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Thursday: July 2, 2009

“Government by Clowns”?

Filed under: — site admin @ 11:57 PM UTC

In a recent post at Chicago Boyz, David Foster asks “what the proper Greek would be for ‘government by clowns’”. There are several possibilities:

  1. A bomolochos was originally “one that waited about the altars, to beg or steal some of the meat offered thereon” (Liddell-Scott), but it acquired a less specific meaning “clown, buffoon”, which was standard in derivatives like the verb bomolocheuomai, “play the buffoon, indulge in ribaldry, play low tricks”, though the idea of begging may be included. So perhaps the best word for “government by clowns” would be bomolocharchy (0 Google hits).
  2. Since our rulers live at our expense, how about a word that means “one who eats at the table of another, and repays him with flattery and buffoonery”? Compounded with “-archy”, that would give us parasitarchy, whose meaning will be clear even to the Greekless.
  3. Another possibility would be an animal metaphor for clownishness. The Greek word for ‘ass’ (donkey, not butt) is ónos (plural ónoi), so the shortest word for “rule by clowns, buffoons, asses” would be onarchy.
  4. The other meaning of English ‘ass’ also provides a very approximate equivalent for ‘clown’, and you don’t need to have studied Greek to figure out what proctarchy would mean.

I’m sure there are other possibilities, but I can’t seem to find my English-Greek Dictionary at the moment.

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