Re: Comedy and KWMH

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Wed Jan 26 2000 - 15:19:06 EST

At 2:06 PM -0600 1/26/00, Steven Craig Miller wrote:
>To: the participants of the B-Greek list,
>"The Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology" (edited by C. T. Onions),
>under the entry "comedy," states the following:
><< Gr. komoidia, f. komoidos, comic actor, comic poet, f. komos [KWMOS]
>revel, merrymaking, wrongly derived by Dorian writers from kome [KWMH]
>village. >>
>What is meant here by "wrongly derived"? Is "inappropriately derived"
>meant? Or something else?

It is a matter, I think, of ethnic pride, in this case of those peoples
speaking Dorian dialects, whether in the Peloponnese, southern Asia Minor,
southern Italy and Sicily, or wherever else, wanting to claim that the
dramatic genre really originated among themselves. I'm not really up on the
latest about all this, but the long-time University of Michigan scholar
Gerald Else wrote what (I think) is still the definitive edition and
commentary on Aristotle's Poetics, where these claims to ultimately Dorian
origins of what is so patently distinctly Attic a genre are set forth.
There, and particularly in a later book entitled, _The Origin and Early
Form of Attic Tragedy_, Else demolishes--for tragedy in particular--what
for long was assumed to be the only authoritative (because Aristotle said
so) understanding of the origins of Greek drama. At any rate, and I guess
this is more to the point of the question, there doesn't seem to be a shred
of authentic etymological relationship between KWMH, village, and KWMOS,
revel or merrymaking, and it is clearly the latter wherein comedy has some
of its roots.

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics/Washington University
One Brookings Drive/St. Louis, MO, USA 63130/(314) 935-4018
Home: 7222 Colgate Ave./St. Louis, MO 63130/(314) 726-5649

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