Another Greek Professor Story

From: James P. Ware (
Date: Wed Apr 29 1998 - 09:26:06 EDT

When Don Wilkins sent his recent posting with the story about one of his
Greek professors, it sounded so much like one of my professors that I just
had to write and ask him if indeed they were one and the same person. I
shared the following story with him off-list, and Don suggested that
others on the list might enjoy it too.

In the course of doing Greek composition with him, I was engaged in the
unhappy task of translating Milton into Thucydides (!). After the
excruciating process of making absolutely certain that every word or
grammatical turn could qualify as "Thucydidean," I blanched when I got
back the graded translation to see a word circled in red as foreign to
Thucydides. After checking and reconfirming that, indeed, Thucydides uses
the word four times, I approached the professor with the information. His
response was that he knew Thucydides uses the word, but that he
(Thucydides) prefers another term in this sort of context and uses it far
more often, whereupon he proceeded to rattle off the term! "A word does
not qualify as Thucydidean just because he happens to use it here or

Both Don and I agree that this sort of story illustrates the kind of
philological competence which is probably necessary for those suggesting
SWEEPING deficiencies in the accumulated lexical wisdom of the last three
centuries, as enshrined in LSJ, Schmidt, Trench, Thayer, etc. Is there
perhaps such a thing as too much linguistics, too little philology?

Jim Ware

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