I'm a key!"

2:07 PM  
Blogger Martha said...

Daz: Ouch!

And zziby, no, as far I know, in Greek it's just your basic altercation between murine and ranine types......

Btw, fooling around with ancient roots here, I'd venture to say that the more rarefied term for "jumping the shark" is probably "squalesaltation." If it isn't a word, it ought to be.

2:40 PM  

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