CHAT High thoughts, anyone? (was: THEORY nouns and cases)
|From:||Ray Brown <ray.brown@...>|
|Date:||Friday, April 30, 2004, 5:33|
On Thursday, April 29, 2004, at 06:19 AM, Ray Brown wrote:
> On Wednesday, April 28, 2004, at 05:33 PM, Mark P. Line wrote:
>> Philippe Caquant said:
>>> "High thoughts must have high language." (Aristophanes, Frogs)
>> I wonder how Aristophanes proposed to measure the height of language.
>> less the height of thoughts...
> More to the point: "What did Aristophanes _actually_ write?"
Disappointingly no one has answered this. I did a Google search today and
found _plenty_ of examples of people quoting the saying and ascribing it
to Aristophanes' Frogs. Strangely, it seems to be a favorite quote in
computing literature (perhaps as an excuse for using jargon in what
But no one was more precise about origin. No one gave the exact reference
in The Frogs. I could find no reference to the actual Greek words.
What makes me even more suspicious is that all the quotes used exactly the
same words: "High thoughts must have high language". In the old days, when
I taught Latin & Greek, I would've been very suspicious if all students
turned up with precisely the same word for word translation.
It seems to me someone listed the quote, attributing it Aristophanes'
Frogs, and everyone else has just copied it without further question.
Now, as I assume Mark's question implied, "high" is being used
metaphorically and thus, inevitably, ambiguously - certainly out of
context. I looked up the ancient Greek for "high" (hypse:lós) in "Liddell
& Scott" last evening, hoping that it might give the reference.
Disappointingly, I couldn't find it. But I was reminded that applied to
speech, "high", in ancient Greek, can mean "proud", "boastful", "mighty"
or "sublime". So, Mark, forget the measuring rod ;)
But are we to understand:
"Boastful ideas are, by necessity, expressed in boastful language"
"Sublime ideas ought to be expressed in sublime language [and not the
common language of everyday speech]"
Indeed, which of the several different English meanings of "must" is to be
understood here? What is the corresponding verb in Greek?
This assumes that the original translation was a fairly literal one. But I
guess it's possible that the adjective rendered "high" was not 'hypse:lós'
, but some other word and that the translator thought "high" was the best
English rendering of the metaphorical use of some other adjective.
I suspect that those who have used the quotation - and Google reveals that
many have - do not all have the same English interpretation of the words.
Unfortunately, I do not have such easy access to Greek texts as I once had
& it's a long, long while since I read Aristophanes in Greek. I wonder
what Aristophanes really wrote & what character in the play said the words
& what was the context?
In short: What did the oft quoted sentence actually mean?
"A mind which thinks at its own expense will always
interfere with language." J.G. Hamann, 1760